We were having fun and I was happy with my bike setup. I'd just put on the heaviest tires I've ever run, WTB Vigilante AM front and WTB Trail Boss "Tough" on the rear. They were hooking up great and it was nice not to worry as much about flats. We sessioned the rock garden a couple times but it was getting dark so we headed back to camp, and I fired up the grill for some shredded pork tacos!
Race morning we thew on our yellow and even though it was suppose to warm up, we both decided to go with the full face Giro Cypher for added protection in the tricky terrain. It has good ventilation and neither of us had a problem overheating all day. We rolled out at 9:30am, for about a 45 minute climb to the top for stage 1.
About half way down the stage, the trail dumped out onto a fire road traverse. As soon as I came out of the singletrack and got pointed the right way, I stood up to sprint but my thumb slipped and I clicked down too many gears... mashing!! I was already winded from the elevation and the stage to this point, but trying to sprint this short traverse gassed me even more. It didn't last long and raised the seat up for some seated hammering getting up to only 33mph before hitting the trail again. The last part of the stage got into the deeper powder turns but they were tight, and I seemed to stall out in each one loosing more and more time. I finished the stage feeling good that I was smooth, but those tight corners got to me and there were many, many more to come on stage two.
It was a very short transfer climb up to stage two, so Ryan and I hung out for a couple minutes to recover before getting in the gate. The timing crew had us do our own countdown to start each stage. I'm not sure what's less stressful, that or someone else counting down. "Five... Four... (more than a second passes)... Three... (a few more deep breaths)... TwoOneGo!!" I had it in the perfect gear and pedaled into the first righ hander and nailed it perfectly, then the next left, peftect as well... nice! They were more sweeping corners with flow, and that felt good. A couple small jumps over rocks, into and out of a small tree section, and back out into more slalom corners. I unclipped on a tight left hander, and couldn't get back into the pedal before the next corner, but you just have to ride it anyway. The middle of stage two had some deep powder corners in between some steeper rocky sections which were really fun. I was riding within myself, which I know isn't going to win the race. I'm focusing on technique right now and the speed will come the more I do this type of riding. Plus, it's a long series and consistently finishing instead of going bonzai and risking a dnf seems like a better plan for me. The bottom of the stage had the tightest and loosest corners of the day, and I just unclipped and slid into them moto style which seemed faster instead of staying in the pedals and stalling out.
After the 2nd stage we had to hang out at the bottom for at least a half an hour since there were still racers on the first stage that our next transfer would have to cross. So I kicked my feet up in the shade and killed a Clif bar and bottle of water.
With the fork in the low setting it was time to climb again, which helped ride the steeper climbs on this transfer that others had to walk.
Santa Cruz factory employee Scott Chapin and SC/Fox rep Ariel Lindsley set up an informal mini spint & slalom stage in the grassy meadow to pass the time. They set their times, but there weren't many takers. I guess everyone was conserving their energy. Just as I was about to give 'er a go, we got the word that stage 1 was clear for us to continue up the mountain. So on we went.
Stage 3 was the longest of the day, dropping the full length of the mountain, with a nice view of Huntington Lake from the top.
Down around the next corner and on the final rock chute (from Ryan's pre-ride video above) I got a little squirrely as the back end slipped off a rock. Sideways in the chute wasn't good so I let off the brakes and just held on. I made it through the next few drops and turns and really gained a lot of confidence out of that. I DO have the ability... I just need to mentally let go! And physically too... I'd been gripping the bars so tightly that I was getting some serious forearm pump. And after finishing out the stage I noticed that I hadn't bottomed out either my fork or shock, which means I need to run them a little softer and that will certainly give me more speed and flow over the rocks.
At the end of the day I finished 21st overall with very close times in the pro field. Ryan had a much better day and finished 10th and even got a little prize money! I know exactly where I leave the seconds out on the course... and I'll get 'em back. This race was a good confidence boost and I'm looking forward to the Sun Valley Super Enduro next week.
Hey at least I won "Stage 4," although nobody else knew about the optional pavement stage after the race.
Strava - 33.7mi 4,350ft - Huntington Lake Loop
Stick a fork in me...