Ashland Spring Thaw 2013

The weekend of May 18th was the Ashland Spring Thaw with a XC race Saturday and an enduro style downhill on Sunday. Bekah and I drove the 5 hrs up from Davis Friday night and stayed with some friends that live in the town of Ashland. The next morning we were excited to find out that the start was only a short bike ride from the house, so we wouldn’t even have to drive (a rareity it would seem these days. The course for the XC essentially all up, then all down for two laps. The climb is mostly fireroad of a moderate pitch of around 5% with a short bit of singletrack thrown in. The long fireroad section was especially nice on the first lap allowing things to spread out before the descent. Unlike the ascent, the descent was mostly singletrack: fast, swoopy, and loamy at the top which transformed to more loose kitty litter over hard pack at the bottom. Despite the tedious climb, this is easily one of the most fun XC race courses I’ve done. 
Danny hanging out after the XC finish on staurday
The race began midmorning in cool weather under overcast skies with a field of over 60 including the cat 1 and pros.  The first climb was uneventful as the field gradually spread out. I hit the first descent in a high position and settled in to learn these trails I hadn’t ridden before. About this time it started raining lightly which made the already good trail conditions super tacky. It was quickly apparent that I was going more slowly than I should when my friend I was staying with (who knew the trails very well) passed me about half way down. Fortunately I was able to stick on his wheel for the rest of the descent. We hit the fireroad climb for the second time and I was feeling pretty good. That is until one of the other racers, one who I had been back and forth with at the boggs 8-hr two weeks before, catches up and passes me. He’s going at a good clip and opens up a gap. I know that if I’m close by the top that I’ll be able to pass him and hold him off on the descent. I dig deep and slowly reel him back to about 5 seconds by the top. As I predicted, a minute or so into the descent I’m back on his wheel, and he graciously lets me pass. The race certainly wasn’t tied up at this point, as I was having trouble trying to shake the other racer after taking the lead. I got to BTI (a classic tight swoopy trail) and found myself stuck behind a race traffic jam and lost any ground I had gained. Other racers began to pile up behind me as I couldn’t pass the two ahead blocking the trail. A frustrated Mark Wier, unsatisfied with waiting, pulled a classic move sketchily sliding through on the inside line on a switchback successfully making the pass. This made things clear to the slow rider who finally pulled over. I was able to hold off the other racer with a sprint to the line for a 4th place for the day (in cat 1), which I was happy about.
The second day was the enduro style downhill. I had ridden most of the course the day before, but the new sections threw me off quite a bit. In retrospect, I really should have pre-ridden the course. In enduro style the race was in two sections, a 4 minute section, a transfer, then a 3 minute section. The 4 minute was fast, swoopy, and generally devoid of pedaling. The rockgarden section at the top was unexpected, as I thought we followed the same path as the XC. I ended up picking my way down that, and going more slow than necessary down the “freeway” having not pre-ridden that either. The rest of the course was the same as the XC, but I didn’t really have a good idea of where the finish was. I was under the impression that there wouldn’t be a long transfer, so when I came up on the finish a mile before I expected to see it, I was a little disappointed. I had hoped to make up some time in the following pedaly sections, but apparently, that was not to be included.

The second section of the DH was the infamous “BTI”. This was also not very pedally. It has a lot of groomed berms, with small doubles, and tight turns with the soil conditions being kitty litter over hardpack. The rain from the day before and dried up, and things were slidey out on the course. It was unfortunate that I was stuck behind a slow rider in the XC on this section as it felt like I hadn’t ridden the trail before, as I hadn’t really ridden it at speed. In all, I ended up with some disappointing times finishing near the back of the pack for the two combined. Time to go work on the descending skills in Tahoe so I’ll be ready for the DH at Downieville.