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.