Racing the big shots

The last few weeks have been busy. I raced the Sea Otter Classic in Monterey, California then headed to Prescott, Arizona for the Whiskey Off-Road and to Moab, Utah for the first race of the Enduro Cup series. It was over 1,000 miles of solo driving, but the races and people who I hung out with were worth it.

The Sea Otter Classic was a blast. I hung out with my sponsors and signed posters, worked the booths and did some video and photo shoots. Because this was my focus for the weekend, I spent a bit too much time on my feet and didn't give myself enough time to prepare for the events, but hey, that's all part of the job.

I started both Friday's short track and Saturday's cross country in the last row, which is not the best place to start in big races (with 75 and 100 racers, respectively). The short track was mostly a blur that went something like this: close your mouth to keep from inhaling mulch, dodge people who can't ride in gravel, gap the rollers in the pump-track section, try to be aerodynamic on the pavement, repeat. I didn't start feeling good until the race was over (I finished 27th out of the 75) and I had sat at the Osmo Nutrition tent for an hour and drunk two bottles of Acute Recovery.

The next day I got caught behind a crash right after the start and got back into the pack just in time for the sprint to the dirt. So I spent most of the race passing people and focusing on staying hydrated. I felt good and in the last 10 minutes of the race caught the only six riders who had passed me (the benefit of starting last is that you do more passing than getting passed) moving myself into 33rd and finishing with a time of 1:23:14. And as frustrating as starting in the back can be, it was good practice for racing World Cups (which I'm planning to do next year).

The day after the cross country, I spent some more time visiting with sponsors and then did a video shoot with Geax followed by a couple of laps on the downhill course on my Pivot Mach 5.7 Carbon. I had a great time on the downhill course but skipped some of the bigger jumps because I was wearing spandex and an open-face helmet and might, just maybe, have been a bit tired from the previous two days.

The next week leading up to the Whiskey Off-Road was a blast. My host for the week was a Prescott local, Jim, who lived a few miles outside of Prescott and had great bike trails less than five minutes from his house. I got to ride with Travis and Chloe Woodruff and hang out with a bunch of the other riders who were in town for the event. And the weather and trails were gorgeous.

I raced the Fat Tire Crit on Friday and even though I was racing my Pivot Les (hardtail 29er) with slick tires instead of a 26" full suspension with knobbies like I had the year before, I just didn't feel it. The first couple of laps were great but then I realized I had gone out too hard and just tried to hold on until I got pulled with two laps to go, finishing 23rd.

Fortunately the cross country went better. Much better. I had a second-row start and went into the singletrack in 15th, feeling strong enough to pass a few people on the initial climbs. I passed Aid Station #1 (approximately 17 miles into the 50-mile race) in 11th and shortly thereafter found myself in a group of six that stayed together for the entire descent into Skull Valley and most of the climb back out.

As we passed Aid Station #3 I noticed that the group was down to four, and that I was working too hard. I backed off and let the other three pull ahead. A few minutes later, Adam Craig passed me followed by Colin Cares and Howard Grotts. I was starting to feel better, so I joined Colin and Howard and as we crested the top of the course they both let me pass so I could lead the descent. I passed Adam and started cramping as I hit "Cramp Hill", but then I saw Sid Taberlay and Derek Zandstra ahead of me and pushed through the cramps to catch them just as we hit the final pavement. Then Sid flatted so Derek and I took turns pulling to catch a group of three and the five of us sprinted it out for spots 9-13. I finished right in the middle in 11th, just inside the 12-deep payout with a time of 3:10:04.

My next week in Moab was even more fun, but as this post is getting really long, I'll save that for another day.

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