The first race of 2017 is in the books and it was a fun one. The first race I was supposed to do the last weekend of April got snowed out. It’s so different than living in SoCal when you can really race year round. Here there isn’t very much going on race-wise from November to April unless you are going to race cyclocross or road running races. So for me, when it comes time to race I’m amping out and can’t wait to get on the starting line.
I’ve been having so much fun riding and training this year so far. I’m so stoked I made the decision to focus on the bike this year. It’s been refreshing to do something different, which I what I’ve always done. After focusing on ultra running the past few years it’s been fun to have a new focus… and my body loves it. It’s rad to put in big days and never really get sore…. just tired… and a good tired. I haven’t been this focused on racing my bike since the first part of 2012 when I was racing on the road. After some good crashes that year I pulled the plug and transitioned to running ultras after pacing my good friend Slater to second place at the inaugural Zion 100 miles. Later that year, at an ultra (whoos in el morrow 50k) I met my amazing wife Maggie… so it must have been fate if you believe in that kind of thing. I don’t think I did until then!
So training has been going great and I’ve been super motivated. Battle the Bear was just a tune up, low priority race with the Bailey Hundo (100 mile mtb race) just 5 weeks after. The race was 57 miles and my goal was to race hard, test nutrition, and see where I was fitness and strength wise.
I went back and forth whether or not to enter the pro class or age group. That’s the crazy thing about getting back into bike racing and especially mountain biking. If you are not a “real” pro (you have to actually have a pro card issued by USAC that you have to earn… you can’t just call yourself a pro… like in some other sports) then you race within in your category and age group. I’m a cat 1 (one step below pro) for mountain biking and cyclocross. At most mountain bike races you can only enter the race for whatever category & age group you are in. For instance I would typically race Cat 1 30-39 but at some endurance mountain bike races that aren’t sanctioned by USAC, like Battle the Bear, you can enter whatever category you want, including the pro field. Since I am going to race in my category/AG for the rest of the year and there were “real” pros lining up for this one I chose to race in 30-39.. as a 39 year old.
Onto the race… It was ~11.5 mile laps with ~800 ft of climbing per lap. Below is a lap by lap break down from what was one of the hardest, closest mountain bike races I have ever done.
I had a good start and was third wheel as we hit the singletrack and was just sitting in. one quarter of the way into the first lap we had to pass some of the 40-49 guys that started 2′ ahead of us and I got caught behind a small crash and lost the first two guys. I spent the rest of the lap working back up to them and got to them just before the longest climb, Mt Carbon, of the day and I felt like I was climbing stronger than them. noted. the three of us rolled through the start/finish together.
I took the reigns and laid it down. The 2 guys stayed with me and we got away everybody else in our field. Taking the lead and pushing the pace here was my plan and it definitely took some energy out of the other two guys but didn’t shake them. one of the guys came around a couple of miles from the start/finish and slowed the pace way down… so i knew he was hurting a bit…. so i attacked and made him work for it. i love bike racing! 3 of us were still together at the end of the lap.
I pushed the pace again for the first third of the lap and they were still sitting on. it was getting windy in the wide open fields so I pulled off and let them set the pace and just sat on until we got to the Mt Carbon climb and then I attacked…. and got away. I had a good ~30 second gap as we headed into the last flatish 2 miles to the start finish. As i was heading up a short fireroad roller there were 20 people on horses coming and a guy up ahead of me must of freaked out one of the horses and it was going nuts. I had to stop and move way out of the way of the horse. the guy in 2nd rolled up on me and just charged by. gnarly. I was not trying to take a hoof to the face. the horse calmed down and got back on my bike but i lost my lead and was now down ~30 seconds.
I knew i still had time to get back to the lead and we had cracked the 3rd place (at the time) guy. 1/4 way through the lap I was back on the leaders wheel. he was super cool guy and we talked a lot… just good competition. we worked together a bit to make sure 3rd was for sure out of it. Half way through the lap I attacked really hard on a 1′ climb and got away and then kept the hammer down. it should have been “the move”. I got about 30 seconds away and went to pass some lap traffic going off trail to the left and my front tire went into a rut i didn’t see in the tall grass and I totally ate shit. my shoulder smashed into the ground and then my face. my glassed smashed into the bridge of my nose and there was blood everywhere. I got passed again while figuring shit out but i got back on my bike and headed towards the finish. i wasn’t sure what i was going to do at that point but i wasn’t in chase mode. The bleeding stopped and I felt ok so by the time got to mt carbon i was getting time back and then got more on the climb. I ended lap 4 about 20 seconds down on the lead.
Lap 5 (final lap): I was still in chase mode but knew i had time. I caught the leader (thor) in about the same spot a quarter way through the lap. we rode together a bit and then it was just back and forth. I would get gaps on the climbs and he would hammer the flats to get back on my wheel. We had opposite strengths which made for some awesome racing. we hit mt carbon for the last time and I went all in, or at least gave it what i had left in the tank, and got away and probably had 20-30 seconds. I thought it was enough to have a comfortable finish…. but no. Thor was hammering the final miles to catch me and I was doing the same to stay away. I was able to stay a way, and after checking the results, I only won by 5 seconds!!!
It was such a fun (type 2 fun) race. We raced for the entire 57 miles. My average heart rate for just over 3.5 hours was 175 and hit a max of 197. This (kinda) old (39) dude still had the ability to dig deep and suffer which is good to know. The 5 laps kinda flew by because I got to see Maggie, Fi, and my mother in law every lap. Good motivation.
Once the results were posted I was stoked to see I had the fastest non-pro/amateur time of the day and would have finished 5th in the pro field.
I’m excited for the last block of training leading into the Bailey Hundo.