I was on the fence about this race up until the last minute but decided it would be a fun long race at elevation that would help me prepare for Leadville. The course looked tough on paper, 100k with over 10k climbing, a starting elevation of close to 7k a drop down to 3.5k and then a climb out to over 8k. Everyone kept blabbering about how hard the Radford climb was but for some reason I thought I’d done it before on one of the US Cup endurance races a few years back. Boy was I wrong.
The pre-race meeting was mandatory and I arrived up in big bear a few minutes after 7pm and just caught the tail end of the speech about how tough the Seven Oaks descent was, again I thought I’d ridden it before a few years earlier and wasn’t too concerned. It was my first race on the Moots and I’d decided to leave the Rocket Rons on the bike. They were light and from the two rides I’d done they seemed super fast. Big mistake.
The race started climbing right out of the gate. I was trying to hang with Tinker and Julien Bourdevaire. Jason Seigle lead the group until the end of the climb but John Nobil took over on the Seven Oaks descent and I lost major time. The trail turned into an 8 inch wide sandbox with full exposure and I lost my nerve. My tires were squirming and I couldn’t get any traction. I feel off the main group and that’s when Jason overtook me. I saw him again once and passed him at the fire road at the bottom but he got me again during tire change number one. I was feeling great at the bottom but was about 45 seconds off the main group by now. We hit the rolling single track and it was beautiful. I was finding a groove and flowing over the rocks when at mile 24 there was the sickening whoosh of air, flecks of Stans on my legs and no rear traction. I’d just torn a two inch gash into my rear tire. It was Idaho all over again. I pulled over, used my spare tube and C02 and was passed by Jason and three other riders. By the time I was rolling again about 6 or 7 minutes had elapsed and I was pushing hard into the red zone to play catchup.
By mile 35 my legs were feeling soggy and I was starting to bonk so I squeezed a gel as we looped back to do the single track section again. I was more than a little cautious and trying to pick my lines carefully when, BAM. My rear wheel went skidding all over and I was forced on the trail. No more tube. I flipped my bike upside down and luckily by this point the 70k riders were hitting the trail. An amazingly nice rider offered me his tube and about 10 minutes later, after fiddling with the pump I was back in action. Now I was really moving carefully. Every rock was a potential land mine but I was determined to stay in the race and not have a repeat of Idaho.
By the time hit the Radford climb I was demoralized and just looking to finish. It was pure pain. I crawled up, spinning the granny gear and trying to avoid any rock that looked remotely sharp. It was torture.
I finished in just over 6 hours. Not a great performance but all things considered I was happy to cross the line. After all, this was a training race. The real prize is two weeks away.