California Mountain Bike Series Round 1 at Vail Lake
This was the first race of the six race 2022 CA MTB Series, which is the premier mountain bike racing series in southern California. The Velotown Racing team was well represented as follows.
Craig Northway Cat 1 XC Men 40-44 1st
Jose Vigil Cat 1 XC Men 55-60 1st
Randy Liechty Cat 1 XC Men 65-69 1st
Bob Willcox Cat 1 XC Men 65-69 2nd
Mike Hines Cat 1 XC Men 65-69 4th
Adam Pacal Cat 2 Men 45-49 1st
Ken Winston Endurance Men 60-69 1st
Pascal Bonaventure Endurance Men 50-59 2nd
Dennis Mudd Endurance Men 60-69 3rd
Jose Velez Endurance Men 50-59 7th
The Vail Lake course was 7.5 miles per lap with 660 feet of elevation gain--no long climbs or super technical sections but several twisty sections that put cornering technique at a premium. XC was 2 or 3 laps and endurance 5 or 6 depending on age.
The weather was sunny, hot, and dry. A brisk Santa Ana wind was blowing that resulted in a strong tailwind up the long shallow Ambulance climb. Headwind was predominant on most descents. Turnout was good, especially from the high school crowd.
Endurance Men 60-69 by Ken Winston
Last season, teammate Randy Liechty and I battled for the series win in the Cat 1 60-64 XC events, finishing 1st and 2nd. With Randy aging up I decided to split the series between XC and Endurance. I entered the Endurance race for this event with teammate Dennis Mudd and his rival from last season and defending series champion Jiri Kozesnik. I started the day very concerned because in my last training ride before the race I damaged my throat from breathing hard in the low humidity. I tend to get a dry mouth during the first several minutes of a race and it was a very low humidity day. I was intent on starting at a moderate pace until the dry mouth subsided. I even put on a small hydration pack so I could take frequent sips while navigating the twisty course. Because of my concern, I was not feeling very confident and was resigned to a slow start and the need to come from behind. I lined up behind Dennis and Jiri on the start line.
The race started and as I expected, I drifted back, but I managed to keep Jiri and Dennis in sight. Only one rider was between Jiri, Dennis, and me as we entered the first single track section. The hydration pack worked as planned and kept my throat from harm. After about 10 minutes, I no longer needed the hydration pack (I had bottles on my bike), so I pitched the pack onto the side of the Ambulance fire road climb. No longer worried, I could get on with the task of racing! At this point Dennis was on my wheel and Jiri was pulling away up the Ambulance climb. He turned onto the tunnel of love downhill with about a 15 second lead with Dennis and I in 2nd and 3rd.
On the tunnel of love descent, I was able to close to within about 5 seconds of Jiri. In the process of chasing down Jiri, Dennis lost contact with me. I started to press a bit so that in the windy conditions I could ride Jiri’s rear wheel. It worked. About 2/3 of the way through lap 1 of 5 I had caught Jiri. I was content to sit on his wheel for a long time if I could, but before lap 1 ended, Jiri made a bike handling mistake on a sharp uphill switchback, and I quickly squirted by. I found myself in the lead with about a 5 second gap. I pressed to keep Jiri from my draft. At the beginning of lap 2, the gap was about 10 seconds. With frequent looks over my shoulder, I set a pace that would keep that gap from shrinking while being careful to pace myself. By the end of lap 2, the gap was up to 30 seconds. Lap 3 it was 60 seconds. By lap 4 I was feeling good enough that I felt I could kick it up a notch if Jiri started to close on me. So I kept looking behind me to make sure he didn’t surprise me. After lap 4, the gap was up to 2:20. The elastic had snapped and I felt relieved that all the effort was going to pay off. I crossed the finish with a 4:48 gap to Jiri in 2nd. Dennis crossed in 3rd with a strong last lap.
XC Cat 1 Men by Jose Vigil
The CA Mountain Bike Race Series at Vail #1 was my season opener, and XC Cat 1 55-59 Debut. Last season I got off to a very successful XC start with XC Cat 2 55-59. By the grace of God, I was able to come away with the victory at each Vail Lake Race, despite fighting a horrible UTI during races 2 and 3. During the break leading to Big Bear, on May 1st, I fractured my Scapula and refractured my Neck on what was an excellent training ride. At that point I decided to submit for a Cat 1 upgrade. My last season and a half were my best XC results since starting to dabble in the Dirt. I reasoned a Cat 1 upgrade, if approved, would drive me all the more through yet another significant injury recovery.
I was super nervous leading into Saturday. I believed my training was going well, yet I didn't know this new group. I spun-up the legs on Thursday. Then wondered if I over did it. I was unsure how to commit during warm-up, but confident with nutrition on that warm, dry, windy day. I was first to the line, with Rock Cobbler going on, I knew we were missing Guys. Our heat was combined with the Cat 1 50-54 Men.
When we launched, I was surprised by the lack of intensity. I wasn't disappointed as we drew near the single track. I settled in behind the front two Guys through the ST, up the climbs. I tried to close the gap up to Reggie before we began the long straightish descent. Yet, for some reason, Robert aggressively sprinted up the steep bump to block me. At that point we had dropped our other Guys. My thought was to just shadow Robert’s wheel and drain him a bit mentally. I would also test the waters. As soon as Robert the Blocker took on fluids, I attacked. Let him think about it and burn matches, as he worked for several minutes to reel me back.
We got through the West bound delicate swirling ST through the middle Valley. Making the right onto the white ST heading East again, I was third wheel. Totally forgot about the end section that pitched up to dump us on the considerable climb toward the upper valley. This part of the course was new to me as we passed the right turn from last season.
Looking up the inconsistent climb I moved up front thinking, "This is my domain", settling into a good tempo. It was time to test the waters, again. Seeing ahead the last section that kicked a bit, I put in a Zone 7 seated burst to the top, making the right turn toward the East Valley ST. I glanced over to see a reasonable gap, then set out to increase it.
One water bottle and one Heed bottle were good, considering the warm dryness with some wind.
God graced me to hold a good gap and so I came across the finish solo. Such a nice confidence builder. Going to enjoy it until the next one. Hoping for the opportunity to support my Teammates come the next round.
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Endurance Men 50-59 by Pascal Bonaventure
After a fast start and a solid pace for 3 laps I faded away during the fourth lap and ended up in damage control mode for the last 2 laps most likely due to not drinking enough during the first hour.
Cat 1 XC Men 40-44 by Craig Northway
It was great to be back racing the CAMTB series XC in our new Velotown, Le Bon Wagon team kit. Super stylish this season!
I took off pretty quickly, but cautiously as I didn't recognize the other 3 riders on the start line of the Cat 1 40-44 age group. By the time we hit the first singletrack I was clearly in front with only 1 rider on my wheel. I kept the pressure on until I had a sizable gap by the fun pump track section of the course and was then able to ride at my own pace.
Halfway through the second lap at the top of the "Ambulance climb", Ryan Cox from the 45-49 age group caught up to me. This gave me a much needed boost and I sat on his wheel until the start of the 3rd lap when traffic got between us. My second lap was only 12 seconds off my first lap time. Looks like my recent structured training has been paying off.
On the 3rd lap I just looked to consolidate until I saw that I was closing in on team Captain Ken Winston who was competing in the endurance event and started 7 minutes before my group. I upped the pace for the last half lap hoping to make up the 45 second gap but ran out of room. Excited to get back out there for race 2 in 3 weeks.