Actually I had the title wrapped up after Santa Ynez. Even counting points and a half I clinched it. I have to admit though, with Ben and Brian racing in the Pro class now, the victory feels a bit hollow. After Fontana I didn't get any bar to bar racing except with racers that were not in my AG. I am reminded by the finish times of Ty and Marco that I need to be faster to win races outside of Socal, and am worried that the lack of competition will leave me unprepared for my next big race goal.
It didn't much matter to me that I had already clinched the Socal Championship Series, I am headed to Nationals soon and racing at altitude is going to be a big challenge there. Since Big Bear is at altitude and I have historically struggled with cramping there, I figured there is no better training for Nats than to smash myself up high. To make the weekend even better Allison and I decided to test out a weekend of camping in our new little car. It is a challenge for us to pare down our load, we have always been famous for "cramming 10lbs of shit in a 5lbs bag", dating back to our R/C racing days. So this weekend played double duty for us, camping road trip and altitude racing! PERFECT!
|Still can't believe we fit all our crap in this little car!|
Friday after work we headed up to the mountains. Our little car was loaded down with lots of stuff! Camping gear, tools and racing gear, and our race bikes on the back. We planned on camping at Barton Flats but by the time we got up there the place was full. I asked the Camp Host about availability of sites and he said that San Gorgonio campground up the road might have spots. A short trip up the road we found an acceptable location for our homestead and set to work cooking dinner and setting up camp. Dinner was great, boneless pork chops with asparagus and quinoa, and we indulged ourselves with some great beers, Stone Lukcy Basardt followed by a Kernville Brewing Just Outstanding and finally a Firestone Walker Reserve Porter for dessert. By the time we went to bed we were both fairly well smashed!
I didn't sleep well. Woke up many times, had a wicked headache, but the new Thermarest pads that we bought at REI were very comfortable and I didn't have my typical camping body aches, big bonus! Saturday morning we got up (slowly) and had both Jetboils fired up to make coffee and Allison's patented Steelcut Oat breakfast. Eventually we headed up to Big Bear and rode a good amount of the course (rode the Medium Course). I felt pretty good but for some reason had a lot of muscle soreness in my legs. Not sure what caused it. Unfortunately my bike wasn't feeling so well. A couple of miles in to the ride my bottom bracket started to complain. By the end of the ride it had mutated into a cacophony of creaks and pops and moans. Not good, in reducing the volume of stuff to take I had eliminated several items I would have needed to do a rebuild!
Immediately after the ride we hauled butt over to Bear Valley Bikes and were super stoked to find the proprietor, Derek Hermon, in the house! Derek hooked me up with his mad wrench skills and some top notch tips and tricks! I am not sure anyone knows the Sworks race bikes quite like him and I am extremely grateful for the fact that he sacrificed some of his ride time (he was kitted up and headed out to ride when we arrived) to help me. Derek, you are the man!!!!
After turning my Chitty Chitty Bang Bang bike back into the rocket sled it was designed to be, we headed back to camp and set to work making dinner again. Due to some "above and beyond" type efforts at work I had obtained a gift card for Omaha Steaks and part of my order included a "Free Gift" of "Gourmet" hot dogs and hamburgers. I fired up our PIMP ASS TOO DAMN BIG AND SHINY camping grill and set to grilling meat and veggies. What I wound up eating was quite satisfying, despite the not-very-impressive meat I had to work with. Grilled red onion, grilled sweet peppers, avocado, thin sandwich flats, and meat (I had three cheeseburgers and two hot dogs!). Allison and I joke around that we are like fish, if there is enough food available we will eat till we explode. I came close. We also enjoyed an Alaskan Limited Edition Imperial IPA.
|Hope you like my jugs!|
|Thanks to Allison and her iPhone for capturing so many food pics!|
|Sunrise on Sunday morning was pretty amazing!|
We turned in early and despite a wicked headache (again?! I don't know whether it was the beer or the altitude) I got a good night's sleep. Sunday morning we were up early and rushing to pack camp, cram it back in our little car, and cook breakfast. I really like camping with Allison like this, but it is for sure a lot of work for me! We got up to Big Bear with plenty of time to prep and warm up before our races. I decided to forgo warming up with Allison and ride up 2N10, then down Pirates and Fall Line. Fortuitously, Eric Colton joined me and I appreciated the chance to ride with him before he heads off to join the Specialized Helmet design team (Eric you will be missed, come back and ride/race with us often!). I felt like I had a good warm up session in my legs and decided to go stage for the start. The staging area was a cluster eff! Guys were walking around yelling at everyone trying to chat and stage to clear the road. At first I was very confused as there were no cars driving up and we were supposed to be staging for our race. It turns out that due to the remote start for the 50 miler, and the start timing, the 50 miler contestants were scheduled to climb through our staging area a couple of minutes before we were supposed to start. I guess Team Big Bear/US Cup is still learning. In my opinion the course layout/design and timing of starts were bad enough at Big Bear, adding the 50 miler like they did just made things less optimal (trying to be as polite as possible, I have no hate for the race promoters/organizers!)
Eventually we were lined up and took off up the climb. Marco again put in a huge attack off the start and nobody followed. I remember in years past when Marco used to make these attacks and they always seemed stupid because he was soon going backwards through the field. I take it back. The dude now attacks and checks out and doesn't fade or suffer. Huge improvement and quite remarkable/inspiring! I was in the chase group that included Ty, Griffith, and several others. The pace was brutal and I was suffering. Ty seemed to be cruising and had extra energy to push Griff a few times to help him stay near the front. When we crested the climb I am pretty sure it was just Ty and me, and Eric Colton who had started ahead of us but tagged on as we worked through traffic. Griff might have been very close as well. Moments after passing the Pro women (Allison was right with Deya which was HUGE for her to hang up the first climb) Ty soft pedaled a few strokes and looked over at me to pull. I really had no intention of pulling for a stronger rider (did he not think I saw him push Griff?) and he didn't seem to want me tagging along as he put in an acceleration that popped me off the back. My attempted response to his attack, however weak, shelled anyone else that was trying to hold my wheel and it left me all alone on the top of 2N10. Every now and then as we undulated across the mountain I would catch a glimpse of Ty who was 40 seconds or so up on me and gaining ground. So much for hanging on.
The rest of the race was pretty uneventful. There were tons of cars on the course, which is never a good thing but I felt like I was going pretty good and was constantly passing traffic (50 milers were doing the same course as us and we were working through pretty much that whole field). However I was never in contact with anyone from my wave so it is hard to judge. I suffered where I always do, the single track climb up from the bottom of Cabin 89, and rallied in the same location on the fast fire roads afterwards. On the fire road descent at the end I discovered another issue with the simultaneous running of the 50 miler. As we were descending 2N10 at breakneck speeds, the Pro class from the 50 was set on a collision course with us. I played it safe and didn't have any issues, but it really seems like a risky situation to have two way race traffic in addition to all the jeeps and motos that are out on course!
At the finish line I looked at my Garmin and was stoked to see I had finished in around 1:46. I was pretty sure my race a month earlier had been around 2hrs so I thought I had cut a huge amount of time. Looking back at results however they had my finish time at 1:48:43 so I was only a few minutes faster. Not as impressive, but I figure I would likely had been faster if I felt I could take some risks descending (less cars/riders/traffic). I waited around to see how Allison would fare against Deya and much to my surprise she was victorious! It is a huge deal for her to slash somewhere around 6 minutes from her finish time in a month. Hopefully she can keep the momentum going and salvage something from what started out as a horrible year for her!
So there you have it. Approximately one year from my return to pedaling after breaking my neck and knee (first ride back was June 29, 2010) I have smashed the Kenda Cup West winning 5 of the 7 races, and am looking forward to my trip to Nationals in Sun Valley, Idaho. Nationals, regardless of finish position, will be the capstone for my comeback from my crash. I am sure I will be lined up and shredding the course before I know it. Hopefully I will have a good story to write about, but I know I will have a great time!
See you at Rim Nordic next weekend for more high altitude suffering.