Friday, November 21, 2008

Better late than never...

By this time, most folks have heard all about the killer night race at Sierra Point so I'll just post a quick recap. It was a really good time and I hope Tom can do this again, night races are fun!

It was super weird trying to be ready for a 8pm start, I went and rode for an hour or so in the afternoon. I rolled down to the race with an hour to spare and got some good laps on the track to be sure the tires were set and see how it would be to race in the dark. The lights were really good and the course was well lit, I set my tires to 24 psi and got over to the start.

I got the holeshot and tried to stretch it out but I wasn't really making gaps happen and we pretty much stayed together for the first few laps. Bucket got up there and drilled it too, and Aaron Odell showed his face after riding up from a poor start position.

Odog got on the front and started riding a damn hard tempo. I was pretty surprised, as he's been pretty much nowhere to be seen at the races this year. He's back on form though, and he showed it on saturday by driving the pace till it was just he and I off the front.

I took a few turns on the front so as not to look like a heel, but it felt like we were going faster when Aaron was in the wind. We rode it home and Aaron took the win with a good kick on the finishing straight!

Scott Chapin held on for 3rd so HRS/Rock Lobster took the top 3 spots. Can't complain about that!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Sacramento Series #3, Discovery Park

I raced in Sacramento only this weekend, there was also a race on saturday in Reno but that's a little too far away for me. Both of these races were part of the NCNCA Cup series, which is a sort of regional series- there is one race from each of the promoters in our NCNCA district and 6 races total I think. So anyway, because this Sacramento race was part of the NCNCA series there was a good turnout for sunday's race and I think it was one of promoter Rich Maille's biggest events yet.

The course was totally awesome. It was in a city park, as a good cyclocross course should be, and it was mainly on grass. The ground was really quite smooth and the grassy turns provided excellent traction. It was easy to keep the speed up since the ground wasn't super resistant. There were a couple sets of regulation barriers, and there was a 4-pack of mini-barriers in an early part of the lap. The 4 small barriers were right after a 180 degree turn and they were positioned in a way that required a hard, short accelleration to have enough speed to hop them all. I jumped them in practice and decided not to bother in the race, even if the other guys were hopping them I was confident that the race result wouldn't be decided there and after that I ran them each time. There was also a place where the course passed beneath a bridge, which reeked like pee and was very treacherous: about an inch of slick mud on top of pavement. It was pretty hairy in both directions and I crashed there when I was warming up so that was really the main trouble spot on the track.

The mens A field seemed good, with all the usual suspects taking the start. Ned Overend was the surprise celebrity at the line, he was in town for a Nor-Cal high school league fundraiser and he made it out to contest the race as well which I think does a lot for an event like this. Obviously, racing Ned is an honor and although he's well over 50 he's still a contender at any race. I was stoked to see him there and I was also stoked that Rich offered up $100 to the winner of the first lap!

So, as the whistle blew I had dollar signs in my eyes and threw everything I had at that first time around the course! My teammate Alex Work got the holeshot and held a pretty savage pace for the first half of the lap.

I came around him on the back section with Scott Chapin close behind me but held it together to come through the finish and get that money.

I sat up for a few seconds to rest and wait for Scott, and we just started burning up the track and getting down to the business of building our gap over Cody Kaiser and Ned, who were maybe 10 seconds back. Scott won the race in Reno on saturday and he was looking good around the course so I was looking forward to a good battle with him at this one. Unfortunately, I had a lapse of attention at the end of lap 2 and fell over in a corner near the finish. So stupid! I think my tires were a little too hard, but basically I was just jackassing through the corner and I blew it.

So when I get up and back on my bike I'm in with Ned and Cody. I was happy with this situation because I could ensure that Scott could get the win and wait till later on and attack them for second. If Scott wasn't able to keep his gap, I could just wait till he was caught and try for the win myself. So I just got to work focusing on my position throughout the course and responding to Cody and Ned when they would attack. I would move to the front before the barriers so that I could ease up the pace just a bit and slow things down and then let Ned or Cody back to the front so they can chase hard and get tired.

It was pretty awesome getting to race with Ned, an all time great in mountain bike history. He's been the world champion and he's top class. He's done an awful lot for the promotion of bike racing and he's a hero of mine from my early days as a bike racer. Cody Kaiser is a legend in the making- at 16 years of age, he's already showing the strength and sense of a champion as well. It is cool to be in the chasing group that contained the oldest and youngest riders in the race!

As we got closer to the end of the race and Scott's lead was up over 35 seconds, I felt that the time had come to apply some pressure of my own so I went to the front with 3 to go and turned it up a bit. I got a gap pretty quickly and I focused on keeping the power on and getting as close to Scott as I could. I think the gap was down to about 20 seconds at the end, so that was cool. Cody attacked Ned on the last lap for 3rd and Alex Work managed to battle it out for 5th, leaving HRS/Rock Lobster with 1st, 2nd and 5th places in this race.

I can't say enough about how well this race was produced. The course was awesome, things went off without a hitch and best of all there was a good charge of cash for the A men and women. I paid for my day and came out ahead thanks to the first lap prime and I got a bag full of killer swag to boot: a 22oz beer, a sweet Sac Series pint glass and a really nice Marmot winter hat. I sure appreciate this kind of prize list and this kind of thing makes a big difference for me- I'll come out to as many of Rich's races as I can!

Monday, November 3, 2008

Pilarcitos #2: The Stick

Yesterday was the Pilarcitos series race #2 at Candlestick state recreation park. This is always a fun venue and this course was a treat after getting a bunch of rain in the 24 hours before the race. By the time I got there (@ around 10:30 for my noon start) the skys were more or less blue and there was no sign of rain. the air was warm and it even felt a little humid: perfect conditions for my nice short sleeve series leader's jersey!

I signed in, pinned, chamoised and socialized. There is no on-course warmup allowed at the Pilarcitos races except in the 15 minutes between races so I got on a trainer and spun my legs for about 3 minutes. I've decided that as long as I do a hard prep in the 2 days before the race, warmups are basically unneccesary so I haven't really been warming up much these days. I did jump on the course to be sure my tires were at a good pressure (25 lbs, seemed great) and to rail into some corners and twist the throttle at least a little bit. Because the course inspection is tricky at these races, there's like a million people from all cat's out there trying to see the track so I didn't get to try out most of the lines that looked best as I was just trying to avoid people the whole time. Whatever, I've raced here before so I mostly knew my way around.

Got the first callup and chose a spot on the far right. Most of the fast local guys were present, but no Ben or Andy J-M and no Justin Robinson. There were 40 guys total I think. At the whistle, my teammate Scott Chapin got the hole and I slotted in behind him with Cody Kaiser on my wheel. Scott was pinning it and we were ripping the corners pretty well, getting a little gap on Cody and a few others who had gotten on.

Scott was doing a good job of dragging me around and making gaps for Cody to close on the first and most of the second lap. I came around Scott at some point and was first on to the long pavement at the end of the second lap. I wasn't feeling super good and I was noticing that I felt saturday's race a bit, but I put it in the big boy gear and cranked it up through the the paved bit.

This gave me a bit of a gap, which wasn't truly what I wanted so early in the race, but I could see Scott back there clogging things up for Cody and the others so I just kept on the gas and tried to ride smooth. Scott and I have been talking about how to ride for one another when these situations occur so I thought I should do my thing since he was back there doing his. He looked to be letting them chase hard on the fast parts and going to the front and riding slower tempo through the twisty and bumpy bits.

(photos: Jon Suzuki)

I got my gap up over 20 seconds and kept it there for the next few laps. I yelled to our mechanic Ryan to try and give me the time splits so I could meter my efforts with 4 laps to go. At this point, the wind and loneliness was taking its toll on me and when he told me 25 seconds, it felt pretty small but I was hopeful that I could maintain it. There were a lot of people cheering loud for me and my parents were out watching as well so I was getting ready to really hurt myself for those last few times around. With 3 to go, Ryan said the gap was under 20 seconds and Cody had gotten free of the group. I was pretty worried that he would come across to me so I tried again to dig as deep as I could and try to go hard while he was back there going hard.

(photo: Jon Suzuki)

At this point I was feeling pretty bad and I could tell my lap times were coming down. I had to really be firm with myself and stay focused on riding the course well and digging as deep as possible on the pavement particularly since this was where I seemed to be stretching things back out. I was too tired to ride the 12t cog there by this time but I was just trying to get down low and aero into the wind and just pedal as hard as I could in the 14t which was still damned hard into the wind.

I was struggling on the last lap and feeling that I might or might not be able to get to the line without cramping when Ryan told me the split was 30 seconds again! This was a big relief and I was able to roll into the line and enjoy my win. I am pleased with my new level of determination in the late part of tough races and I was very happy to get off my bike after this race. I feel like I rode well with the leaders jersey on and it is great to get to keep it for next round! I just hope I can continue like this- I'm reaching my goals this year so far, but there's 3 more rounds to go and a lot can happen.

(photo: Jon Suzuki)

Thanks to everyone who came out and yelled for me, and special thanks to Ryan for helping me from the pits!

(photo: Ken Conley)

Mud wrestling in Santa Rosa

This week was good for me, I haven't had a lot of work to do (uh, so if you're reading this and you need tires glued or your bike built, cleaned or repaired drop me a line... all this racing's not exactly paying the bills...) so I pretty much hung around my apartment, rested and trained.

On friday, I got a taste (Literally. Eww.) of what was to come when I went out for the first rainy ride of the year and it was pretty gross since the roads hadn't been washed by rain in about 9 months. This meant I arrived home spattereed in oil, dirt and bits of roadkill which seemed more plentiful than normal on the roads around my house that day. Time to break out the rollers (for warmup and cooldown) and stationary trainer (for intervals) I guess!

Saturday morning I awoke to steady rain. I met up With Tim Brennan and we headed up to Santa Rosa for race #2 of the CXSR series. I wore full rain gear as I watched Tim race and inspected the course- the conditions were epic with intermittent rain but fairly warm air, probably about 60 degrees. Judging by the condition of bikes that had only done a single inspection lap, I opted to just walk the course on foot to see what I was up against.

The track consisted of some nice grassy sections with 2 sets of 3 barriers on one side of the park. So far so good. I walked over to the creek at the edge of the park at the first crossing to find a very sketchy little bridge made for the race. It appeared to be hastily constructed with some 2x4s and ply wood, and covered with chicken wire... Sketchy at best. The creek had nearly overtopped this thing earlier in the day, according to some onlookers/course marshalls. It looked like carnage was virtually guaranteed at this spot as I watched a few riders cross over it.

Beyond this point, the track entered what may have been a path or a dirt road. It is impossible to say, since this long section was covered with tracks through standing water and lots and lots of mud! I tested the depth of several puddles with my boots to check for hard ground and potential dangers to my tires and found that in most wet spots there was harder ground beneath. The boundaries of the course had disappeared, as it was marked with tape on the ground. The tape had long since disappeared under the mud for the most part. There were a few cool berms that were still above water so maybe this area was a kind of trail? It was gnarly.

The track then passed over another bridge which was very narrow, but at was up to code with high handrails. The entrance to this bridge was kind of treacherous though, as there was a big tree root drop-off that could have been pretty straightforward but became very tricky in the mud. After that it was back to the more civilized grassy park.

I washed down a lemon-sublime GU packet with a few gulps of water, set my tires to 24 lbs front and rear and headed to the line. The men's A field was small but several fast riders were present including Chris Brown and Duncan Meyers, 2 top class mountain bikers. My plan was to ride carefully and take a lap or 2 to figure out the good lines through the muddy mess. I wanted to ride conservatively since sunday was the Pilarcitos race at Candlestick and I was hoping to use this race as a warmup. But when the race started and Duncan got the holeshot, I realized quickly that I'd need to be in front to get a clear shot at the difficult track. I passed him at my first chance and settled into my rythym around the course.

I was pretty surprised to get a gap right away and when I came into the pits for my first bike change, no one was in sight. I stretched my lead out as the race went on and I tried to relax and conserve my energy in the tough mud. Katie Fox was washing my bikes each lap and doing a stellar job in the pits, it was a huge advantage to get a clean bike each lap. I was thinking about all the guys trying to finish the race on one bike and figured that if I was careful not to crash and always take a bike, my gap would grow.

Luck was with me; I kept the tires on the ground where they belong and I rode in for the win. Although I was trying to be conservative, I still ended up expending a lot of energy just riding the mud. It was pretty hard on my lower back since this kind of muddy race requires steady power to a big gear. I can't complain though, and I felt pretty good at the end with a sore body but fresh legs.

I quickly washed the mud out of my eyes and off my body (or tried to...) and got dry and warm. My prize was a package of fresh pasta and pesto from local pasta company Pasta Etc. which turned out to be an incredibly tasty dinner and breakfast on sunday! I began my recovery immediately with a new product that I'm testing out for GU Sports; a yet un-named recovery drink. This stuff is being produced in a strawberrry-watermelon and pineapple-orange flavor and it's probably the tastiest recovery beverage I've ever tried. I washed down a packet of blueberry-pomegranate flavored GU Roctane gel with it and I felt better right away. GU's support has been really key for me this year, particularly on these 2 race weekends.

When I got home I spent a couple hours cleaning my skinsuit, shoes and bikes. I rinsed my skinsuit again and again, and mud and dirt just kept coming out. My driveway was quickly covered with an incredible amount of mud. It was pretty impressive, but my suit came clean after several rinsings and a soak in cold water. I used oxy-clean in the wash and even the white parts came out looking pretty good.

The bikes both got new shift cables and housing. There's really no way to avoid this after a muddy race, so I keep cables and rolls of housing on hand so I can do it quickly. The A bike got a new rear brake cable as well. After stuffing my face with pasta and any other food I could find, I hit the sack and passed the hell out as the final step in preparing for Pilarcitos #2!

Monday, October 27, 2008

Surf City Halloween extravaganza!

Yesterday's Velo Bella Surf City race was All-Time. Yes, the course was awesome. Yes, the weather was perfect. Yes, the Bellas and Fellas pulled off, yet again, a perfectly coordinated event with a huge turnout. Yes, there was cash and prizes for my race and thankfully no medals which is something I really appreciate (the racers want CASH). But the fact is, the costume race was through the roof with around 100 participants. It was about the raddest thing I've seen at a cross race, people really pulled out the stops with some really awesome and hilarious costumes!

My teammates Alex Work and Scott "buckethead" Chapin raced as Mexican wrestlers on an old Schwinn tandem:

(Photos: Photoblake)

They engaged the other racers in theatrical melee- at one point they were kicking the hell out of Jesus Christ, hopefully I can find some shots of that!

I am a lame nerd and my costume was the same as it is every weekend. I drove down by myself and spent the time in the car getting wound up and ready to dive headlong into the deep lake of pain that would be the mens A race. Because my race started at 2:30, I got to go ride for an hour in the morning and I was optimistic that my legs would be good.

I just put 2 "new old stock" Challenge Grifo's on my Easton EC-90 SLX wheels and I was hopeful that some nice sharp knobs would help keep me upright and carry me to a good finish, or, with some luck, the win. These are the classic Grifo tread, not the new tread with the extra side knobs because I can not find a pair of new ones anywhere. People have been going fast as hell on this tread for decades so I figured I will be ok with these old ones, but I sure wish I could just get my hands on some modern tires this year!

So anyway, Sabine gave us our race instructions and Kasey blew the whistle and we all pedaled as hard as we could. The field seemed fairly large, with Ben J-M, Justin Robinson and Cody Kaiser all present. Most of my A category teammates were also raring to go including Scott Chapin and Aaron Odell. Rich Maile was also on the start and he lit it up off the line, getting the holeshot with me on his wheel. We got a little gap and on the runup I passed Rich and (stupidly) kept on the gas for a little while because I was feeling good. Of course Ben, Justin and Cody caught me later on the second lap and I slotted in behind Ben and just thought I'd stay there as long as I could.

I was pretty happy that I could follow Ben's accellerations without much trouble. He is very smooth and he was clearly just putting down some fast laps and just going hard on all the parts of the track that would allow high speed. Because his efforts were predictable it wasn't too hard for me to be ready for them and just hang on for dear life as he cranked it up. I was doing alright on this sleighride, but so was Justin and Cody, who were also able to meet the demands and hang on to our group. We were really going hard up the runup- I was feeling fast on foot but not so fast that I couldn't manage to snag $11 worth of tips out of beer cans at the top! Many thanks to all the cheers/jeers/heckles at that spot, it was really fun to have a loud and raucous crowd urging us on!

(Photo courtesy of tastybite)

(photo courtesy of Lauren Haughey/Morgan Fletcher)

I think we might have done 4-5 laps when Ben made a mistake- he got just a little off his line up the short off-camber climb after the grassy ball field and crashed right in front of me! I like to try and be a gentleman and everything, but when Ben makes an error like this (and it doesn't happen too often) I have to take advantage of it. It is bike racing after all, and these things happen to the best of us so I ran around him and got on the gas right away!

I think this is when Cody fell off the pace and the race turned into a one-on-one battle for me and Justin once again. We settled into some good smooth laps and we both more or less kept on the gas to keep our gap on Cody and Ben, who was nowhere to be seen.

I somehow got confused and thought at 3 to go that there was only 2 to go and I just decided to pull out the stops when I was on the front and throw everything I had at Justin. I was digging really deep at every fast part of the course, especially up the short dirt road climb that we started on. I was happy that it seemed like I would only really feel bad from this every 3rd effort or so, but my legs were starting to cramp from the runup- I should have been riding that thing.

So when we came through the finish and heard 2 to go I was less than excited about trying to keep up my attacks but I was saved from that prospect by... a rear flat. Justin saw it and he was about as bummed as I was. Justin is top class. He almost slowed to give his condolences and even yelled to my teammates on the sidelines that I'd punctured to be sure I'd have a bike ready when I got to the pits.

I had a pretty long, slow ride over to Ryan who was ready for me with a bike.Cody came winging by me on the dirt road climb, but noone else was in sight. I think I had to ride about 1/3 of the track with my "NOS" Grifo flapping around, useless. When I got on my B bike, I had lost a lot of momentum and I had a slow lap and a half to the finish for 3rd. I wanted to claw back up to Justin and Cody, but I was blown like my tire and I just couldn't get going again with my cramping legs.

The drama continued on the front of the race though- Justin also had a flat on the last lap and he must have been lucky enough to get it before the pits because he changed bikes after getting caught by Cody and then had to sprint him at the end! Cody was the only one unaffected by mechanicals, Ben's bad luck continued with some kind of chain problem at the runup that resulted in his 4th place finish.

Cody Kaiser is quickly developing into one hell of a good bike racer and at 16 years of age, he's the top new prospect in nor-cal. His fitness is amazing and he was really doing a great job of keeping on the gas even when he'd gotten sawed off from the front group. He came damned close to winning the race yesterday and I'm sure he's now well aware that things can change fast in a cross race and with determination and focus doors can open late in the race! I'm really impressed at how well he's developed even in the last few weeks, Cody's coming up!

This was a great, dramatic race for us. Justin earned a hard fought win and even though it sucked to wreck a tire, and noone wants to see crashes determine the results, it was probably pretty fun to watch the cards get re-shuffled every few laps. I can't wait for next weekend!

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Pilarcitos #1, McClaren Park.

McClaren Park is a race that I've been looking forward to, not so much because of the course but because I knew there would be a lot of people out racing and watching. We're now into the meat of the cyclocross season and Tom's Pilarcitos races are well produced and fun to do. I was second in the Pilarcitos series last year and I've never won one of these races, so a Pilarcitos win was a goal of mine for this season. In fact, the first Coyote Point cx race that Tom put on was my first ever cross race and it was the race that really hooked me on cross six(!) years ago.

Yesterday morning was kind of silly, I rode for an hour near my house since I knew I'd have to ride the trainer since pre-riding is not allowed during other races at Pilarcitos. There is a course inspection time right before the race, but it's only like 10 minutes so I tried to enjoy my morning at home and putt around town.

So I maybe enjoyed it too much because I got in my car a few minutes later than I'd have liked to. And then I missed the exit off 101 and had to turn around... and then I went down the wrong street after getting off at the right exit... I got to the race feeling more than a little off my mark with about 25 minutes to race time. I picked up my #, changed in the porta potty (Ewwww) since I had to park kind of far away and had someone pin my number on (thanks Dan!). I dislike having someone else pin my number almost as much as I dislike changing in the porta potty. I have a very fast and effective way to pin my own number on the steering wheel of the car, but the clock was ticking and I just wanted it right side up and on the correct side of my skinsuit. I flinged my B bike at Ryan, our mechanic, and got down to business.

I did an "aggressive preride" and tried to get both a warmup and some idea of the course, and both of those goals were only barely met. There were a TON of people warming up from all different cat's I guess so it was pretty crowded on the track. The course was pretty straightforward: there was a very short paved start and then a bit of turf before the runup, a paved climb, a rough and nasty down hill, more climbing, a big log that was equally dangerous to try and hop or run and remount (I ate shit remounting after that log in practice, but the photog that was sitting right there said he missed the shot. Dude! Isn't that why you're camped out at the sketchy log?) then an fairly unenjoyable descent to the bumpy, moist ball field. There was a set of 4 barriers right before the finish. The course was rough, the only smooth parts were paved (and uphill, pretty much). I wanted my tires to be soft, for the cornering and to go better over the rough stuff, but there was a lot of places to bottom out and flat so I left them at 30 psi.

I was late to the start but made it in time for callups so I got a good lane choice (far right hand side, so I could cut everyone off around the first corner if I get the holeshot ;-). There was a big field, Tom said 55 guys, and there were a bunch of heavy hitters in attendance. I was called up just after Justin Robinson and I figured that he'd probably be my main competition but the father and son duo Mark and Chance Noble were also in attendance and those guys have given me a hard fight in the past as well. There were a fair amount of other fast guys there but I didn't really get a good chance to see who else might be a problem since I was kind of running behind. I wasn't feeling really all that good about my chances and I was basically winging it after botching the morning's preparation. I don't feel like I've been climbing all that well lately, especially after last weeks steep and torturous CCCX race so I was just hoping to get the race going and see what happens.

So, Casey gave the whistle a mighty toot and we were off. I got the holeshot and only Justin R could come up the hill with me after the runup. We took turns and started to stretch out our gap on lap 1.

(photo: Nick Navarro)

(photo: John Suzuki)

After 2 laps Justin gapped me off for a lap or so and I thought my chance to battle to the finish might be past... I stayed calm and just rode steady until I clawed him back when he started slowing after his effort. That was good, but I still wasn't optimistic about my chances. We rode together again, but I was making sure to be ready and to make the pace fast on the climb and bumpy flats even though we had a big gap.

There was a time when Keith Defiebre (CCCX promoter) made some comment on "making deals on the race" or some weird thing when he was cheering/heckling us at the sandy twisty part near the finish. So I said something like "Hey Justin, let's make a deal!" in a joking way and Justin goes "The deal is, we're going hard!". It was true and it made me think that what I should really do is basically play fitness-chicken with him. Just go hard hard hard even though there was a lot of racing left and we had a huge gap. Screw it. Fucking Justin always beats me on the last lap when I try and conserve myself in the race so I might as well just get in the pain-bag for 20 more minutes.

I still pretty much thought he would beat me with 3 to go, but I was trying to figure out when to go and what to do. At the top of the hill, at the remount after the log I was in front and I must have started to get a gap- my teammate Tom Fox was on the sidelines and he yelled at me to attack so I did. I looked back to see a little gap and and then I just buried myself.

(photo: William Matthews)

I was pretty good about riding steady and not crashing and I just really tried to go hard on the hill and the flat places. In cross, you can't let up even if the gap is big- anything can happen and it's not easy to have a balance of speed and careful handling especially on a course like this. I was lapping a ton of people by this point too which made it even more tricky when I was pretty much blacked out from drilling it.

Those laps were really tough and I was really happy at the finish. I was pretty much doing a victory freakout on the final straight and the pictures are hilarious-

(photo: William Matthews)

It was good one! It was a really proud win for me and I am super stoked to have the series leader jersey (which I got to put on after being late to the podium, I was running behind even after the race!). I hope I can keep racing well, this was my least favorite track of the Pilarcitos races so the best is yet to come (although I thought McClaren's a decent track for the terrain Tom had to work with, and definitely better than last year's track). I am very happy to have beaten Justin in a mano y mano situation, he's a great competitor and a guy that I really respect. Thanks a ton to everyone who was yelling and cheering for us, I had a great time suffering deeply for the entertainment of others.


(photo: Wiliam Matthews)

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Oh wow, CCCX was hard.

Today I went down to the third race of the CCCX series today. It was held on a new track at Laguna Seca: Rumor has it that there will be a 'cross at Sea Otter next year and Rod and Keith are trying out the potential courses. I picked up my teammate Sean Coffey in Los Gatos and got to the place with time to spare. Sean was racing his new steel single speed Rock Lobster frame in his first go at the SS race. It turns out that this was a pretty rugged course place for single speeding!

Todays course was part of the Sea Otter mtb short track course combined with some singletrack, dirt roads and pavement. There was a really nasty paved climb with a barrier at the top which required a very awkward dismount on loose, off camber dirt. It was a discourging finish to the hardest effort on the track. There were some fast parts and a bunch of barriers, it was really a hard course.

There were also a lot of corners on this course that I was pretty unsure about- many were off camber and the dirt was hardpacked, yet covered with ball bearing gravel. I fell on an off camber on my last practice lap and jammed my thumb fairly hard and got a scrape on my knee that immediately began to bleed. I was a little worried about my thumb but everyone was lining up so I headed to the start.

I'm leading the series so I got called first and chose the far right spot for a clear shot at the uphill, paved start/finish. The course went left onto the dirt so my position gave me an advantageous line if I could clip in quickly and go hard up the pavement. There were a lot of good guys, this was the hardest field in a norcal race so far. Ben Jaques-Maynes showed up after apparently "taking some time to just relax" after Tour of Missouri. He looked fit and I knew that even if he's been sitting on the couch for a month, he's probably still faster than me. Also present was Ned Overend, american mountain bike hero. Ned is, I think, 53 but he still can contest races at the elite level on the mtb, road and cyclocross bikes. I once beat Ned in a sprint at Nevada City, but it was only so that I didn't have to say that he lapped me!

There were all the other nor-cal regulars as well, and most of my team. Dave Wyandt was missing, but Scott Chapin (Buckethead) and Aron Odell were present. Bucket's moustache is looking pretty luxurious these days! New face Mark Santurbane was there as well.

The whistle blew and I got the holeshot. On the pavement, Mark S really pinned it and started getting a gap at the top. I was chasing him with Bucket on my wheel and I spun out in a corner. He nearly crashed as well, but he got by me and chased up to Mark.

I got going and I could see a group with Ned, Ben and Cameron Falconer behind me for a lap. A lap later, Ben came barelling past me on the bottom of the climb. That guy is wicked, he was turning the 46t up that hill! He had a bike change later that lap and I caught him again. I was only with him to the climb though, then he was gone.

So I'm feeling pretty crappy at this point. It's been about 20 miutes of survival mode after crashing basically twice. I was thinking pretty seriously about going back to the car and just blaming it on my thumb, which did hurt but didn't seem to actually affect me when I was riding. My lungs were absolutely scorched from my hard start and the dry air or something? I definitely didn't warm up enough, that might have been part of it. I thought I was going to crash in every corner too and I just couldn't find sweet lines or get any kind of rythym around that course. I was also expecting Ned to come blazing up to me and I could see him and Cameron all over the course just a few seconds back.

But that actually didn't happen because Scott came off the leaders group. I caught him and we began to do some hard laps and work together and hopefully not get caught. Scott was a lot better on the descents but I imagined the climb must be brutal for him, he's a big dude. He was going right up it though, that guy is gnarly! We didn't increase our gap over Ned much, but we didn't lose it either.

Bucket got a little gap on me after the downhill at one point with less than 2 to go so I knew it was time to make it hard up the hill. I attacked him there and got a little gap that I could hold to the finish. So, I was 3rd after all. I'm actually very happy with this, but it was weird- I was under pressure the whole time and pissed from crashing. So after the race, instead of being stoked, I think I was just complaining about how hard it was and how the hill was too steep and blah, I crashed bla bla. I need to remember to cool down instead of blabbering when the race ends! That was a gnarly 3rd place that I didn't think I could do till the very last lap! It's a proud result and I'm pretty happy that I beat Ned even though he's old enough to be my dad and just racing for fitness these days.

Scott Chapin held on for 4th, also beating Deadly Nedly. Ned was 5th after gapping Cam later in the race, it's good to see Cam getting back into shape too. Sean Coffey did a damn respectable 6th place in the single speeds, I couldn't believe those dudes muscling up that climb!

My thumb is alright after some ice and Ibuprofin and I put tegaderm on my skinned knee. I'm ok and that was a burly race, so the day was a success!