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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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?
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The BT Epic has quickly become one of my favorite mountain bike races as it encompasses every element that a great mountain bike event should contain. The location is beautiful and rural, the trails are amazing and well maintained, the course is well marked, the organizers are some of the funniest and most down to earth bike dudes you’ll ever meet, the turnout is exceptional (all 475 spots sell out almost instantly and next year they’re bumping the number to 600) and run the gammet from pros to first time racers, the start is a great fire road climb separator before the 50 miles of singletrack begins, there, the support is top knotch with great aid stations every 10 mile, there are spectators everywhere and they’re super friendly, there is a post race BBQ and all you can drink beer, there’s a raffle with great prizes and over 30 bikes given away, and the awards payout is more than generous. In summary you really can’t ask for a better event.
My buddy Chris Hon lives in St Louis and introduced me to this race last year and I had such a good time I had to come back. Once again I borrowed his bike and once again we set off into the Mark Twain National Forest to tackle the Berryman Trail. After years of petitions Chris finally got a Clydesdale category added and at just barely over 200lbs he was ready to win it. We registered at Bass River Resort and got the keys to our cabin. Oh, did I mention you can camp or get a cabin right by the starting line? That’s another huge plus. We had a smaller cabin this year with Chris, myself and fellow racer Brian Roggeveen.
When we woke up it was freezing by LA standard. It was in the low 30s and the sun was just starting to rise. The cow pastures were frosty and we sat inside rather than ride around to warm up. We got to the line right before the 8:30 start and jumped on the front. The shotgun went off and we were moving.
The start was a little slower this year. Maybe it was the cold. From the campground you roll out on a bit of pavement, across a bridge and then the climb begins. It’s about 3 miles and 400 feet of climbing and my bread and butter in LA. There’s a KOM prize for the first rider to the singletrack and I saw my chance. There was one rider alone up ahead and I knew I could reel him in. I hit the pedals and pulled in front and be sucked my wheel for 2 miles while we sprinted uphill to the trail. I made it to the dirt first but was worried about how my legs would hold up for the next 47 miles. Spoiler alert they felt great. I had a lead of about a minute on the trail, which I knew I’d need as the top riders are all way more skilled on these rocks and roots. After about 30 seconds I dropped the chain and front endoed in the the middle of the trail. Amateur hour. Still I was alone so I popped back on and kept pushing. It took another 2-3 miles before Garet Steinmetz, and Bryan Fawley passed me around the Bikini Wax descent with Brian Roggeveen was close on their heels. I was now in thirds but still happy and hoping to hold a top five. I chased Bryan and Garet around through the first aid station and back around the new trail that had been cut. Bryan started to pull away and Garet and I began trading places as he’d smoke the descents and I’d catch him on the climbs. He’s won the race in years past but was looking winded. Bryan won last year and knew what he was doing. Every descent I could hear Brian hot on my heels. I was glad it was him. Nothing like friendly competition. We bobbed and weaved around, Brian putting time on the descents while I kept putting a few seconds on the climbs. A few chain drops later and he would get close and then disappear. By the second aid station at mile 21 I was solid 2nd place, grabbed bottles, hit the descent, wrecked again and was a little more cautions. No bike damage. Whew. Sorry Chris. At one section with a fan with an airhorn around mile 28 I clicked Brian about a minute behind and shortly after heard someone yell that Bryan was 2:30 ahead.
We hit the dirt road again around mile 35 and I didn’t have much in the tank. After 2.5 miles we were back on the trail and when I turned around Brian was on my heels. We traded spots a few times and I chased him up the First Sister climb but he washed out on the descent and layed the bike down. I made sure he was ok and he told me to keep going so off I went. Crashes will crush your power and rhythm and he slipped behind me again. When we hit the last aid station and mile 42 I could see him clawing back on the pavement a few hundred yards behind. Bryan was 3:30 ahead and I turned on the gas. The last 8 miles flew by and I pushed the pavement climb and gravel as hard as I could. When we hit the trail again I couldn’t see Brian but knew he wasn’t far behind. I took some risks on the trail and kept the rubber down and crossed the line in 4:06:52, about a minute and a half behind Bryan and about a minute ahead of Brian. It felt amazing. BBQ and beer time.
One of my favorite parts or the race is hanging out with everyone afterwards. The finish line is at the beer tent, people are cheering, everyone is happy and there are so many friendly faces. We hung out for a while and caught he bmx/trials stunt show, which was new for this year. They were super talented riders and had even done the race earlier in the day. It made my legs hurt just watching them.
There was even a list award beard contest and the winner got a bike. Only in Missouri.
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!