Friday, April 28, 2006

Napa Valley Dirt Classic

Date: 4/23/06
Course: 22-mile loop- once. A course that had a bit of everything including, the kitchen sink.
Category: Open SS
Field: 30
Teammate: Josh and Geoff.
Place: 5th / 11+mph avg speed / Time 1:48:56

I was excited for this event. My last mtb race was over 3 years ago doing a Billy Cross race at Lake Sonoma. Fitting I would make my way back, with a Bianchi SS once again (I had a D.I.S.S.) Although this time it would be ‘’29er style’’. If you don’t know already, I’ve been working at Bianchi in Hayward and they stoked me with a proto-type 29er to ride. Needless to say, I rode it…. and the Fisher Rig stayed at home.

I had heard a lot about this race, from more than a few people. Single-track with trees, water crossings, mud holes, technical and fast descents, run/ dismounts, rollers, wide open windy spots and of course the MONSTER climb before the finish. Yes, it was that huge.

I got to Napa with plenty of time to walk around and look for reg. Say hi to Josh, Geoff and other friendly faces. I decided to warm-up on the little running track that was part of the finish (cool). I got in about 25 min. of spinning around. There was no pre-riding allowed so I would be going into this one blind so to speak.

I lined up at 10:38 for my start and managed to get a front row start. The whistle blew and I nailed it. Foot clipped right in and 3rd onto the single track. Sweet… I look ahead and can see the run/ dismount everyone was talking about at the start. It was harder than anything I have ever done, slippery mud and off-camber too, toe spikes next time! I finally made it to the top and in good position. I turned it up as soon as I had recovered from the slip and slide.

I was running a 32X16 gear, so on the flats, rollers, single-track and descents it was fine. I had a blast. I caught what would be 3rd place in one of the first single-track section with trees and battled with him for a while. I felt good and was having fun racing in the ‘’woods’’ again; it felt as if I was riding a dirt bike (motorcycle) in Tahoe. There were some big water crossings for a mtb race, the bigger wheels really worked good for that and in the deep mud. But after a few hills too steep, I lost touch with him and it was a slugfest from there on out. It all gets a little fuzzy. I was in the ‘’zone” and tuned out the suffering and kept slogging up, and up and up. Phew! “When is this thing gong to end?” I though to myself. “I’m paying the price for the 16t cog now” Ouch. I looked at my time and was dismayed that it was around 1:30 and my goal going into this race was to finish around 1:40 and break the top 10. This was my first “Open” (pros to whom-ever are lumped together) race, I though it was a realistic goal.

I huffed over Anguish Hill. The support people were yelling “almost there!” and I picked the pace up whenever I could take advantage of my taller gearing. The run in to the finish was cool. Very technical downhill switch backs into some fast double track, through one last mud “lake” and onto the running track for the finish. My friend David was at the mud hole and was yelling at me but with all the mud and water flying around I was paying to much attention to where I was going and where the finish was and I got passed for 4th place! By the time I realized what happened it was too late and I chased to get 5th place. The course was about 4km short of what it was supposed to be which at the time was good but I thought we had a bit to go and got taken buy surprise. Whatever, a great race non-the-less.

The Bianchi SS rules. I will be O.T.C. at future races, I’m working getting a few gear selections here quick (18t-20t). Big up to Josh and Geoff who both rode great times and finished well.


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