Four for Four and then one more

My spring mountain biking schedule was based on the following criteria:

  • The race must be within reasonable driving distance (no more than four hours)
  • The race must have a high awesomeness quotient (lots of singletrack, good views, etc)
  • The race must have a barbeque and beer afterwards

I found several races that fit the bill. The first one was put on by Bike Monkey at beautiful Lake Sonoma, featuring steep climbs, single track and the potential to get baked in the sun. There was no one in my category so I started with the men and rode around until they made me quit. My beer of choice after this race was a nice cold Fat Tire.

The second race, Big Sandy, was a bit of a drive but well worth it. I was lured to the hills beyond Fresno by 23 miles of single track and $100 to the fastest woman. Free camping sweetened the deal. The race celebrated the building of a bridge that connected two sections of single track. It wasn't an easy race to find; several hours past my bed time I missed the turn and it wasn't until many miles later that I realised my mistake.

The start of the race was several miles down a very twisty road into the heart of the San Joaquin River Gorge. All of the hours of driving were well worth it, though. The single track was amazing and the wildflowers were in full bloom. More than once I rode off the trail looking at the flowers. My choice of beer after this race was 1554 from New Belgium, a nice dark beer and very filling. A very nice sponsor upped the prize money for the fastest man and fastest woman (the promoter had equal payouts for both men and women) and I was able to drive home from this race a few dollars in the black.

The next race was one I had heard about for years from several people - the Shasta Lemurian Classic.

Once again it was a long drive but I car-pooled with Jordi and Aron and the long drive seemed short. Camping wasn't free but it was cheap and close to the start. This race was a good one; it starts with a long granny gear climb, moves onto a rather nasty rutted fire road descent before hitting the good single track. It was a long race, the second one of the year where I sported a hydration pack. One bottle cage for a race close to three hours is not enough water for me.

The most embarrassing moment of the race came when the strap of my hydration pack caught on my handlebar while remounting 'cross style after a hike-a-bike. The bike and I went down in a tangle but we both survived with only minor scrapes. I can't actually remember what beer I drank after this race other than it was a pale ale and it made my legs feel heavy. The drive home was a breeze; I fell asleep in the back seat of the truck nestled amongst the camping gear.

After the Lemurian it was time to stick closer to home. Even though I've ridden the trails hundreds of times, the annual race at Tam Rancho is one of my favourites. On a normal day at Tam Rancho I tend to err on the cautious side of speed - you never know when you'll come around a corner and be face to face with a hiker/dog/biker/runner/angry local. Race day is extra fun due to the reduced likelihood of head on collisions.

I took the lead on this one from the gun and worked very hard to stay ahead of my competitors. There was enough prize money on the line to pay for two new tyres for my car. The post race barbeque even had veggie burgers for those of us who don't partake of the flesh. Post race beers were at the soon-to-be-opened Gestalt House in Fairfax. I skipped the beer this time in favour of going to my favourite bike shop, A Bicycle Odyssey, in Sausalito, to buy some much-needed parts for my ridden-hard and neglected road bike.

And one more... Skyline Mountain Bike Race in Napa.

This is the same location and similar course as Single Speed World Championships 2008 and World Cups in the late '90s. This time my bike sported a vast array of gears and I didn't have to walk nearly as much! Mud mouth (when you are breathing hard through your mouth and there's so much dust that it turns to mud in your mouth and on your teeth) developed in the first few seconds of the race, the Pro/Expert ladies shared a hectic start with the Expert men.

I had a good battle with Sarah Maile for most of the race; she put the hurt on me on the granny gear climbs and I was able to gap her on the descents. On the last lap I got an impromptu feed from a kind gentleman in the feed zone. He gave me a bottle of soda, as a rule I don't drink soda but I was out of water and getting a bit hungry and the warm flat soda tasted really good. It also gave a good kick as halfway through the last lap I felt better and better and put a permanent gap on Sarah.

After the race we found out that it was the Norcal State Championship race, making me the new Northern California State Champion. No beer or barbeque after this race but there was a taco truck. Although much to my disappointment what I thought was a burrito was actually a salad wrapped in a tortilla. To make up for the lack of substantial food we stopped for ice cream after the race.

I'll be back with a rap of August's advantures once the month is done...


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Just as Barbarella bumps through the universe, comically oblivious to the dangers and threats being thrust at her, Barbara Howe has had a few misadventures of her own. After a year of sickness and a grievous injury she is finally recovered and aiming for the podium.

Barb has recently signed with Vanderkitten Clothing and looks forward to a season representing "clothing for women who kick ass!" She currently resides in Berkeley, CA with her boyfriend, a room full of bikes and her cat. Follow her adventures here on