Mark Duncan - NorCal Race #3 - Central Coast Challenge

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NorCal race number 3 also known as the Central Coast Challenge, was another spectacular race. As usual it started with an early morning wake up, we had just enough time to stop by Starbucks on the way to the venue to grab some oatmeal for my breakfast. I was unusually not as nervous as the prior races, so it was a little easier to get down my breakfast. When I arrived to the venue I went straight to the team tent for the team meeting. Until the start of the varsity women’s race I was able to chill out. Before I knew it the varsity women were off and I had to go get my bike race ready, by putting the race wheels on and making sure everything was primed and ready to go. Soon after I was able to catch the end of the varsity women’s race where my teammate Grace Murphy came in victorious yet again. I then continued on my warm up. I went to the road nearby and just started going down it, this is where I discovered a long uphill that was very secluded, just as I like my warm ups. I went up the hill doing sprints throughout and coasted on back down, and pedaled straight to the start line. I got back just in time to be called in for staging. This is where the other leader of my category greeted me. (Blake Macheras) we soon got called up to the start line and still oddly enough I wasn’t as nervous as the two prior races. Next thing I knew we were hammering up the first hill at the start. Me and Blake built our usual gap and were on our way. Blake kept pulling for a little more than a quarter of the lap, this is where I kept my comfortable pace for the rest of the lap until we looked around again. The second and final lap I started pulling later than i did on the first lap. We were coming up towards the end of our final lap and my mind was racing with strategies, and all well knowing that it would be a sprint finish. Blake blasted ahead of me right before some single track which gave him the upper hand going into the finish. We came around the last tight turn before the finish line wheel on wheel, and I knew I had to put everything into this final sprint so I gave it 110% to try and pass before the finish line. We passed the finish at the same time. It was so close we had to wait for photo finish to be examined by NorCal. Blake gave 110% on the finish line sprint too. Actually he gave even more as he puked right after the finish. I have tons of respect for Blake pushing himself that far.

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Twenty minutes later we heard over the loud speaker that Blake had come in victorious. We finished on the same 100th of a second, talk about close. Although disappointed that I didn’t win, I couldn’t of had a more fun and well fought race. I look forward to the next race with a 4 week gap in between for some hard training, and hopefully a victorious outcome next time.

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gRace Murphy - From Day 1 in 2016 to Vail Lake UCI XCO Racing

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On a fall Saturday morning in 2016, my Dad lifted my bike into the trunk of the family car and we drove to the Folsom Parking Garage for an introduction fun ride with a high school mountain bike club. I walked my bike with paperwork in hand up to the registration table dressed in a sweatshirt, Levi’s, Chuck Taylor’s, and a bike helmet with duct tape securing the visor. Someone hoisted my bike on a stand and pedaled through the gears and checked the brakes. Someone else rummaged through a clothes bin and gave me cycling jerseys and pants. And I was given bike shoes with cleats.

And so it began. There must have been 70 kids on bikes. I was placed in a group and off we rode for two hours. It was fun and I wanted to do it again.

Amie Ferry collected my paperwork and I think it was my current high school coach Janell Marton who gathered the bike gear for me. Later my Dad bought me clip-in pedals and gloves. And I would need a jacket and a night light when the real team practices started in December.

I was a freshman at Christian Brothers High School in Sacramento. A few weeks earlier I learned about Cycling Development at Club Day from Keith Bowen and his daughter Madi, a sophomore at St. Francis High School and Cycling Development member.  They gave me a number to text and I later received information about the introduction ride and downloaded the required forms. (cyclingdev.com)

The NICA NorCal League (norcalmtb.org) season runs from December to the state championships in May. Cycling Development has a set schedule with practice four times a week: Monday night rides for two hours; Wednesday night spin class; Friday from 4:30 to 6:30 pm; and Saturday 9 am to noon. There are six races during the season including state champs. Racing weekends are the cherry on the sundae. The atmosphere of the pit zone where all the teams set-up is exhilarating. And when your race starts it is just flat-out go.

Cycling Development fields four high school teams and three composite teams. I race for the Gladiators Composite Mountain Bike Team. It is the team practices that get you to start line. Riders are placed in groups. Group 1 is for the fastest riders and Group 5 for the beginners. My freshman year I began in Group 5. Winter to spring, ride and spin, week after week I began to get faster. I progressed into Group 4 and by the end of the season I reached Group 3. My Cycling Development coaches honored me with the Most Improved Rider trophy for 2017.

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My sophomore year I started in Group 3. Everyone knows your group number, everyone wants to move up. With hard work and tremendous coaching and limitless encouragement, I progressed to Group 2. The NorCal League honored me with the Most Improved Rider 2018 award [North conference]. (https://www.norcalmtb.org/2018-norcal-league-awards/.)

This year is my Junior year. I started pre-season this year thinking could I make the jump to Group 1 this season? Was I fast enough? Ready, set, go: The first ten riders to finish a three and one-half mile sprint to Beals Point State Park from the Folsom Truss Bridge would be placed in Group 1. Race on, I finished 10th, I made Group 1.  And this year I was lucky enough to make it on to this team, the Cycling Development Scott USA Team.  I got a new bike, new kit and a new helmet.

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This season has started off better than expected.  After our first practice race in January my coaches and I made the decision to petition up to the Varsity Girls category. Our goals revised again.  Goal #1 get on the podium.  I continued to train hard knowing this would be a big jump.  Race #1 I won.  Race #2 I won. I have to admit I was not expecting that yet. 

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My coaches and I made a decision to go down to southern California and test my skills at the next level.  The UCI XCO Cat 1 Junior event at Vail Lake in Temecula. (http://shoaircyclinggroup.com/index.php/us-cup-series/)  This was the first time I raced in my new Cycling Development Scott USA kit. I started from the back of the grid filled with the fastest racers I have ever competed against. It was a tough race where I learned a lot. I finished 10th, just like my race to Group 1.  I am driving down to Monterey right now to pre-ride today for NorCal’s Race #3 tomorrow. Ready to get at it again and see where this bicycle takes me.  Enjoy the beautiful weekend and thanks for reading!

Mark Duncan - NorCal Race #2 - Granite Bay Grinder

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The Granite Bay Grinder was definitely one to put down in the books. I woke up early on race morning to an egg sandwich on wheat toast. I hadn't realized how nervous I was until I tried eating, I could barely get down half of the sandwich that I made. I arrived at the race and I was able to watch the starts of all the women races, and then I went back to the team tent to relax with the nervousness of the race ahead coursing through my body. I went on a warm up on the road and did sprints across a levee, when I returned I was able to catch the end of the Varsity Women's race, and watch my teammate Grace Murphy come in victorious. Soon after i headed to the start line, where I met up with the kid who beat me last race (Blake Macheras). As soon as we started talking my nervousness died down, remembering how much fun it is to race with him. Before I knew it we were off, Blake and I had already created a small gap from our field, and we were going at steady pace. After half of the first lap I started pulling (riding in the front) up until about a quarter through the second lap. Blake started pulling again, by now we had created a solid 3 and half minute gap from our field. Now we had to worry about catching up to the rear half of the D1 field. Soon we had caught up to the field, which was not as hard as we had thought.

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We were coming up on a little past halfway through the second lap when we both got pushed into a deep section of mud. Blake had tipped over, and I saw this as my chance to break away. I hammered through the last quarter of the lap and was able to build approximately a 30 second gap when coming into the finish victoriously. This being my first NorCal win, i was overjoyed to come in first, and as always it was fun shredding with Blake and I look forward to another challenge at the next NorCal race at Laguna Seca.

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gRace Murphy - NorCal Race #2 - Granite Bay Grinder

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Race #2 weekend brought a challenge for NorCal League teams to up the spirit quotient with an Aloha theme. Festive Hawaiian shirts, zany plastic leis and hula skirts abounded. Wisecracks and chuckles flew from all directions, all in good fun. The weekend’s weather was bright and warm sunshine with temperatures breaking the 70 degree mark. Riding over to staging on the beach I got a whiff of Coppertone. Today is going to be a good day.

Ideal racing conditions were not guaranteed. Winter rain has been ever present so the last ten days of drying out were welcomed. Mahalo.

Granite Bay is my home course. I know these trails like the back of a box of Kraft Mac & Cheese. Sections of the course have given me trouble in the past, but I was eager to tryout my improving technical skills under competition.

Kate Kelley [Independent Riders NorCal-North] went out quickly and led with a good pace followed by myself, Audrey Fehlhaber [Sir Francis Drake High School], and Meigan Butler [Humboldt Composite]. Clodagh Mellett [Tamalpais High School] missed Race #1 due to injury, but I knew she would be in the mix soon enough.

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We stayed together and I went to the lead somewhere in the first lap. Throughout the second lap the pace was comfortable, then the pace changed. A little beyond the beginning of the third, I heard my coach loud and clear, “110% right now to the finish”. It was time to push my stamina and press my home field advantage. I set-up for optimal lines into the curves and my Scott Spark ricocheted out like an Olympic bobsled. Rocky hills were attacked with nimble agility. I rested a bit and looked back—no riders in sight. I could not believe it. I was having a blast. I felt great and with the finish in sight, even better.

In past races, I rarely, maybe never, improved my time on the final lap. A day at the beach?—not hardly. I was exhausted, in a good way, and needed to find some shade. At the beginning of this year Varsity racing was new territory for me. This weekend I am heading off into new territory again to race my first Pro XCT at Vail Lake.  Thanks for reading my post and have a great weekend yourself! Thanks to CLIFF for the awesome photos.

Alex Huss - NorCal Race #2 - Granite Bay Grinder

It was the perfect weekend for NorCal’s Race #2 in Granite Bay. The sun was out and the course was perfect. The Friday before the race I chose to go out on the course with some friends and scope out the lines I was going to take throughout the course and the areas where I would drink and eat. Once I was done scoping out the course I did one lap around the course and saw how fast I could go and still make the corners. After I was completely done with the pre-ride I went home ate a very big dinner and then eventually made it to my bed. 

I got a big nights sleep and felt very recovered which made me ready because I knew that I would be able to perform at my best during the race. Three hours before the race began I ate my pre-race meal which consisted of oatmeal and blueberries and lots of spaghetti. 

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Finally it was race time, I was called up to the start line and got ready for the big sprint. Once I heard the count down end I sprinted as fast as I could into the first position and stayed there for the whole first lap while conserving my energy for later use and creating a pretty big gap between me and second place. However at the end of the first lap I peeled the sidewall of my tire off my rim and the tire deflated.  I tried to re-inflate the tire but there was too much debris in the sidewall. I had a long run back to the pits where I put another wheel on and went back at it. Of course, by this point in the race I knew that there was no way I could get anywhere near the front. Even with knowing this I still tried my hardest to race those last laps and once I got to the finish line I was a little mad at myself but overall just happy cause I now know that with good sleep and good nutrition I have the ability to race at the front. Can’t wait for the next round at Laguna Seca.

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gRace Murphy - NorCal Race #1 - Fun at the Fort

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The season opener is an exuberant experience. Whether it is your first time or you have been there before, the scene with the pre-ride, the pit zone set-up, the sounds, together with the teams and hundreds of riders is exhilarating. Your heart beats a little faster, your anticipation runs a little higher.

For Ord is a special place for me. Two years ago as freshman rider in my first race ever I finished fifth, I made the podium. The seed was planted, I loved this sport! The next few races as a result of mechanical problems and inexperience I would not make podium again that season. Yet, I started to get it together and  finished eighth at the state championship. At the end of the season, I was awarded a tremendous honor by my Cycling Development coaches with the Most Improved Rider trophy.

Last year, I won the season opener at Ford Ord in the Sophomore Girls division. 2018 was a dream season, I won all my races including the state championship. Again I was honored with a Most Improved Athlete award, this time by the NICA Norcal League. The metaphor continues, the seed germinated.

At the end of last season I compared my times to the top varsity riders and knew I had to get faster to race with the best. With two most improved awards on my shelf, I was determined to increase my endurance and improve my handling skills. I rode and rode and then went to gym for spin. I rode by myself and sought out teammates and coaches for rides. I just rode my bike a lot. And I might add I found a renewed interest in nutritious eating and the importance of a good sleep.

Team practices began in December and put me in a familiar rhythm. Nearly a hundred kids and a dozen coaches riding bikes, testing limits, building character, and having a good time.

Race weekend. My Scott Spark is tuned, washed, and lubed. My brand new Gladiator kit by Jakroo is packed along with my SIS race fuel. Look sharp, act sharp, be sharp. In the car for the Sacramento drive to Monterey with a stop for lunch. Saturday afternoon pre-ride. Team dinner. Early bedtime. Sunday morning oatmeal breakfast. Team meeting. Warm-up on the trainer. Off to staging for the 9 o’clock start time. I’m ready.

This year I am racing varsity. Call-ups places me in the second row. The goodwill banter with my fellow riders relaxes me a bit. My strategy is always to ride with the lead group, calm any nerves and get comfortable, and see what happens.

You will always hear coaches and well wishers say to go out and have fun. I always have fun. There is not any place I would rather be, there is not anything I would rather do. I like to think my parents have instilled in me an ability to moderate the highs and lows. I want to do well, I want to ride my best. If I prepare properly and try my hardest, I will be happy with my result. The thrill of racing is to test my physical endurance, use my technical skills, and make good decisions.

We’re off. The course begins with a short 50-yard jolt up a hill with a decent incline. At the top we funnel into single-track. I am happy with the pace, I get comfortable quickly. Four riders begin to separate from the field. Last year’s NorCal League North Conference varsity champion Haley Randel [Redwood High School] was in the lead with JV state champion Audrey Fehlhaber [Sir Francis Drake High School], Meigan Butler [Humbolt Composite], and me following.

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Somewhere in the first lap I move into second place behind Haley. About midway into the second lap I took the lead. Meigan moved into second place, but I sensed Haley and Audrey were close. In the third and final lap I kept the pace up. Meigan made a few attempts to pass me but I willed enough energy to stay in front. I was in first place and determined to give my all and not leave out anything on the course.

First varsity race, first place. I am amazed and feel overwhelming joy. Thank you teammates and coaches, family and friends, fellow riders and the NorCal League. The boundless encouragement means a great deal to me of which I will never take for granted.

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In the days after the race as I write this, I savor the victory a bit then think about the next race. I have goals which I keep to myself. With the Ford Ord race I met a primary goal. I can race with the best. Stiff competition will show up again at the next race and as the season continues more fine riders will be in the mix.

My Dad says the word “complacency” is far worse than any four-letter word I have heard. Note to self: Do not open that door. Stay away. And remember, not too high, not too low. Keep practicing, stay healthy, have fun.

Springtime brings green shoots, the metaphor continues.

Josh Tajiri - NorCal Race #2 Laguna Seca

Laguna Seca is one of my favorite Norcal courses. The steep hills work to my advantage, and the fast downhills are very fun. Saturday, the day before the race, it rained quite a bit, so when we went out for the preride the course was soaked. Tires slipping everywhere, mud flying in the air, it was soaked. Somehow, the course completely dried out by race day. I returned to my hotel, washed the bike, ate dinner, and was in bed by 8:30.

I used to get very nervous before races. Not anymore. Now I realize that being nervous won’t help me and I’m able to calm myself down. So standing on the start line in a race of many other fast kids, I wasn’t nervous. I knew I just had to go and put everything out there. Race as hard as I could, and that’s all I can do. That is what I did.

The race started, and my teammates Zack and Blake went out very fast up the starting hill. I sat in 4th position, with a little gap to the leaders. Looping around and coming down the hill, I held my position, until we started the next climb. I surged, moved into third, and then second, after passing Zack. I attempted to chase down Blake, but he was already gone. I rode the next downhill extremely fast, flying off all the kickers and ripping through the berms. When I got to the bottom, I saw Blake had maintained his lead on me, but I had gapped Zack and the rest of the pack. At the bottom of couch canyon, when we started the climb, I fully dropped Zack and everybody else. And after the top of hurl hill, Blake was gone. Nobody in my race was to be seen again, and the first lap isn’t even over.

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On the second lap, when I was climbing up the hill right after the finish, a bit of fatigue caused me to lose caution and the right side of my bars got caught in a fence, and I flipped off my bike. I quickly ran up the hill and was back on the bike, flying down the hill. I loved how my spark handled down the hill, it was amazing. Right as I neared the finish of my second lap, I was flying down a gravel road, and there was a crosswind. I felt my contact fly off my eye, and I was unable to see much from my right eye. I lost some depth perception, but other than that it didn’t really impact my riding to much.

I continued to push and attempt to catch Blake as the laps went on. My final lap was actually my fastest of the day. But I was still unable to catch Blake. He finished over two minutes ahead of me. But there was nearly four minutes from after I finished, to when Skye Ricci of Bear Development finished. My teammate Zack Foster came in 10 seconds later. After a long hard race, I was pleased with my result.

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Blake Griffin - NorCal #2 Laguna Seca

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What a great race at Laguna Seca NorCal race two. It is such an awesome experience being apart of a team that is full of energy and cheers every rider on. The course was in perfect condition since it rained the day before which allowed me and other riders to give it our all. I was not quite sure how to approach this race because it was four laps instead of three like at the last race. So I decided to see how things played out at the start of the race. With another good start I took the lead and pushed my hardest until the very end. This race had a lot more hills than the previous race but I was well prepared because of the training rides I did the earlier weeks. I had a good lead by the first lap so I was able to keep my own pace and take first in JV once again. Time to focus on the next race and keep training hard.

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Cody Schwartz - 2018 Keyesville Classic All Mountain Stage Race

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The start of every new race season is exciting. All of the training and hours spent wringing your legs dry on the bike finally come into play. You get to race against your buddies and everyone you’ve been Strava stalking since November and see how hard that ‘hard interval’ ride such and such said they did really was. It’s also a great opportunity to test yourself, have some fun, and see where you’re at and how you can improve for bigger races later in the season.

This year, I started my 2018 season down at the 30th annual Keyesville Classic at Lake Isabella, in the mountains above Bakersfield. I competed in the All Mountain Stage Race, consisting of Short Track and Super D on Saturday and the XC on Sunday, with points being awarded for each race and adding up for the overall title. This year my teammates Nathan Barton and Landon Farnworth traveled down there with me to contest their races as well, making for a fun filled race weekend shared with teammates.

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Saturday morning was the Short Track Race, which this year was essentially an uber-short dirt Crit with 19 0.5 mile laps being completed in the 25 minute race time. Lining up, I knew my strategy would have to be to hammer the short hill in the front half of the course to break the field apart and then stay smooth on the rutted descent into the finish to maintain position. After a vigorous start, Nathan and I were sitting up front, maintaining safe position and ready to respond to any attacks. Nathan took a dig on lap 3, causing the other racers to have to close the gap on him to stay in the race. After that I took a pull on the next lap, and our lead group of 5 or so was pretty much established. Towards the end of the race, with 5 or so laps to go, I came around the outside at the finish and blew by the field into the hill, sprinting up it. I gained a little bit of separation, but going into the descent, the field worked together to catch back on. I tried this tactic again the next few laps with similar results. With two laps to go, I was gassed at the top of the climb and had nothing to give when the group came around me sprinting into the descent. I hung on to my position and rolled across the line in 5th, seconds behind the main group. Nathan earned a 4th place, right ahead of me in the lead group.

 

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Keyesville dirt is a lot like Granite Bay in that it consists of sand and decomposed granite with large granite boulders thrown in along the flowy Singletrack, meaning that with a little bit of moisture it gets very very good. For the afternoon Super D, the morning drizzle had made the course dialed and turned blown out sandy corners into tacky berms. I hadn’t ridden the Super D course since last year, and was hoping to get a pre ride lap in, but I did not make it up in time to get any pre-riding in. I rolled up to the top, right as it was my turn to go, and literally had 30 seconds to drop my seat and drop into the run, essentially riding it blind. I hammered through the ~1.5 mile course, sending drops and rock gardens I had forgotten about but had no choice in hitting as I was already committed, and tried to let loose whenever I could see the trail ahead, as I did not know any of the corners very well. I finished the run in just over 3 minutes and in 8th place, not bad for riding blind on an XC bike. The adrenaline rush from rolling up to the top and just dropping in was also really fun, as the whole run seemed to just fly by without much thought.

Race Promoter Sam taking a swing at the Fire Log

Race Promoter Sam taking a swing at the Fire Log

Saturday night there was a dinner provided over by the main stage (dinner number 2 after chicken back at camp) and a local bluegrass band was playing in the background while racers chatted around the fire.  While chatting around the fire, a game of manhood and toughness developed, where a group of guys ( and one very brave woman), decided it would be fun to see who could pound 8 inch nails into an oak log round with an 8 pound sledge hammer, while the log was on fire. Don’t ask me how this idea came about, I was just there when it happened. After watching a few rounds I decided to start playing and represented Northern California in the cathartic competition. After all nails were pounded in it quickly digressed to a smashing contest to see who could split the wood with the hammer. I believe I won that one (bonus points in the All Mountain I was told). After the games, the rest of the evening was spent swapping race stories and life stories with other racers and the race promoters, enjoying the campfire and the mountains.

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Sunday was the main event, the 3 lap XC race. At the start, I maintained my position on the front for the first few minutes but quickly faded as my legs were doing nothing and I was not getting where I needed to be. I did everything I could to stay in the race; I hammered descents where I could and attacked short sections of climb to try and catch back on, but ultimately I just faded even more. I caught a few guys by the finish, but the lead group had finished miles ahead by the time I had gotten there. I’m not sure what happened out there, but it’s early season and I think I just didn’t have the legs that day. Nathan had an amazing race and finished second to a flying Menso De Jong ( Team Clif Bar). Landon finished 8th a little bit in front of me.

Keyesville was a great weekend, a great season opener, and a good reminder to keep things in perspective. I had great results personally on Saturday and struggled a little on Sunday, but I am satisfied with the weekend and the team’s results and am looking forward to the rest of the season!

Sean Dickie - NorCal Race #1 - Fort Ord

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Going into the first NorCal race I was exited for the beginning of the season. Lining up in my first varsity race was a new feeling but I felt right at home. Heading out into the first lap I lead the pack but by the second lap I settled into second trying to get into the pace line. The race was going well and I was feeling strong. Every few hills we would be constantly testing each other trying to sprint but pack stayed together. Heading into the last lap I was in second getting ready to make a move when I had the chance.  Unfortunately I ended up having a bad crash instead, loosing my front tire in a sandy corner.  I landed on my wrist and when I got up I couldn’t grip the bar without immense pain. I continued to ride for about a mile but every downhill got more painful and the adrenaline began to die down. I ended up having to DNF due to bruised bone and a sprained wrist from the crash. The race didn’t go as planned and I hope to be back at it as soon as possible, I am more determined than ever to come back even stronger!

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Cody Schwartz -- Downieville Classic

The weekend of the Downieville Classic is always one I look forward to with great angst each and every year. It’s like a mountain biker’s family reunion of sorts, where we all meet up deep in the woods (when I say deep I mean deep, seriously if you listen closely enough you’ll hear banjo music playing from somewhere) to not only ride our bikes, but also enjoy the town and the cool Yuba River, swap stories around the campfire, eat as much bacon and beef as one’s stomach can handle, and take turns watching the crazy uncle (Raul I’m looking at you…). This year’s rendition was no exception; with 4 days of bike riding, storytelling, pizza cooking, river jumping, and even some bouts of bear chasing on the menu; it was a weekend I soon won’t forget.

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After showing up Thursday morning, my good friend Nathan and I made short work of assembling our humble camp and self-dubbed ‘mega kitchen’, which featured a 3 burner range, 2 burner stove with oven, 3 tables, and even the kitchen sink. We had visions of grandeur for our meals and were looking forward to breaking the paradigm of boring camp food like hot dogs and pancakes. Our menu for the weekend included steaks, bacon-wrapped asparagus (I mean what’s not good wrapped in bacon), handmade pizzas and pasta sauce, cinnamon rolls, and more. It suffices to say we had many people asking us for leftovers.

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After a full day of cooking, volunteering at the bike shop, Yuba Expeditions, and swimming in the welcoming cool waters of the Yuba, the night concluded with a DJ’d dance party in front of the shop and a volunteer only Crud game inside the shop. If you’ve experienced a Downieville Crud game before, you know how awesome it was. If not, well, you’ll just have to experience it on the Thursday before the Classic next year (origins of the game come from the Canadian Air Force and regular players include Paul from Paul Components, ASS or The Angry Singlespeeder, all the guys from Yuba, and Mark Weir, it gets pretty rowdy). 

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After strolling into camp in the wee hours of the morning after many rousing rounds of Crud, we were greeted by quite the scene. A 600 pound Black Bear was rummaging through the end of camp, taking people’s coolers and dispersing their contents throughout the hillside. After discovering this commotion, Nathan and I promptly and wisely decided to chase the bear out of camp, in the dark, up the hill with only one light. After trying to reason with the bear by yelling at it, to no avail, we decided the best course of action would be to get even closer yet and scare it up the hill. After getting 15 ft away from the massive bear and yelling at it with 6 people (half the camp was joining our efforts at this point, awoken by the yell of “Nate, grab the shotgun!”) the bear turned around and begrudgingly made his way up the hill. While keeping an eye on the bear, 3 of us went out and picked up all the garbage, collected the food, and put the ruined Igloo cooler and trash in a safer place away from the bear. After Kurt (aka A.S.S.) had went to check on the status of the man in the affected tent who had slept through this ordeal exclaimed, “you’ll never believe this, there’s a drunk naked man passed out in there!”, we all decided it was time to go to bed and let nature run its course.  Turns out we didn’t have to worry as there was an unfortunate camper who chose to sleep in a hammock on the very edge of camp; he stood watch the rest of the night; it was his problem now.

Friday started off with a super fun run down the mountain with the Folsom Breakouts on upper Sunrise Trail, Butcher Ranch, and back down the ‘Downieville Downhill’. It was a blast to ride with friends and just focus on getting down the hill and having a riot. The afternoon was filled with more volunteering at the shop, helping to erect Cozmo’s wild Island and River Jump in the middle of the Yuba-a feat of redneck engineering-, and making the perfect pre-race pizza back at camp. The bear plan for that night was to use a siren on a megaphone to scare away the bear if he decided to show up again.  About 1:30 in the morning, I heard the siren but just closed the trailer door and went back to bed, letting hammock man deal with it instead (The bear did a number on camp again, ripping through trash and keeping hammock man awake all night).

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After a solid night of sleep (for me anyway), I awoke on race morning ready to suffer for an hour up the hill and enjoy my time as much as possible back down. For this race, I elected to run my Scott Spark RC World Cup paired with some beefy WTB tires and a 9point8 Fall Line 175 mm dropper post. This combination was not only extremely capable, but also very light, weighing in at under 23.5 lbs. After a vigorous start up the pavement, I worked hard to improve my position up the climb to be ready to get into good position for the downhill. The Classic is unique in that it is a 28-mile point-to-point race with a 3500 ft climb right off the bat then almost 5000 ft of wonderful Sierra single-track descending as your reward. After holding my position on the climb and even making up a few spots, I made it to the very top in under an hour, my original goal. I picked my line carefully down Baby Heads, whose child size boulders can unseat even the best picked line, and even cleaned the climb after the creek crossing. I eeked out every ounce of flow and speed I could down Pauley Creek, conserving energy for the final climb up to the top of my favorite trail in the world, Third Divide, whose buff dirt and well-built features have allowed riders to clock speeds in excess of 40 mph (by CHP with a radar gun, no ticket don’t worry) while hooting their elation down the hill. Right as I approached the bridge to the climb, it started raining, and the trails went from dusty to dialed in minutes. At the top of the climb I was greeted by a Kiss air guitar cover band, doing everything they could to call Gene Simmons to the top of the mountain. After doing a double take, I dropped into Third Divide, and was caught by two or three guys on full blown endure bikes who had been chasing me the whole way down. I kept them in sight, and as we hit the fire road that drops you into Lavezzola Creek and First Divide, I attacked and put a gap on them. After catching a few more guys on First Divide by pedaling as fast as I could, I drilled the final .75 mile pavement drag to the finish line and crossed the line in 2:17 and in 27/50 in Pro Men, a result that met my goal timewise and left me stoked and excited for next year. Fellow Scott athlete Geoff Kabush won the Pro All Mountain Event aboard his Spark, putting him back into contention for the Lost Sierra Triple Crown Race Series.

 After saying my goodbyes, I reluctantly rolled over the bridge and out of town and headed back for reality. Downieville has something about it that for me and many other mountain bikers just captivates the body, mind, and soul. Whether it’s the kick-ass event, nonstop party in town, laid-back mountain atmosphere, or the awesome people that make Downieville what it is, the Classic remains and will so for a long time the highlight of my racing and camping calendar. Besides talks of how to top this year’s food, I have the date saved for next year and have bear spray in my cart on Amazon, I’m ready to go.

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Cody Schwartz -- Nationals and Boston Rebellion Trip Report

The last two weeks of July and early August were jam packed with some of my most serious races of the year, and also some of my most fun races of the year; XC and STXC National Championships, Boston Rebellion Pro XCT, and the good ‘ol Downieville Classic. The racing and travel block started off with Nationals out in Snowshoe Mountain, West Virginia; the first stop of mine and my family’s 2 week East Coast vacation built around my races.

Leading up to this racing block, which was also the peak of my season, I was getting pretty burnt out on the bike. The long hours throughout the many months preceding the races as well as the stress and anticipation associated with such lofty goals and expectations of races to come, and results from races that had passed, were starting to add up. Add to it a month long spell of near or over 100 degree temperature here at home; and riding bikes hard 5 or more days a week was sounding less and less appealing. As the race block got closer, I was having trouble getting out on the bike and giving it my all to really give it one last push to prepare for the final races. My riding buddies and teammates were doing no better as the incessant heat and long season was starting to take its toll on everyone. Nonetheless, after discussions with my coach and several mentors and friends, I reevaluated my goals and expectations for the coming races and found the motivation to roll into Nats with a full head of steam, ready for whatever may happen and excited for the opportunities to come in the following weeks.

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This trip was my first time travelling to the East Coast and I was super excited to see and experience sights and places I had been hearing about for years, not to mention the riding and races! We arrived in Snowshoe late Tuesday night and got settled into our rental house right near the race venue. I awoke the next morning to a light drizzle and cool temperatures,  definitely a nice change of pace from back home.  After burning in 6 or 7 laps on course during practice times, I was getting stoked for the races. The course was super fun and unlike anything I had ever ridden before. Tight singletrack through the trees, sections so rooty you couldn't see the ground, and greasy rock chutes running through moss covered trees, this course looked like something out of Jurassic Park compared to the dusty blown out trails of back home. Add in a few steep climbs, sporadic thunderstorms that would shut down the race on the lead lap, and man-made rock gardens and this race was looking to be both super challenging and really fun.  After a thorough soaking only a few hours before that postponed the race, the Short Track course was looking pretty sloppy. Being my first Elite level National Championships, I was anxious on the start line but ready to give it my all. After a poor start, I was relegated to sliding around the corners in the mud and using my cyclocross skills to pass people while running through the rock garden due to traffic. I worked my way up the whole race, ending up about 50th or so, picking other racers off until the last 5 minutes when my group was pulled due to a flying Howard Grotts coming around the course, knocking us out of contention.

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The U23 XC was Sunday morning, and the last night’s intense rain (we probably got over an inch in 15 minutes) turned the course into a boggy and greasy slip and slide. The root section turned into a running race as the mud was over a foot deep in some sections and the greasy roots were basically ice. After getting through that section, I focused on being really smooth throughout the race and keeping the bike upright in the slop.  About halfway through, I was caked in mud, clawing my way up the climbs, splashing through the puddles, but having a riot. The East Coast course was a treat to ride let alone race. I ended the day 37th, which was not the result I was looking for placement wise, but more importantly I was stoked on riding bikes and was having a great time; a result much more important to the soul and in the grand scheme of things.

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After Nats, we travelled up the coast towards the next weekend’s endeavor in the woods near Boston, MA.  Along the way I spent my 19th birthday in Washington DC visiting the Smithsonian and all of the Monuments, we visited New York,  ate Philly cheesesteaks in Philadelphia, rode trails along the New Jersey coast, and experienced everything we could in less than a week’s time. After arriving in Boston Friday, I rode the course in practice and again was thoroughly impressed with the East Coast riding.  The course was just over 3 miles, with almost no elevation gain, CX style turns, chunky rock gardens, and roots spider webbing across all sections of the trail. This was a real mountain bike course. In the XC race Saturday, I got caught behind a slip-out at the start again and hit the singletrack almost dead last. The congestion caused us to literally come to a complete standstill for a minute as everyone sorted themselves out, one of the most infuriating things that happens in a bike race. I was able to pass a good amount of people in the first rock garden by riding a tricky high line and then carrying my speed into the next rooty climb, passing people who were walking their bikes. I was able to maintain a great flow through the rough stuff and ride 100% of the race without putting a foot down, a silent goal of mine for that event. After a close call on the A-Line drop lap 1, (I went off a little sideways and almost hit a tree) I was able to regain focus and maintain position.  My legs unfortunately lacked the 30 second turbo boost needed to get towards the front of the race, but nonetheless I finished the race technically on the lead lap in 44th (a poor call by a UCI commissaire pulled some riders too early including myself). Sunday’s Short Track race went much better for me, as I had a good start and was able to stick around in the middle group, chasing my hardest.  I made several passes in the rock garden each lap, perfecting my line and bouncing off of rocks with vigor. After 25 minutes of pure pain and adrenaline, my East Coast racing trip was over, ending on a high note with a clean and fun short track race.

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Even though I wasn't able to achieve the quantifiable results I wanted on the East Coast at Nationals and Boston, I exceeded my qualitative goals. I was able to restoke the fire in me that burns to ride bikes, and hopefully put away enough firewood to keep it going through the fall, winter, and into next season. I also had a seriously awesome time exploring the East Coast trails and adapting to a new style of riding. This trip and my experiences there also helped me realign and reevaluate my goals for 2018 and beyond so they are more in line with my passions and my interests and will keep me stoked on achieving the most that I can while having fun on my bike! My next write-up is on my adventures at the Downieville Classic, it will be good!

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Alexander Hill - USA Cycling Cross Country Nationals

First UCI XCO Junior and National Championships in the books! This race was a true adventure. The final hurdle on a 10 month journey. All the sacrifice and hours of time and energy put into training all ended with this. After flying into Pittsburg on Thursday then driving 4 hours to the mountain resort of Snowshoe, I awoke the next morning in the team house to the sound of pouring rain, something that I would hear frequently over the next three days. After throwing on some new tires and sealing them with Stans and building up my bike, I went out for a pre ride with Josh. It took me probably about 2 minutes to realize the course was pretty crazy. The rock gardens, the roots, mud, etc.. all of it came together to create an epic track. There were for sure some sketchy sections I had to work through, and I dialed in lines for a few hours before watching the Pro Men and Women's short track races with my teammates on Friday night. After a good dinner out, I got a great night of sleep before fast forwarding to race day. A storm system was heading our way and planned to hit the Mens Junior race right as we were all lining up to race, so in total we received an hour an 45’  weather delay for the start of our race. This threw everyone’s nutrition and warm ups out the window, mixing up the race a little bit due to the reaction some rider’s bodies had after going from no warm up to zone 5. One of the largest fields of the whole Championships, at 85 riders, I had the 83rd call up due to my recent upgrade. Once the race got started, I had a fairly good start, but truly started to shine on the climbs, working my way through the field picking off riders then hanging on through the downhill. I played it safe every lap by running the flat rock garden that troubled a lot of the riders about half way through the course, due to the recent storms the course was very very muddy and slippery in some places, and then rode the downhill rock garden, thankfully clean every lap. I felt consistent during my race, always working my way up the field and never back. I drank regularly and kept eating, not until the final fire road climb on the fourth lap did I start to experience cramping in my legs, merely from exhaustion. Overall, after being pulled on the fourth lap, I rolled in 50th. This may seem far down in the field, but for my first Nationals, I’m happy. For me, this leaves plenty of room to improve and the fact that I felt good the entire race leaves me feeling confident that I can work my way up through the field at following USAC races next season. I also just wanted to take a minute to thank the amazing people that have played a huge role in the successful season I've had. Thank you to my coaches for all the time and effort they put in to making sure we are able to race the best we can and have fun while doing it, my teammates and sponsors for the support, and my parents of course for everything. I couldn't progress further towards my dreams without any of you. Thank you to SCOTT bicycles for the support this season, it has been an incredible experience being on a team with not only some of my very good friends as teammates, but also to be on a team that has not only helped me progress greatly on the bike the past year, but also mentally as an athlete. Here's to another year in the books and to many more! 

Lauren Desrosiers - USA Cycling Cross Country Nationals

National Championships trip to the East Coast was here already. 9 months of long training rides in the harsh wet and chilly winter we had up until the weeks prior… baking in the sun grinding throughthe toughest intervals I’ve ever had (thanks Jon;) ) I knew the efforts I had put into my season were well worth it.  It wasn’t the easiest paths to reach the end of my season on a high note, but 2017 has been my biggest growing year on and off the bike and I can’t wait to take away from that into times to come.

Throughout the week I was using the words “unpredictable” to describe the feeling of being in West Virginia for one of the biggest events to many athletes competing. My teammates and I arrived to Snowshoe late Thursday night in our cozy team house for the next 5 days and quickly settled in. Trying to sleep the first night was surprisingly easy. Waking up the next morning at 10am I was greeted by foggy skies and the weather calling for a 100% chance of rain. Part 1 of unpredictable. All of us couldn’t wait any longer and couldn’t wait to get on this course that we had only seen photos and videos from so far. Once the skies cleared Alexander, Stella, Tyler, Josh, and I hopped on course for our preview. After riding my first lap I will admit that I was a little bit intimidated. Man, do photos and videos really give an false illusion of real life. Sure… I heard the course was technical but I was surprised to find myself not being able to ride some parts of the course. ESPECIALLY the famous downhill rock garden thrown there which came to be spectator central. Here comes unpredictable part 2. I find myself following a girl down this section. Halfway down without enough speed my front wheel got caught on a rock throwing me over the bars. I got up quickly but was shaken up. I went out and rode another 2 laps by myself getting more acquainted with the slippery rocks and roots. I came back to the section and watched more people ride the downhill rock garden… I just couldn’t get myself to ride it again knowing I was taking an unpredictable risk of hurting myself 2 days before my race. I decided to call it a day and hoped to get more time on the course Saturday morning.

Saturday morning. One last day of preparations before toeing the start line tomorrow morning. However, Saturday would be the day to be on the other side of the tape and cheer on teammates and friends racing. I woke up early this morning from tossing and turning all night with nerves and jet lag from being on East Coast time.Rain showers with lightning would delay the first race of the day at an 8am start an hour back to 9am. Little did we know that this was how the whole day of scheduled racing would play out… Unpredictable! All of this wet weather seemed to change the terrain into a whole new course overnight. Nonetheless, it was inspiring to watch each athlete give it their best efforts in the slop and to see so many big smiles as they came by.

Before I knew it I was up at the crack of dawn to eat breakfast and patiently wait around until it was time to kit up, warm up, and then race. Everything seemed to go by so fast. I couldn’t exactly put myself into the moment until we were off of the line and I had a good start. I put myself into around 6th or 7th wheel heading into the singletrack downhill before climbing up the first punch heading into the technical root section. I was feeling good and then all of a sudden a rider spun out on the climb causing me to unclip and run up it. I didn’t lose many positions here but I lost time and the wheels of the riders I wanted to be with. That was all fine. I made up time each climb and then soon lost it once we sit the technical sections. I was a little bit frustrated with myself for making small mistakes and knowing this was my weakness but all I could do was stay focused and move forward. I stayed steady in 7th until the flat rock garden that I decided to run. When I mounted on my bike I seemed to kick over the seat causing it to move sideways and drop. Thankfully, the feed zone was only 500 feet ahead of me. Chris Sargent quickly fixed it for me but by the time I was going again 8th, 9th, and 10th had gone by me. I caught up to 10th and passed her coming into my final lap and I could see 8th and 9th just about 15 seconds ahead. Finally in my last lap I felt smooth and cleared all of the sections I was running before and came into the finish about 30 seconds behind 7th and only 10 from 8th. It was a bummer to not have the absolute perfect race we all wish for but that’s mountain bike racing for you. It was a good race. I was strong, focused, and most of all enjoyed myself and that’s what I could hope for.

I want to thank the Cycling Development- SCOTT team as well as Mark Ferry, Jon Hyatt, and Chris Sargent for the efforts and time they put into this team and into me this season. That’s it y’all. See you out there soon!!!

Sean Dickie - USA Cycling Cross Country National Championships

This year Nationals was at Snowshoe Mt. in West Virginia, so coming from California it was a pretty long trip. I shipped my bike so once I arrived I had to reassemble it. Once my bike was set I did a pre-ride of the course to be prepared. The course was defiantly the craziest cross country course I've ever raced and the amount of crashes only proved it. There were slick roots, off cambered turns and a huge rock garden that looked like it was straight out of an enduro course. The day of the race it started to rain and even some lightning was in the distance. The race got delayed an hour and it messed with everyone's warmup. I didn't have a good call up so I pretty much started in the back. On the first lap I managed to make my way from 77th to about 50th but after that it all started to go downhill. I went into the race with sore legs and I wasn't able to maintain a hard effort. I started to cramp up and I was slowly getting passed. The rock garden is at the end of the lap after the longest climb so nobody was fresh going into it. In practice I had no issue with this section but at the end of the second lap I was hurting bad and when I hit the rock garden I wasn't on it and my front tire slipped causing me to go over the bars. I slammed on my back and bruised my leg which put me out of contention in the race. Traveling all that way and having everything go wrong hurt physically and mentally. I should've been no where near my position as I've beaten people that got top 30. The race didn't go my way but I'm not going to let it get in the way moving forward. I had a great season overall and I'm ready to come back stronger next year. 

David Duncan - USA Cycling Cross Country National Championships

After a full day of traveling I finally arrived at the Dulles International Airport. Upon landing the first thing that I noticed was how humid it was, it reminded me of being in Hawaii. We spent the night at a local hotel and planned on starting the drive to Snowshoe, West Virginia in the morning. The scenery on the drive was gorgeous from wide open farmland to dense and lush green forests. After arriving to the race venue I picked up my bike and brought it back to our hotel room. Being thoroughly exhausted from all the traveling I decided to relax, get a good nights sleep and build the bike in the morning. Once my bike was built I headed out to the race course to do a couple laps familiarizing myself with the course. Luckily I was able to meet up with Jeremy, my old teammate when I raced for Adams State University, during the pre-ride. Once I felt comfortable with the course I headed back to the team house. After having a good dinner and getting my bike ready for race day I headed to bed to get some sleep before my short track race on Friday. Upon waking up I looked outside and realized that not had rained over night and knew how muddy the course was going to be. Although as the day went on the weather got worse and my race was delayed from 4:44 to 6:25 due to lightning. Luckily the weather eventually subsided and the race wasn’t cancelled. So I got dresses and started my warm-up routine. As race time grew nearer I pedaled over to staging early to ensure that I would get a good starting position. This payed off because I was able to get in the first rom of people without call-ups! The race started off great; I was able to pedal my way up to the top 20 in the first few laps. Being in a field stacked with some really fast racers like Howard Grotts, Todd Wells, and Christopher Blevins, I was excited to be doing this well. However on the descent of my 5th lap I slammed my seat on a rock so that it was pointing up. This prevented me from sitting or standing in an efficient position. I immediately began losing positions. Short track may not have ended well but it showed that my legs had the horsepower to do what it takes so I was determined to have the race of my life in XC on Sunday. Saturday went by slowly being full of ore race delays due to weather. I went out and cheered on my teammates racing. When their races were over I wen out for a quick recovery spin to get my legs ready for Sunday. with my race starting around 10:30, I woke up, had a good breakfast, and started my warm-up around 9:30. After completing my warm up I went to the staging area about 15 minutes before the race started. I received a call up of 30th on the line; Since they were running us six wide this placed me in the fifth row of the start. The start went smoothly and I stayed in roughly the same position. For the first few minutes of the race I felt great and was able to steadily crawl my way up through the field. However after completing the root section bad luck struck once again as I had another mechanical with my seat. Feeling an extreme amount of frustration I pedaled to the tech zone which was luckily only about a half mile of racing away. It was agonizing to watch as people pedaled by while I was standing in the tech zone getting my bike fixed. However about 2 minutes later I was back on the bike and began to try and catch back up. On the next long hill I will able to catch and pass a group of 4 riders. After This I focused on trying to bridge the gap between me and the next set of riders as quickly as possible. My forward momentum was cut short however as I came through the rock garden; Almost immediately after entering I found myself flipping over the handlebars. Although it was not a particularly bad crash I found it hard to get back into a rhythm and soon found myself discouraged. I still pushed forward and continued to try and chase down more people. On my second lap I was able to pass another rider and began to close the gap to the next rider. Coming up to the rock garden for the second time I was determined to make it through without crashing. I was able to make it through and climbed the final hill before starting my third lap. Starting my third lap I was able to see another rider about thirty to forty seconds in front of me, I put then began to reel him in. I was finally able to make the pass in the first of two major rock gardens on the course. Knowing that this was most likely going to be my last lap due to how far behind that I had fallen I gave the rest of the lap everything that I had. I made it through the rest of the lap without any mishaps and was indeed pulled at the end of my third lap. Although I was disappointed to be pulled a small part of me was happy that the pain was over. Even though nationals didn't go as I had hoped this Year I am now more determined to come back stronger than ever next year! I would also like to congratulate my teammates who also raced: Lauren Desrosiers, Tyler Sargaent, Sean Dickie, Alexander Hill, Stella Sisneros, Josh Tajiri, and Cody Schwartz.

Josh Tajiri - USA Cycling Cross Country National Championships

Typically, waking up at 3 AM is difficult and grueling, but when you are flying across the country for the biggest race of your life, you somehow find the energy. This is how my race weekend began, landing in Pittsburgh Wednesday night then driving three hours to Buckhannon, WV. The next morning, my Dad and I arrived in Snowshoe, WV after a two hour drive. We quickly built my bike up with the help of some of my teammates, and went out to preride the course. Immediately, I knew that this course would challenge both my technical skills and my fitness. The root section was technical but rideable, and there was a very fun downhill with berms, rocks, and jumps.

On the first day of preride, I was very intimidated by the two rock gardens and I was not able to clear either of them. The second day it poured. I have never seen so much water falling from the sky at one time ever in my life. Of course, this made everything much more complicated. The root section became extremely slippery, and the rock sections became slick. I was able to conquer the flat rock section with a bit of practice, and with a little more I was able to clear it every time.

The next day was friday. It dumped rain for the second day in a row, and the course became even more slippery. We were trapped inside and off the bike for the majority of the day, but in the afternoon we headed over to the Snowshoe Village to watch the pro women’s short track. We observed as a large majority of the women decided to run the rock garden, and it was just as fast and less risky. On the second to last lap, our group watched Kate Courtney crash and flat in the rock section, and lose the race she had won for sure. It was here that I made the decision to run the two man made rock sections, because it was proven only a few seconds slower, and much less risky, especially in the rain that we had during my race.

Race day came, and I felt prepared and ready to race. My start was at 9:30, and an hour prior I started my warm up. When I finished and arrived at the starting line, I was told that my race had been postponed for an hour, and they had removed one of the rock gardens from the course. Forced to return to the house and wait, I watched the Tour de France with a few teammates and coaches, waiting until it was time to re-warmup. When the time came, I got on the bike, finished my openers, and showed up at the line to start. I didn't have an amazing place, and when the race started I fell into about 35th place. After the first downhill, it was time for me to put the power down on the climb. I started passing people left and right and finished the climb near 25th place. I passed several people in the root section, and several more on the climb out of it. I continued moving up, and by the time I came by the feed station on the second lap, I was in tenth place, with eleventh, twelfth, and thirteenth with me. At this point I felt the bolts fastening the clips to my shoe start to loosen. I had tightened them the night before, but with all the heavy use they had came out again. I rode with them loosely attached until a pileup in the root part of the course forced me to unclip. This motion twisted the clip sideways, and I couldn't clip back in. I pulled out my tool and fixed it, but I lost minutes because there was so much mud I had to clear away first. When I was back on my bike, I was outside the top 30. I pushed myself so hard on the next two climbs, likely to hard. On the final lap, I had little energy through the technical sections, and ended up crashing on some slippery roots. My grips got pushed up four inches, so I was racing with barely any grip on my left hand, and with the wet conditions, this was a recipe for disaster. On a simple corner, I lost grip and my hand slipped from my bars, taking me to the ground. I got up and fought to the finish line, finishing the race in 27th.

I am somewhat disappointed with the result, but I know that I was racing well before the bad luck and likely could have finished with a much higher place. It’s all part of the learning experience, and I am very fortunate to have amazing coaches, parents, and teammates that support me throughout my progression. Lastly, I want to give all of the credit to God for blessing me with a body that can perform how it can and the opportunity to race to what I do. It’s been an amazing trip this season, now time for the offseason training, cross country!

Davis 4th of July Criterium - Stella Sisneros

The Annual Davis Fourth of July Criterium is one of the hardest flat crit' races in Northern California. Davis is known for its six turn, pot hole infested course that could make it or break it for some racers. I wasn't too worried about the tight turns and bumpy roads thanks to my light Addict 20 that has trusty disc breaks for the sketchy corners and fatty 28 mm wide tires that helped keep my race smooth. I planned on racing two races both in the morning, starting with the Juniors 17/18 race which I never fail to be the only racer in. Followed by the Women's 4/5s. Because i'm the only Junior girl in my category, I started with all the Junior boys. I was nervous to ride all the boys and knew I had some hard work ahead of me if I wanted to stay in the pack. Once everyone rolled out the Official was ready to start us. The big group of Juniors took off immediately after the whistle was blown. I started in the very back and stalled a bit when clipping in. That made it very difficult to even make my way up to the front group in the first lap because the boys took off so fast. I for sure wasn't ready for that beginning pace so I tried my best to work with other riders in the back to catch up. I was with one other kid for about 4 or 5 laps until the front group lapped us. I was mad that I couldn't catch up to the main group because I knew if I had been close to them at the start I could have stayed with them the whole race, or at least had a better chance of sticking close and avoiding getting lapped by the field. Once I got lapped I stayed mostly with the second group of guys that were chasing the main peloton up front. Much like the women's races i've been in we were alternating pulls and trying to bridge the gap. As time went by and the final lap was upon us I sprinted in out of the last corner to finish a very hectic but fun race. It was fun racing with the guys because it's always a slightly different dynamic within the group. I can't wait to race with the junior boys again because now I know what to expect! After my Juniors race I had the Masters 35+ 4/5s to rest for until I had to get back out there for the Women's 4/5s! I was feeling great about this race and really honed in my race strategies for what I believe could help me win before I got out there. The field was a decent size which makes for a good race. I was very anxious as well as nervous on the start line. The Official blew his whistle and the race was on. The first half of the race was pretty dead and we were all jockeying for a good position out of every corner. There was some sprint outs for Prims during the race which made the field get antsy and break apart but we would all re-group pretty quick after. Two girls would sprint off the front of the group to form a break and I would always be in a good position to jump on their wheel, when I did they would lessen the pace and the field would regroup. This happened two or three times already. As I saw the two girls break from the group a third time I tried my hardest to sprint up and bridge or join but they had me gassed this time. I was stuck in the group that didn't work together well at all. At times I would get frustrated and do a hard interval to bridge but either I had no help to do so or the teamsters of the girl in the break would get in front and block anybody who was trying to go. At that point there was about two laps to go and everyone was scattered all over the place. I took off the last lap to get away but the field stayed behind me and waited to sprint right towards the finish. It was a big sprint in the end resulting me to finish about mid pack. I was bummed I couldn't match the break and have a little exciting switch up in my races this year but there is always something to learn from each race. If it was easy then everyone could be in the break. I'm still happy it was a clean race and everyone stayed save. Davis puts on an amazing race every year! Until the next Fourth of July Davis!

Epic Rides Carson City - Lrad

This time last year I was in Missoula, Montana with a different racing mindset and chasing as many UCI points as possible. After a hard race that weekend I was driving home with my dad scrolling through instagram and saw that many top domestic pros and amateurs at a weekend long event put on by Epic Rides called “The Carson City Offroad.” I had no idea what the Carson City Offroad was or what I would be getting myself into, but I was hoping to make it to this event in 2017 and marked it on my racing calendar. After all the name “epic rides” sounds nothing but “epic” and it being in Carson City I figured “hey we must ride some awesome Tahoe trails since we aren’t that far away.” Turns out, I had one of those assumptions correct. This race would be epic, but we wouldn’t be ripping around Tahoe trails.

            The last time I had raced had been State Championships and with a busy couple weeks with graduation, working, and a down week from the bike I was more than happy to get back to spending the weekend at a race. The weekend before the race my Scott teammates Stella, Alexander, and I headed up to pre-ride a long lap of the course to get a feel of the terrain, how to ride the course and pace ourselves, and learn where the valuable aid stations would be. Pre riding the week before was very beneficial and as the week went by the temperature seemed to heat up for a hot weekend in the Nevada desert.

            Friday rolled around and I met up with my teammate Cody to make the drive up to Carson City for the pro riders meeting in the Capitol Building at 2pm. Taking advantage of extra time we decided to take a little detour and do a couple shuttles of Corral in South Lake and spin around for a little bit before the fat tire crit that evening. I was psyched to hop on the crit course for my warm up as I thought of my strategy for this 20 minute plus 3 lap all out effort. The course winding through downtown and quiet neighborhoods held plenty of wide open flat sections with a little bit of wind coming into tight turns. I knew we would be punching it the whole time and that positioning would be important to conserve energy and save myself from a potential crash or getting bumped around by some ladies. I finished my warm-up and rolled to the line towards the back but in a good spot to move up within the first couple of turns. The gun shot off and in an instant I had my bars tangled with another rider and I was on the ground. I got up as quick as I could and worked super hard for half of a lap to catch the tail end of the group. I was feeling good and full of adrenaline so I moved myself up farther in the group not realizing that I was burning a match by doing this… Within a couple laps I was smoked and was dropped now soft pedaling waiting to get pulled. I was bummed for the crit to go down this way, but it made me excited for the thought of redemption on Sunday morning.

            Saturday consisted of spinning to the venue and cheering on my teammates Alexander, Stella, and Sean in the Capitol 35. They all looked super strong out there on their Scott Sparks and Scales and Alexander won his category and overalled the whole race while Stella took a win in her category. Within 2 hours of their finish, my dad, his girlfriend, and my coach Jon Hyatt rolled in to the finish with their 50 mile races done and dusted. Everyone I talked to was very happy to have their races out of the way and had plenty of stories and experiences to share.

            Now it was my turn… there isn’t a ton to say about this one besides I spent plenty of time pushing the pedals up and down the mountain 3 times;) This totally was totally me riding my own race since I have never done an endurance race as challenging as this one in an experienced field of professional women. Right away I let the group get away from me and settled into my own groove. I didn’t really think of any thoughts or feel any pain as I effortlessly kept pedaling. I would catch ladies in my sights or a couple people out there on course, but other than that it was just my trusty steed and I going along. I came in around mile 35 before heading out on my third lap and at this point I was feeling fatigued. I was out of food, water, the bottoms of my feet were in tremendous pain from the stiffness of the shoe. Luckily, my dad and Kathy were in the aid station with everything I needed to get me through this next two hours on course and I was back going again and across the finish line with a smile and 54 miles with 7200 feet of climbing in my legs. I am so stoked to finish this “epic ride” and gain valuable experience and mental toughness. Now, a few weeks at home and then off to West Virginia for nationals!

Epic Rides - Carson City & Missoula - Cody Schwartz

The last few weeks have consisted of many miles on the road exploring awesome new places and sights and partaking in some challenging bike races.  A few weeks back my family and I set out on a road trip to Montana, to see Yellowstone, race at the Missoula Pro XCT, and enjoy the sights and destinations on the way home.  The trip to Missoula was amazing, we were able to spend a few days before the race camping outside of the park and exploring the park checking out all of the sights, doing a little bit of hiking, and also doing some fly fishing along the Madison River. It was an awesome experience and Yellowstone is definitely a place I want to come back to and explore some more.  After making the jaunt over to Missoula from Yellowstone on Friday, I was able to burn in a few laps of the course. The course was very steep, tight and twisty, and a fun ripper of a descent at the finish. It was definitely going to test my skills and my fitness. 

As race day rolled around I was less stressed because the XC race was slated to go off at a leisurely 7:00 pm instead of the usual 10:00 am most races choose. After a day of sleeping in, walking around town, and generally doing nothing, I felt well rested and ready for the night’s event.  At the start, I was struggling to hang on the steep stuff and was falling towards the back of the race. I was able to hold my position on the descent but I was really falling behind on the climbs. After a lackluster 4 laps, I was pulled from the race and my attempt was over. Sunday came around and I was motivated as ever to really give it my all and see where I could place in the Short Track race. After getting caught behind 2 crashes at the start, I had a few good moments the first two laps but quickly fell off, not able to hold the blistering pace. Missoula was definitely a tough race weekend for me as something just refused to click in my legs and I was left with a less than stellar performance. Despite the setbacks though, I was able to have a clean race, gather some info about the course for collegiate nationals in October, and have an awesome time on the road trip to and from the race. 

On the way back, we travelled through Idaho, Western Washington, and Oregon. We spent a day in Bend, OR, and I spent every available minute riding the world renowned trails Bend has to offer. I rode about 50 miles of mostly downhill singletrack and every inch of it was amazing! The corners were bermed, there were jumps and tables for as far as the eye could see, and plenty of optional rock features to keep you on your toes. It was truly like a mountain biker’s Disneyland. I found out on my way out of town that I was leaving Bend the day before the Blitz, an annual bike race turned party that involves a shuttled XC style downhill, a long jump competition, a hole-shot competition, and culminates with a beer chug competition. To top it off there’s an arm wrestling match at the end for $500. Maybe next year I’ll have to work this one in and see if I can chug a rootbeer instead!

We got home late Wednesday and I spent most of the day Thursday getting my bike ready for the final race in the Epic Rides series, the Carson City Off Road. I headed out for the ‘local’ race (it seemed as if it was in my backyard with only a 2 hour drive versus the 12-14 hour affairs the past few weekends) Friday morning with teammate Lauren Desrosiers. We stopped in South Lake Tahoe before heading into Carson City for a few laps on the always-fun Corral Trail, a downhill-flow style trail with rock gardens up top and endless flowing tables, berms, and rollers at the bottom. We rode for a little while out there and loaded up to head into Carson City for the Pro Riders’ Meeting that afternoon. After that we waited around for that evening’s fat tire crit in downtown Carson City, riding right in front of the state capitol building. After the shotgun start, man are those cool, the race bunched up and a lead pack formed. I was able to stay in the lead pack of 25 or so for most of the race, but could never quite get around to the front. Because of this, I was stuck in the back and forced to slow down for the corners then sprint to catch back up to the field. With about 3 laps to go I had enough and fell off the back of the group to cross the line in 29th. 

Sunday was the main event and with it a new course. The record-breaking winter we had in the Sierras last winter meant that much of the 50 mile course that was planned was still under significant snowpack. To cope with this, the crew at Epic Rides turned to the backup plan of 3 loops totalling 54 miles and over 7000 ft of climbing to dish out the punishment. With record heat on tap that weekend, the start was also moved up to 7:30 am, thankfully, to try and help us survive the heat.  After a social pace for the first two miles, the pace picked up significantly as soon as the road tilted up. I was redlining early on but I knew I had to keep it up if I stood any chance at finishing well. I kept pushing on like this for the first climb, riding on the ragged edge up the climb and keeping it nice and tidy on the descent back into town. Coming through the second lap, we had a slightly different lap with more climbing to complete this go-around. I knew I had to tone it back slightly or the heat and pace would really take it’s toll on me.  I rehydrated and refueled at the aid station and carried on at my own pace, as fast as I dare go in these conditions. At the start of the third lap, I was starting to feel the toll of 3 hours racing in the desert sun and hadn’t seen anyone in front or behind me for quite some time.  After a quick stop to fill water and eat some food again, I was feeling better and was ready to make up some ground this last lap. I dug deep and motored up the final climb and caught a group of riders ahead of me. I caught a few more on the descent into town and then unfortunately began to cramp. With only 5 miles left to go I knew I could pull it off if I could reign in my leg cramps. I ate a Gu and nursed my legs up the final climb.  After regaining some energy on the descent, I went into full-on time trial mode and made up several positions on the pavement back into town. I even passed a guy just 100 feet from the finish line! I came across in 32nd out of almost 50.

All in all I would consider it a major success, as I was able to pace myself well and listen to my body to prevent any significant issues from cramping, the heat, or fatigue. I would’ve liked to finish slightly higher up but the successful execution of my own race and strategy was well worth it and definitely a big morale booster. This was the hardest endurance race I’ve completed yet, and just finishing was a relief.  Summer is just starting and I have a full schedule of training, camping, and having fun ahead to keep the stoke high before Nationals in late July. Stay tuned!