I expected the Mammoth Kamikaze XC race to have a little bit of everything and it certainly didn’t disappoint.
Who doesn’t want to spend a weekend in Mammoth? My wife had never been so we decided to make it a family trip and bring Rex along. We rolled out on Thursday afternoon and moved as quickly as a 7 month old allows. There were feeding and changing stops, mostly to feed me but also to get little man some boob time. We got in late Thursday and crashed hard. The elevation was apparent right away.
Friday morning was pre-ride time for the course so I rode out of the AirBnB condo we rented near town and hit the trails. The smoke was thick from the forest fires nearby and obscured the view of the mountains. Elevation plus thick smoke equals a lung nightmare. It turns out the first half of the course is all up hill and the second is basically a long descent back down again. There was a short road section and steep climb that makes a sharp turn onto singletrack. It was clear that everyone would be gunning up the hill right out of the gate. Noted.
Saturday morning finally rolled around and it was just a matter of finding ways to kill time and calm the nerves before the 12:30 start time. I rolled up around 11:30 and did warmed up and watched a few of the Kamikaze Downhill runs and was thankful it wasn’t me. There was a better than good chance I’d walk away from the XC race in one piece.
All the XC races were moved to 12:30 for some reason so it was a big staggered lineup. It’s always nice to see familiar faces when you’re far from home and I lined up next to Derek Hermon and John Nobil of Bear Valley Bikes and Pete Smith of Redondo (who I rode most of the local Santa Monica 100 group ride with).
The start was fast as expected. We gunned up the hill and going into the singletrack turn I was second, right behind Nobil, an excellent place to be. Coming off the trail and back to the fire road Pete made his move and I was able pedal past Nobil and maintain second position. Pete disappeared off the front and John was on my tail…until the red tape. The course wasn’t extremely well marked to begin with but there was one section where the red tape had blown down and was waving and flickering across the course. I hit it and blasted through, John touched it and immediately had yards of red tape wrapped around his hub. I could hear him yelling. Man, that sucks. I glanced back and he was quickly losing ground as he more closely resembled a ribbon dancer than xc racer at this point.
By the halfway point and start of the descent on the first lap it was clear that this would be a race for second…until we came to a turn halfway down and there was John again, suddenly in front. I caught up with Pete and yelled to John to see what was going on. Apparently the lead out motorcycle had pointed him the wrong direction at the top of the course and he’d unknowingly taken a short cut back down. Double bummer.
He fell back again at the start of the second lap as I tried to launch past Pete on the first climb. It was successful but he quickly gained back the lead. We proceeded to leapfrog through the final lap. I was waiting for him to pop but it didn’t happen. I decided to wait until the last paved section through the parking lot and out sprint him on the final uphill run into the finish line but when we hit the final technical descent he gained just a little too much ground and was a hundred yards ahead as we approached the line. I started to sprint but he was just too far and the finish line was closing in fast. Looks like I’d have to settle for second today.