I’ve been slacking a bit on the blogging, but I have been on a busy schedule since the Mellow Johnny’s Classic Pro XCT race last two weekends ago. The course, race, and the atmosphere at this race cannot even be compared to any of the other Pro XCT races so far this year. It was noticeable that the race promoters were out to please the racers at this venue with a course that was almost entirely singletrack, and great singletrack on that. This was no course where a beefed up cross bike would be envied. The trails demanded a bit of technical skill with rock gardens, loose corners, a couple of drops, and some tricky short steep power climbs. Since this was a UCI race, the laps were only 4 miles long and only 20 miles for the entire race. Even though the laps were short I would not have minded doing 10 or more laps. The day of the race was going to be busy, waking up early and handing off bottles during the Pro women’s race before going out and burning in a lap on the course before my race had started. Luckily it was overcast and cool for the women’s race which made it fun to watch, especially since everyone who I had been handing bottle to were killing it. Carolyn had a great race, cracking the top ten and finishing in 7th which was inspiring for me to go out and try to chase down a top twenty result. By the time I got to warming up the sun had poked out and the Texas heat had greeted me reaching the 90’s in no time at all. The random call up had me in a rough starting position one row from the back, but I wasn’t going to let that bother me. Once the race started I struggled to find my way through the dust cloud for the first five minutes of the race, but then was able to get into a groove and start passing. After a fun first two laps where I passed around 20 or so racers the heat began to feel a bit taxing. I forced myself to drink and take advantage of the neutral feed zone and douse myself with a bottle of water each lap to keep my temperature down, which worked amazingly well. This allowed me to keep my pace high and by the end I finished up 26th, which wasn’t quite top 20 but it was my best Pro XCT race so far this year!
Once I got back from Texas I picked up my new S-Works Epic! After building this bike up I could not wait to get some miles on it. After a couple of days of packing, cleaning, and getting ready to move out of my old apartment I finally found the time to get out and ride this bike at Blue Knob State Park with my training partner, Travis. With a 1500’ vertical mountain to play on I quickly found out how well this bike climbed! It was just as efficient as any hardtail going up and the downhills were absolutely a blast. I have never felt another 100mm full suspension bike that ate up the bumps like this rig. When the going got rough it felt as though the bike had much more travel and I felt absolutely zero flex pushing my personal limits in the corners. By the end of the ride I was licking my chops thinking about how fun this bike was going to be to race at the MASS race at French Creek this weekend, which is one of the notoriously rocky courses on the MASS circuit.
After weeks of rain I was expecting French Creek to be a mud bath, but to my surprise the trails were bone dry with the exceptions of two slick spots that barely had enough mud to splash up onto the bike. It was great to see that the course had been lengthened from 1.5 laps or 20 miles to 2, 15 mile laps! From the start I layed it down hard in an attempt to get the hole shot entering the singletrack, but was passed close to the top of the first climb by Jeff Schalk who had the honors of leading the rest of us down the first rocky downhill. I took advantage of not leading and recovered as much as I could and let my Epic eat up all of the rocks. On the following climb I stayed glued to Jeff’s wheel as the rest of the pack began quickly dropping back. Towards the top I made a pass when Jeff bobbled, but soon after he took control of the lead and I was back to sitting in. He relentlessly hammered up all of the climbs so I began to back off a little and use my skills to catch back up on the descents. This was working beautifully for the two following descents, but I got a little carried away with myself on the next descent losing my line and catapulting myself through a rock garden at a pretty high speed. I hit the ground hard with an aching left shoulder and an instant loss of breath. I sat down for about 30 seconds to shake the cobwebs out and make sure all was good before I got back on the bike. Once back on the bike I felt slow at first and a bit uncoordinated and was soon passed by Ryan Fawley and another rider. After being passed I regained my composure and my 2nd place position then went on to chase after Jeff. Even after crashing, my new bike left me with the same confidence as prior to my meeting with the ground. I hit the downhill’s just as hard on lap two and chased on not knowing how far ahead Jeff would be. This effort turned into a lonely one as I did not see another soul out on the course until the finish. In the end I came in about 5 minutes back from Jeff and about 6 minutes ahead of Ryan. Now it’s time to rest and heal up for Syllamo’s Revenge this coming weekend which is stop #2 in the NUE series. I can’t wait.