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!
Almost got on the podium. But got invited on the box since I solo’d away on the field sprint. Late last lap tactical error cost me a podium or a chance for the win. Short story -Solo’d away from the field in a half mile uphill sprint finish for 4th.
For the most part rode up front enough to keep an eye on things and tried to hide and conserve energy. A breakaway formed on lap 2 with 6 people. I didn’t think it would stick because it was too early. However, I started getting nervous on the 3rd lap. Luckily others did too and on the third of four laps I followed 2 guys and brought back the 6 man break that got away. Had to go to either be a rabbit and shake it up for the teams that were shutting it down or possibly stay away in that break. It came back all together almost right after we connected. Got lucky and didn’t really burn too many matches. Made the other two guys do most of the work. Recovered just fine. So I feel like that was a good move. Other than that just hid and stayed close to the front.
There were plenty of attacks throughout the race and I followed others to mark them. Then with one lap to go a guy pulled away solo. I know him and he’s very strong but still thought no way he’s got the fitness or going to be allowed to solo away on the last lap. Too many other teams and horse power. Wrong! He made it and won. Then another guy snuck away with about a half lap to go that I didn’t even see go. And I was riding near the front! There were a lot of stragglers on the course from other races and I got confused. Even still everyone was in sight and they were all solo. Still thought for sure we would catch the first guy. Then with about a 1/4 lap to go another guy drifted away solo and I thought again no way. It’s too late and we are going to be slamming it here really soon. Just let him dangle up front and burn out. And we did hit it hard and fast. But sure enough he ended up staying away and catching the 2nd place guy for 2nd overall.
After that guy went I worked hard to stay way up front and even put myself in not the most protected spot on last half of the last lap to keep the lane clogged so no one else could come around anymore. I stayed on the very outside near the yellow line. As I suspected it got ramped up and super-fast. I’m still thinking we will reel in the guy’s ahead as they were all solo and not grouped up. I stayed top 5 the whole time. Bounced behind other wheels when needed and followed surges and was very aggressive. When we came around the corner for the last 1 mile straightaway before final turn for finish hill it was on! Single file and really hard which put me in a perfect spot.
Came around the final corner in 3rd position and then a few seconds later as the hill started (which is a 1.5 minute power climb at about 6% grade) I attacked solo and didn’t look back until I got to the top. At the top there is about a 50 meter flat section so I sat down in saddle and started grabbing gears. Looked back and no one near me! Huge gap! Still 200 meters to go with a little 50 meter 4% bump ahead. I relaxed a little for short recovery before the last little 50 meter bump. Then sprint hit that as hard as I could and then looked back and still had same huge gap and no one remotely close and easy soft pedaled last 50 meters to the line. I played the finish PERFECTLY! Just too bad it was for 4th.
I even saw the two guys ahead of me and got close to them by the finish. Just knew there was no way to catch them. Wasn’t enough road left. Sad part was I thought that was first and second that I saw ahead of and that I got 3rd. I didn’t know it was for 4th until about 10 minutes later on my cool down ride. I overheard someone behind me say there were three guys off the front. Shit! LOL! Was a clean fun race. I’m proud of the result, but bitter sweet about the guys that got away.
Jeff Jacobson, Jimbo Wimberly, and I (Ken Winston) of the UC Cyclery Racing team attended “Southern California's Premier Endurance Mountain Bike Race” aka the 6 and 12 hours of Temecula held at Vail Lake. It was a big turnout with many solo riders and 2, 3, 4, and 5 man teams competing. There were high school age racers, 60+ racers, and everything in between. JJ entered the 50-59 men category and I decided to race down one age group so we could compete together. Jimbo entered the 60+ men category.
Men’s 50-59 race report:
The course was 9.1 miles in length with 900 feet of elevation gain. There was plenty of undulating singletrack, a few steep pitches, one steep descent with a few boulders to get over, and a couple of fire road climbs. The course was not very technical but there were several blind turns so it helps to know the trails. JJ and I have raced this event before and managed to work together well while doing so. We had a plan to again work together and then see who felt the best toward the end.
It was a mass start, making it impossible to keep track of your competition. Jimbo led JJ and I for the first 3 miles or so. It was an uncomfortably fast pace that had us all thinking we had not acted wisely, considering we had to last about 6 hours. After Jimbo finally backed down his pace, I made the decision to keep pushing until we had reached the long singletrack descent consisting of “Tarantula” and “Tunnel of Love (TOL)”. JJ and I found ourselves riding with Cesar Mora (40-49 men category), one of our training partners and member of Stonehaus Racing. JJ wondered aloud if we were keeping a wise pace “Cesar, I don’t know what Ken is doing!” I heard him say. This I found a bit humorous since it is JJ who causes Cesar and I to ask what is he doing pushing a hard pace on our training rides! Regardless, I eventually took the hint and slowed to a more sustainable pace after finishing lap one.
For laps 2-5 we kept riding together, trading pulls at what seemed to me a 50:50 ratio. We had no way to know what position we were in. Nor did we know that we were racing the biggest category of the day with 38 entrants. I kept an eye out for anyone looking our age but had not seen any (apparently they were all behind us). Very few racers passed us and those that did appeared to be younger and on multi-person teams. Around about lap 4, JJ announced that he was feeling some cramps and did not think he could hold the current pace much longer. Yet he still took his turn with strong pulls that put me in the pain cave. I too had felt a few twinges, but I kept it to myself. On lap 6 of what would be 7 total laps, I had ridden through a few cramps, as had JJ. We were on the big “ambulance” climb to the top of the TOL when we saw a guy ride past us with authority, as if he was on a multi-person team, but his bike was sporting a “solo” tag. JJ thought he looked to be in our age category and proceeded to tell me that I should chase him down – and that he was cooked. After another 30 seconds of halting discussion we noticed that the gap from him to us had stabilized at about 10 seconds. This gave me the motivation I needed to try and race this guy who we later found out was Brad from Alberta, Canada, and was indeed in our class. On the remainder of the climb I closed about 5 seconds of the gap but Brad entered the long descent in front of me. I quickly got on his wheel and near the top of the TOL he let me pass him (this is a section with many blind turns, but I know it blindfolded). I sensed that this was where I should press my advantage so I put about a 15 second gap on him by the time we finished lap 6. I had one full water bottle on my bike so I chose not to stop at my pit. Brad stopped for about 30 seconds at his pit, as did JJ (thank you Strava flyby for this data). This gave me the breathing room I needed to nurse my cramps and stay out front to the end of lap 7. With only 40 minutes left in the 6 hours, there was not enough time to complete an 8th lap, so my race was complete. I waited at the finish line for Brad and JJ. Brad crossed about 30 seconds behind me and JJ 4 minutes behind. The efforts of your team resulted in 1st and 3rd place!
Men’s 60+ Race Report from Jimbo:
I had a great time. It was the most fun course I've ever been on. Yes it would have been nice to pre-ride, warm-up, and maybe not go so hard at the start! It was my first mountain bike race in 2 years. My goals were to have fun, ride safe, and finish. I forgot how much fun you can have at a MTB race 😊.
Editor’s note: Jimbo won! The guy shown in 1st was mistakenly placed in the 60+ class results, but is only 56 years old.
It was great fun. I'm definitely keen to race one of the OC events
later this month and plan some more CX for next season.
I didn't know what to expect given it was my first ever cross race and
I had slick gravel tires. So I signed up for raced B-grade 35+. I got
there early to get in a couple laps and found my tires were only
slowing me down in a couple loose dusty corners. I though the course
suited my mountain bike background well. Greg Fenton kindly gave me an
old kit so I could look stylish too and represent the team and UC
My plan was to sit in for the first lap, but on the first climb I
ended up on the front after some others slipped in the dust. I made a
small mistake in a loose corner shortly after, but then hit the second
climb hard to get back on the front. I actually bottomed out my front
tire on the rim on a bump on the climb. From there I tried to set a
consistent pace looking to gain time where my setup was well suited,
tucking in the flats and pushing the climbs. I wished I was game to
hop the barriers, but I think that requires some practice before doing
it on race day.
Greg Fenton gave me time checks at the start finish and I was
consistently putting 15 seconds a lap into second place, so in the end
it was a pretty easy win in the end. Should have raced A grade!
Thanks to everyone on the team for the cheers on course and advice
before the event. Thanks to Dave and all the other sponsors and
organizers that helped bring CX back to San Diego.
Race Report; White Mountains Epic Series…50 mile MTB race, Arizona.
UC Result; Podium 4th position
By Simon Planken
The Epic Race Series is a fantastic set of MTB events that are spread out over the year and across many states. These draw big crowds – and some have a full PRO peloton too. The rides are normally 50 mile epics…that take in some great singletrack!
Last weekend (Oct 5th) was the White Mountains AZ Race - a 50 mile circuit that was mainly singletrack. I’d never raced here before and was looking forward to seeing the White Mountain-scape. My wife was racing too so we got there the night before and camped…almost got some sleep too!
My race division was huge. 48 riders in the mens’ masters 50m. (There were 900 riders total…these are big events!). I had not had any time to pre-ride so was going in blind…the course was relatively gentle – only 3800 feet of elevation. Won’t be so bad!!!
Thing is….it starts at 7100 feet. And goes up to about 8400…. hmmm. Maybe I should have borrowed Ken’s elevation tent the week before….
The line up was huge. They had bundled all the 50 and 35 mile riders together…and…those that had a season pass to the series were given a front corral spot. The race started at 7.15 am. A mass start and I struggled to weave through about 50 up-front riders as quick as I could before we hit singletrack (ST). My heart rate instantly went to lactic threshold (LT). Oooff…..
The ST weaved through an initial forest section…with ample sprinkling of sharp rocks. This was a volcanic area and the mix of volcanic debris and pine forests was unusual…folks were flatting already….I passed a large number here. Then, a well-timed fire road section…I burst forward to join a fast group…not sure how many were ahead at this point. One by one I picked them off. For some reason, my HR was staying just below LT and I felt great! Wish I could feel like this every race!
I managed to get to the front of the group and lost them on a sharp climb. This was about 16 miles in. Then I hit the first downhill! This was fun! Tight twisty ST through the trees. Similar to Big-Bear…I was flying, HR was coming down, temperature was perfect now at about 65 oF. This was going to be a good race and I was starting to think of…. BAM!!!!!!!!
What the hell was that. I’m in the air!... My bike SLAMS into a downed tree. It was across the trail and I didn’t see it due to the shadows and dappled light. A small section had been cut out to get a bike through. Didn’t see that either….crap…I’m still in the air…!
Luckily, I was airborne for so long I had time to choreograph my landing. Normally I land like a sack of potatoes and hurt my wrists. This time I told myself “No! Tuck and roll”. I hit the trail on my right arm, then shoulder and went into a fast roll. Then another roll. Not sure what happened after that, but I landed in some ferns (luckily) and stopped to take stock. My right knee hurt badly, but other than that I was OK. Adrenaline was on my side at this point…
I looked up the trail. No…further up the trail….there she was. My bike was a crumpled mess. The bars were fully 180. I was expecting to have a broken rim. I hit this tree hard. But no! Bike was fine! I recently upgraded to SRAM’S wireless AXS system (highly recommended!). How was that?…quick check. Yep that was fine too! The rear derailleur automatically locks itself down in a crash and is actually built tougher than a standard one with a shorter cage.
So I was still in this….. At this point the fast group I had chased and passed caught me…and past me. They all asked if I was OK. I was still going over myself and let them go…and I took a couple of mins for my knee to calm down. Then I forced myself back on the saddle…quick bike check…and back on the ST downhills. Albeit a bit slower!
After about 10 mins, I felt fully back in the game. I could occasionally see the group again…and chased them down over the next 10 miles.
At mile 26 ish, we hit a FAST downhill fire road. Super smooth. I doubled down and caught the last guy. Drafted for a while, then made my way through this pack (about 8) and took the lead…I led this group to the next ST climb…and was surprised when I dropped them almost immediately. Think they all burned up on that fire road trying to catch their prior leader. I found myself alone for the next 10 ish miles.….
At mile 36, I noted on the ride profile there was a near vertical section. Wasn’t sure what this was. Then I started uphill…and noticed two things.
Next was a fun fast downhill….and the rest of the 12 miles were quite flat. I picked up pace…and then ran into the 35 mile group. This wasn’t too bad…I picked them all off and they all let me pass. Mile 49. I can see the finish… OK - full on sprint…. almost there! Wait…why are we going this way?
I didn’t realize but this race was 53 miles, with an extra “squiggle” at the end. Ouch. I burned myself to early! But so did others! The last mile was a fireroad...I caught dozens. Not sure how many were in my group. But I kept my pace as fast as I could. There it was; Maxxis finish line with crowds. One more sprint. I catch 2 guys 10 yard from the finish line. Done!
My Garmin says 4 hrs 12 mins (moving time). Average speed 12.5. That’ll do!
I grab a free beer, an orange and go chill and wait for my wife (Chi). She comes in with a grimace; “what the hell was that finish! 50 miles I signed up for!” I chuckled as I knew how she felt!
We both podiumed. The trophies were carved bears in tree trunks…they gave me a grumpy looking one! My 4th place was 1 min behind 3rd…next time! 5th place was a min behind me.
Overall a great race, very well organized. Next year I hope to do either the Carson City (Tahoe) or the Grand Junction (CO) races. Who’s in!!!
Race Report by Ken Winston
Randy Liechty and I traveled to Winter Park Colorado to represent the UCC/JW Floors mountain bike team at the 2019 USAC Mountain Bike XC Nationals. Both of us entered the 60-64 Category 1 age group, which contained 25 starters. It was an experienced group that contained 2 prior national champions and a few runner ups (including Randy who finished 2nd at the 2015 XC Nationals held in Mammoth).
Randy on our recon of the course. This is the start of the big descent.
The course consisted of three 5.3 mile loops. The course had one climb that was about 12 minutes long consisting of half fire road and half single track with about a 600 foot elevation gain. The top of the course was a lung searing 9600 feet. The initial climb was followed by a 600 foot descent through a dense forest. Near the top, it contained tight turns with dry and dusty soil. There were some roots and rocks on the upper slopes but then the trail straightened out to a high speed bomb with enough rocks to make me worry about getting a flat and plenty of trees close to the trail. The bottom third was more open and contained big berms and “jumps” a plenty. I was doing my best not to get much air on these however. The big descent ended at about the 3.5 mile point where the trail became rooty with undulations over a gentle upward grade. There were a few rock gardens on this section too. To keep momentum, line choice was important here. The lap finished on a straight smooth dirt road slightly downhill with a u-turn at the end to start the next lap.
At the start of the race I settled in behind last year’s runner up George Smith. But just before the turn off the long starting straight, Colorado native and 2015 fat bike national champ (and 1999 overall 4th place Leadville 100 finisher), Keith Willson came to the front. I got on his wheel, but his pace was scorching. After about a minute of staying at Keith’s pace, I reached my limit. My lungs were hurting and I couldn’t get any more air into them! With no relief of the climb in sight, I was forced to watch Keith ride away up the mountain. Frank Winters, 2016 national XC champion and two other riders moved past me but stayed in sight.
I crested the top in 5th place with Tom Hayles, last year’s fat bike national’s runner up about 50 yards in front of me. After navigating the tight turns at the top of the long descent I was on Tom’s wheel and quickly went past on the narrow trail. At the twenty minute mark I was at the bottom of the descent with Frank and Terry Durand from Park City Utah in sight. The trail suited me with roots and punchy ups and downs. I moved up and passed Terry and then got right behind Frank. I was up to 3th. Although Frank was upsetting my momentum in some places, there were no good places to pass so I settled in behind him and tried to save some strength. When the course opened up entering the long finishing straight of lap 1, I went around Frank into 2nd place. Keith was off the front and was nowhere in sight but Frank stayed with me up the long climb of lap 2. Near the top he went around me. Knowing that my advantage was on the long descent and rooty second half of the course, I dug deep and went back around Frank just before we crested the top. The tactic worked as I quickly distanced myself from Frank. By the time I reached the bottom, I could not see him anymore. I was happy to have the long rooty section to myself this lap. When I finished lap two, I was comfortably in second with a 50 second gap on Frank in third place. On lap 3, I held my own on the big climb. The gap back to third stretched to 2 minutes by race end. Third, fourth, and fifth all finished in a bunch sprint. Keith Willson won by over 4 minutes! Randy Liechty finished in 12th place.
The day after the race, Randy and I did a little recovery ride up Mount Evans, which has the highest paved road in the USA at 14,130 feet elevation. We even hiked and biked the extra credit trail to the actual summit at 14,245 feet. We started our ride in Idaho Springs, elevation 7500 feet.
Pascal Bonaventure, Justin Rivers, and Dan Mahlum participated in the Carson City 50 mile MTB race which is part of the Epic series (Whiskey 50, Grand Junction, Carson city and OZ trails).
Dan and Justin entered the Open men and finished 14th and 37th respectively. There were 150 participants in this class. Pascal entered the Masters Men 45+ which had 100 participants. He finished 3rd. Below is a brief description of Pascal’s race.
I had always wanted to race on the amazing trails near Lake Tahoe. The race was originally scheduled for early June but because of the unusual amount of snow the race was postponed to late June. Despite the later date the original course was shortened (48 miles instead of 52 instead) due to patches of snow on the highest trails. The race started by a long climb on a paved road transitioning to a dirt road followed by a long single track with many switchbacks and beautiful views (Ash Canyon to Kings Canyon trail) and a flowing descent to Kings Canyon road. King Canyon road is a long steady climb on a sandy deceiving fire road. Following Kings Canyon road the fun began with the iconic Flume trail along Lake Tahoe and Snapdragon. The return to Carson city consisted of a mixture of nasty sandy fire road and super fun flowy trails (Postal route and Jackrabbit). Obviously elevation is playing a big role in this race.
My race was interesting with 2 major incidents. On Flume trail in a tight corner at the most dangerous place (see photo) I touched a rock with my handlebar, lost my balance and went over the cliff. Fortunately I was able to grab a big root with my hands. The 2 riders behind me stopped and pulled me out from the precipice where I was hanging. It was scary and I was really lucky to escape without injury.
In less than 2 minutes I was back on the bike. Then on the final single track just before merging on the road for the final miles I flatted on a sharp rock. At that point I was leading the master field. I quickly re-inflated with a large CO2 and rode on a squishy tire to the finish line but I lost 2 spots and finished 1 minute behind the winner.
Dan had a really fast race in a super competitive field in the open men. Justin also did really well, finishing in the top 40.
Steve Boyd and I traveled to Amarillo, Texas to represent the UCC/JW Floors mountain bike team at the 2019 Mountain Bike Marathon Nationals. This 350 rider event was held in Palo Duro Canyon.
The course consisted of a 4 mile prologue to sort out the field followed by two unique 20 mile laps. The course had one climb that was steep and technical with about a 300 foot elevation gain. The rest of the course was undulating with a combination of technical rocky sections sprinkled amongst mostly flowy singletrack. The week leading up to the race was quite rainy for the Amarillo area and Texas in general. My wife Suzy and I had our connecting flight from Houston cancelled due to severe thunderstorms and flooding and we had to drive 9 hours in a rental car to get to Amarillo in time. I made it just in time to attend the rider meeting, unpack my bike and get some sleep before the race Saturday morning.
By race day, the rain had cleared. But due to the rain the night before, it was announced that the start would be pushed back 2 hours to give the course time to dry out. There were long lines to get into the race venue and this caused the start to be moved back another 45 minutes.
Once at the race, I met up with Steve Boyd and his cousin Gordy, who lives near the canyon and helped build the trails we were about to race on. After a nice warmup (a recon of the prologue loop), it was time to line up. My group lined up with the 40+ women. The ladies crowed the start line making it impossible for any of those “called up” to the front to take their rightful place. The old guys filled in behind, grumbling a bit like old guys sometimes do.
The course started with a flat paved road section and the ladies pulled our coed peloton. Content to wait for the short road climb, I sat in the group. When we hit the paved road climb I quickly went to 2nd wheel and several of the other 60+ guys jumped to the front, vying for position before the single track began. I slotted into third as we entered the single track. I wanted to be in second so I had a wheel to follow but not be at risk of getting blocked in the tight sections that I knew followed. Mark Kuithe (Dallas rider) was leading with Paul Curley (Boston rider and 30 time (!!) national champion of various disciplines) in second. About 5 minutes into the prologue singletrack, Paul struck his pedal on a stump and flipped his bike spectacularly. Just like that I was in the 2nd position I desired. John Lauck (Utah rider who finished 2nd at True Grit in March) was behind me in 3rd.
We completed the prologue loop and headed into lap 1 with the top 3 riding wheel-to-wheel in twisty narrow single track. After a few minutes I noticed Mark was a bit tentative on the technical portions of the trail so I politely asked “do you mind if I take the lead for a bit”? He was quick to oblige. As I went past I heard him breathing quite heavily. I heard later that my choice of words gave the other guys in the front group the impression that I was not pushing very hard, which was not the case at all. I was actually 10 BPM over my target heartrate. However I managed to move away slowly and gap the others. Within minutes I had lost track of them due to the twisting nature of the course with lots of vegetation to limit the view. At this point I slowly backed down the effort to get my heartrate to “target” as I held about a 1 minute lead. It was encouraging to pick off rider after rider from the earlier groups (55-59, 50-54, and 35+).
After about one and a half hours of racing, I ran out of water with about 5 miles left in the lap. I was concerned that this might catch up to me in the form of leg cramps later. It was at this time that I saw teammate Steve Boyd up the trail and was motivated to catch him and have a friendly to pace with. But Steve had an issue that required he stop momentarily on the side of the trail. Too much pre-race hydration perhaps. I went by him with a quick shout out.
At the end of the lap I stopped briefly to replace my two water bottles and headed into the final 20 mile lap. This was a more technical lap and the challenge took my mind off my slowly rising fatigue level. I continued to work past riders from the other age categories at a steady cadence. At one point I began to work with a younger rider. This only lasted about 10 minutes before he faded back however. Again I noticed that I did not have enough water to finish the race and made a plan to stop at the neutral aide station to fill up one of my bottles.
It was at this time that I heard Steve Boyd behind me. Shouting, he informed me that the second place rider of my category was with him! “His name is Paul and he’s a nice guy” Steve announced. This was the guy who flipped his bike on the prologue loop….the 30 time national champion. “Oh boy, game on”, I thought. So much for cruising into the finish. And so much for the luxury of stopping for more water. I had the ability to increase my pace, which I did immediately. But I was now very concerned about cramping. We were over 3 hours into the race and there was about 6 miles to go. I could foresee a sprint finish as a real possibility.
Paul passed teammate Steve and got onto my wheel. Several times he got so close that he bumped my rear wheel with his front wheel. Paul was riding aggressively and definitely not like someone who was tiring. He jumped in front of me on a short trail bypass section that I did not even see, but the main trail brought me back to his rear wheel. I was content to ride his wheel for a while and see the pace he set. It was a pace I could sustain, but knowing that he had already crashed once in front of me, I decided to go back to the front. Past the neutral aide station we went; without stopping. I had about two swallows of water left.
Locked together, Paul and I clicked off the miles to the finish. I stayed in front and Paul stayed on my wheel. I contemplated trying to ride him off my wheel, but each time I started to accelerate hard, I could feel the twinges in my legs. So I resigned myself to a sprint finish. As we entered the finishing area, there was a 50 yard uphill on asphalt, a sweeping left turn, and a 100 yard flat straight section to the line. I needed to guard the inside. When we entered the finishing area, the cramps came on. Distracted by the cramps I didn’t stay tightly to the left as I wanted to. Paul powered by me on the inside and easily accelerated away to a 0.9 second margin at the line. We finished 1st and 2nd with a 9 minute margin on 3rd (John Lauck) and 4th (Mark Kuithe).
Came very close to my goal, but no stars and stripes jersey for me. Paul Curley now has 31 national titles.
Steve Boyd finished in 9th place in the large 50-54 men category.
Rough week leading up to Barrio nursing a strained quad. I wasn’t even sure I could race it. Well within the 3k marker to go on the final climb at SLR I went from a for sure top 10 being in the final group of 8 up the hill to having to practically stop pedaling as my leg cramped/seized. I couldn’t straiten my left leg. Was awesome watching a lot of people come by me for 22nd. Ha! Rode Sunday and new something wasn’t right. Got an MRI on Monday and turns out I had a slight upper quad strain. Spare you the finer details, but was told to take it easy. Took a couple of days off the bike and the rest of the week easy (as far as intensity goes) skipped all the usual rides. Felt good enough for some crit action.
Barrio Logan I Raced in the CAT 3/4 and Masters 45+.
CAT 3/4 Result: 10th. 62 entries! Was really hard to stay up front. Sketchy with all those people. Marked some moves, tried to make some moves and then missed the final break of 6th 😊. About 8 laps to go when they got away and I didn’t think it was the right one -wrong! We were keeping them about 100 yards away so I wasn’t panicking – mistake! So when the lap cards came out with 5 to go I figured it was time to get the peloton motivated and try to get it back. Went upfront and took a pull, wiggled the arm and a junior came around me, but no one else so I followed him, took another pull, wiggled the arm and another guy came around. That happened for a lap and a half. Then I took a pull and wiggled my arm and no one was coming around so I swung out wide looked at the group and said so that’s it were racing for 7th ? – Crickets. Got 4th in the field sprint.
Masters 45+ Result: 9th. A lot smaller field, but they raced the 35+ with us. Again, I missed the break (shocker) that happened early about the 3rd or 4th lap. There were 4 in the 45+ and 3 in the 35+ in the break. I was just too far back when it happened. I tried to bridge solo – Mistake! Oh so close, but then turned into the wind and cya later. Was way too windy and I didn’t have the horse power or fitness. Went back in the group. Then Greg Kogut went hard around the half way point and I went with him. We got a big gap and made up some ground, but we couldn’t do it. And since he had someone in the break I wasn’t even sure if he was trying to bridge or just make another break happen. I bailed and went back to the group which was the best decision I made all day between both races because we caught Greg with a few laps to go. In the field sprint hard to say exactly where I was, but it was definitely up front and in the mix and got 9th.
Great event and great day of racing. Injured leg was a non-factor.
On Saturday April 20 I dipped my toe into road racing. I’ve been doing quite a bit of cross training on my Tarmac and enjoying it. My racing license only allowed me to register in the Men Open Cat 5 or Men Masters 45+ 4/5 road race, so I registered in the 4/5 race. Two dozen riders lined up and we took off in a neutral start down a long descent. The first couple of laps were uneventful. The group kept a moderate pace on the rollers and there were no effective break away attempts. My heart rate was fairly low for what I knew I could hold in a two hour MTB race, so I went to the front on the climb back to the start and pushed the pace. We dropped a few riders, but the peloton mostly stuck together as a couple of us took turns at the front. This continued for a couple of laps. I thought a large group of R5Ciclismo riders from Orange Country might be able put something together, but nothing materialized.
At the turn into the last lap it felt like the race was suddenly on. A big-boned rider that had proven to be strong on the flats took off on the descent and quickly put a big gap on the peloton. We were already at 40+ mph and let him go, but we reeled him in within a few minutes of hitting the rollers at the bottom. Everyone was jockeying for position. I have been riding with a strong group of riders at lunch on Tuesdays and Thursdays that includes several UCC racers. The routes include Torrey Pines, Calle de Oro and Three Witches and I have become pretty confident in my ability to hang with just about anyone on long climbs, so I was stoked that this race ended with a long climb to the finish. I thought about attacking at the bottom of the hill to see if I could outlast the group for the three miles to the end and separate myself from the sprinters, but the pace had already picked up considerably. Riders jumped off the front a couple of times and I chased them down, hoping to work with someone to get a gap, but their efforts didn’t last long and they didn’t keep up when I took the lead, so the peloton would catch back up. I felt I was pushing at about 85-90% and knew I had plenty more to give should something happen. At the 1 kilometer to go mark I thought again about attacking but held off. As soon as I saw the 500M sign ahead, I attacked and hoped to surprise the group. The hill flattened out for a bit and I could feel riders coming up on either side of me. When the grade pitched up again I knew it was time to dig deep. We rounded the last corner and could see finish line ahead. I hoped the competitors were tiring out and I gave it all I had. I could hear them close behind, but was able to hang on for the win.
It was a great feeling to come out on top in a sprint finish. Greg Twitty come in 9th in the Masters 45+ Cat 1-3 in what looked like a blistering race with a 24 mph avg overall pace and stacked field and Greg Fenton podiumed at 3rd in the Masters 55+ Cat 1-4 race.