2017 Kenda Cup West #4 Santa Ynez

2017 Kenda Cup West Santa Ynez Endurance Rain Mud Dirt Club

The Dirt Club in Santa Ynez has to be one of the most fun courses and locations of the entire series. Sure, Big Bear is in the mountains and the views and singletrack are amazing but after the second or third trip up there it starts to get repetitive. Being a wine nerd, the Los Olivos area holds a special place in my heart. I have many fond memories of endless wine tasting, racing the road bike up and down¬†Foxen Canyon, and hammering away on the mountain bike in rolling green fields of the Dirt Club (all on separate occasions of course). It’s basically a sunny and warm paradise…or so I’d thought.

The alarm went off at 5:15am and the dawn was just breaking. Plenty of time to load the car and hit the road for the hour and half drive and make the 9am start. It was overcast and freezing for this time of year. Forty eight degrees. I threw in an extra jacket and arm warmers and put on an initial application of Topical Edge before hopping in the car. I picked up Tydeman in Agoura at 6:15 and we started the journey.

By 7am we were in Ventura and the sky grew darker and darker ahead. Mist started to coat the windshield. The wipers flicked on. The outside temp read forty-seven. Not ideal. The mist turned to rain as we approached Summerland and by the time we hit Santa Barbara it was steady. The mountains were shrouded in clouds. Maybe they’re¬†holding back the rain and the valley will be sunny and blue? No such luck. The rain grew harder and by the time we hit Santa Ynez it was pouring. The ground was saturated and there were large puddles in the road. It had been raining for a while. Temecula holds water well, Big Bear is sandy and just fine in the rain, Bonelli wasn’t too bad a few years back, but Santa Ynez?¬†All clay. The trails turn into sticky peanut butter at the slightest hint of moisture. By the time we skidded and slid the car down the muddy farm road and into the Dirt Ranch parking field I wasn’t sure there was going to be a race. I threw on a jacket and ran through the rain to the rain to the registration tent. The organizers had just decided to push the start to 11am and shorten the course to a four mile loop instead of the original seven and a half¬†miles. This cut out a very steep and muddy climb, which was now unrideable, and took advantage of the double track and less saturated trails. Now we’d be doing eight laps instead of six. Mike from the Dirt Club was zipping around on his quad remarking the course. Nap time.

2017 Kenda Cup West Santa Ynez Ryan Steers Giant Co-Factory Off-Road Giant XTC Dirt Club

Ten o’clock came quickly and it was time to kit up. I pounded some water, had a little more food and put on another application of Topical Edge. Lots of Edge. Quads, hamstrings, calves, and glutes; I rubbed them all. It was going the be a long damp race and I wanted to make sure I was covered. There wasn’t much point in warming up on the bike. The temp hovered at forty-six degrees and the rain had tapered to a mist and looked like it was about to stop. Riders sped around the course splashing through mud puddles but still looking fairly clean. Maybe this wouldn’t be so bad? A few minutes before the start I did a brief circuit around the first mile of the course. The precipitation had stopped and the course, while slick in spots, was starting to pack down. The legs felt awesome.

We lined up and started quickly. With all categories now starting only a few minutes apart the laps were going to get congested. ¬†I immediately jumped on Stephane Roch’s wheel. We’ve duked it out on more than several occasions.¬†I wanted him to set the pace so I could¬†draft for a bit, but¬†all I got was a full facial of mud and cow pies from his rear wheel. I immediately regretted my decision. I sprinted¬†around and took the lead after a few hundred yards and immediately blew a sharp turn and fell back into second wheel. On the first singletrack climb I made my move again and came around on the right. My¬†legs felt amazing. I put in a little extra effort to see if I could open a gap and it worked. By the top of the short climb I’d opened up about fifty yards. We hit a little twisty descent that dropped us down to a half mile fire road climb and ¬†I decided to try and open up a little bit more of a lead. Again, the legs felt incredible. My heart rate was high and I was breathing heavily but the acceleration felt effortless. No burn in the quads. I watched the field slip away behind me. As I hit the top of the climb I glanced over my shoulder and I was all alone, which is my favorite way to race. The course descended down some slippery double track and then wrapped back on a flat section and through the start again.

Ryan Steers Giant Kenda Cup West Santa Ynez EnduranceBy the time we doubled back again on the second lap I clocked my lead at over a minute and by the second lap it had grown to over two. I relaxed little but kept pushing and my body responded. By now the XC fields had started and the dozens of riders had begun to pack down the trails. The mud was becoming tacky and the trail was getting quicker. The laps got faster. I felt fresh.

A few bottles and bars later and it was already lap six. Two to go. I kept waiting to hit the¬†wall and I never did- I felt better on lap seven than I did on lap two. I’d clocked just over an hour on the first four laps, which was on pace for just over fifteen minutes a lap. I started lap eight at an hour forty-five¬†and change. I felt stronger than ever. My goal became to finish under two hours, which meant my last lap would have to be my fastest. I accelerated and my legs responded. Sprinting the singeltrack, I was floating up¬†the fire road¬†and then suddenly in a blur I was back pounding the flat and headed to the home stretch. Nineteen, twenty, twenty two miles an hour. I kept accelerating, sprinting against the clock and finally crossed the line first; a hair under one hour and fifty-eight minutes. I’d pushed the last lap, made it my fastest, and I still felt great and had gas in the tank.¬†Tydeman wasn’t far behind, winning his field and coming in fourth overall, as a fifteen ¬†year old! As a side note he’s an avid Edge user as well.

Overall it was an amazing race and I had such a fun time. It’s not often we get to race in “weather” in SoCal so it was quite a treat. The organizers did an incredible job of adapting and pulling off a race that could easily have been a disaster. Their diligence and hard work made the entire day possible. Thanks guys!

Kenda Cup West Santa Ynez 2017 Endurance winner Giant XTC

2017 Pedalfest #1

I was able to hit the last race of the series in August so I thought it would be a good idea to make it out to the first one of 2017. This crew does such an amazing job putting together a family friendly, fun race/community vibe. There are fast riders, kids, first time racers and everyone in-between. I found out a couple of the other Giant Co-Factory guys were going so it sounded like fun. My mom’s in town and Ali was working late so we left Reese with a sitter and mom and I took off with Rex and his bike.

Ryan Steers Giant bikes Pedalfest Andrew Doody

Giant crew

The course and location are new this year. It’s at Central Park in Santa Clarita and from the looks of it the crowds were bigger than I remember. We pulled up a little late and the registration line was huge! Shortly after getting the number plate the kids race started and unfortunately Rex was just a little two young. These kids did 2 laps on most of the actual course! Gnarly.

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I was able to pre-ride a bit with Andrew Doody and a lot of the trails are newly made and dusty with lots of sharp turns and little drops. The dirt hasn’t had time to pack down yet so it was hard carry speed. Very CX feeling! There’s one good 300ft climb at the end, whew! Short, sharp, loose courses are not my strong suit. Grueling climbs, yes please! Each lap was 3 miles and we had 4 laps total

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We lined up in the small elite field and set off as the first group. The pace was pretty quick but conversational. I took the lead early and blew one of the turns sending everyone into the sagebrush following behind. Sorry guys! By the time we got to the top of the climb I’d opened a little lead and was feeling good. On the second lap traffic was really heavy and it’s not a very easy course to pass on. I tried to be polite as possible while still maintaining momentum. Sorry if I cut you off! Everyone was super cool and we were able to share the trail. Overall a fun course, great vibe and it was fun to make the top step of the podium and have such a great showing from the other Giant guys! Collarbone felt great. Good to be back. Off to Santa Ynez on Sunday for hours of pain!

 

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2017 Sea Otter Classic

First race back! Let’s just say I didn’t have high hopes in the results department. Pep talk yourself all you want but any time you line up against Nino you know it’s going to be trouble. Oh well, honored to have the chance. Here’s a summary in pictures. Always a fun a bike event and so awesome to get to hang out with the Giant Team!

2017 Sea Otter Classic Pro XC Course view infield

Sea Otter

2017 Sea Otter Men Pro XC UCI HC Start Cross country

And We’re Off

Mckay Giant Factory Sea Otter

Mckay signing posters

High five sea otter

Rex found the otter

Ryan Steers Men pro XC Sea Otter Classic 2017 Giant Co-Factory Factory Cross Country

Towing the line

Eric Bostrom Sea Otter 2017 Zubick Crank Benders cross country

Bike Family

Kenda Cup #1 EnduranceVail Lake 2017

Not exactly how I wanted my day to end…

The alarm went off at 4:30 am in Oak Park and it was pouring rain and 42 degrees. Awesome. Almost hit the snooze and went back to bed but made the coffee and loaded the car. On the road at 5:15 and poured rain the entire way to Temecula and the temperature never got above 46 degrees. I was having deja vu of the Vail Lake race 2 years ago but something magical happened about a mile from the venue. The skies lightened, the rain became a drizzle and there was even a little sun peeking through the clouds. By the time we lined up there was a rainbow. “This is going to be an awesome day” I told myself.

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We lined up. All the usual suspects were there: Tinker, Stephane Roch, Stuart Gonzalez… we all lined up. I’ve only beaten on technicalities but I was ready to hang with him today. Immediately the field separated. The pace was quick and relaxed. I asked Tinker if he wanted to lead into the singletrack but he told me to go ahead. We were followed by Stephane and then a gap opened.

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Ryan Steers Giant Tinker Juarez Vail Lake Kenda Cup Endurance

Lap after lap we rode a few seconds apart and I pulled and set the pace. Finally on lap 5 Roch popped. Now it was just Tinker and I. The legs felt amazing. Topical Edge? I kept waiting for his attack but it never came…until 3/4 mile from the finish line, right after the last climb and into the last flat and descent. He took off and I chased on his wheel for a few hundred yards before…crunch, stars, searing pain. I still don’t know what happened but suddenly I was upside down in dirt. I jumped back up, adrenaline pumping, and hopped on the bike. The bars were crooked- no problem, been there before, but I went to pedal and my crank wouldn’t turn. Crap.

broken chainring

I put my hands on the bar and my left arm collapsed and searing pain shot from my shoulder to my neck. I’m totally screwed. ¬†I clipped in one foot, held the bars with my right hand and kicked down the hill to the finish stretch. So close. I hopped off and jogged the last hundred yards and collapsed at the line. “Medic!” Still nabbed second.

endurance podium vail lake 2017 kenda cup ryan steers giant cofactory tinker juarez

As the adrenaline wore off the pain set in. My collarbone was toast and my back was raw and helmet destroyed. In all the years of racing this was the worst crash, I’ve been lucky. Suddenly I was surrounded by staff and friends offering to bandage, drive, medicate. It was amazing. Eboz gave me ibuprofen and cleaned my wounds while the Zubicks dressed and iced me. Shannon drove my car all the way back to the ER in Woodland Hills. I felt so lucky.

Ryan Steers Giant Kenda Cup Vail Lake broken collarbone finish

broken collarbone surgery kaiser

X-rays confirmed what I already knew and Kaiser was able to get me into surgery the next day. Now one day post op I’m recovering, researching fancy trainers and dying to get back on the bike. Four weeks and I’ll see you back out there!

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Rock Cobbler 4.0 2017

I really wanted to do this ride last year but my wife was days away from giving birth and I couldn’t quite justify being out in the middle of a field on my bike all day and missing the big moment…so here I am this year. With all this rain I was dreading the course. I knew it would be muddy but I was hoping it wasn’t clog the tires and prevent them from moving muddy, like the last Pedalers Fork grinder we did. The night before I even grabbed the Trader Joe’s coconut oil non-stick spray and gave my frame a coat, which, was by the way a terrible idea because coconut oil becomes solid at room temperature and formed a wax like coating on my bike that was nearly impossible to get off and did not prevent one drop of mud from sticking. Live and learn.

Rock Cobbler 4.0 Lengthwise brewing Bakersfield

Reg

We lined up just before 8am at Lengthwise Brewing Company in Bakersfield. It was a chilly 44 degrees and a temperature inversion made for a foggy and smoggy sunrise.

Rock Cobbler 4.0 Start Lengthwise 2017

Lining Up

After a talk from Sam we headed out on the neutral bike path rollout for about 12 miles. There were pee stops and chasing back on the group as it had already began to string out along the way. By the time we hit the road it was game on. Hornbeck hit the gas on the first paved climbed and chase we did. There was a regroup at the top and things slowed down until we hit the first dirt when Jake Orness harnessed his CX speed and sprinted up the first climb with everyone in tow. I managed to hang right behind Scott Lundy in 4th or 5th wheel and right around Neil Shirley who kept offering the wise advice to chill, this was a long day. By the end of the first punchy climbs a group of about ten of us had broken off the front. We stayed that way through orchards, river crossing, cow paths until Neil and Phil Tinstman flatted right around mile 30ish. Then there were 8.

Rock Cobbler Jake Orness Ryan Steers Bakersfield 2017

Jake literally captures his point of view

We hit the road again and Jason and a small group caught back on. We pushed hard after the second¬†aid station and managed to drop the pack down to six riders with myself, Scott Lundy, Brent Penslow, Menso de Jong, Jason Siegle and Vincent Ownes taking turns pacelining the pavement. It was awesome. Such a great group of dudes just working together and out for a ride. We kept turning around and catching Neil working his way back to us, and amazingly he caught back on when we hit the fire road. What a beast. Unfortunately he had to dig a little too deep and wasn’t able to hold on when the pace picked up around the crazy suicide murder hike-a-bike hills. Speaking of those… ever been assaulted with beach balls on a 35% grade while jogging with your bike? It will mess with you.

Rock Cobbler 4.0 2017 leaders Bakersfield gravel grinder

Elite 8

From there we hit Mr Toad’s and had the most amazing flowing descent back down. I put a little pressure on the front and by the time we hit the bikepath home stretch it was just Menso, myself and Lundy. Menso threw down a crazy TT and pulled away with Lundy and I chasing but I just couldn’t hold his wheel and slipped to 3rd. Overall it was an amazing day. I can’t say enough great things about this event and it’s everything a gravel grinder is supposed to be; not too serious, dirty, painful, beautiful, bloody, and comprised of the coolest cyclists around.

Rock Cobbler 4.0 2017 Ryan Steers winners

Top 6

Ryan Steers Dave Zabriskie Robbie Schaeffer Pedalers Fork 10 Speed Coffee Peloton Gravel Mob

2016 Peloton Gravel Mob

DZ and Robbie had great things to say about this ride last year so I had to jump aboard. Fortunately I was in town this weekend and the family was cool with me getting away again so at the crack of dawn Gideon, Robbie Dave and I piled into the 10 Speed Coffee truck and hit the road to Ojai.

Ryan Steers Dave Zabriskie Robbie Schaeffer Pedalers Fork 10 Speed Coffee Peloton Gravel Mob

It was a neutral rollout to Sulfur and then we regrouped for a few minutes…then it was go time. We hit the climb pretty hard and Dave, Marco and I got off the front. We pushed it just to open even more of a gap and then it was smooth sailing. About 45 minutes later we were cresting the top, grabbing water, and then heading down the pavement to the base of Sisar. I’d been looking forward to this climb for a while. It’s 8 miles and about 3000 feet of climbing so just my cup of tea. I programmed the live segment into my Garmin a few days before so I knew what I was in for. The bottom was a little rough on the CX bike with lots or big rocks and not a great line but by the time you hit the top it’s great fire road dirt. I felt awesome. I think it was the Topical Edge that Gideon gave me to slather on my legs beforehand. They were slippery but didn’t burn. Up the top we went.

Start Peloton Gravel Mob 2016

2016 Peloton Gravel Mob Ojai

More water at the aid station and then came the most spectacular views. You’re over 3k feet above Ojai looking down at the world. It was spectacular. We chilled out and enjoyed the view and then hit the few miles of singletrack back to the 33. The trail was a blast. Lots of exposure and tight turns; really really fun on the CX bike. Marco had the advantage on the MTB but he had a little crash and I was able to stay with him. Why he was trying to eat a gel on the trail is beyond me. Zabriskie disappeared behind us, I think he had a little crash and was starting to cramp. It was a really hot day and the Santa Ana winds were in full swing.

Ryan Steers 2016 Peloton Gravel Mob Ojai Winner

Marco and I flew down the 33. I had the bike advantage and threw in a little attack on the rollers into town. What a blast. The afterparty slowly gathered steam as people stuffed themselves with the all you can eat tacos. Only complaint- the beer cups were the size of a thimble. We were thirsty!

Gravel Mob Shop 2016 Ojai Taco

 

Pedalers Fork Sufferfest

 

I’ve been waiting months for this race. We’ve hosted a few rides/races at PF but Gideon and I began scoping out this route back in May. Wouldn’t it be cool to have a gravel grinder and take it on the Millennium trail?
Calabasas Millennium Trail switchbacks
We’d been mountain biking up there for ages but one morning we took the Tuesday AM gravel ride down the switchies and decided it would be too much fun.

Millennium trail Calabasas
We added that section to the Ahmenson route from the spring and threw in Calabasas peak for good measure. What’s Sufferfest without a gigantic soul crushing climb? Or so we thought…

Calabasas Peak Skratch Labs
I’m SoCal you can always bank on beautiful weather, and, in October it will be sunny and warm. Maybe there will be the Santa Anna’s to deal with but just beef up the aid stations. Right?

About a week before the race rain began to creep into the forecast. Oh well, probably a drizzle at best. No big deal.

There were a few showers on Friday evening but when the course was marked on Saturday morning it was 100% hero dirt. The rain had packed things down, the dust was settled and the trails were in perfect shape.

Calabasas peak Sufferfest
On Sunday morning we woke up to a steady rain that turned into a light drizzle by the time we lines up in the Pedalers Fork parking lot. Coffee was flowing and we were trying to stay warm.

It was cloudy and cool when we took off. Perfect. I was tasked to lead the roll out to  The Oaks and the start of the Millinium trail single track. The pace kept rising as I was getting half wheeled and by the time we hit the trail we were cruising. Nervously I hopped the wet curb, slid out, and smacked the rear tire resulting in a dismount. Balls. Everyone behind me just had to get off their bikes. Sorry. Safety first?

Millennium climb Oaks Justin Beiber
The peloton immediately separated on the switchback climbs. Myself, Marco Arocha and ¬†Brandon Baker went off the front and were being chased by Tydeman Newman and Dermet Carroll. As the trail got more technical the gap narrowed behind us. Brandon, Marco and I chatted about the beauty in front of us. Neither had ridden Millinium and were blown away. Suddenly Tydeman was in our wheel as we descended to Bark Park. No surprise as he’s super fast and was on his FSI. The mist was beginning to get heavier.

As I pulled us along Las Virgenes Tydeman mentioned that some guy on an orange FSI ate it hard. Dermot! Noooo!

By the time we hit Ahmenson the rain was steady. The trails went from packed to peanut butter and the wheels got so clogged they refused to spin. Shit.

Cannondale SuperX mud
It quickly turned to hike-a-bike as Brandon and I shouldered our CX bikes. Marco was on a MTB and disappeared behind is and Tydeman kept riding unencumbered …the beauty of a Lefty.

After about 2 miles of jogging, pedaling, shoving muddy gloves into the fork and chain stays we finally began the ascent out of Ahmenson and the transition of  trail from clay to sand. Tydeman was stopped and we chatted for a minute and pulled fistfuls of mud off the bikes as Brandon hiked up behind. We set off again and the wheels began to turn. By the time I hit Crummer road there was no one behind me. Weird. Kind of neat. Expecting a chase I flew down the descent and pounded Moreau as hard as I could. I swung through the PF lot hoping for a hose but Gideon said no. Back on the road. A seventeen pound SuperX with 15lbs of mud. Awesome.

Last race I was on the MTB and got reeled in on Stunt. I was determined not to let that happen. 300-400-500 watts. I banked on good dirt ahead but if Calabasas peak was muddy I was turning around. Up I went. The sand was sticky but packed. Pretty nice.

Ryan Steers Tydeman Newman Pedalers Fork Sufferfest mud rain
By the time I got toward the top there wasn’t anyone in sight behind me but I kept on the gas. I was having a blast. I came across and surprised Derek and Matt who were in the process of building a jump on the summit to summit descent. No thanks. They tried to talk me into it but these boys were suffering from a concussion and a broken shoulder. I skipped their advice and decided I’d be better off living to ride another day. The Santa Maria trail was in spectacular shape and I railed it. From there is was a push up the pavement, down dirt Mulholland and back to PF.

Ryan Steers Sufferfest scar
I rolled into the parking lot to… “dude did you just finish the whole route?” It was awesome. Sufferfest beer was flowing and happy faces were everywhere. Most people had abandoned after the first muddy half and hadn’t done the best part. Oh well, more of an excuse to stop and drink beer.

Ryan Steers Robbie Schaeffer Pedalers Fork Stinner Sufferfest beer
Brandon rolled in about 15 minutes later followed by Tydeman about 15 minutes later. The sun was starting to shine and the party was in full swing. What an awesome day. Can’t wait until the next one! Oh, and I won’t ever complain about the dust again. I’ll take it any day over peanut butter clay.

Ryan Steers Brandon Baker Tydeman Newman Larissa Conners Pedalers Fork Sufferfest