After taking my first win in CAT1 at Bonelli I wasn't quite sure what to expect at Fontana. My training has been less than ideal due to work and life stress (there will be plenty on that later) so I was trying to maintain some optimism and my loose goal for the race was to stay in the top three. Ben Jones upgraded to the Elite ranks so it seemed realistic to get a top three, my main competition was going to be Eric Bostrom and Bryan Taylor.
Saturday we headed up to Fontana so that I could inspect the course, pre-ride, and support our friends that were racing. The course was AWESOME.
|First lap was solo.|
The worst thing with the pre-ride at Fontana is that there is really no easy way up the Elevator!
|Such perfect conditions!|
The best thing with the pre-ride at Fontana is the descent off the Elevator!
|Second lap I rode with some of Team BMC.|
The second lap was a little more lively as I wound up riding with some of the young talented guys from Team BMC. Thankfully they took it easy on the Elevator so that we could stick together for the full lap.
The pre-ride was probably not really necessary. The course was nearly identical to the one that I had already raced on twice in the SRC Winter Series. I was very happy with this last minute course change! This course is far better than the original one posted!
After the pre-ride I put on some jeans and hiking shoes and hiked up the Elevator (third trip up of the day) to meet Allison who had been up there shooting photos. It is a little easier to hike up than ride up. The Elite women's race was great and I spent the whole time running around from spot to spot yelling my face off at the awesome athletes as they battled for position.
My buddy Dave showed up at the end of the Elite women's race so we hiked down and met up with him near the finish line. Allison wanted to head back up the Elevator for the Elite men's race so up we went (fourth trip of the day) and I pushed Maxi most of the way up.
|Me, Maxi-moto, and Dave.|
I had a great time playing with Maxi and watching the Elite men tear up the course. It blows my mind that people want me to upgrade, I can't keep up with those dudes! (more on this later)
We didn't hang out too much longer. Needed to get home and prepare my bike for Sunday's race, eat, and get some rest/sleep. I honestly have to say I was more than a little worried that I had done too much for the day before my biggest race of the year!
We arrived at Fontana well before the sun was up. 8AM start time means I was warming up on course in the pre-dawn mist. I rode a lap of the course (yes, another trip up the Elevator) and was out there pretty much by myself. It was a beautiful morning but I didn't really stop to enjoy it. Had a lot on my mind...
I got over to the starting area and got a spot, I was among the first to show up. It was a really nice touch for Larry Longo to do call-ups for top three in the Kenda Cup Series so I could have shown up later! I think the skinsuit is ideal for these cold early starts, I was still shivering though. I got a call up and we waited for the start.
|Out of view on the right EB leads out the group.|
Off the start I put in enough effort to sit fourth wheel. Conserve wherever possible. I stupidly yelled at a good racer on the first 180 turn. He had hit the brakes and I felt the impending pile-up behind me. I was mostly not stoked on the fact that EB was already gapping us and we were going to have to work to get back on. On the first short climb I put in an effort to ensure EB wouldn't get away, I was now second wheel. I sat on his wheel through the first single track section and it seemed he was having some issues, he even said "Sorry about that" a few times. I assumed maybe he wasn't as familiar with the course, never thought it could be mechanical but that seems like a possibility looking back.
We hit the Elevator and I did my best to stick to his wheel. I wanted to ride the rock line and right before I needed to commit to it I saw a backpack sitting right in the middle of the line. I yelled for the photographer to move it and he did with speed and grace. I hope Andy at bluefirepictures.com realizes I didn't mean to be impolite! He did still manage to snap a photo as I went by, props on the skills!
Towards the top of the climb I started to worry about the pace. Bryan was on my wheel and went around me when I tried to recover a bit on a flatter spot. EB had gapped us already and headed down the descent off the Elevator seemed to be opening that gap. Bryan isn't quite as strong on the descents, I didn't have passing opportunity so I focused on recovering. When we dropped down the last chute before hitting the asphalt EB was just rolling onto the road, he had crashed. The train of three was back together. Up past the water tower Bryan was second wheel and we were trying to hold onto EB. He didn't get much of a gap before the descent.
Bryan hit the descent just in front of me and that was probably a really good thing. EB got a bit of a gap but then crashed again on a blind left hand corner. Bryan managed to get by fairly clean and so did I. I yelled up to him that now it was time for us to nail that coffin shut! We needed to work together and try to ensure the EB didn't catch us. At this time I had no idea of any sort of mechanical on EB's bike , when I went by it seemed he was getting back on his bike to chase, but apparently he had lost his front wheel at some point in the race. Not good.
From that point on I was committed to work with Bryan so that one of us would win. I led the final descent on lap one and gapped Bryan. When we hit the flats I sat up and let him catch on so that we could work together. Bryan is a stronger climber than me so every trip up the Elevator he gapped me a little more, and every trip down the single track I would catch back on. I was trying to share the work with him on the flats and when I saw him get squirrelly on the descents tried to help with words of encouragement, "Hit that inside line, look ahead." or "Stay focused, stick your lines."
The last trip up the Elevator I thought the race was pretty much decided. Bryan led and gapped me immediately. My legs were pretty much tapped out and I was worried about cramping so I had to let him go. It seemed like towards the top of the climb maybe he was running out of gas too as the gap stopped growing. Once I hit the downhill all systems were go! This is my house! My game. DH BABY! BRAAAAAAAP!
I closed the gap and then tried to play it cool. I thought about putting in an effort on the small climb before the last descent but decided that if Bryan had something left in the tank he would then be able to sit on my wheel on the flats. I have no idea if he can sprint. When we got onto the flats I sat on just long enough to take a swig off my bottle, stretch my back a little bit for the sprint, and when it was safe I went around. I hollered at him, "Let's go Bryan!" as I pulled up along side.
I didn't look back.
I hit the last short up and there was a slower rider in the way. It wasn't clear which way he was going and I picked the left side. I saw a wheel coming up on my right. The slower rider went left and the wheel on my right went by. I lost position! CRAP. I said something like, "Shit, I just lost it." In my oxygen debt I had no idea that the rider wasn't Bryan. He sat up and offered me the trail and I said "No dude, it's yours, you got it." I am so stupid. The guy had a Sho-Air kit on and a 6 on his calf. The only battle I had lost to him was the battle for 4th place in the 30-34 group that started 2 minutes ahead of us.
Coming into the finish I tried to sprint and catch him. At the time, crossing the line, I was happy with my performance but didn't realize I had won.
|Not the same finish as Bonelli!|
No elated fist pump or celebration.
Then the confusion. That isn't Bryan, where is Bryan? Bryan rolled up next to me and congratulated me moments later.
|I truly loved racing with Bryan at Fontana!|
I had won Fontana. I didn't take a straight line to get here from last year getting second at Fontana, and I really feel that life is about the journey and not the destination, but I am stoked to have pulled off two wins in a row!
|Post race mud face.|
|This thing is amazing!|
Unfortunately the podium wasn't full.
|Come on guys, empty steps on the podium at a National?!|
Two wins in a row, the harassment has started to upgrade to Elite.
|1st CAT1 35-39, 4th Amateur Overall|
|The Flying Fossil and his biggest fan!|
So now the bad news. People are urging me to upgrade, to race with the Elites. That isn't going to happen. I won't be attending Sea Otter either. The opposite will happen. After having held WOT for a while I am going to have to ease up. Lots of stuff is going on, things are changing on many fronts for me. Allison isn't racing mountain bikes this year. Work is changing. Lots of stress on all fronts. I spent two days in a complete tail spin after the race. I will do my best to carry some fitness. I don't know if I will be as competitive at the rest of the races this year but I had a great run! Hopefully I will get to ride my bike a few times a week to stay sane!
I will still be racing. I am not quitting. I just wanted to get it out there that I won't be upgrading any time soon. If Allison gets a clean run at racing next year I plan to request an upgrade before the first race of the year for 2012!
I appreciate everyone that has contributed to my success this year, I couldn't do it without you. I love racing bikes because of you.
See you at the race!