I travel quite a bit for races and the worst part is being away from the family, so it’s always great when they can tag along…especially when the race is in such a spectacular setting as Mammoth.
The focus of the race changes a bit when kids are involved. Naps trump warmups and family hikes take precedent over pre-rides but I wouldn’t trade it for anything.
I snuck out of the hotel after a quick breakfast on Saturday morning and got in a long warmup. Due to the large volume of races the XC course was closed until 7:30 Saturday morning for pre-rides. I tried to hit the course on Friday evening but was kindly told to keep out as there were overlapping sections of endure and Kamikaze.
The start was organized into two groups- the pro field lined up in the front and everyone else was a few minutes later. We were a small group and the feel was very different then nationals. There would be no jockeying for position or sprints to the singletrack. Very low key. I pulled up next to Nic Beechan had a feeling I would be trying to chase him down. He’s fast. Really fast. UCI qualified fast. He was the clear favorite after winning last year but I’d try to put up a fight.
The start was slow and chill. Tate Meintjes took the lead and Nic, Brian Gordon and I hit the singletrack right behind. No one really wanted to set the pace but we settled in. When we got the the long steep fireroad climb at mile two I attacked and Nic jumped with me. We opened up a gap and Brian and Tate fell off the pace.
The rest of the race was pretty much me trying to hold Nic’s wheel for the first two laps and then falling farther and farther back. Did I mention he’s fast?
Bottom line- the course is amazing. Similar to nationals but more single track and a little longer laps (four 5 mile laps instead of 6 four mile laps). Lots of rocks, dust, climbs and flowing descents.
I love this race but the highlight was watching Rex race the Shimano Kids race right after the awards ceremony. He lined up with about 8 other two and three year olds on push bikes. They were called to the line and then it was feet to the ground. Dust flew, elbows might have been thrown, there was a crash or two…it was pure excitement. I wasn’t sure how Rex would handle it but after an hour of warmup laps he was committed. He pushed hard and finished, got his medal and proclaimed that he wanted to do it again. Next year!