It’s hard waking up at 4am when you know you’ll be facing a two and a half hour drive, followed by a twelve hour race in Temecula. At least this time around it wouldn’t be solo. It’s early in the year so the thought of a 125 mile 12 hour mountain bike race sounded like race season suicide. I’ve never been a fan of interval training so a team race would be the prefect disguise for a workout.
Eric Bostrom and I managed to recruit young gun Spencer Rathkamp into our 12 Hour 3 Person Open “dream team,” as it was billed. We were each looking for a fun training day on the bike, some good company, and a big win, however, a name still eluded us. After a few group texts we decided to harness our inner Bear Cub and settled on Guy on a Buffalo. It’s random, but Robbie had introduced Eric and I to the Guy on a Buffalo Youtube video series and they seemed like a fit for three guys out to push their bikes to the limit. Eric is a seasoned mountain bike racer and a motorcycle legend and Spencer is a young up-and-comer who is just at home on the race course as he is on Mountain Bike Action covers. We were going to have a good time.
I love the atmosphere that Jason Ranoa has created at Vail Lake. It doesn’t matter if you’re first or last, he and the crowd are cheering just as loud. The crowd was the biggest I’ve seen for a SoCal Endurance event. I’ve been hitting the dirt at Vail Lake since 2010 and the race size has grown exponentially. The starting line stretched several hundred yards down the pavement and the race start had to be pushed back twenty-five minutes to accommodate the rush of people still registering and checking in, even though it was supposed to have closed over an hour earlier. As the crowd grew, Eric was able to sneak up front of the line at the last minute and secure a stellar starting position, it helps to know people. The race was on.
Each lap was a hair under ten miles and the course featured the notorious dam climb, which hasn’t been included in two years, as well as some of the most fun ridge line singletrack descents you’d ever want to ride. The conditions were perfect; hard packed, slightly damp dirt, and minimal sand. Eric came through the first lap in just over thirty-six minutes and in fourth position, a little less than a minute behind Tinker Juarez. I was up next and took off through the crowd and straight up toward the dam. I passed two riders as soon as we hit the dirt and as I started up the dam climb I noticed Tinker up ahead. I’d watched him slip away at the Santa Barbara 100 and it was now my mission to catch him. By the top of the climb I was closing in and once we hit the false flat fire roads I was able to pull ahead. He snuggled in behind me and it was an honor to pull him through the rest of the lap. I crossed the line in just over thirty-six minutes as well and now it was Spencer’s turn.
By the time the first set of results were posted after two laps, we already had a ten minute lead. Our sights turned to setting the lap record for the day. One after another we went. Spencer burped air on one lap and had his valve stem pull through the rim but still managed to pull through in forty minutes. Fortunately he had a spare bike. The trail always turns into a traffic jam a few laps in as racers struggle with technical sections and riders back up. There were two laps where I was forced into a complete standstill while things cleared up. Since the majority of the riders are there for the six hour race, things open back up after 3pm and it’s back to smooth sailing.
One of the best parts of racing as a team is getting to sit at the sidelines and actually watch the race. I met a few Pedalers Fork fans, caught up with some racing and industry friends like Cedar Keyes and John Nobil, and chatted with a young rider who put in a great effort chasing me up the dam climb. At one point a few raindrops fell, dampening the dirt at the top of the ridge and making the singletrack even more hard packed, and as the sun began to glow behind the hills the fatigue became noticeable.
The temperature plunged into the low forties and by our forth laps our legs were all starting weaken from the strain of stop and go racing. Eric puton a pot of spaghetti in the camper and we got a little too comfortable. By the time we got back to the line Spencer had already come through, and, not finding Eric there, took off again on a second lap. When he came back through we had just over an hour and twenty minutes to pull off two laps. There would be no slacking. I went out hard and tried to buy Eric some extra time. I came in right around forty minutes, giving Eric exactly forty-three minutes to make the lap. Close. As the clocked ticked down Jason called out the time remaining. Five minutes, four minutes, three minutes…we watched the riders zig zag down the hill toward the line. We held our breath and Eric appeared, calm, and unaware of the time. We were done. Eighteen total laps, six laps each, and the most of any team for the day. Awards came and went. I handed my camera to a stranger to snap a podium picture but he didn’t hold the button down long enough so, alas, no shot. Bummer. Now it was time for the hardest part of the day; the drive home.