This was the sixth and final race of 2021 CA MTB Series and was held in Big Bear on June 20, 2021. The UCC Racing Team results are as follows:
Round 6 Race Results:
Cesar Mora Cat 1 XC Men 45-50 1st
Gilles Brochard Cat 1 XC Men 45-50 3rd
Simon Planken Endurance Men 40-49 4th
Jack Kairy Cat 1 XC Men 55-59 4th
Dennis Mudd Endurance Men 60-69 1st
Ken Winston Cat 1 XC Men 60-64 1st
Randy Liechty Cat 1 XC Men 60-64 2nd
Bob Willcox Cat 1 XC Men 65-69 1st
Series Overall Campions:
UCC Team Pro/Cat 1 Team Competition
Cesar Mora Cat 1 XC Men 45-50
Ken Winston Cat 1 XC Men 60-64
Bob Wilcox Cat 1 XC Men 65-69
The Big Bear racecourse starts in the parking lot of the Bear Mountain Resort at 7100 feet elevation. The first 0.3 mile consists of a neutral climb into the forest. The official start begins as the racers cross the timing mat at the 0.3 mile point. From the timing mat it is about a 14 minute fire road climb to 8000 feet elevation. The course remains on fire road for about 8 miles but then the fun begins on mostly singletrack to the finish. About 21 miles total for the XC races and 40 miles for the endurance races (which were two laps of the XC course).
The weather was sunny and reached the about 80 degrees with a moderate headwind up the initial climb.
Dennis Mudd Race Report:
The endurance course at Big Bear is tough; 40 miles long, with 5000 feet of climbing all at between 7000-8000 feet in elevation. It starts out with a steep 2 mile fire road climb, followed by a bunch of fast downhills mixed in with lots of punchy climbs. At the far end of the loop there’s another long steep climb up to the Skyline trail. Skyline is mostly downhill but includes 6-7 technical staircase climbs that require bursts of max power to clear. It finishes with fast loose switchbacks that drop down to the starting area. Then you have to do it all over again on the second lap. Cramping always seems like a risk even with moderate pacing.
In the first Big Bear endurance race two weeks ago, my main rival Jiri Kozesnik from Team Docent smartly stopped before the timing mat at the end the neutral start. He waited two minutes after I crossed before he crossed. I had no way to track him, so I felt I needed to be aggressive. I took a big early lead, but my legs locked up towards the end of the race. I had to watch Jiri ride by while I couldn’t move. So, this time I decided to just ride with Jiri until the last stretch of the race and make my move then.
We all neutral started up to the timing mat. Jiri stopped right before the mat just like last time. This time I told him I wasn’t going to start until he did. He said he was waiting for his teammate Bill to use the restroom. I told him I’d wait too. So, we both stared into space for a few minutes until Bill finally came back. After seeing I wasn’t going to go anywhere until they did, they rode across the timing mat. I charged across at the same second as Jiri, so it would feel like a race instead of a time trial.
Bill led out up the first fire road climb, with Jiri tucked in behind and me on Jiri’s wheel. Bill set a fast pace; a bit faster than I had done the last race. Bill peeled off about halfway up and Jiri attacked with an even faster pace. I stayed on his wheel, but I knew I’d cramp by the end of the race at that level of effort.
We finally got to the top of the climb at Snow Summit and started the first fast descent. Jiri seemed slow on the loose cornering, so I blew by him and started to create a nice gap.
As I was descending, I remembered a conversation that Ken and I had earlier about how Mathias Fluckiger had just beat Ondrej Cink in the World Cup by working with Ondrej on the climbs and flats but then gapping him on the technical downhills. After the downhill Mathias would rest while Ondrej caught up. This eventually tired Ondrej and Mathias pulled away at the end of the race for the win. He had suggested that might work against Jiri. So, I decided to give it a try.
At the end of the first downhill, I dialed my power back 30 watts or so and waited for Jiri to catch up. 15 seconds later he caught up, but I felt just a bit rested, and he was breathing a little harder. He attacked on the next climb, and I tucked in behind him. We crested together and I blew by him again on the downhill and took it easy again at the bottom. We repeated this same sequence 4-5 times, with Jiri breathing harder each time he caught me.
Eventually Jiri stopped attacking on the climbs and just tucked in behind me after catching up. I dropped my power way down and crawled up the next climb with Jiri right behind me, trying to save my legs for the end. Jiri was tough and attacked one last time after that, but I covered it pretty easily.
On the last downhill before the long climb up to Skyline I pulled about 100 yards ahead. This time I didn’t wait for him on the next climb, but just kept him in sight and tried to keep the same gap. When I finished the climb up to Skyline, I tried to leave Jiri for good. I lost sight of him soon after I started the descent.
The next lap I took it easy on the climbs, just trying to make sure I didn’t cramp at the end. If Jiri caught me, I figured I’d still be able to hold him off if I was rested.
As it got hotter, I felt feel my legs starting to twinge, so I really babied them toward the end of the race. I still wasn’t confident I could hold off the cramps until I got to the last downhill. I finished first at 4 hours and three minutes, 12 minutes faster than Jiri.
Jiri still won the series with 3 wins to my 2, but it was great to close out the season with the victory.
Bob Willcox Race Report:
I had won 3 of the 5 races and had a commanding lead in the series. Even though the Finals counted 150% points, I did not have to win the last race to win the series. Still, I had lost the previous race on June 6, and winning is more fun. The course at the previous race, 2 weeks prior, had slightly less singletrack and more fire road than today's Finals and the 4th race in May which I had won. On the start line, my principal competitor told me he liked the course with more fire road. This was obvious because he's doing Leadville again this year and is a stellar climber. The race starts out with a 2 mile climb to 8000 ft. Almost immediately, I had a hard time staying on his wheel, the elastic was stretching, and the leader was disappearing up ahead. I finished the first climb in 18 minutes, a full minute behind him. I was a little demoralized in no man’s land, but since I had mentally prepared for that scenario, I kept the gas on. I had another half hour of fire road to ride mostly by myself. I kept the gas on, but steady enough to where I didn't blow up. I didn't think I would catch the leader at that point but pushed on. Finally, I got to the singletrack and started having fun. Within ten minutes, I could see the leader up ahead. He was having trouble negotiating step ups and squeezing between boulders. I was relaxed and remained calm and efficient thru the technical singletrack. Shortly thereafter I was on his wheel. As we exited the ST and entered the 4 little bitches fire road climb, he seemed gassed, and I attacked. He had no response, and I quickly opened a big gap. I kept having fun for the remaining 30 minutes of singletrack and won by over 3 minutes. With 4 wins in the 6 race series, I claimed the overall series win.
My skills have improved a lot since riding UCC Friday team ride and doing skill sessions with Ken Winston and Joey Valdivia. Improving skills is such a kick and fitness can only improve so much. Skills are free speed; they don't cost energy. Now if I could just get my climbing legs at altitude back. I was climbing well early in the year at sea level. I've been pretty good at altitude in the past. Maybe I'm becoming lazy or a punchier rider. Either way I'm having fun. I'm hoping Nationals in less than 2 weeks at 9500 feet won't kill me too much. It's only a 10 to 12 minute climb!