Monday, May 10, 2010

Idyllwild Spring Challenge Race Report

Just to warn you this post is super long so get some coffee and a snack your going to be here a while.
The terrain-
The 30-mile XC course near Idyllwild is like riding through a dessert with vegetation on top of a mountain. Mostly sagebrush and manzanita and pine trees, but no cacti. The mountain is a giant rock of granite so the trails are sandy and dry with decomposed granite type of dirt. If you have ever been to Fantasy Island in Tucson they you know exactly what the trails are like in Idyllwild. Except put Fantasy on the side of a mountain. Banked corners galore. The trail went from 4500ft to 6500ft in elevation.

Kurt Gensheimer is a super cool dude that is from San Diego but originally from Boston. He was the only other Pro SS so he and I were 1st and 2nd both days. He ran a 34x20 on a carbon 26’er with a Fox fork. I ran a 33x20 on my 29’er. (44.2 vs. 47.9)

At the start of the race we were both wondering where all of the other “Pro” SS’ers were. Where’s the Niner Dudes? This is a National race, right? So why was it just the 2 of us? If I had known that there were only going to be 2 guys I would have signed up for the Men’s Pro race. I guess you can’t count on there being enough SS to show up.

The course is a 30-mile loop. No laps. It was kinda like the SSUSA course in Tucson. Lots of climbing too. Most of the climbing I knew was in the first 17 miles so my strategy was to leave it all on the big climbs and hobble the rest of the way home. Running the 33x20 was a sure bet that I could climb just about everything so I felt confident with each pedal stroke that I could keep up the tempo without having to worry about going too hard.

The Start-
Kurt and I started behind the pro class and after a quick section of single track (ST) and down a hill section called “The Demoralizer” it was flat city for about a mile. No way I could match the Big Ring pace and I could see up ahead Kurt spinning in quick spurts. Not knowing what kind of rider Kurt was I wanted to see how he handled the first climb/hike section. The “Tunnel of Love” was a washed out steep section that had some of the pro guys walking with their geared bikes. I’ve been practicing running up climbs so I buried myself and got a huge gap on Kurt and some of the pro riders.

One pro caught me with his FS bike on a downhill section but I soon passed him back on the next climb. (The first of three climbs with a prime at the top for the KOM/QOM.) The “Keen Summit” climb had a prime of $25. Manny claimed this one and the other 2 climbs.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with Manuel Prado he is a big time rider for Sho-Air and won La Ruta. He is also a sick climber and won this race for the last few years. I bet he only weights 125 lbs. and I overheard him talking to a guy saying that back home he once climbed 60,000 feet in one week of riding. The guy is no joke. The other Pros would gather around him hoping that some of his skill and power will rub off onto them. I think he walked away with over $500 in prize money.

After quick decent on swoopy ST we made a right into a beautiful grass meadow that was a slight incline. Man I was needing a bigger gear right now to go faster. Doh! Stupid Speeder!
Then I climbed a fire road and dropped into some swoopier ST. The second big climb started. They actually had a sign that said, “start of climb #2”. I climbed most of it and ran some short sections. Each climb they let you know when you were 100 yards from the top so you could sprint to the top for the $50 prime.

Another down hill before the start of the 3rd and final climb. Pine rd is paved and steep. Jesse was there to give me a fresh bottle and half an orange. Thank you Jesse for being there. Jesse was so supportive to me the whole weekend. She took pictures and encouraged me a lot, and didn’t complain (more than me) when the awards took forever. She wants to go back for 2 weeks next year so we can do some hiking and see more stuff. Can you say training camp? At elevation! With some of the best trails in the country!

So, we climbed and climbed and climbed. And it got steeper and steeper. It was paved near the top and I had to get off to walk. One pro guy I caught in his granny and another one was walking. Finally I got to the top and asked the people at the trailhead how many riders passed. “Maybe 7” was the reply.

Now came some gnarly down hill ST. I wish I could have pre rode this section because I think I could have gone a little faster. They had signs saying “Danger Slow.” I would get freaked out and slow down too much and then afterwards think that wasn’t bad. We went down part of the Super D course and it was fast like a water park slide. So much fun.

One final short climb to the end and down the Tunnel of love. Back on the pavement, and up the “Demoralizer”, Down a few whoops and I was done. 2:44:02. Kurt came in at 2:51:43. I would have been 6th if I was in the Pro men’s class. Which is about right for the guys I ride with here on the East Coast.

A Cat 1 Sho-Air guy in the 30-34 class would have podiumed for 5th with a 2:38.

Some thoughts I have are what could I do differently to make it with the top Pros that day. Should I get a super light geared bike with suspension? Would that make me faster? Or would I just blow up trying to push too big of a gear and not push myself hard enough on the climbs. I think a solution would be to get a 3-speed hub. I would still have the benefits of a straight chain line. Then I could have one harder gear for the flat paved sections and one easier gear for the climbs. Question is do they make a high performance 3 speed yet?

3.5 mile Time Trial-
After the XC awards on Saturday I headed out to the TT course. It was well-marked and super fun. Jesse hiked while I rode it. I sessioned a few tricky sections and did 2 laps. So I rode a lot that day. Romolo was out there too and told me we would have to do 3 laps. During practice it took 22 minutes so it would be about an hour and 6 minutes. I was happy to learn when I lined up that we only had to do 1 lap.

Using my cross style starts I just annihilated myself. I went out maybe too hard and felt the ride form the day before. I stuck with the 33x20 because it was a down and back up race. My goal was to catch the guy that started one minute ahead of me. I recovered some and hit it hard again. Near the end I spot my victim. I’m on the hunt now and I can sense his fear. Every short climb I buried myself and sprinted. Closer and closer I got until the final stretch. An uphill sprint to the line and I got him! Some guy was yelling, “your sprinting like a cat two rookie” to the guy next to me! I did get a “Nice single” from the guy I sprinted against.

Again I wish I were in the pro class because I had the 3rd fastest time for the TT at 17:53. Manny had 17:26 and Dana was 17:44. I would have loved to be up on the podium with those guys. 1st place for me again. Kurt came in at 19:10.

I’m definitely going to have to do more Super-D’s in the future. So much fun! At least twice I had a “Oh Shit!” moment. But I managed to pull it off. On the second OS I didn’t slow down enough for a right turn so I was sliding sideways for a while and had to go for a real crappy line. Going so fast makes it possible to jump further over stuff to clear obstacles. The 29’er wheels gave me lots of confidence. There were single track and fire roads. A little bit of up hill and lots of slight down hill.
Kurt had been to Downiville 3 times and is used to these high-speed endeavors. Plus a front fork gave him a slight edge over my 29’er wheels. Although I think 29’er on a rigid bike makes it feel like a 26’er with a shock.
He started one minute behind me so I thought this would be his chance to catch me. During practice I took 22 minutes to get down. I didn’t shine like the real pros but I still edged my way past Kurt for the final win. 16:26 was my time and 16:40 was Kurts. Not bad for my first Super-D. The fastest time went to Dana Weber with a 14:58. Sick!

It wasn’t all down hill. There were some climbing and some tricky spots and some flats. U was spun out with my 33x17. I could have used a 13 or 15, but whatever. 1st place again. Lot’s of cat 1’s had a better time than me. I’ll have to look and see all of the results to see where I placed overall.

Stage race results
Since I won all 3 events as a pro single speeder I won the stage race. Unfortunately I don’t think these results will count towards my overall ranking as a pro since there was only one other guy. If I signed up for the pro men’s I would have taken 5th for the stage race. On a rigid single speed to boot.
Thanks for reading.

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