Northern California Bicycle Racing Community
After 4 rounds of racing in the CA Dirt Series, we made our way up for the 5th and final round at Sugarbowl ski resort near Truckee. This race would decide the winner of the CA state championship series. I was leading the series in points, so I knew I needed to have a solid race to clench the title for a second year in a row.
There were some fast guys that had not raced any of the races this year: Tristan Uhl, Tate Mientjes, Xander Sugarman, Carson Benjamin, and Nathan Barton were all there for this first race on the xc trails at Sugarbowl.
My competition for points in the series, Nicolas Jimenez, was the guy I needed to beat.
The altitude was high compared to Marin, but did not go much above 7,000 feet. The weather forecast promised a warm day.
This would be my first race on my new Trek Procaliber carbon hardtail. I set it up with a 1x11 drivetrain, 100mm dropper post, and Fox 32 SC 100mm fork. The altitude exposed a problem with my front brake, so I made a parking lot switch to a Guide RS brake which I robbed from another bike I had brought. I stuck with the Victoria Mezcal tires. They rolled fast and gripped alright, and the high weight gave me confidence that I could avoid a flat tire.
I arrived before my race, but the course marshalls denied an attempt to pre-ride the course. I settled for warming up on the pavement and getting a course description from other racers. All reports were that it was predominantly single track with little passing opportunities. The only sustained climbing was to be a 2 minute fire road climb in the middle of the course. We would be racing 5 laps, so I knew the laps would be pretty short.
The 12 Pro racers lined up on the paved start pretty much 12 abreast. We would be pedalling down a paved hill to a hairpin 180 degree turn and then down more pavement to single track. I knew it would be important for me to go into this single track in front of as many people as possible, especially Nicolas.
We blasted off and sped down the paved hill. I was able to move up outside of the paceline as we approached the hairpin left turn, making my way to about 4th wheel. I was going to get pinched in the corner, so I dove hard to make the turn. My front wheel washed out on the pavement and I went down pretty hard, causing most of the field to slow or even dismount behind me. I cursed myself for this mistake, embarrassed to crash but also worried about letting Jimenez get away from me. By the time I was back on the bike, I had fallen to last. With all of the twisty single track ahead, I knew this could prove to be a fatal mistake.
I passed a few riders and found myself stuck behind a racer that was pretty slow on the loose and dusty turns through the woods. I could see the guys ahead of him getting away, so I put pressure on him to let me pass. Once by him, I was able to dig pretty deep to get within 20 seconds of Landon Fairnworth, Brent Woods, and Nicolas.
Over the first lap, I slowly reeled them in. The course was very twisty in the trees, with deep dust in most corners. It was hard to get much speed going, as you were continually slowing to turn. I tried my best to keep speed but avoid a crash.
By the end of the first lap, I had moved from 12th to 8th. On the second lap, I made my way up to Jimenez and got by him. Then I kept it up to get some racers between us. I was feeling okay and opening a gap, maybe moving up to 6th. With all of the switchbacks, I was able to monitor the competition behind me, but the fastest four guys were out of sight ahead of me.
I worked to get some flow on the course, trying not to wash out in the dusty conditions. I pushed on the climbs, but was cautious not to overdo it. We got into lapped traffic from the CAT 1 classes about halfway through the race, but everyone was polite and it didn’t seem to be a big problem.
I kept it up and increased my lead over Jimenez, but noticed Clint Claassen closing on me at the end of the last lap. I pushed enough to get to the uphill finish sprint ahead and held him off to the finish line, coming in 6th, but, most importantly, ahead of Jimenez to be crowned California State XC Champion for 2018!