2012 Ashland Spring Thaw!

Last weekend was the long anticipated 2012 Ashland Spring Thaw.  This year marked the 21stanniversary of the hometown race, with XC on Saturday and DH on Sunday.  The XC went back to the classic 26 mile course after a change due to snow levels the year prior.  The course started with an endless 9 mile fire road climb followed by another endless false flat 11 mile fire road traverse that finally led to the fast,  long (but not long enough) 6 mile singletrack descent back in to town where it finished in beautiful Lithia park.  After spending all Friday climbing up and down the course with a backpack full of course markings I was pretty tuckered, but a good night’s sleep took care of that.  The best feeling in the world is being able to roll out of bed and ride to the start, and the wait was finally over. After breakfast and a few last minute course tapings it was time to line up.  I jumped into the middle of the pack and before I had a chance to send one last minute text the group was already climbing.  I took off with the group, phone in hand, and of course fumbled with my pocket and had to let the pack go as I picked up the pieces of my phone and scrambled to catch up.  I hit the climb like a bat out of hell, motoring back up to the guys I had started with and hitting the top of the climb with a solid group. 

I knew I had to stay with the group and suck wheel as much as I could, but hitting the top of the climb didn’t mean it was over from there.  As I attempted to suck down a GU I yoyo’d off the group on the false flats and soon found myself in a solo TT.  Not too much longer another train of guys I had struggled to beat up the climb picked me up for a mile of two before I again found myself dropped and Han Solo.  Frustrated and tired I mashed most of the road by myself and finally grabbed a group I could stay with.  We pulled the last few miles of road where the boys let me go ahead and do my thing on the singletrack.  I thanked them as I dumped my gears, let out a few hoots and hollers at the aid station, and headed on my way down the home stretch.  I was so excited to finally hit the downhill I forgot all about the misery I had survived and found my third wind instantly.  I was screaming “rider back” the second I started catching dust from all the roadies that had dropped me on the road.  I was making up gobs of time and could taste the finish when out of nowhere, on a forest service gate go-around I clipped my bars and got ejected.  I got up fast, twisted my bars straight and jumped back on the bike, sprinting back to life only to find I had burped my front tire nearly flat.

Photo by Rick Tillery

It was still ride-able so I pressed on, but as soon as I hit the last technical descent of the race, BTI, I realized how low it was and had to baby the rest of the descent.  I lost most of the time I had made up and got caught by all the brake-riders.  It was a pretty disappointing to finish this way, but I made it in one piece and had the downhill the next day to look forward to.  That night I met up with the Ravina brothers who had brought me up my bike for the downhill; a demo mount vision xm8 (thanks Mark!).  The next morning we showed up with only enough time for one practice run before they closed the course.  After my one run I pedaled back to the top, lost some air in the fork and tires and it was time to race.  I was pretty nervous racing pro for the first time, but moving up is all part of racing and I was also excited for that.  My time had come and before I knew it I was in the start gate telling jokes as the clock hit zero and I was off like I stole it.  I hit all my lines I wanted to with a pedal thrown in anywhere I wasn’t riding the brakes. 

I made a quick detour off the trail that might have cost me a bit but I was focused on finishing strong and fast.  I finished with a 4:10, just barely 11 second off the winning time and new course record.  My time had put me right smack in the middle of the heavily stacked pro field, a decent result for my first pro race and a new bike, but still a lot of room for improvement.  The weekend was finally over and what a weekend it was, so much fun racing mountain bikes!  Big thanks to Marin and the Ravinas for the last minute bike, see ya’ll at the first Oregon Enduro in Bend!!

-Tbone