The Pisgah Stage Race has some of the best mountain bike trails in the USA, and this five-day, fully supported endurance event delivers an unmatched sampler platter of some of the best singletrack in the country. The stage race course includes the Eastern United States’ most rugged trails. Located in a rain forest, the rooty and rocky trails are often times slick and treacherous. I entered the 60+ class, packed up my bike and flew to Charlotte and drove to Brevard, NC.
Sharing the VRBO rental with me was my wife Suzy and teammate Dan Mahlum (40-49 class). Suzy hiked each day while Dan “did training camp” and I “raced”. For those of you that may not know, Dan had crashed hard at a race in early March and was off the bike for several weeks to heal up. He was using this event to get back to racing form. He was still very fast though
During the pre-race meeting I ran into a friend Lennie Moon from Alabama. I raced with Lennie at the 2015 and 2016 Breck Epic. He had come with several friends from Alabama including one he immediately “warned” me about: his Alabama friend Hartwick Gregg. Hartwick was the returning 60+ Pisgah stage race champ and 2015 cyclocross national champion for his age group. When I later was introduced to Hartwick his reaction let me know that Lennie had similarly “warned” him about me. It was going to be a fun week!
Stage 1 - 21 miles, 4042 ft elevation gain: The days prior to the event it rained frequently so the trails were wet and slick in many spots. My plan was to hold back on this stage to save energy for the rest of the week. I tend to run down like an old battery during stage races! For me this translated to a target heart rate of about 120 BPM. At the start of the stage I looked for Hartwick and latched onto his wheel as we started up the shallow grade on a long fire road. Within a couple minutes I decided I could handle a higher pace so I set off to find another wheel. I would not see Hartwick again for the remainder of the stage. As the road continued uphill and steepened, I settled in with a group of about 5. When we turned onto the first singletrack, the grade got very steep and the roots were wet and plentiful. The combination caused many riders that were in front of me to get off and hike but I kept pedaling. I managed to pass about a dozen racers on this section but my heartrate was up to 150 BPM (this is about my max). So much for holding back! After cresting the top, I entered the first big downhill of the race, a technical featured enduro section. I was a bit apprehensive since I was not yet familiar with the Pisgah technical terrain, but I managed to hold my position and ride all the technical bits. I was glad I brought my down country Epic with 120 mm fork, beefed up rear rim, and dropper post.
I started the long climb up the mountain again as my anxiety was starting to build for Farlow Gap, the most infamous trail of the race. If you’re curious you can Google it! I was joined on the long climb by Jacob and Lennie from Alabama. Jacob and Lennie had been down Farlow Gap twice and this fact gave me comfort. I stayed with my newly acquired trail guides and got my heartrate in check as we climbed at tempo pace uphill and crested the top. Noisy course workers in wacky outfits signaled the top of Farlow Gap. It was rocky, wet, rooty, (did I say rocky) and getting steeper as the “trail” descended the mountain. I was loving my dropper post at this point. Jacob eventually stopped and climbed down a nasty drop. What Jacob did, I did. We alternated riding and “climbing down” or “climbing up”, or tip toeing across streams for the next 10 minutes. We had dropped Lennie. Following Jacob I gained confidence and then confidence turned to impatience. I hiked past Jacob then pedaled/hiked/pedaled away from him.
Twenty more minutes of navigating Farlow and I was back riding fast on fire road and sane singletrack to the finish. I won the stage in my category with a time of 2 hours 40 minutes, about 15 minutes ahead of Hartwick. Presented with a blue leader jersey to wear on stage 2 was icing on the cake.
Stage 2 - 29 miles, 3878 ft elevation gain: It was the only sunny day of the week, but still wet from overnight rains. There was a 4 mile neutral start on asphalt as the 175 rider peloton worked its way through town. Racing started on a wet fire road uphill which soon turned to a forested singletrack. While descending on the singletrack my front tire slipped out from under me on a snotty wooden water bar placed diagonally across the trail. Remarkably, this would be my only crash of the week. I was up quickly with only a scraped knee. After my slow-ish start on the fire road climb, I slowly began to pass other riders on the singletrack. I allowed my heartrate to drift up to 135 BPM for brief periods. As the race progressed I slowed down to keep a more sustainable heartrate and as a result got passed a few times. I felt fatigued as the stage reached the final 2 mile descent of Black Mountain, a rugged and pounding upper portion followed by a rather flowy bottom section. I finished first in category with a time of 3 hours 2 minutes, about 25 minutes ahead of Hartwick in second.
Stage 3 – 29.5 miles, 5800 ft elevation gain: This was considered the queen stage and after my mini swoon midrace of stage 2, I was concerned how my body would respond. This was the driest of the days, with no overnight rain. I employed more discipline in my pacing and kept my heartrate around the 120 BPM target consistently all day. I was happy with my pacing. The route had 4 big climbs and 1 smaller climb with two nice long technical downhills. I found myself riding much of the stage with Lennie and another Alabama guy, Michael. The three of us managed to pass the current 40-45 National Marathon champ and last year’s masters men race winner (wearing a prominent stars and stripes jersey). I chatted briefly with him as we pedaled past and he explained that he had gone out too hard and was cramping. I would see him mid race again the next day as he had decided to save himself for a run at a stage 5 win. The last technical downhill was the same as the prior day’s final descent. It felt great to bomb it with a confidence that came from familiarity! I finished the stage first in category with a time of 3 hours 52 minutes, about 42 minutes ahead of Hartwick in second.
Dan and I had a post-race routine each day: eat at the finish line (free Clif recovery shake, two or three scones left over from free breakfast offered by the race promoter, a banana, a few orange slices, and a few potato chips), drive our muddy bikes and muddy selves to the VRBO rental where I would take a shower (complete with my muddy riding clothes to wash out the mud spots everywhere). We would then do laundry, wash the bike, prep the bike for the next day, eat a late lunch out in town, check our Strava while using our leg compression devices (aka leg squeezers), and go to the Brevard Music Center (race headquarters) for post-race dinner, awards, race video viewing, and get intel on the next day’s stage. After stage 3 and 4, I managed to get in a massage too prior to dinner.
Stage 4 – 21 rain shorted miles, 3000 ft elevation gain: The day started with a rainy warmup but once the race started at 9 am, the rain pretty much stayed away. The trails were very greasy in spots however. So greasy that the promoter decided to shorten the course for “safety reasons”. The revised course consisted of about 8 miles of mostly flat gravel road, followed by a 2500 foot climb up Laurel Mountain which is the highest point of the race at 5000 feet elevation. After the big climb came (you guessed it) a pounding rock and root infested descent of 2 miles and 2000 feet elevation called Pilot Rock. This descent contained two infamous sections that can be seen on many a YouTube video…..and we were going to ride it in the wet! The start was rather faster than I was comfortable, resulting in me yo-yoing off the back of the large lead group (a peloton of about 50 riders). But I managed to stay up with this group to the foot of the Laurel Mountain, at which time I climbed for the next hour or so at a comfortable pace near my target heart rate. As the elevation increased, the trail got wetter and greasier. Many times I found myself hiking the bike and sometimes almost scaling up boulders with my bike. It was foggy and misty. Then out of the mist came those noisy course workers in wacky outfits signaling the start of the Pilot Rock downhill. The Pilot Rock “trail” was cut onto the side of a steep and wooded mountain and contained a plethora of rocky switchbacks. In between the switchbacks were many roots and rocky steps caused by erosion between the roots. My bike, mind, and body took a relentless pounding as we navigated trail hazard after trail hazard. At one point I pulled over to let a faster guy go by me only to see him go over the bars about 30 seconds later. After that he stayed behind me! With little warning I came across the rocky switchback I had seen in the YouTube videos and although it was wet, I cleaned it without drama. But due to the relentless pounding, my hands were starting to suffer and arm pump was setting. Maybe ESI Super Duper Extra Chunk grips would have helped! It was at this time that I rode into the second infamous section: an extended rock garden with lots of large wheel catching rocks waiting to send someone like me OTB. I managed to ride all but a short section, which (I like to think wisely) walked. I completed the descent in one piece and headed into the final 4 mile stretch of wet and relatively flat gravel road. I found myself working in a small drafting group containing Alabama Mike, the Open Women leader, on one other from the 40+ category. The four of us took turns pulling at high speed all the way to the finish line. I finished first in category with a time of 2 hours 17 minutes, about 19 minutes ahead of Hartwick in second.
Every day a new race video was created by the race staff. Here is a sample from stage 4 that will give you an idea of the awesome trails used for the race. Stage 4 video - Pilot Rock.
Stage 5 –27 miles, 2300 ft elevation gain: On a dry day, all racers did a neutral group ride of about 3 miles through town to the starting line. The course consisted of two 900 foot gravel road/double track climbs each followed by fun descents. No hike-a-bike on this day! No teeth rattling descents either; just mostly fun and flowy stuff with only a few miles of roots to navigate. With a big lead in cumulative time and not a lot of energy left in my tank, I kept the pace moderate. Several riders from other categories that I was able to beat on the previous stages stayed ahead of me all day including Lenny, Jacob, and Michael from Alabama. However I managed to keep Hartwick a comfortable 14 minutes behind me by the time we finished the stage, giving me another stage win and the cumulative 60+ category race win.
The UCC/JW Floors mountain bike team participated in a resurrected old classic mountain bike race called the Sagebrush Safari. The course starts out with a 6.5 mile climb up Morena Stokes Valley Rd to 4 Corners, then up Los Pinos Rd, just near the top of Los Pinos Mountain (elevation 4600ft). No time to catch your breath before heading into the Spur Meadows downhill. This trail contained a high speed descent and was littered with sharp rocks that claimed many a mountain bike tire (the trail became littered with racers repairing flat tires) After roughly 4 miles of descending the course intersects Morena Stokes Valley Rd to climb back again to 4 Corners. From there racers jump onto Wrangler Trail. This is the trail that makes the Sagebrush Safari as epic as it is. It contains many types of terrain including loose dirt, hard pack, massive rock slabs, rock gardens, punchy climbs, and flowy descents. After about 4 miles the Wrangler Trail dumps onto Skye Valley Rd for a brief screamingly fast descent to Bronco Flats Trail and then to a new section called Ranger Trail. Ranger is a technical, yet rideable climb, up to the next section. The next section is one of the most fun fire-roads you’ll experience, Gunslinger Trail. After which you reach Morena Stokes Valley Rd and for the final time make your way back up to 4 corners. Once you reach 4 corners the course leads to Kernan Cycle trail. Kernan is the final (fast, “whoopy”, and at times technical) descent back down to the paved road. Once on the paved road the final 2 are flat and fast to the finish line.
Team results summary is as follows:
40+ Expert men – 3rd place Jeff Jacobson, 5th place Pascal Bonaventure, 9th place Larry Tanzo, 10th place Steve Boyd, 12th place Greg Twitty, and 13th place Bryan Taylor out of 19 participants
55+ Open – 1st place Randy Liechty, 3rd place Jack Kairy, 4th place Ken Winston, 9th place Dennis Mudd out of 19 participants
Race report Sagebrush Safari Category 55+ by Randy Liechty:
I was excited about this race as Sagebrush was my first bicycle race 25 years ago! I started that race in the beginner class age 35-44. I didn't know what I was getting myself into. During the race I thought to myself, this is really hard so I stopped and asked the race marshal if I was going the right direction (some things never change) and confessed that I was a beginner! He laughed at me and said "just keep going". I did finish, and placed 35th out of 66 in my class! That day I realized that Sagebrush is a real mountain bike race! The modern version is 27 miles long with 3600 feet of climbing.
When I arrived at the race on Saturday it was awesome to warm up with all my great teammates. This is a great group who ride and train together on the Wednesday night ride. We are fortunate to have amazing support from UC Cyclery and all of our sponsors.
Ken Winston, Jack Kairy, Dennis Mudd, and I were staged in the 55 group near the rear. At the start of the race all categories left at the same time so the three of us move up through the large peloton to our other teammates near the front. I worked my way up to Greg Twitty and Bryan Taylor in the 40+ group at the start of the long climb so I could try and stay up with them on the decent. They are the best on the descents and as a nervous old guy, I am more confident following them down then guiding myself solo on the fast descent! Greg pulled away because there was a rider between Bryan and me. We never saw Greg again. This whole time I was waiting for Ken to fly by me because he is such a great descender. I found out after I finished that Ken had flatted at the start of the downhill (along with many other racers). I continued the race riding behind Bryan to the finish line. I am grateful to have Bryan leading me through the technical descents!
I am looking forward to many more races with a great team!
The UCC/JW Floors mountain bike team participated in round 3 of the California Mountain Bike series. This is the premier race series in southern California with 7 races and 3 different venues. This round was a UCI sponsored event attended by elite level pros including the woman’s XC world champion Kate Courtney and took place at Vail Lake in Temecula on March 23. It was a beautiful day and the 6 mile course with 700 ft of climbing had hero dirt. Cross country races consisted of 3 or 4 laps depending on age group and endurance races consisted of 6 or 7 laps.
The team made their presence known, winning 4 first places, a 2nd, and three 3rd places. In total, 14 from our team competed. Team results summary is as follows:
45-49 Cat 1 Cross Country men – 1st place Larry Tanzo, 3rd place Bryan Taylor, 4th place Pepe Velez
50-54 Cat 1 Cross Country men – 3rd place Jeff Jacobson, 4th place Steve Boyd, 10th place Greg Twitty
55-59 Cat 1 Cross Country men – 7th place Jack Kairy
60-64 Cat 1 Cross Country men – 1st place Ken Winston, 2nd place Randy Liechty, 3rd place Michael Hines
Open Endurance men – 4th place Chuy Topete
40-49 Endurance men – 1st place Pascal Bonaventure and 4th place Simon Planken
40+ Endurance women – 1st place Rhonda Geiszler
I had a little less than a week to get the derailleur repaired for Vail. Found out it was just a very loose clutch adjustment screw. Went to test it on Tuesday and found out the hard way that the cassette had cracked. My chain dropped off my cassette into my wheel and took out spokes, the pulley cage and bent the derailleur severely!
Thanks to John and Dave at UC Cyclery I was able to gather parts for an almost all new drivetrain and have the MTB ready for Saturday’s race just in time. So I lined up at the start at Vail and was nervous, yet excited to test the new drivetrain. After all this time away from MTB racing I didn’t recognize a lot of racers and it’s hard to figure out ”who is who”. Pepe Velez and Brian Taylor helped me out by pointing out some strong guys and possible race winners. I was able to pre run a lap and knew we started on a fire road that turned into a tight single track. After we started I went hard to get to the front to enter the single track in the top 5. Unfortunately they started my age group (45-49) with the age 40-44 Cat 1’s, so I had no clue who I was with on the first section of the single track. After about half a lap in I started asking guys I was with, what age group they were. I REALLY think the leg markings need to be brought back. I’ll donate the Sharpies!! Only one rider in the group was in my age group. I believe his name is Gilles Brouchard from the Tasco team. He was setting a fierce tempo and we were already creating a gap from some of the group we were in. I noticed one rider was working very hard to stay close to us and realized it was a rider that Pepe had pointed out and referred to as a possible winner.
I figured this early in the race that I would settle in for a while and see if this gap we had would last. After lap 1 and 1/3 the way into lap 2 I decided to try a little attack. It worked! Between feeling good and having traffic to help block anybody from following my wheel I was able to pull away for good. But because of the start with two separate age groups I started wondering if a rider in my class had snuck away with the front group. So I started to push even harder after shedding the last group I was in.
I felt really good on the 4th lap and was fortunate enough to get in a small group with LEGEND Tinker Juarez and ride strong to the finish for the W! I had an absolute blast and I definitely have the “racing bug” again!
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!
2018 Dirty 30 Race Report by Jeff Jacobson (aka JJ)
Dec 8 was the Quick n’ Dirty 30, an annual MTB race in Sycamore Canyon between Poway and Santee. The course has a couple of long fire road climbs and some fun technical single track. The Dirty 30 was one of my first races a couple of years ago. It started to rain during that race and the fire roads quickly turned to sticky mud that packed up my tires and drive train, which threw my chain, wrapping it around my rear derailleur and tearing it off, forcing a DNF. With that fond memory, I expected Saturday’s event to be cancelled due the heavy rains two days prior. Fortunately, the rangers had graded the roads earlier this year and brought in new sandy rain tolerant dirt. The conditions turned out to be phenomenal: a crisp, clear sunny morning with tacky hero dirt. Only one section of road had to be removed from the course due to mud.
I registered in the men’s open class and lined up with a group of almost 40 racers in my category, which had a mix of rider levels. At the start of our wave, a group of three riders jumped to the front and I pulled in behind them. I haven’t been seriously training since Sept, so I planned to not go out too hard and keep enough in the tank for a solid final lap. I knew the pace was too intense to keep up, but I didn’t want to fall behind the lead group. Fortunately, about half way through the first lap the pace slowed. After a bit, I went to front of the group on the fire road to take a turn pulling. The course turned up a trail climb and I looked back to find that I had gapped the lead group a bit and was sitting solo in first place. My heart rate was around where I wanted it to be, so I kept up my pace, mixing in with some of the riders from the wave ahead of ours. A rider I was following on the technical descent went over the bars on a steep rock drop and I was barely able to avoid running over him, but made sure he was OK before hammering on.
On lap two, there is a section of road that does a u-turn and doubles back so you can see how far ahead of other riders you are. I had a minute or more lead on the three riders I started out with, but there were now a few new riders between us. I questioned whether they were in our same category or were just some fast riders from the two-lap categories. Not taking any chances, I kept up my pace.
On the third lap I tried keep my momentum on some big rollers by coming into the climbs hot and sprinting out the saddle, but shifted too many gears at once and my chain slipped under the pressure and the jolt sent my calves cramping. Not wanting to mess up my lead, I settled into a steady pace on the climbs to ride through the cramps. Although my pace slowed by a minute on the final lap, I was able to pass several riders from other categories that the punchy course had taken its toll on and finished in first. Turns out that second place was a young rider that planned to hang back and try to attack on the last lap for the win, but fortunately I had just enough to hang on and keep the lead. Looking at his Strava profile, he’s been training over 300 miles a week, so I feel pretty good about my result. It was also nice to race my new Specialized S-Works Epic with Fox stepcast 120 fork, such a confidence inspiring machine.
2018 Dirty 30 Race Report by Ken Winston
Ten days ago I was resigned to being finished with my race season. But then my fellow 55+ teammates Jack and Randy said they planned to race the Dirty 30, so I didn’t want to be left out! I remembered that last year Pete Tholl (the Greg Fenton of mountain biking) battled it out with Johnny Omara for the win and the course was identical this year. So I used Strava and the posted 2017 results to set segment and lap time goals. After pre-riding 4 days before the event, my segment times were close but still slower than last year’s winners. I usually find another gear on race day so I was confident.
On race morning I learned that neither of last year’s winners had entered the 55+ open class (Johnny was recovering from surgery and Pete moved to the 40+ Expert class). This was both a relief and a disappointment. I still had teammates Jack Kairy and Randy Liechty to make it a tough race. JJ also warned me of Todd Brown, a rider for Pedal Industries.
The 55+ Open class started 30 seconds behind a large Sport class. After the start I immediately sprinted to the front. Within what felt like about one minute I came up on the back of the Sport Class racers. The back markers were all cooperative as I announced again and again and again “on your left”. Occasionally I heard a bit of distress happening behind me as riders struggled to get past each other without mishap. Jack turned out to be one of those riders as he had to dismount and run up the steep climb covered with Sport riders. For 20 minutes or so I continued to pick off riders that had started in prior waves and managed to avoid letting anyone pass me. I was keeping a challenging pace and high heart rate but I thought I could maintain the pace for the expected race duration of about 80 minutes. Up the first big climb and down the technical descent of Martha’s Grove, my race continued to go swimmingly, passing riders occasionally and no one passing me. At the bottom of the Cardiac Hill climb to complete lap 1 of 2, I saw Jack about 30 seconds behind me and no others from my class. Jack is a strong climber so I pushed hard up Cardiac to hold my lead.
The final lap continued to go well until I approached the bottom of the Martha’s Grove technical descent, when I came up to the rear wheel of Todd Brown. I passed him on the descent. But very soon afterward I was beginning the Cardiac hill climb to the finish when Todd was on my wheel. After a quick Q & A with him (as much as one can talk on the final climb of a race), he confirmed he was racing in my class. I suspected that he mistakenly started the race in a prior wave since I was certain no one had passed me and no one from our starting wave got in front of me. But in the case I was wrong, I had a race on my hands. The finish line was 5 minutes away!
Adrenaline allowed me to increase the pressure on the pedals as I settled into a rhythm at the bottom of Cardiac Hill. With about 2 minutes to go to reach the top of the climb and the finish line, I finally looked over my shoulder to see that Todd had dropped off my wheel. Relieved, I cruised into the win with a 25 second margin. Jack finished shortly afterward in 3rd and Randy finished 5th.
After analyzing my Garmin data, I managed to beat my goal lap times, which were faster than the winning times from 2017. Mission accomplished!
JJ and I both won a 6 pack of Stone IPA. JJ donated his to Jack!
Bryan Taylor finished 4th in the ultra-fast 40+ Expert class, losing to legends Tinker Juarez and Ned Overand. But Bryan’s two kids Alastair and Mhairi won the two cycling kits and a Bluetooth speaker in the raffle!
That wraps up a great season for the UCC/JW Floors mountain bike team. I hope you all have a very Merry Christmas!
The race format was the usual relay lap format, but this lap was dominated by the dreaded Dam Climb at the start. Each lap was 12 miles including about 1300 foot of elevation – most of which was realized in the initial Dam Climb. The course then was a mix of flowy downhill singletrack and meandering double track.
Lap one saw Simon taking point. The start was initially controlled by motor quad, then as soon as the climb started, the peloton was off. The crowd was cautious initially…knowing this hard and long climbing loop needed management. But then there’s always that one guy….!! After about 150 feet a young guy broke. This cascaded down the peloton and it was then LT and beyond all the way up! This climb separated the men from the boys….fast (in that the boys were all faster!!). The younger riders were super strong on this lap – impressive to see how good the next generation will be. Simon kept in the leading group, and on the descents caught up a majority of the leaders. By the middle of the lap, Simon was in 5th place overall, with a sizeable gap to next group.
Lap two saw Ken take the baton, and give charge to the leaders. At the end of the lap is a fast steep switchback climb, followed by a fast decent, in front of the relay exchange stage. Kens descending skills came into their own and Ken gained two places late on that section. Ken came in smiling after his initial lap…”I made up 2 places for you!” was the exchange. Then Simon was off for his second lap.
The Dam Climb seems steeper every lap. And the subsequent descents all too quick! But it was nice to have the space between us and the chasing pack to enjoy the singletrack. By 2 pm, the temp was nearly 90 ⁰F. The air was so dry that the race became somewhat one of attrition. The solo riders were tiring and many only put in 6 hours…cramps were setting in and the Dam climb was getting ever steeper. Simon had a 34 chainring which at this point he now wishes he swapped out for a 32. Most of his climb was spent in the 50t rear with a cursing mantra quietly being muttered…
By Lap 6, the team had more than a 15 minute lead. Admittedly, the competition was light but with Ken’s consistency and Simon’s charging lead, the duo managed 8 laps – one lap higher than other teams. Ken and Simon got a deserved win for the team on a day that was very hot, dry and with a lap that was one of the longest we have seen in this venue.
Today’s QuickNDirty, Filthy 50 Mountain Bike race was another great event put on by Victor Sheldon. This year was once again sold out, and UC Cyclery was represented well with racers in almost all categories.
The 55+ class was represented by Ken Winston, Randy Liechty, Jack Kairy, and myself. We started with a very fast pace. Before we arrived at Raptor Ridge we had already caught the group ahead of us (a VERY large Sport class) which made navigating and passing this group very difficult. As we approached Lake Hodges, Ken was trapped in the Sport group traffic which left Randy, Jack, and myself with Johnny O’Mara leading the class. We managed to stay together as we navigated the steep terrain, and as we hit the “wall” (a steep section of asphalt) I test the group by pushing a little harder and noticed Johnny struggled with this pace, which helped me strategize my attack for later in the race. UCC continued to work together to keep the pace up. We caught a teammate of Johnny's (from the Expert Open class) who then pulled us at a fast pace from Hodges to Raptor Ridge. As we approached the base of Raptor Ridge, Johnny’s teammate dropped off, that’s when I made my move and was fortunate enough to gap him and sustain my lead to the finish. I was fortunate to catch some of our Sport teammates and they helped pull me in to the finish (thanks guys)! Randy, Ken, and Jack finished 3rd, 4th, and 5th, which gave us 4 out of 5 podium positions. Impressive ride gentleman. Way to go UCC!
Filthy 50 Race Report by Paul.
This year was my 3rd attempt at the Filthy 50. Both Justin and I were entered in the sport class. I started on the front line and took off at a good pace. I had some shift trouble out of the first 90 degree left corner. Not sure what happened, but it resolved itself and I led until the pavement section. There I backed off the gas a little to let some others do work.
I put in a little surge up Raptor Ridge to try and get a clean shot down Raptor, but ended up in a conga line not able to pass until the flats. At that point some strong riders came forward and we had a good pack of at least 8 through to the dam. Lusardi was pretty uneventful except a road biker on Artesian passed us and one guy took off in his draft. The rest of the pack made a push to close the gap and then we let the lead guy go for a little while. It was too early to make a move. He ended up getting caught on the concrete wall and then we never saw him again.
Justin had passed me and was feeling strong so he led the way through the switchbacks. Once we hit the dam I let Justin go as I was starting to cramp and needed a rest. I led a couple other riders who weren't going to do any work, so I just spun at a comfortable pace. I figured at this point we would get caught, so I was hoping for more riders to help work through the mule trail. I ended up using more water than I planned going through my bottle and hydration pack. Normally I just try to carry it all and not stop or rely on aid. Cindy Fenton was at every trail crossing cheering us on and offered me a bottle on the way back. That ended up being a life saver as I needed every last drop.
I ended up getting beyond lucky when Ben in the single speed category came along like a freight train. I knew that was the race going by me right there; so I jumped on his wheel and held on for all I had. Nobody else went with me and we caught Justin in short order. I called out to Justin to catch on and he was able to stick with us. We caught another pack of riders and this larger group was towed all the way up to Raptor. This was the first year I didn't totally explode going up Raptor and put a tiny gap on Justin up the climb. As expected he blew past me on the descent half way down. I had to bury myself to catch him on the flats. Greg Fenton in the 55+ expert class caught us and the three of us worked together to the finish line.
On the last 90 degree right hander I went to sprint early. I figured if Justin had anything left he would get me; otherwise it was my best chance. We crossed the line in 1st and 2nd. After the race I was viciously attacked by a Tyrannosaurus Rex.
Congratulations to Tony Darr, Larry Murray, and Michael Murphy for winning their categories this year at the Fiesta Island Time Trial Series that ended last Sunday. Larry Murray won his category, even though he is injured and missed the last event yesterday. Greg Fenton turned in a great time, under very good conditions, that was the fastest in his age group for the entire year. Cindy Fenton also won her category. By the way, the 20k course record was shattered by Sam Boardman, a pro from Washington, D.C., who averaged 31 mph! Well done!
OZ Trails mountain bike race was held on October 6, 2018. The race started with a neutral rollout from downtown Bentonville, Arkansas into the foothills of the Ozark mountains. The course then entered the shade cast by the forest’s expansive pine tree canopy, where over 400 racers converge on a selection of the finest Northwest Arkansas (NWA) singletrack, occasional double track, and paved segments.
Racing or riding in NW Arkansas should be on everyone’s list. Our contingent of four consisted of:
Guy Sutton: 50 mile, men 45+
Pascal Bonaventure: 50 mile, men 45+
Dan Mahlum: 50 mile men open
Ben Jones: 50 mile men open
Layne Sutton: 35 mile junior men
The hardest part(s) was American Airlines flight delays and FedEx not finding our vrbo rental in Bentonville. After getting situated finally on Friday night we had some fun at the bike expo downtown, Walmart capital of USA. Racing Saturday started out with a fast 8 miles of road and bike paths before hitting miles of rad single track. Dan was amongst leaders until his group made a wrong turn. The mistake was costly, but he was back to passing the rest of us in short order (albeit a few matches spent). The OZ trails were deceptively rough on our EXO Maxxis tires. Rain during the race reduced dust to zero, but created a bit of anxiety at a few rocky areas and wet leaves. Temps and humidity were surprisingly high for October.
Layne had a non restorable sidewall tear and had to get a ride back. Dan’s virgin rear tire looked like it lost a fight with a sushi chef- mechanical issues costing him well over an hour and much running to get patched up but he remained positive and didn’t whine or quit. I flatted (tire plugs and CO2 to the rescue) and made a few wrong turns but hung in there and was very close at times to fighting for the top step. I’m still removing Stan’s and mud from my exterior.
Pascal was not feeling his best (only way I can keep him in sight) and finished behind me for 3rd. Maybe he should have had the bacon and IPA at 30 miles. Ben “I’ve only ridden a few times this summer” Jones had a phenomenal day, crushing us on titanium hardtail with aspen tires. I think he was 5 overall. Thankfully for us grey hairs he races open men.
The luscious trails are constanty undulating with a good degree of flow turns, doubles, optional lines and a sprinkle of technical. I would classify as intermediate terrain.
The vibe here from Uber drivers to MTB vendors and locals was very friendly. Despite some setbacks we all escaped with minor injuries, free stuff, tall tales of adventure and full bellies. I look forward to more good times on the MTB with my friends.