The UCC/JW Floors mountain bike team traveled to Saint George, Utah to make their presence known out west at the opening race of the National Ultra Endurance Series. This 900 rider event is the season opener for the National Ultra Endurance Series for both the 100 mile and 50 mile categories and often sets the pace for the series leaders. Our team competed in the 50 mile categories. True Grit Epic is a long, tough and technical race through some of the most beautiful county in the West. Some portions of the course are so technical that course workers are standing by to attend to injured riders!
UCC/JW Floors team member results were as follows:
40-49 men – Pascal Bonaventure 2nd, Justin Rivers 4th, Bryan Taylor 8th, Dan Mahlum 10th, and Paul Todd 14th out of a massive 168 participants in class!
50-59 men – Jeff Jacobson 2nd, Greg Twitty 9th out of 78 participants in class
60+ men – Ken Winston 1st out of 16 participants in class
Race report from Pascal Bonaventure – Category Men 40-49
Great road trip and race with my teammates. 168 starters for the 40-49 class. I did not get a chance to pre-ride the course and the plan was to follow Dan’s lines through the technical sections of the waterfall section and Zen trail. We executed the plan. I lost track of our placing as we passed the slowest riders from the previous wave of open men and women. About 2 hours into the race Dan was pacing our small group of 5 riders. I asked him to let me take a pull. I felt fresh and decided to up the pace to drop our competition. When I looked back after the climb I was by myself with a solid gap. I kept the pace high in Zen mode for the remaining 25 miles and ended up in 2nd place behind Cameron Brenneman from Colorado. Teammate Justin had an amazing result as well. Unfortunately Dan crashed hard while passing in a very high speed section, breaking several vertebrae. But he managed to soldier on and finish the race!
Thank you to Ken for driving and coordinating everything.
Race report from Justin Rivers - Category Men 40-49
It was great to be at the start of the race with teammates - Dan, Paul, Ken, Pascal, Greg and JJ. My category, the men's 40-49 category, had the highest turn out for the True Grit 50 mile Epic Race. The temperature was cold before the race; I wasn't sure how many layers to put on and went with just the arm warmers. That was the right choice.
We left the historic downtown of Santa Clara. It was a paved start - about a half mile, before turning left onto a dirt fire road for the first climb. I found myself near the front of the group before entering a dirt wash that had puddles and some slick spots. Feeling energetic at that point I came out of that section still near the front of the group. Knowing that was not where I should be, I backed off a bit and found a steady pace.
As we made our way down the first fire road, I knew that a climb was coming. It had rained the night before and there was water running down the trail. I passed a few riders on the way up and found a good rhythm.
On a very technical decent down the infamous “waterfall”, I took the line to the right side of the trail with no issues.
While going up the Zen trail, I was able to make passes by taking a more exposed line. Eventually I caught up to Dan and Pascal. The three of us entered the aid station about the same time. I could not find my drop bag but had enough water in my Camel Bak to keep going. As we got to the top, and began the descent into Bear Claw Poppy, I tried to conserve some energy knowing there was a long climb ahead of me. At the end of that climb, there was another decent. That downhill was a very fast single track, and that is where I came across Dan, who had crashed. I stopped to make sure he was okay, and he told me to continue on. (Bad ass Dan finished the race with a broken back.)
From there I climbed the switchbacks and was able to pass by some of the riders who had passed me on Bear Claw Poppy. Now in more technical terrain I was feeling stronger. I made some good line choices through Barrel Roll. I stopped for a rider who asked me for a CO2 cartridge. Knowing the end was close at this point, I was feeling very motivated to finish strong.
There was one more single track descent and a final short climb. We then turned down the fire road, and headed back toward the main street in Santa Clara. I could see a rider about 1000 feet ahead of me which gave me motivation for a sprint finish. I overtook him just before the line.
It was an amazing trail. I really enjoyed the race.
Ken, JJ, and Greg navigating Barrel Roll trail during race course pre-ride sessions. Easy peazy!
UCC/JW Floors Race Report for California Mountain Bike Series Round #1 at Vail Lake
The UCC/JW Floors mountain bike team participated in round 1 of the California Mountain Bike series. This is the premier race series in southern California with 7 races and 5 different venues. Two of the rounds are UCI sponsored events attended by elite level pros. Round 1 was held at Vail Lake in Temecula on March 2. There was quite a bit of rain coming down in the hours before the event with a forecast for rain throughout the day. This particular venue has a history of being wet and damaging to equipment, but many from the UCC/JW Floors team adopted the approach that if you don’t show up you can’t win! Fortunately for all racers, the rain stopped about two hours before the event and didn’t start up again until the awards were presented.
We competed on a shortened course of about 5.5 miles with about 600 ft of elevation gain per lap. The team was again a dominant force, winning 3 first places, 3 2nd places, and 3 3rd places. In total, 12 from our team competed. Team results summary is as follows:
45-49 Cat 1 Cross Country men – 1st place Pepe Velez and 3rd place Bryan Taylor
50-54 Cat 1 Cross Country men – 1st place Jeff Jacobson and 2nd place Steve Boyd
55-59 Cat 1 Cross Country men – 3th place Jack Kairy
60-64 Cat 1 Cross Country men – 1st place Ken Winston and 2nd place Randy Liechty
40-49 Endurance men – 2nd place Pascal Bonaventure and 3rd place Justin Rivers
19-39 Cat 1 Cross Country women – 4th place Monica Taylor
Here is an individual race report from Steve Boyd (Cat 1, 50-54 Cross Country):
I lined up at the Vail Lake CA Cup race with Jeff Jacobson (JJ) and 6 others in our class. The race started at a pretty quick pace, and JJ and I settled into 3rd and 4th place letting a couple guys set the pace. We had three 5.5 mile laps to go (shortened due to rain and course conditions), so I wanted to sit back and see what pace would be sustained. By about 1/3rd the way through the 1st lap we had picked up an endurance racer and dropped everyone else in our class. We all held our positions for the 1st full lap, which was going at a fast pace, but not a redline pace. JJ and I talked strategy to let these guys lead as long as they would, but then attack on the 3rd lap for sure. At the start of the 2nd lap and just before a sustained climb I moved into 2nd place as that guy was slowing. Then the leader pulled off and looked back wanting someone else to lead. JJ and I then pulled around, and I think a little unconsciously, turned it up a notch. We traded positions pulling up the 1st climb and by the top it was just us two and our endurance friend. We had a 15 second gap on 3rd place now. As we rounded into the final lap our endurance friend went to the front and really turned the screws picking up the pace. This helped gap the field behind more but put me a little over the top. I was a little cooked the last 1/3rd of the lap so JJ pulled a gap on me, and my concern then became not being caught by anyone. I knew where Alex Teno of Stonehaus Trek was behind, so I kept my pace high to finish in 2nd with a 26 second gap to 3rd. JJ took a great win!
Here is a race report from Ken Winston (Cat 1 60-64 Cross Country)
Going into this race I figured my toughest competition would be from my own teammate Randy Liechty. We have raced together several times over the years and frankly, he almost always schools me, especially at the XC distance. At the start I decided to try to get out front to set a fast pace and see if Randy and I could get away. Well, that is what happened. I found myself leading up the tunnel of love shallow climb which is about 6 minutes long, so a nice VO2 max kind of effort. The soil was spongy from all the rain and a noticeable drag on the bike. With me came my teammate Randy and Robert Gelfand from Team Redlands. The rest of the field was dropped. It was a difficult effort into a moderate headwind but I felt good. I gained confidence when I backed off slightly but no one came around me. As we approached the top of the climb I accelerated and entered the best part of the course – the Tunnel of Love. This part of the course is a 2 and a half minute winding and undulating singletrack descent with several blind corners that can be taken very fast if you know the lines. After racing a few 12 hour events on this course, I can do the descent blindfolded. Near the top I wiggled past a rider from another class and pulled away from Randy and Robert, not to see them again. So the rest of my race was about putting my head down and setting consistent lap times. At the end I felt good enough to negative split the last lap. Randy finished in second. It was an honor to stand next to Randy on the podium!
A note about Randy’s equipment choice today. When the rain forecast went south, he brought his old hardtail instead of risking damage to his S-works Epic. The old hardtail happened to have downhill tires with deep tread blocks and he did not have time to change them out. Remember the spongy soil I mentioned? Those tires were a huge drag on his bike in those conditions, not to mention the heavy weight. Amazing he could pull off a podium finish considering!