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Downieville: the big race of the year for many mountain bikers in northern California, myself included. Like previous Downieville races, there is a strong showing from the lost coast team including Brian, Trevor, Bekah, Larissa, and myself. Below is a little about how my races went.
The XC race
Saturday started out a little different this year. Unlike in past years there was no warming up allowed on the course. I imagine this was to prevent people from zipping down last minute and scoring themselves a spot at the front of the line. Not used to this, I timed my warm-up poorly and ended up starting behind nearly 200 other expert category racers. It was easily 30 seconds before those of us at the back were able to get across the start line. Brushing off the frustration, I set a pace that was hard, but sustainable for the long climb and began picking riders off. I made a lot of good ground, and despite being stuck in traffic a number of times, was able to bring back all but around 15 of the 200 who started in front of me by the time I hit sunrise. I pedaled into sunrise feeling great and very excited to be wearing my new photochromic (tint changes with light level) Smith Pivlocks. They were able to stay dark enough on the bright exposed climb, but quickly adapted allowing me to see more clearly in the dark forest.
Sunrise gave way to a few more miles of fire road on the way to the “Baby Heads” trail. As I entered baby heads, I could tell that I had been a little too tense in the upper body during the climb as I wasn’t able to effortlessly flow over obstacles as I had the week before pre-riding. Through Pauly Creek trail, I could tell I was doing a little too much of the “plowing” style of riding, and being a little heavy on the brakes. Fortunately, the resulting heavier hits only resulted in a broken spoke, a 5 second fix. As the Third Divide climb started I could feel cramps coming on in my calves and hamstrings and decided to take in down a notch so as to maintain for the duration. I powered through First Divide and the road to the line to take 4th in the 19-34 age category and improving my previous best time by 2 minutes!
I went into the downhill on Sunday feeling less than ideal. I was quite tired from the day before, and a little nauseous. I was able to force some breakfast down, but didn’t really get my hunger back until right on the line. I guess my body suddenly realized it was game time and that I would need fuel to race. Fortunately, Bekah was right there and handed me a few GU blocks to power my way. I started out slow to make sure that I could maintain for the 50 minute sprint this race always ends up being. Also, I felt that if I went a little easier on the pedaling, that I would have more energy for more dexterous bike handling. My thinking paid off as I was able to flow much better through the technical sections than I had the day before. Like I Saturday, I was wearing my recently acquired Camelback racebak, essentially a camelback built into a jersey. I felt this ended up really helping out because of how much more stable it is than a normal hydration pack, and how much easier it is to drink out of than bottles. After holding back a little for the first half of the race I decided to throw the hammer down once I hit the Third Divide climb (about 9 miles to go). Third was fast and everything was going great starting First Divide when suddenly my rear derailleur cable snapped. I was now stuck in my smallest cog, and a much harder gear than would have been ideal. Fortunately, my bike is set up with a triple, so I was able to simply shift into the small ring in front and cross-chain my way along. Climbing the final bit on First Divide involved a bit of a “single speed” style out of the saddle grind, but otherwise it worked out quite well shifting between the little and middle rings. I powered out of the forest and down the road to finish 7th, and only about a minute behind the leader.
My combined 4th and 7th finishes made for a 5th place finish in the combined “all-mountain” category, just off the 4 place podium. It was a solid weekend with solid finishes. One race left to go with Annadel rapping up my season on the 17th.