Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Sea Otter 2011

For all the hype that surrounds the Sea Otter Classic, one might expect it to be the Queen event of the spring MTB races. Perhaps it used to be, but in the last two years, the 'far-from-epic course' keeps it from really feeling like a mountain bike race. Barry and Erik have told me stories of how gnarly the course used to be, compared with today's 8 x 12.5min lap circuit comprised mostly of pavement and gravel roads. Nevertheless, it is still an important event, and with all the people it brings out for a weekend of bike racing, it's great for the industry. Since all of us racers have plenty of other great courses to race on throughout the season, perhaps we could look at it as 'taking one for the team.'

This shot basically sums up my experience in the cross country race on Saturday:
churning out 8 laps on the paved race-track...mustered an 18th place, and despite improving significantly on my performance from last year, I expected more of myself. I was trailing the large lead group going into the second lap and came frustratingly close to bridging, but just couldn't quite make it. Each subsequent lap I was simply in the wrong spot, and the time gap started to grow second by second. In the end I conceded 5.5 minutes to the leader, a deficit that is normally in the top-10 range, but the fast Sea Otter course is a beast of its own. Simply stated, I should have been further up all day. Just not my day.

The SHORT TRACK the day before, on the other hand, went better. It was a tough, bumpy course. Short, yes, but more representative of mountain bike skills. I came in a more respectable 10th. My new 29er King Kahuna w/ the flyweight Stans ZTR Race seemed to swallow up the punchy power climbs, and for being a hardtail, was not bad on the bumpy flat sections either.

lucky 13 for the weekend

Barry and me

realizing I should've probably brought my cross bike...

Demo Dave's cool Kona Fort



time to go back to Seattle...

Wednesday, April 13, 2011


If I had to pick one standout quality that makes the Northwest a good place for maintaining a cycling career (amateur or elite), it would be variety. Of course, cycling lends itself to variety in the first place, regardless of the geographic setting. Since the last post I finished up the first road stage race of the season, the Cherry Blossom Classic in The Dalles, OR. Mechanicals kept me from being in the race, but since putting in the hard work, I'm already feeling the fitness benefits. If anything, it was a good chance to hang out with S&M/Kona teammates Sean Babcock and Luke Pennington. Check out Sean's super fast time trial bike:

Sean's Major Jake - a one-of-a-kind TT bike for the weekend. Sean, you are an animal!

The one-and-only Luke Pennington

With the Cherry Blossom miles soaked into the legs, a week of solid training back in Seattle ensued, fit with painful, freezing hail storms...

...some pleasantly sunny early-morning interval sessions before work...

some afternoon freeride sessions with friends...

...it was the weekend again, and Sarah and I headed east to Ephrata, WA for the Beezley Burn XC. Thanks to Jake Maedke for putting on such a terrific event. Not only is Jake my kind of guy making it all happen with a full time job , he also puts on a great race weekend. Sunny and dry, short track on Saturday evening, followed by BBQ and free camping, and a great XC course on Sunday morning, AND a big cash purse! My races were made all the more enjoyable by my new team edition King Kahuna 29er . It was my first time ever on a 29er mountain bike, and by the end of the short track on Saturday I was sold. By the end of the cross country I was wishing I could have had it from the beginning of the season. In so many words, the 29er hard tail is high-speed machine. It rolls faster, climbs like a boss, corners confidently, and consequently, is good for winning races!

Start of short track...first ride on new bike...

on way to 1st place against local legend Russell Stevenson

at the XC start line...4 laps, 32 miles, Time 2hrs 14min

I took the win in the short track and cross country, and the course was excellent training for next weekend's race at Sea Otter. But the best part of the Ephrata weekend was watching Sarah do her first MTB race! After some of the rides we've done together, she could've handled a lot more than the single lap Cat 3 race, but it was a good place to start. She'd never admit her natural talent, so I can't help but talk about it for her. She would also have me admit that she was the only woman in the Cat 3 field, but I'll admit that she had the second fastest time overall.

S&M Young Guns teammate Patrick Means shredding

thanks for reading...next up...Sea Otter, Monterey, CA, April 15-17

Friday, April 1, 2011


No good April Fools jokes, other than my twisted chain in the first 7 minutes of today's 1st Stage of the Cherry Blossom Classic road race in The Dalles, OR. First road race of the season, and turns out the joke was on me about the whole "racing" part. Had to pull over and remove the broken links and un-bend the rear derailleur. It all took long enough so that I spent the rest of the day doing good solo training effort and enjoying the sun. TT and crit on Saturday, big circuit race on Sunday. Still getting the mechanicals out of the system it seems...

As for LAST weeekend...on the way to Pro XCT #2 in Fontana, CA last weekend, I was actually feeling bummed that the forecast was looking rainy and cold (cold for SoCal, so 50s). Turns out, it actually made for the best condition I've ever experienced at the race. I've only been to Fontana twice before, but each was dusty and hot - a big leap from the cold & wet in Seattle. This year the tacky dirt was awesome, making for good traction and fast riding overall...except for the infamously steep Fontana climb, at the beginning of each lap. For 2011 they nearly doubled the length up the double-track, which the promoters claimed to hit grades of +30%. Either way, it was sufficiently steep for 5 times around.

I was eager to test my early season form without any mechanical setbacks (in the Bonelli Season opener I flatted in the both the XC and STXC). In 2010 at this same race I struggled to maintain a top 15 position and faded to 21st. This year I sat sturdily in 12th/13th, eventually finishing 13th. Here's a pic from the race on Cyclingnews . After taking some time to recover after the XC, I trudged up the steep hill one more time for the start of the Super D. The Fontana Super D course actually warranted a lowering of the seat on the XC bike, at least by my observation. All of us XC guys got smoked by superstar 4-Crosser Brian Lopes. The course definitely favored a more enduro-oriented bike (and a full pre-ride or two!). My XC rig and no pre-ride made for a good challenge, and I could only muster a 14th.

With the test of early March races past, and still maintaining the balance with a full-time job at Ridgeline, I'm feeling good about where my form is heading for the season to come. Consistency is honest and a good platform for improvement, so with Bonelli and Fontana as my starting point, it's already a big step up from last year. One of the biggest motivators has been all of the congratulation and support from all my friends, family, co-workers and fellow riders. From my own perspective there are always improvements to be made, self-criticisms, goals to focus on, hard work to do...all motivating in itself. But it is even more special to have so many people take the time to notice. Thank you for the motivation. Looking forward to the big show at Sea Otter in a couple weeks.

Thanks for reading.