This morning the Hurkey Creek campground in Idyllwild, California hosted the start and finish of one of the best mountain bike races in the country, the Idyllwild Spring Challenge put on by Idyllwild Cycling. Not long before the start the temperature was just above freezing but the bluebird skies and beaming sun soon produced fabulous racing weather and a temperature swing of nearly 40 degrees. With the trails in primo shape from the recent rain and snow the racers took their places at the start line.
Despite the generous primes offered for Queen of the mountain and big money payout for overall position only three Pro women toed the line. With local fast woman Pua Sawiki crushing the competition in Europe at the World Cups Allison Mann, sponsored by Rock N' Road Cyclery and riding the 2010 Specialized Sworks Epic, who placed second last year took over as race favorite. The competition consisted of Kathy Sherwin from of the Mafia Racing Team on her sweet looking Felt 29er and Tamari Pruis racing for Kenda Tires.
From the start the lead was hotly contested. Kathy led out with Allison hot on her heels. Tamari was a little ways off the back but on a huge 30 mile loop containing a great deal of technical climbing and plenty of opportunity for mistakes it was still anyone's race.
Allison and Kathy battled closely with Allison edging out the first prime and QOM points. Despite Allison slipping the first cash money prize in her pocket, Kathy wasn't giving up easily. She cleared the top of the first clime less than a minute behind and looking fairly fresh.
After the first QOM point the course contains a great deal of climbing on both fire roads and technical fun single track, and some of the most fun single track descending in Southern California. Despite not having any course knowledge Kathy was still not far back from buzzing the not so knobby Sworks Renegade tire mounted on the back of Allison's Epic. Despite the heated battle Allison was still in the lead at the second QOM point pocketing another wad of cash.
From the second QOM point the course turns dreadfully brutal with a fire road climb up May Valley Road, the ever twisty Sunset Trail single track descent, then a quick trip through Astro Camp, and finally onto the soul crushing climb to the top of the Southridge Fire Road with a cool Benjamin waiting to reward the first woman to the top. Definition of soul crushing climb: 1.5 miles of ridiculous steep climbing with grades exceeding 25% in places. At the bottom of the biggest climb of the day Allison had stretched her lead to nearly two full minutes. Kathy was putting in a valiant effort but was unable to reel her in and Allison locked up the final prime.
Luckily for all of the racers (not just the ones that bagged the cold hard cash) the course then rewards them with miles and miles of amazing single track descending. At the finish Allison had pushed her lead to close to 2.75 minutes. One benefit of such a small field was that all three of the contestants got big checks and a better payday than most any other race on the calendar!
If that wasn't enough the podium finishers were also rewarded with a hand crafted etched glass medal courtesy of the very talented race organizer, Katie Hedrich.
Not only did Allison pocket the QOM cash prizes, she was also awarded an awesome hand crafted steel trophy for QOM.
The race continues tomorrow with dirt Time Trial and SuperD races. The winner will not only pocket the rest of the cash purse that is up for grabs but also take home the traditional hand crafted granite trophy! Stay tuned for final results of the weekend.