Got to the camp site at around 9pm the day before the first race after driving 7hrs #latraffic. Met up with the rest of the crew and hung out a bit. Swapped some manly stories over the campfire and met some of the other riders from other schools. Went to bed at a descent hour.
Saturday. So, I’ve raced a bunch on the road and track. Never in my life have I raced on mountain bikes. Also, I haven’t really ridden mountain bikes all that much so this was all new to me. Woke up in the morning and felt good. I had breakfast, too much coffee and was kitted up and warming up 1 hour before we were set to roll out for the XC race. Pete, Kevin, Duncan and myself all rolled up to the starting line in pretty good spirits and ready to roll. There were about 20 people in the field and I lined up in the back. As soon as they blew the whistle, I realized I had made a huge mistake. We start riding and I realize that there are a lot of enduro jabronies on full suspension bomber bikes who are just out to have fun. I see Duncan speed off the front and I realize that I’m going to have to go around all these guys to catch the front group. This is pretty easy on the road. On the mountain, it was harder because almost the entire course was single track and only wide enough for a single bike so any passing had to happen off the trail assuming there was room which a lot of the time there was not. After about the first 10 minutes, I was able to make my way up to Duncan and the lead group of 5. As soon as we hit the climb a serious selection was made. No more enduro/dh bros and just a group of 5-7 pretty fit guys. After the first descent, I realized my descending skills were not up to snuff to really be a threat in the race but it was pretty clear from the beginning that I had the best legs in the race on the flats and climbs. I jumped in front of Duncan and paced him back to the main group up the climbs and through the flats. Once we got to the top of the course, he jumped by me and smashed the descent for 2nd. I basically rode by myself from there for the last 20min and rolled in 4th or 5th. Don’t really remember.
After the race we watched Kevin smash the dual slalom which was really fun. We grabbed sandwiches for lunch and pasta for dinner. Got to bed at a descent hour again and slept well. I was originally going to leave Saturday to head home and get work done but I had so much fun I decided to stay for the short track race. Which better suited my riding because there was only one small descent or so I thought…
Sunday. First let me say that short track is the best thing in the world. It’s like if a scratch race and a crit had a disgusting mountain baby named earl. We line up ready to roll. I don’t make the same mistake as yesterday and instead take the lead from the gun. I lead out the climb and lead the first few laps. I thought I was good with Duncan in the chase group able to follow any attempt to bridge, however, this race revealed another big hole in my skill set; cornering on dirt. Every time we came to a tight corner of which there were a few each lap, I would lose about 3-4 bikes off my lead. I would stretch it back out in the straights and climbs but anything not in a straight line I would give back ground. The other racers caught me after a few laps and I was then sitting in a group of five. But things still looked good! We had 2 UC San Diego dudes in a group of 5! However, with 1 1/2 to go a Cal Poly rider attacked off the front and had his teammate who was second wheel drop anchor on a narrow hill section, Duncan and I tried to get around with 1 to go but in the only opening for a pass, there was a lapped rider in the way blocking the pass. After that it was all about lines. I pulled Duncan back onto second wheel but the Cal Poly rider did a great job of shutting the door at each corner causing Duncan to have to go wide. The straights were too short to get any real speed before the next corner and the race ended in that order. It was frustrating because we definitely had the strongest guys in the field but were out classed technically in my case and out strategized in Duncan’s. After the race we got together and played the wouldacouldashoulda game with the big take away being that I needed to make that pass on the climb where the lapped rider was. Period. End of story. Should have ridden over the top of him and taken Duncan with me. After that, Duncan needed to do everything he could to overtake second and not just jump on his wheel. With two on one, we could give reason to keep the pace fast so we could close on 1st. Unlike road, where the draft is paramount, in mountain, positioning is much more important because you can use the course as a teammate forcing others to take bad lines slowing them down significantly. We never had great position because we didn’t realize how important that was until it was too late. If this was a crit, we nailed it. Two UC San Diego riders sitting 3rd and 4th wheel coming into the last 2 turns? Perfect. Not so much for short track. Next time, we’ll get it right, but it was still really fun. Very impressed by all my teammates!
Watching the downhill crazies was incredible. If you guys don’t know Kevin, he’s very nice and super friendly; also, an absolute crazy person who launches off of mountains. After nabbing 2nd in the dual slalom, we watched Kevin grab 3rd in the downhill. Now, this was no normal thing there were these monster drops into crazy corners, jumps and all sorts of things that had me on the nope nope nope train. The morning warmups saw a broken collarbone and broken wrist IN WARM UPS. Apparently if you want your friends to throw themselves and bike off of a cliff all you have to do is rally a bunch of troops, stand at the craziest feature on the course and all yell SEND IT!!!!!!!!!! Whenever you hear a free hub approaching.
This was my first MTN bike race and I’m hooked. Can’t wait for the next one! As long as somebody teaches me how to descend better!! haha.