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First of all, you guys won't want to miss this. I raced it last year and it was a total blast!

Even with an entry fee of about half what Team Big Bear charges, they were able to provide full bottles of Cytomax at the aid station AND run the event as a benefit for local trails. The scene was very laid back, with a total of 134 riders (counting solos and teams) and tons of that good ol' NorCal vibe. You rarely see such big mustaches on endurance riders down here in SoCal.

So I "camped" on Friday night in my parents' palatial 5th wheel. (My parents extended their road trip to see the race, and my brother drove all the way up from Lodi.) I snuck out of the trailer without waking them up, drove the 15 miles into Weaverville, and stopped for a coffee and a gigantic apple fritter at about 7:30. I was cutting it close (the race ran 8 - 8), but figured I had all day to warm up. The high school where the race was based was only about five minutes away, but that's not counting the extra driving you have to do when you leave your wallet at the donut shop. So I re-parked and picked up my number and starting throwing on my helmet, oiling my chain, etc., while doing my best to listen in on the riders' meeting. Just about the exact second I got all ready, they started lining everybody up--in a very cool way, too: "If you're an expert, come up to the front. If you're a sport, get behind the experts. Beginners, get behind the sports." Not a lotta pomp and circumstance! I took my place in the middle of the pack, and Vic, the promoter, says, "Everyone has their punch cards, right? No punch card, no lap!" Guess I didn't hear that part of the riders' meeting. So I rode back to my truck as the gun went off, found the punch card, stuffed it in my pocket, and crossed the start line at the very back of the pack. It might seem funny, but when all I had left to do was ride my bike for 12 hours, I was pretty relieved and happy.

Now, if I was oiling my chain and completely clueless about the punch card at the beginning of the race, do ya think I pre-rode the course? Nope, never pre-rode the course. I rationalized that I'd have all day to get acquainted with the course, so why rush it? Genius that I am, I started off with 32/15 gearing on my singlespeed. But I'd heard that the climb was all in one chunk and all fire road. I heard figures of 1150' and 1450'; maybe it's 1150' net and 1450' cumulative--not sure. How hard could it be, right? Well, it started off easy enough, but got steadily steeper all the way to the top. By the afternoon, at least half of the riders were walking a good mile of the climb. I saw no sense in putting it off, and had my first dismount on my first lap.

But then: The road flattened abruptly on the ridge. There were still some rolling hills, but they were perfect for drinking, recovering, bargaining with God, etc. This was the spot where my gearing made the most sense, but I never made it to that section with any feistiness left in me. After a couple miles of mellow rolling, the extremely long downhill section kicked in.

I've never seen a better example of a trail maximizing your downhill reward. Not to mention all the jumps. This was easily the jumpinest race course I've ever been on. And not big ol' supercross jumps either, but small, well-integrated, and OPTIONAL jumps--one after the other. My favorite was a creekbed crossing where you drop into it without braking and pick up tons of speed. The uphill side isn't as high as the downhill, so you're still screamin' when you near the top. There was a little rock to boost off of a few feet short of the peak that would launch you WAY past the peak for a very smooth landing a few feet above and many feet past where you took off. After about five minutes of this, you could forget all about the climb.

So I didn't have much of a sense of who I was racing against. On my first lap, I rode next to 45-ish local guy on a single speed. He said that he was registered for sport (geared), but his geared bike broke and this was all he had left to work with. As far as he knew, there was one other solo single speed rider, a friend of his, and he was up ahead. Had a nice talk with the guy, and he let me know that my gear ratio was just crazy. He was a little slower so I moved on--definitely not thinking about catching the competition on the first lap.

3/4 of the way through my third lap, my brother yells out my name from a vantage point across a wide dry creekbed. From where he was, he could see the approach to the creekbed, much of the loose, rocky crossing, the scramble out of the creekbed and some of the single track beyond it. He took about fifty pictures and I stopped when I reached him. He says, "Don't stop and talk to me. You're doing good! The guy in the lead is three minutes ahead of you! Most people are having to walk their bikes out of the creekbed--go get that guy!" The way I'd envisioned meeting Jim on the course was that he'd be handing me a beer, but his vibe was all about business!

Knowing that I had a chance to win it, I didn't goof off nearly as much as I did last year at Big Bear. Every lap, I'd eat a snack, drink something, check my tires, do my chain, make adjustments, etc., and be out in 5-10 minutes. Great having my family around to pit for me; Dad and Jim would jump on my bike like I was Jeff Gordon or something, and Mom was making sure I was full and in good health. She told me I looked bony a time or two. After lap five, I stopped for a half-sandwich and lolled around for twenty minutes or so. By this time, I had a full lap on the #2 guy, and knew I just had to keep pedaling to win it. After lap six, I finally broke down and changed my gearing to 32/18. Can't believe I didn't do that much sooner, and I'll definitely start my next SS endurance race in a lower gear like that. I probably did a third of the walking that I'd done on my sixth lap, and cruised in at 10:40 (that's 6:40pm) after seven laps with no time or inclination to do another one.

One thing worth throwing in here is the contrast in the soil conditions between a big event and a small one. At the 24 @ Laguna Seca, the course was f'in' ragged halfway through the race. Anything resembling a curve would be preceded with about 40 feet of wheel-sized braking bumps, then there'd be the three inches of dust covering the ruts...But there was none of that at this 134-person race. Even at the end of the day, all but about two of the curves looked as smooth and euphoric as they did at 8 am. A nice perk when you're on a hardtail.

So, I broke my distance record by 20 miles (did 83) and got my first first. Winning is a fun motivator in itself, but Team Bigfoot puts on a really fun event. Their 12-Hour of Humbodt in Arcata is easily the most wife-friendly of all the events I know about :) it's literally a mile from the center of Arcata, adjacent to the university. If someone got tired of bike racing, they could walk to sushi or an independent film in 15 minutes. Or if they felt like driving, they could be at some of NorCal's most beautiful beaches in the same 15. Wendy, you would have won sport solo, no question. Any chance you could get the GoGirls motivated for this? Soulcraft was the only factory team present in Weaverville and they had some really fast women, but they were all on teams.

OK, enough for now. See ya in Weaverville on May 28?

Brook
 
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