Angel Fire Race Report

Angel Fire, NM feels like home every time I go there to ride or race and I was stoked for the Pro GRT event. The Angel Fire crew did an amazing job (as always) to build us a worthy race course. It was fast, rough, steep, had interesting features, and did I mention fast? The bike shop and race director worked hard to take care of everyone’s needs so a good race would unfold.

During my first day of practice I was slow to get up to speed, but by Saturday’s Seeding and then Sunday I felt on point. My Seeding lap was going well until I washed out my front wheel in a dusty corner, I knew we only had :30 gaps so I was quick to get back up to speed before I got caught. I was feeling fast and cleared a jump that I hadn’t sent in practice yet. I was glad to know that I could still learn new features on a timed run.

Race day practice was moved up to make sure we didn’t get interrupted by a big storm that was moving in. I’m glad Angel Fire was forward thinking to make this move. Pros and Cat 1’s practiced together and I was excited to have this practice time with my girlfriend to work some lines and jumps together. The surprising part was I felt great during that practice, usually hitting the course first thing leaves my legs hurting, but everything was feeling amazing today. I was running new tires this weekend, the Onza Aquila. You might remember that as Gwin’s specially designed tire. I had become accustomed to the Ibex for it’s grip in loose dirt, but the Aquila held up well in the corners and was definitely a fast rolling tire.

My race drop time was approaching so I headed up the lift early to give myself time at the top. I was feeling ready, I had my Glukos gel, my Smanie GP131 dropped, and was jamming to my ipod. I was called down as they were lining the ladies up. Race nerves weren’t a thing today, I was ready to rock. The official called me to the start gate and eventually gave me my five second count down. I was off and feeling good in the first couple steep sections. I let the brakes open and cruised across the ski runs and ran a smooth line into the rock garden I loved to charge. Pre-jump here, pedal there, I was moving. I was careful with my wheels when I came to the corner that got me during seeding. I felt confident on the fast fire road, I found a tiny smooth path that was the perfect line. I was sending all of my jumps farther and smoother than I’d ever sent them before. What a great run this is!

I entered Drops and Lollipops and let the bike fly, getting more backside on the long jumps and setting my wheels up in corners early. I sailed over the banner drop and sent the blind hip gap like it was nothing. It was then that I saw the next racer I was catching. Holy crap, I made up a minute? That’s awesome! I reeled her in quickly and started yelling so she knew I was coming up. As I got within striking distance I also caught up to the other racer who dropped first. We were both in a berm and she was about to cut me off, so I yelled out that I was riding the inside line trusting she’d stay high. I caught back up to the other racer and there was just a bit of track left. Tight corners, a big jump, and the flat high speed corners to the finish, I couldn’t fathom making a pass in all of that safely, so I yelled for her to pedal. I figured my best chance at salvaging my race run was for both of us to go fast rather than risk a high speed crash. It was hours until the officials at the bottom figured out that the officials at the top incorrectly sent us off in :30 second intervals instead of 1:00. Half way through the pro women’s race they corrected the timing gaps and sent everyone off correctly. Had I known this sooner I would have requested a rerun.

I’m disappointed at USA Cycling for messing up our starts, this cluster on the race track could have easily been avoided. But I know how well I raced and how great it felt to be in the moment where I no longer second guessed myself and I felt no pain. There’s something magical about a race run. I’m stoked at how well the other women raced, some seriously fast times were put down in both Seeding and Finals. It’s exciting to see and I’m glad we all came out in one piece.

Once again, big thanks to Angel Fire, they are good at what they do and know how to host a race. And of course, a big thanks to the brands that have my back.


QUICK SHREDS WITH RUSS RISDON

Russ is well known for shredding the Pacific North West.
Here’s a couple of his favorite spots:

 

Alsea Falls, Oregon

Tucked into the forest just west of Corvallis is the growing MTB area of Alsea Falls. A fairly steep and long fire road climb puts you at the top of Whistle Punk… “Are we there yet?” you’ll be asking yourself. It’s all downhill from here …flowing and jumping on the way back to the trail head. Miles of sculpted dirt will keep your mind racing and your legs and arms pumped. An awesome straight away with fun, lippey tables on High Baller is the trail featured here. Cheers to Team Dirt and all the volunteers that keep this place humming! 

 

Yacht Burn State Forest, WA

Just across the Columbia River from Oregon and close to Vancouver, WA lie two of my favorite, ripping downhill tracks, Thrillium and Cold Creek. Cold Creek, featured in the short vid, has held many Enduro races and offers all the goods of a true PNW track.

Thrillium can be shuttled and part of Cold Creek can be shuttled, but you still have to climb to play. The top of the track starts at some radio towers and tears down the mountain for a bit over 4.5 miles. A great mix of rough tech and smooth berms and jumps await your descent. There is a creek at the bottom to stash your post ride beers and cool off.. also there is rad camping in the area. Toast the trail builders at Evergreen Mountain Bike Alliance for keeping our access and maintaining some great trails!


24 HOURS IN THE WET OLD PUEBLO

Arriving at 24 Hour Town early Friday morning, the atmosphere was as it was last year. RVs, tents, kids, dogs, bikes, crowds of people, and of course beer. I love this event. It would be safe to say that it is my favorite race of the year.

The environment and atmosphere is intoxicating, and this year there seemed to be even more of a buzz in the air. Whether it was the fact that more people came out for this year’s Old Pueblo to catch a glimpse of Lance Armstrong, George Hincapie, Christian Vande Velde, and Dylan Casey competing in the 4-Man relay, or if the crowds showed up to watch what was sure to be quite a spectacle of how the rain and wind would affect all of us “desert folk”. Whatever the reason, Friday was electrifying, and I was enjoying every second of it.

Saturday at 11:50am found me lined up at the starting line, nervously prepping for the nearly 1 mile La Mans start. Well, it wasn’t so much “lined up” as it was “clumped as closely as possible together with 499 strangers for warmth.” Think National Geographic documentary about penguins. Except instead of cute, fuzzy black-and-white birds huddled together, think spandex-clad, shaved-arms-and-legs, most-of-which-costumed athletes. There I stood, donning a red SS cape, with a girlfriend of mine racing out there on a Duo Team snuggled against my right side, and a stranger nestled on my left wearing cutoff denim short shorts, striped knee-high socks, and a helmet fashioned to look like a Viking’s helmet, horns and all.

At noon the gun went off and we all took off running to our corralled bikes. I hopped on mine and off I went to begin the adventure of answering the lurking question on the forefront of my mind: “How long am I going to survive this thing when these ominous clouds open up?”

Lap 1 was chaotic, of course, but it was dry. And I was grateful for that. If I had known it was to be the only dry lap I was to see out there, I might have savored it a bit more. Midway through Lap 2, a few sprinkles fell, and I thought to myself “I hope AZ weather forecasts are similar to SoCal’s in that they mean this when they call for rain.” That thought was fleeting, lasting a mere 2 minutes before the skies opened up and a heavy sideways downpour began. Still wearing lycra and no rain gear yet, I was forced to stop at our pit, dry off in the van, and take a very necessary unplanned break to fend off hypothermia. The atmosphere of the race itself seemed to change during that lap. It went from its usual 24HOP shenanigans, to one of an underlying “survival mode” for most of us racers. 55 minutes later, I was dryer, warmer, and back on my bike, dressed akin to the Michelin Man, ready to attempt Lap 3. Truth be told I was scared. Really scared.

I knew that my unplanned long break would plant me in last place, and as much as I didn’t want to think about the “racing aspect” at that particular moment, I had to. I was here to race, not just survive some bad weather. During my 3rd lap, I tried to wrap my head around a new race strategy. One that included attempting to ride all night without a nap. I didn’t know how my body would handle it, especially when my legs were already feeling the burn at a mere 45 miles in. But if I was going to go for it, I would need to start planning accordingly. So I dialed back my pace in preparation, and focused on recovery spinning on the flats to get ready for the long night ahead.

I got a second wind somewhere during lap 4, and decided to put off my dinner break until after lap 5, telling myself that if I got 5 in, it may help put some added pressure on the other girls in my class. And seeing as how I was still pretty sure I was in last place, I needed to take a few extra risks when I had energy to do so. By now it was dark, and I was uplifted to see that the bad weather had not changed the nighttime spirit of 24 Hour Town, nor did it affect the heckling party at the Whiskey Tree. There were probably a few less men riding around in short tutus, but that was really the only difference. Shenanigans abounded, and it was just what I needed to kick-start my long night.

The end of lap 5 marked 82 miles, potentially the halfway point. The thought of having to do another 82 miles in the rain, headwinds, and cold temps was daunting, to say the least, and very overwhelming. So I focused on my deliciously hot dinner, and enjoyed a longer break in the heated, dry, wind-free van in Troupe Town.

I don’t remember much of lap 6, only rolling in afterwards and announcing to Greg that this is where I bonked last year and had to nap, mile 98. And here I was, a bit tired and beat-up, but meltdown-free. That’s when I asked “So, am I still in last place?” figuring out of the 5 women in the Solo Female Singlespeed class, I would at best be in 4th.

“If you go through the timing tent right now, you’ll be in 2nd Place”

Enter the turning point in the race.

I didn’t know if I would be able to hold onto that placement, as the other women in my class all seemed competitive and were capable of impressive lap times. But I sure as hell planned on trying. That meant laying down as many night laps as I could when the conditions were at their worst: It was a whopping 38 degrees around midnight, headwinds and crosswinds of up to 40mph, and the (now light, but relentless) rain had turned into tiny ice pellets. And somehow, I was still pedaling my bicycle with a somewhat positive mental outlook. I was officially racing this thing.

After Lap 7, whilst sipping piping hot freshly roasted Troupe Racing Roastery Kenya coffee, I checked my phone. I had so much encouragement both via texts and Social Media comments. I was incredibly overwhelmed. It was that kind of encouragement and support that got me back out on the bike at 3:55am to head out for my 8th lap. I had to fight off some feverish nausea the whole lap, and it was pretty miserable, but I kept going, albeit slowly, reminding myself “Every pedal stroke is one more than 3rd Place is making right now.” My competition had taken a long break, and I was putting a good lead in on her, hoping that if I put enough laps in during the night, it would keep my lead intact for the rest of the day.

I finished lap 8 and elevated my legs in the van while Greg made me fresh coffee. It was 6am. I nodded out for 15 minutes until coffee was ready and asked about the results. 3rd Place was back on the bike as of 6:05. I knew she was capable of pulling 1.5hr lap times, and could potentially get in 4 more before the end of the race, but as long as I finished my 10 laps before she finished her potential 10, that would solidify 2nd. And there was no way I was going to let that lead go.

I suppose you could say I was on a mission, however you wouldn’t know it by looking at me. It was slow progress. Just when I’d be able to pick up some speed for a bit, the next uphill would come and my snail’s pace would commence. Such was lap 9 and 10. Unfortunately the temps were still in the 40s, the wind was still erratic, and the trails finally lost their ability to absorb water, and half of them had turned into the consistency of a thick stew. However my tire choice of the Kenda SaberPro 2.0s couldn’t have held up better out there. They were fast rolling, and seemed to glide over most of the mud fairly easily, which I was grateful for, as I don’t know how well I would’ve made it through those last two laps with a different set up.

I finished my 10th lap, exactly 165 miles, at 11:07am, 2 hours faster than I had finished last year’s 10 laps, and in undeniably much worse conditions. Due to the race regulations that state you cannot officially finish your last lap of the race until AFTER 12pm Sunday meant that I had 2 options: A) go out for an 11th lap, which I really didn’t want to do but would if necessary. B) dry off, warm up, and get clean in the pits, then roll down the last .5mi of the course and through the timing tent at 12:01pm. I inquired about 3rd Place. She wasn’t riding anymore, which meant she was done and would go down to the timing tent to cross after her 9th, which meant an 11th lap wasn’t necessary, and I could go with the much more desirable option B, get warm and dry.

As the Awards Ceremony got under way at 1:30pm, I looked up at the sky. A patch of blue was showing and rays of sunshine were streaming down on the horizon. It had rained and howled for exactly 24 hours. The irony of it made me laugh. As much as I had spent the last day and night persistently wishing the weather to change, I had a moment of clarity at the realization that the weather couldn’t have been more perfect out there. It kept my concentration engaged, my mind and body alert, and most importantly it kept my emotional state just angry enough to put in the next pedal stroke.

I truly admire each and every person out there this past weekend. I think Epic Ride’s 19th annual 24 Hours of Old Pueblo will be one for the record books. Despite the conditions, this event’s true spirit shone through, perhaps with even more gusto and fury so as to out-perform the storm itself. I truly encourage everyone to put this race on your “must do” list, as it surely will remain on mine for as many years as possible. Bring a bike, bring some friends, bring some firewood. And bring a rain jacket or two….just in case.


8 HOURS OF TEMECULA

Vail Lake. The venue of SoCal Endurance’s 4/8 Hours of Temecula, which never fails to disappoint. We just can’t seem to get enough of this series.

With a course that boasts over 80% singletrack, fast, flowy downhill sections, and punchy, lung-burning uphills that come in at over a 20% gradient, you’d better believe that the Troupers would be there, itching to toe the line of our official 2017 season opener race.

At 9am sharp, the race was under way, and Troupers Michelle, Jeanine, Kimmi, Tim, JJ, and Jeff all went out for what was sure to be an exciting day on the bike. As we all found out fairly quickly, the course was sharp, punchy, and quite climb-heavy. SoCal Endurance had set up a 9 mile course that boasted 1300ft of elevation gain per lap, a true mountain biker’s course.

Michelle held a fast pace, pulling the 4th fastest female lap on the course according to her Strava time. Of her race, Michelle says, “It’s been a while since I had to put in a sustained race effort after coming off ‘Cross last Fall. I had to dial it back after the first 2 laps, eat, and find a pace that could last 4 hrs. On my last lap, I hoped to gain back some spots by taking some risks on the descents, but I crashed in front of the photographer. Needless to say, I was tentative, and lost a lot of time, but still ended up 5th. I’m excited that the 1st race of 2017 is in the books. Time to plan the next one.”

Jeanine also raced in the Solo 4 Hour Female Category, and had a chance to get a feel for her new Santa Cruz Highball, which she said performed great, aside from a derailleur jam on her first lap. She was so blown away by the bike, in fact, that she said that she can’t wait to keep on climbing! “My favorite part of the race were my improvements on the steep climbs and switchbacks,” says Jeanine. Other highlights included the encouragement she received from everyone that passed her as she hiked her bike into the pits to fix the mechanical, as well as our new favorite recovery concoction of Carbo Rocket Rehab mixed with Troupe Racing Roastery Espresso, freshly pulled from the Wacaco Mini Presso. After she finished her race, she proceeded to cheer on her teammates in the pits, whilst sipping her well-earned recovery/espresso drink. “I look up to my teammates, so being able to cheer them on is always a blast!”

Jeff Lewis also competed in the Solo 4 Hour, and posted some fast lap times. He went out hard on his first lap, and didn’t let up on the pace. “Vail Lake is always a good time, and I’m excited to have the first race of 2017 in the books.”

Kimmi, JJ, and Tim took on the 8 Hour Solo, and found the course to be gruelingly steep, yet were all determined to keep their “racing wits” about them. Kimmi entered the race a bit fatigued from training for her Solo SS effort in the upcoming 24 Hours of Old Pueblo, but managed to get in 7 laps, clinching a 5th Place Female finish on the day. “It was a good confidence booster for me to see how the legs have been responding to training these last 2 months in a proper race environment. I went out a bit fast on the first few laps, and feared that I overdid it too early. But thankfully my hours in the saddle this winter paid off, and I still had plenty of juice in the tank to keep laying laps down.”

JJ had an amazing day on the bike. “I’ve never done a race longer than 6 hours,” says JJ of his race, “so this was uncharted territory for me, being an 8 hour race. My legs felt pretty good right from the start, despite putting in some heavier training these last two weeks. I knew if I kept my foot off the gas enough on the punchy climbs, I could maintain a decent pace for the 8 hours. In the end, I went out just fast enough to edge out the win!”

Tim also had a solid day on the bike, taking on the 8 hour Solo. “For me, I always under estimate how physically demanding Vail Lake is. I tend to forget how steep and frequent the climbs are and that always catches me. So it makes it hard to approach this as a “training race” because surviving 8 hours of this course is really tough. You have to come prepared and with plenty of climbing miles in the bank.”

The SoCal Endurance Series is always one that we enjoy racing, especially the first one in the year. It’s a chance to test out new gear, see friendly faces, and of course, get back out and do what we love: race bikes!


SEDONA TEAM CAMP

Now that the summer season is over, the team decided to sieze the moment, and take a trip out to Sedona for a mini training camp. The emphases would be on big rides and big scenery, improving some technical skills, and for some tuning up for the upcoming 25 Hours of Frog Hollow.

Our basecamp for the weekend was a great VRBO located right near the Bike-n-Bean which provided a perfect location for all our rides to start and finish, cooking at “home”, and an evening round of Cards Against Humanity.

DAY 1 : 18 MILES

We jumped into a technically hard climb right out of the gate. Riding in Sedona is a full body experience and requires way more awareness and handeling than we’re used to. There isn’t much of an opportunity to zone out and turn the pedals – we’re always looking ahead, reading the trail and figuring out where our tires need to go.

We also were reminded that Sedona miles do not equal real miles. A 10 miles ride may not seem like much, but in Sedona, that can be a very demanding 10 miles. Maybe its the Sedona vortex…

DAY 2 : 28 MILES

We met up with Jason of Over The Edge for a guided epic ride through some of the finest. The highlights included creek crossings, being surrounded by a storm with thunder and lightening, and being rained on (we haven’t seen rain in over a year), as well as the infamous HiLine trail.

We closed the day with local cuisine and margaritas. Not bad…

DAY 3 : 20.5 MILES

By now, we were getting a bit sore, but this ride proved to be one of the best. It took away from where we’d been riding and into a whole new trail system with more rails along the ridges that dropped into green forests. For those that don’t know, Sedona has a very unique feel. It’s desert terrain with all the red rock, yet it also has a huge amount of green trees.

DAY 4 : 7 MILES

This was just a final quick spin, cut even shorter by a torn tire sidewall (but repaired with a Honey Stinger wrapper). We just couldn’t get enough of the riding and the landscapes…


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