Thursday, September 4, 2014

California Enduro Series #3 - Northstar

A couple months after round two at China Peak, it was time to get back to California Enduro-ing at Northstar for the third stop in the series.  With my new green accent Tallboy LTc built up and ready to rip I was looking forward to it.  

There would just be three timed stages in the race and the first one was on Livewire; a completely man-made jump run.  Certainly not my cup-o-tea!  But I've been working on being a little less of a penguin lately and setting up the suspension correctly for the take-offs, so at least I knew I could do it.  But since I don't know how to fully "scrub" at speed I knew I wouldn't be competitive on this stage.  We started a little ways down on the trail on top of the flyover, and I was certainly nervous.  I knew I'd just have to attack it and that would keep me safe... no limp arms here!  I hit the first lip, pulled up and did a back wheel tap bmx style and that felt good.  And after doing the same on the next jump I was ready just to let 'er fly.  
 I was feeling really comfortable and smooth.  Having fun until my chain came off as I dove into a right hand berm after some braking bumps.  I thought it had fallen off to the outside, so I shifted the derailleur down but it wasn't catching.  Up and over another jump, through another berm and still nothing until I had a second to look down and see that it was off to the inside.  So I shifted accordingly, through another berm and up over a roller before it finally caught and I was back on the gas.  Frustrated but after a few more jumps... having fun again.
After a little debrief it was on the lift with Ryan which would take us about half way up.  
Then we were pedaling the rest of the way to the top.  Ryan wasn't obeying the California "hands-free" law...
Thou shalt not text and enduro!  Though I think he was checking the live results.  It still seems funny to me that you can ride on a chairlift and cruise while checking your phone while we're technically racing.  Enduro!

Stage two should have been right up my alley... a sixteen or so minute pedal stage with an uphill finish.  Yeah that's still a short sprint in my book but long for the CA enduro scene.  I set off from the gate and gave it what I could on the short climbs right off the bat.  The tree bark and needles on the loose trail made a sound like I had a flat tire, and the loose conditions sapped power in the same manner.  But all was still inflated and after navigating a few deep and loose rutted corners I was onto a flat rolling trail for some more hammering.  I guess I went a little too hard, trying to pedal through everything because I caught my left pedal on a stump or something as my suspension compressed into a trough.  That kicked my back end up to the right and sent me off the trail into a dead tree.  I stayed up, but this was right at the base of a short climb which I now had to run up, losing more time.  For some reason that took me out of it mentally and I couldn't focus on the trail and be fast after that.  Until I got passed... then it was on again!
This young kid was rippin' so I stayed right on him and when it came time for pedal power at the end of the stage I passed him back and pushed to the finish.  A finish which was after about a three hundred yard road climb.  I was totally gassed after that climb and the area after the finish looked like a war zone with guys collapsing after the line gasping for air.  Once they got air... some were cursing the organizers because they had to actually put some power down while pedaling their bikes.  C'mon guys... not everything is pointed down.  Yes, I too was surprised these trails were used in the race, considering that Northstar has many really gnarly and fun downhill trails.  But Enduro isn't just a bunch of DH runs linked together.  You're going to have to pedal your bike.  Good job giving your all.  Why don't you just feel good about your effort and move on?  Maybe recognize that power and fitness is an aspect of your cycling that is in need of improvement?  The type of racer that comes to these Enduro's usually is from a background of either more DH oriented racing or XC oriented racing.  And I don't usually hear the XC guys complaining about the technical DH or jumps they have to navigate.  They just keep working to get better at them trying to find that line between pinning it and making sure to get back home in one piece.  Why can't this go the other way around?  Ok... rant over... 

After another pedal about half way up the mountain I set off on the final stage of the day.  A really fun DH trail starting off with high speed berms and low flying jumps before heading into "Pho Dog" trail which is a go-to if you ever ride Northstar.  I cleared all the jumps and felt quick in and out of the turns, then got pitched a little sideways in the last rock garden before the trail opened back up to more high speed jumps.  A handful more big banked corners (Daytona Berms) sent me into two more jumps where the LTc got to fly before calling it a day.
I finished up 19th overall but aside from a few hiccups, was happy with the day and had a great time racing out of my comfort zone.  Plus, Northstar is close to home and I was back by 2pm to this little guy... :-)

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