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When the Norcal League and El Cerrito Racing decided to raise funds to get John to Val di Sol for the UCI Championships we thought the only hurdle would be financing. With Plane mechanicals, storms, lost luggage, swapped flights, and last minute shuttles to the venue we were glad that John's mom, Pam Bennett, was with them to keep things focused and manage resources.
When our heroes finally arrived in Val di Sol with their gear we thought all our troubles were behind us but it was too late to get in a ride and it was raining. Upon opening the bike boxes, though, our racers found that the bikes arrived in less than perfect condition as customs officials had searched the bike boxes. Not being cyclists they didn't quite put them back the way we would have hoped. John was missing a stem and another downhiller found his pedals rattling around and it scratched up his bike pretty well. I don't even want to imagine those guys tossing stuff back in the boxes and sitting on them to force the latches closed. At least the bike boxes weren't lost, though.
It had rained on Monday and again overnight with regular rain showers. Rain on the course, with much pre-riding by the athletes, and the course condition deteriorated. The obvious tracks through the grassy and wooded sections grew wider as riders rode closer to the tape and fencing lining the course's edges in search of better traction. By the time the team relay started, parts of the course were shoe-deep in peanut buttery goo and in places, soupy mud, while most non-paved surfaces were slick. Top US Racer Adam Craig loaned John a set of mud tires to deal with the mire and they were welcome.
The course is a 6 kilometer, 4 mile, transit of an East-West Alpine Valley, it's shoulders, and the mountainsides above to the North from 2700 to 3100 ft. Each racer would do a 1-lap leg transitioning through the alluvial mud near the valley floor to the thinner slop higher up in grades approaching 15% in places. The racers would have their work cut out for them.
John's prep for his bike was very strong but travel was not kind. In a test ride early Tuesday morning before the Relay, John's rear derailleur broke and damaged spokes on his rear wheel. With support from the USAC folk, the Orbea went back together well with just 30 minutes to go for the opening event of the UCI Mountain Bike Championships.
On Opening Day it rained. Top US Woman Racer Georgia Gould, from the Luna Woman's MTB Team, was on the starting line for the USA Cycling. Georgia was 7th in the World Cup Overall rankings and 9th in the World Championships in 2007. Her effort brought her in at 19th on this day, though, at which point John Bennett took his shot. Behind 45 seconds he had no one to work with and rode without a rider in sight. He was left to attack and ride within himself at the same time. He held off Slovenian rider Biaz Znidarsic and nicked Japan's Keisuke Goda closing the gap putting the US in 17th place.
Top Under 23 racer Sam Jurekovic, who was 4th at Fontana in the Elite category, then took his lap and turned in the 3rd fastest lap in that leg of the race to put the US in 13th. Top American racer Adam Craig anchored the USA relay team and the honor was well placed. Adam put in the second fasted lap of the day and brought the USA Team into 8th place.
The rain from the day before and during the race left the course muddy and slick but, John said, not as nasty as Iron Angels 2007. He averaged only 9 mph on a course he would normally have killed and I can't remember a performance like that out of him. Even worse courses and more climbing have not put him in that position. He said he felt that he wasn't able to make a good effort due to travel fatigue and the short distance was odd. That all makes sense to me. John said that he felt very positive about his next race. He had some definite plans about proper rest and food in the next day and a half. Knowing John, that makes sense to me, too.
In a funny way this may work for John. I cannot find the official distance of his XC race on Thursday but I believe it is about 20 miles. That is about NorCal length. His bike is solid, he knows the course. Since his performance in the relay drew little attention he may not be watched by his competitors and that could be a huge mistake. Anyone out ther remember taking your eye off of John in a race?
Adam Craig took John out for a 1-hour ride after the Relay, ridin' bud like. The USA Cycling people have thrown their support behind John. He has a day and a half to rest. This is just getting interesting…..

We are so lucky to have this. Ride well.

Michael Mejia
Director, El Cerrito Racing

PS. Attached is a shot of John on the course from Cycling News.

For more Photos of the Relay go to:

http://www.cyclingnews.com/mtb/2008/jun08/mtbworlds08/?id=results/mtbworlds081#res
 

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Above all I hope he is having a good time. I hope that after he is done he has a day or two to get to see a little bit of Italy. Hopefully the next race goes well.
 

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What an incredible time...the story was as fasinating and compelling as if the reader was part of the ride, thanks....I look forward to reading more about Johns successes...good luck to him.

Ed
 

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Drivetrain, bar, rim(spokes/wheel), fork, or frame?? :eek:

Kinda gotta think maybe someone paid off the customs guys to do things, since they can't oust people any other way. gota keep the home team on top and all.

Now, PLEASE...
*Raise heck about the damage, it'd be a shame that this is what causes the stress.

PROTEST, WHATEVER, get help from the race body if need be.

**In the future, let me or someone you know help to pack the cases, there's ways to clarify contents and place things so they satisfy both national and international inspections without things being damaged so heavily. In other words, as far as this kind of thing, my time's yours.

Also, FWIW, Iron Angels was bad, definitely agree on that one, now stop mentioning it before everybody learns about our spot.
..and if it's any consolation, our ride for Mon//Tues got shut down due to a huge fire...

It's all in how you tackle things that counts, you all will do well...positive vibes.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Packing bikes

was a detail to which no one attended. After the fact I have had numerous people offer to help but no one brought it up beforehand. Clearly, the second time around I will have a much better handle on this sort of thing. None of that does me any good now.
 

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:sad: :bluefrown: Don't let it get you all down...

Consider the fact that you just got a sponsor for packing/labor for anything else in the future.

You're all in another country trying to do what you all love, :jealous: .
 

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I was going over some CCCX data/pics and noticed John was at one of the races at Toro Park. Came in second only to the Pro winner "Shane Kloepfer", who beat all the other pros by a gap of almost 5 minutes.

Hope everything works out okay out there.
 
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