Kenda Cup Xc #7 Big Bear “Crafts and Cranks”

I’d skipped the last few rounds of the Kenda Cup not wanting to travel so far to race, but combining a weekend away in Big Bear with this round sounded like a good idea.  After two forth place finishes at Bonelli and Fontana I wasn’t hopeful of much better than top 5, especially with the elevation taking into account.

Sunday nice and early and I met with Rob to do a warm up/recon ride of the first part of the course.  We headed up the climb and then down the firetrack descent.  We had plenty of time on our hands so decided to carry on until we could join up with the skyline singletrack and ride back.  On and on the trail went and the time started disappearing.  We skipped most of skyline to get back to the start line.  Time was starting to get short and I was worried we might miss our start.  As if potentially missing the start wasn’t stressful enough, I took a quick drink from my seat tube bottle and the upper cage bolt fell out!  Figuring I’d sort it out at the start line I carried on riding down the hill.  It was much further than I thought and eventually the other bolt gave way and the cage went flying off into the scrub.  Well that saved me from sorting it out anyway, $60 carbon Specialized bottle cage lost though, ouch.

Got to the start with a couple of minutes to spare fortunately but there was no space to get to my start group so I just waited on the side.  Fortunately when they called us up that meant I could get first row on the grid, result!  In no time at all we were started and on to the 8+minute climb that comes right at the beginning in Big Bear.  My pre-race plan was to try not to go too hard up this climb and save myself but whether it was the adrenaline or just the fact that one of the other guys went off superfast I soon found myself well into the red and needing to dial it back.  Fortunately two of us had built a reasonable lead and so I didn’t lose any places when I saw the leader quickly take 20-30seconds on me.

On to the descent and I was motoring, my GPS recorded me doing 31mph!  I nearly over cooked a few corners but as the downhill was a pretty non technical fire trail I didn’t scare myself too much.  The course then involved several miles of rolling firetrack before turning and making its way back to the finish on what is pretty much 100% singletrack.  My speed on the descent and fireroad put me within a few seconds of the leader, however as soon as I got into the singletrack I realized I was gassed, I needed to ease back a little, that altitude will get you one way or another.

Having recovered a little I set about hammering the singletrack, passing slower riders from earlier starts.  I got caught behind a group of three who stalled on every tight rocky ascent, leaving me to dismount to get through something I could have ridden with a clear path.  That’s MTB racing but I was still cursing my luck, especially as I nearly got caught on the line last year after playing it safe and not pushing on, I didn’t want to make that mistake again.  Eventually I got past on a short fire road climb and pushed the pace again.  I couldn’t see the guy in first, but I couldn’t see anyone behind me either.

The last third of the course drops down to village level and is pretty rocky in places.  I was starting to feel all those bumps on my hard tail now and I was making a few mistakes but I soon popped out onto the connector road that leads from the singletrack to the finish.  I was running on empty but I notched it up a couple of gears and hammered it to the line, I did not want to get caught!

Crossing the line, I finished up in second place, which I was more than happy with.  Great trails, hard racing and a trophy to take home, a great weekend!

Now for vacation, some time off and then build towards some racing in the Fall, cyclocross and mountain bike.


Santa Cross 2016, Socalcross Finals

So this was it.  The Final Round.  Everything we had been working towards all season, the end.  Although I’m second place in the standings but even with points and a half on offer any chance of moving up to the one spot is pretty much out the window as Josh is so far ahead of me barring a mechanical or crash he has it sewn up.  Of more concern is the brace of strong riders behind me, Alex, Chuck, Dave, they are all within easy reach of me and I’m going to have to bring my A game to keep my second overall.  It’s not over till it’s over.  Strange then that I go into self destruct mode at the two Holiday Parties I attend on Thursday and Friday nights, culminating in me eating a half a cow and washing it down with beer, wine, whiskey and pretty much anything else on the table on Friday night.  WTF was I thinking, couldn’t hold it together for 3 more days?  Er No….. still it was a good night;)

Anyway, Sunday morning and I think I’m still digesting that steak so I’m not feeling in the best form of my life.  The course is pan flat, smooth and fast – I didn’t even get off my big chainring in the warm up.  I can see this one coming down to a sprint so there’s a high chance of messing up and slipping from second to fifth in the overall.  Warming up, I don’t feel good, my arm still hurts from the crashes last weekend, my stomach feels full and I feel heavy, uck.  The only good thing is my power numbers look good when I do a couple of hard efforts and my legs don’t hurt, so there is at least something to give me a little confidence.

The other problem I forsee is that I have my dry conditions tires on and the course has a lot of sticky mud on it, clogging the tread, fortunately there is also a lot of dry dirt and fast grassy corners to shake some of it off.  I’m definitely not feeling confident.


Race Start

Onto the start line and my strategy was to gun it off the line and be one or two going into the first corner as it’s loose and I can see people going down.  The whistle blows and I get the hole shot, but I don’t have the best line into the corner so I ease a little, allowing Alex from behind to come firing through, I don’t think he used his brakes at all and was taking a huge risk.  He slides on the loose corner and nearly comes down, close to taking pretty much the whole front row of the grid down too.  Fortunately everyone stayed up.  Not good for my nerves though!

I get boxed in a slip to forth, could have been much worse.  We are hammering, the peloton is in a long line and the usual gaps that open up aren’t there, this is going to be a sufferfest.  We enter the signature feature of this course, the spiral of doom where we circle around in about five decreasing circles curves getting tighter and tighter, then turn and circle out again.  I’m praying I don’t go down, if I did it would be game over there are so many riders in contention.  Into the second lap and the speed is still full on.  Chuck and Josh pull out a few seconds lead and I trade turns with Dave; Alex and team mate Terry are just behind.  Over the next couple of laps the gap stretches out to Chuck and Josh but I’ve got nothing extra, I’m all in just trying to keep myself and Dave in the 3-4 spots.

Into the last lap and I can see places 5-6-7 (and possibly 8-9-10) are coming back to us.  Dave sits up with one lap to go, I’m not sure if he has misjudged the lap board or is cooked.  I push on as best I can.  Half a lap to  go and Alex and Terry bridge with Dave hot on their heels.  My heart sinks.  I’d worked out if Chuck wins and can’t finish forth or higher then he get’s the two spot overall.  Guess I’m going to have to dig deep and hang on for the sprint then.   The last couple of turns soon come, we are flying.  I’m too cooked to get the hole shot into the barriers and Alex has a bit of a gap coming out of them but I close up to him down the mini straight before the last corner, Terry is a little way back, he’s happy with fifth by the look of things, Dave further still.  We come round the last corner clean and I fire up the turbo and sprint past for third.  Man, I had to go deep for that….


Race Podium

Well that wraps up the season, second overall in the Socalcross Prestige Series.  Some highs, some lows, overall I’m seriously impressed with my improvements this season over last and I’m really happy with how it went.  Now for some down time away from racing and time to think of the next challenge!


Overall Series podium




First Laps:

Full Race:

CACX at the Greek, Sunday

I missed the NABRA champs on Saturday due to family commitments but I was there for double pain on Sunday, having pre-registered for the 45+B’s race and the SCNCA Championships masters race.

The course at the Greek is pretty nasty – it climbs all the way up to the top of the park in a series of climbs seperated with tight corners and little downhill stretches then weeves its way back down to the asphalt start/finish area via more tricky corners and short climbs.  I’d say the course is pretty much 40% grass and 40% loam/mulch with the rest being loose over hard or hardpack/asphalt.  The loamy/mulch areas are the bits that make this course tricky though as they are very variable and traction can break at any time.  I’d gone with my usual Panaracer Comet tire set up tubeless which is great for loose over hard and grass but it totally sucked on these loamy loose corners having a very unpredictable point at which it broke loose and I came down 4 times over the two races cutting up my leg and arm pretty badly.  I can’t blame the tires though, I was pushing too hard for the amount of traction available and my skills have deteriorated after a couple of weeks off the bike.  Certainly for next year though I’m going with something more aggressive on the front for these kind of courses – I used a Maxxis Mud Wrestler last year which I liked.

Anyway, I got a pretty good start, slotting in to my preferred 3rd place and my intention was to follow my game plan of sitting in the wheels and seeing how my form was until I gained confidence.  Unfortunately it wasn’t to be as I made the fundamental mistake of jumping back on my bike on the uphill after the barriers on way to big a gear and let the first two guys disappear up the course.  For the following laps I decided to run that climb and that was definitely the best idea.  After 2-3 laps I also noticed my fitness wasn’t really there and I was passed and dropped down into forth.  Places five and six were also not far behind so I needed to watch myself.  I slotted in behind third and we traded turns for the next few laps.  We could see one and two but couldn’t catch them so I somewhat resigned myself to a fight for third.  Into the last lap and I put a big effort in on the run after the barriers and passed third and opened up a gap.  I got a great remount and hammered those loose corners hoping to stay upright.  It wasn’t the corners that  were the issue though as I onto the back of a group of about 6 back markers.  I (politely) asked to get through and pushed as hard as could, passing two or three riders, then taking it careful on the paved corner (which I had heard had claimed one of the 55+ guys on the Saturday with a broken hip) and sprinted in for third place.  I was only 7 seconds behind second so hopefully I can pick it up this week for the final round next weekend.


The second race was really for training for me, there was no way I was competitive against the guys who would be racing and I was at the disadvantage of it being my second race of the day too.  My objective pretty much was to not get lapped and see if I could finish top ten, top five would have been a major achievement.  The race was also an extra lap from the earlier race.  I got a reasonable start considering I was no where near the front of the grid and I moved up a few places on the climb to the top of the course but tiredness started taking its toll and I slipped back a few places.  I just kept plodding away though and I’m not entirely sure I was slowing down all that much.  I passed a couple of guys and was catching a couple more but then the race was over and I ended up 9th in the 50-54 category.  If I’d been in the 45-49 category my time would have been good enough for forth, go figure.  Those old dudes are fast.

Anyway, take away from the weekend (other than an aching body and a bunch of scrapes) is that I definately need to work on my cornering and technical skills to be faster, plus taking nearly two weeks off and eating too much over thanksgiving is no way to prepare for the next race 😦

Videoes here:

First laps:

Full Race:

Other photos here:

CXLA Day 2

Whittier Narrows Legg Lake is only 10 miles from my house but I’d never been there before which was a shame as it looks like a nice place for a family bike ride and picnic, I’m sure I’ll be back.  Socalcross had all the UCI racers coming in from out of town so they had upped their game – a new microstep climb, a scaffold bridge to ride over and under as well as the usual features over a huge course.  Set the week before Thanksgiving and a couple of months into the season, I was started to feel a little burned out and was looking forward to taking Thanksgiving week off work and getting away for a bit.  So basically what I am saying is I hadn’t trained at all and my head wasn’t really in it either.  CXLA had races Saturday and Sunday but I could only make the Sunday, I need a minimum of 8 races to stand a chance in the overall and I’m running out of weeks to get the numbers in.

Warming up on the course and I heard them calling us for staging, first call, second call.  I figured I had enough time to ride round to the start and take the call up.  Wrong, when I got to the start they had already set the grid and I was DFL – last place on the grid.  I explained I was second overall in the series to some of the other guys at the back and they let me through into the second row but when the Commissaire saw me he pulled me out and sent me to the back.  I was so cross with myself and the adrenaline was really kicking in.  When the whistle blew to start us that adrenaline acted like rocket fuel in my veins and I gunned it, a few gaps opened and I managed to get around most of the field and settle into forth place.  I couldn’t believe it, I’d burned a match doing it but I was in a competitive position.  I must have got carried away though as I totally screwed up the sand crossing, going down and having to pull my bike through the sand behind me before I could remount.

After that I had to burn another match chasing to get back on the leaders to find out that the guy who eventually won had already pulled out a small gap from our group and having just chased back I was powerless to do anything about it.  I shouted to second and third to not let him go but they must have been cooked too, we were just spectators as he continued to open up the gap and ride away.  After that I traded turns for second and third place for a few laps.  On the last lap I gave it a few digs to try and get away for second place but every time I was pegged back.  I knew I wanted the holeshot coming out of the last dirt section and onto the concrete pavement which ran into the line and I made sure I didn’t get passed.  A small matter of a slight jog in the course and a curb drop and then I opened it up, I was determined I wasn’t going to get passed and I didn’t, second place.  I was pleased with that considering the disaster I’d had getting to the start .



First lap:

Full race (with telemetry):

Anza Crossing

Anza Crossing is one of my favorite cross courses I’ve raced.  It’s a grassland course set on the side a hill in Riverside with fantastic views, very picturesque. The course has a couple of swooping long downhills with jumps in them which are great to ride and a few short sharp climbs and descents that keep you on your toes.  This year they had also upped the technical factor by putting a couple of tricky off camber sections, I really like what they are doing with the courses this year.

From the great start I had made to the season I found myself getting a free Socalcross leaders jersey (very nice).  I also got first call up (also very nice!) and chose the middle of the start grid.  The start was fast and loose and I slotted in to forth place.  I messed up the first three or four tight corners but fortunately didn’t drop any places.  Going into the sand first had a small lead but I was tight on the back wheel of second and third.  Round the bend on the sand pit and second caught his handlebar on the fencing and went down, causing third and me to take evasive action and letting a couple of riders by.  It also had the effect of letting first get a big gap, which we set about closing for the next couple of laps.

As the laps ticked off I was loving it, this is such a fun course.  I don’t think I did too much wrong but mentally my head wasn’t quite in racing mode and I was happy to settle for third place.



First laps:

Full race (with telemetry):

Spooky Cross Day 2

This was going to be the first time I had raced cross on both days of the weekend so I was unsure how my legs would feel, especially after commuting all week too.  Any residual tiredness from Saturday that I may have felt was compounded by sleeping really badly on Saturday night.  I’d ended up getting up earlier than the alarm as I was awake anyway.  After a couple of coffees and breakfast I started to feel more alive.

Arriving at the course we found that they had not just reversed it but changed it significantly since Saturday – these guys work so hard it’s incredible, we are so lucky here in Southern California to have the Prestige Series.  Pre-riding the course, it was apparent that although the total amount of climbing was probably about the same as Saturday, the climbs were shorter and more spread out so it didn’t feel as “climby”.  The downhill was certainly more sketchy though and the sand was all ride-able.  The start was also going to be a challenge – straight into a 180 degree loose turn then another couple of quick 180’s and down a loose double drop – the stair climb from Saturday.  Position off the start was going to be critical and there was no room for screwing up like I had done the day before.

Well I certainly wasn’t going to make that mistake again and I slotted in to second place off the start.  Up the small back though a minute or so in and I totally messed up my line, having to  put my foot down to correct myself and dropping to third.   I felt good though and stayed in the wheels determined not to do anything stoopid like attack too early as I had on Saturday.

Rounding out the first lap I sensed first was starting to move clear so I rode hard through the line and moved up into second place, closing the gap to a few seconds as I did so.  Through the technical sections and sand I had closed the gap, I don’t think he was riding too hard so early in the race.  Josh was hammering the downhills –  I was tempering my effort as I didn’t want to come down and I would bring him back on the climbs.  We settled into this rhythm as I sat in for the next few laps.  Third and forth were together at around 20 seconds back and so long as they didn’t come back to us I knew I was good for second place at least.

Then, with about a lap and half to go, I could tell Josh was struggling with the climb and as he slowed I passed him and kept the pressure on, opening up a small gap.  Careful on the downhill turns and through the finish I’d opened up a 5 second or so lead.  I pressed as hard as I could on the climb on last lap, conscious that he had been faster than me on the downhill.  Into the downhill and I had enough of a lead that I figured I didn’t need to take any risks, through the sand and the last few turns and although he was gaining on me, I managed to take the win by about 7 seconds.


I couldn’t believe it, another win.  I’d gone from being an also ran last year to three wins and a third this season.  People asked me, what did I do?  I said I didn’t know, but the truth is I know exactly what I did – I’d analysed my prior performances, learned lessons and looked to improve in areas where I could.  Pretty much I changed everything, I changed my bike, my tires, my tactics, my diet, my training – I took my own coaching advice and actually did some training rather than just talking about it, and I remembered to get some rest too.  I had used last years winner’s performances as a yardstick to measure myself against and had tried hard to step up to that. It was hard work but rewarding.


First laps:

Full Race:

Anza Crossing next weekend, another course with plenty of climbing, I remember it as a great course, let’s see how long my good form holds for…..

Spooky Cross Day 1

I like the Irvine Lake Course where they hold Spooky Cross, it’s on the side of a hill so it suits me with short sharp climbs.  It has technical loose over hard pack sections, grass, drops/step ups three sand crossings, a little bit of everything really.  I also had unfinished business with this course, having crashed here in 2015 and lost a load of time, effectively ruling me out of improving my overall slot in the 2015 Prestige Series.

This was going to be different though, I was coming into this one having won last weekend and having three good training sessions this week too.  The forecast rain had held off and the course was dry and fast with some interesting new sections including a stair climb/steep bank combo and some weaving between trees around the parking lot.

Lining up to the start line I was just getting myself set up when the whistle went – I was nowhere near ready!  I went from first row on the grid to virtually last place instantaneously – crap!  With the adrenaline starting to flow I went in hot to the first corner weaving through riders and managed to make up a few places.  I super flustered though and hit the next left-right-left totally wrong, loosing loads of time but fortunately not loads of places.  Team mate Terry was behind me and managed to get passed and I stuck on his wheel to try and calm myself down.  Through the first sand pit and I elected to ride, most ran, and everyone who did passed me, fortunately riding gave me the momentum over the runners and I took back all but two of the runners when they had to remount, this was going terribly!

Down the next straight and then a right onto the climb – I was super pumped on adrenaline and probably did the worst thing I could – I attacked!  What the hell was I doing, I couldn’t be screwing things up any more than I was, this was not in the pre-race plan.

The front riders were slow to react but Terry had followed my lead and I could hear him shouting encouragement at me.  On the front I had no option but to just continue to pump out the watts and see what happened.  Over the next lap or so the gap grew and I settled into a rhythm about 20 seconds up on the guy in second and and other 10-15 seconds up on third and forth.  I was feeling fine but didn’t want to over cook it so I measured my effort to keep the lead fairly constant, my start experience fading.

spooky-cross-2016Soon I could hear the PA saying last lap to everyone but I hadn’t heard a bell or seen the lap marker so I wasn’t sure if it was referring to me or one of the other races in our wave.  I crossed the line and shouted to the organizers “is that it, are we done?” but got no answer.  I asked a few back markers from the earlier wave but they weren’t sure either.  Just rolling along, the guy in second caught up to me and I asked him, we were both pretty sure that was it but weren’t totally sure.  I rode round the lap but no one else passed so I guess that was it, a bit disappointed I hadn’t be able to celebrate as I crossed the line.  All in all a bit of a strange race.

2016 Spooky Cross Day1.jpegStill it was great to see all the other PAA racers there and team mate Rob won in his first cross race too, good times.



Day 1