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!

Epic Rides Carson City - Sean Dickie

The Carson City Off-Road was a great event and Epic Rides did an amazing job putting it all together; from the announcers, good people and of course the trails! I raced the 35 mile race along with my teammate Alexander Hill. Towards the beginning of the race there was a long road and I stayed on the draft of another rider. The pace began to be far too slow so I made the pass and continued up a long fire-road. From there I was still feeling fresh and we were beginning to near the top of the climb. I was ready to go hard at this point and I began to start a sprint and bomb the decent. But just as I began to start a gap I punctured my tire on a rock! Still hoping to get back into the competition I let the Stans sealant try to fill the puncture then shot the tire up with a C02 cartridge. Unfortunately it didn't hold so I resorted to putting a tube in. Once I finally fixed it I easily lost about 5 minutes but I wasn't going to give up that easy. Seeing that the tube was holding I starting to pick up speed again but I only got about a half mile before I got a pinch flat and had to stop again. The course was extremely rocky and I got very unlucky. At this point I didn't have another tube so I had to walk a mile or so before another rider stopped for me and gave me a tube. Taking off the tire again I pumped up the tube but realized something was very off. The tube I got was a 26 in. tube! So once again I put the tire back on and continued to walk for quite sometime until a sweep came. The sweep helped me out and got me another tube and I got rolling again. I only made it about 100 yards before it was flat again though. So at this point I figured there was something sharp that was in the tire popping the tube, but I felt my fingers through the tire and nothing was there. I continued to walk another mile or so until someone else stopped and gave me a c02 and a 29 in. tube luckily. This time the tube held and I was able to ride back down to the bottom. Overall it was a very frustrating experience as I was in the lead, but anyone who races knows the good races are not without the bad ones. The main thing is to not let something like this event stop you from coming back just as hard the next race. I'm going to keep training and come back ready to crush it at nationals!

Epic Rides Carson City - Stella Sisneros

The Carson City Epic was a terrific experience for my first long and hard, epic of a race! I chose to do the 35 mile race instead of the traditional 50. I had never raced any where near 50 miles before especially at high elevation, therefore the 35 was perfect. My race included a grueling start loop followed by the customary Carson City ridge-line course loop. Nothing to joke about!

Having already ridden the course the week prior, I felt pretty confident that I could perform well. Feeling great the morning of, I was becoming more nervous to start my first big race. I geared up my bottles and nutrition hoping it would be enough to hold me down for the entirety of the race. Rolling up to the start line I was amazed on how many people where about to race. With a mass start I was near the front and was feeling great. I wasn't completely sure on how to pace myself at the beginning but I was just focused on not trying to blow up all my matches on the start loop. I had a group of fast guys with me for almost the majority of the race which made me very motivated and focused to keep up with their tempo pace. 

The long rocky mountain downhill is where I did most of my fumbling. Tired from the climb I was trying to keep great composure but sometimes that got the best of me. I had a big train of guys behind me during a steep switch back and my front tire washed out causing a guy to ride right over me. Displeased I got up and focused on passing this group and giving it all for the main loop. Rounding out the start loop and  grabbing my feed bottle I knew I needed to kick it into gear!

The heat was definitely a controlling variable the entire time which made it an even more grueling race. During what felt like an endless climb, I persevered to the aid station where I refueled with a pickle and blocks. That gave me the energy to finish off that final climb and go hard. I was starting to feel fatigued on the downhill but luckily my scott spark was here to absorb every rock and root to help lessen the intense terrain and help let the bike flow. Giving it my all in the heat is exhausting and I couldn't wait to cross the line. The whole race I wasn't to concerned on my placement but come to find out I finished first in my category! That made my day even better. 

In the end,  I'm glad this race is done and dusted and hopefully it will be a great training factor for Nationals coming up this July! I definitely plan on going to more races like these especially hosted by Epic Rides because of how well put together everything was and how great the riding is. Good job to my teammates, Alex for grabbing a 1st place in the 35 and Colin with his 4th place in the 50! Nothing was easy about this race! 

 

Epic Rides Carson City - Alexander Hill

This was without a doubt, the most surprising and exciting race of my entire life. From a training perspective, I felt ready for this race as I had been tapering for the week and my hard workouts of the week went well. To prepare, I also kept my sleep schedule on track and made sure I was eating healthy, also, I did yoga on Wednesday morning and in the afternoon did a Float tank therapy session to help my muscles and mind relax and get into a good place. Friday night, I went to bed around 8pm and woke up at 2:30am before hopping in the car and being drove to Carson City by my dad. Rolling in around 6am, I ate some oatmeal,as pre race tradition, and then headed to the registration tent and got my number. I watched the 50 go off before warming up before my race. After a 20 minute warm up, I rolled to the start line and ended up starting about 3 rows back from the start. As soon as the race started, Sean and I made our way to the front and sat on another Junior rider's wheel for a few miles as we headed up the start lap climb. I felt really good up this climb and Sean and I broke away from the rest of the pack we had formed in the beginning of the race as we hit the singletrack, during the descent, Sean suffered a mechanical and I went solo out front for the remainder of the start loop, at the bottom being caught by Kenny Wehn, another 35 rider from Stans NoTubes. I felt really great after the start loop and decided to race my own race while heading into the main loop, breaking away from Kenny on the first stretch of climb. I stayed very focused for the climb and just hammered it out. Passing was a breeze as everyone in the race were really easy going and willing to move over, which was awesome. The entire second lap I just kept telling myself to race my own race. In the end, it totally worked out. I hit the road after the singletrack had stopped and was met with a police escort to the finish line. Not only did I win the Junior Men's category by an hour, but also won the overall for the Carson City 35, with over 220 riders! Probably the happiest I've been after a race ever, it still hasn't hit me but I'm stoked. I got to do my first ever interview for mountain biking. Super successful day, can't wait for next year.

Lost and Found - Cody Schwartz

93 miles of gravel and dirt roads and 7000 or so feet of elevation gain, with a few creek crossings and washed out two tracks thrown in for good measure. The event t-shirt also hinted to the infamous 'vicious cows' section of the ride, where belligerent bovine encounters were said to be almost as perilous as the inevitable leg cramps at mile 75. With empty valleys devoid of any civilization and 6 hours of riding uninterrupted by cars, the 2017 Lost and Found Gravel Race was an event that promised to have every participant lost at some point on the ride, either physically or mentally, then reel them back in to a 'found' state, either with the occasional orange ribbon on course peeking from behind the next corner, or the bacon and bourbon handups at one of the 5 aid stations on course. 


I had heard murmurings of the good times that were had at last year's rendition of the Lost and Found, an event that I missed due to other commitments.  The stories of perfectly stocked aid stations, gourmet meals before and after the race, and late night dance offs, all set within the idyllic mountain setting of Lake Davis had me eager to test my mettle.  After all, this event is put on by Sierra Buttes Trail Stewardship, the same folks who bring us the infamous Downieville Classic, a 'cross country' mountain bike race more akin to a weekend long frat-party than a top notch XC affair, but that's beside the point. Somehow, after talking myself into registering only a few weeks prior to the event and only hours before it sold out and hit its 1000 rider cap, all I seemed to remember of the stories were the good parts of the weekend, and mentally blocked out the other stories of what it takes to complete 93 miles at race pace on dirt. Oh well, I figured, it's just a bike race, how bad could it be?

After spending all of Thursday getting my Scott Addict CX dialed in for the event, with fresh brake pads and a bleed for my SRAM Force brakes and much-needed bottom bracket and headset overhaul after the harsh winter of cross racing, I loaded up my truck with all the essentials for a weekend of good times, like several pounds of breakfast meats, a fishing pole, and my trusty morning coffee supplies. I was going to have a good time; regardless of whatever happened on Saturday.   After pitching my tent and setting up a camp all too big for one man, I rolled over to registration and rendezvoused with all the characters of the sport that races like these pull together. After a short pre-ride to scope out the first and last climbs of the next day's monstrous course, I settled in to camp, threw my line in the water, and waited for night to fall. 
Laying in my tent that night it finally hit me, I wasn't here just for the camaraderie and fun, I had to ride 93 miles tomorrow. And not just ride 93 miles, which I hadn't done for over a year, but race 93 miles, a feat I had never before attempted. Nevertheless I hit the hay with the assurance of the safety net of 999 fellow racers and 5 well stocked aid stations and party stops, should the need arise. The next morning I awoke to the sun at a well-timed 6 am, minutes before my alarm was set to go off and shatter the calm atmosphere of the campground. After a well cooked camp breakfast,  8 am rolled around all too quickly and it was time to set off. I rolled over to Coot Bay staging area and took the front line with around 50 or so other Pro racers heading out for around 5-6 hours of pain and punishment.  After the neutral start following the Yuba Expeditions shuttle van, we hit the first obstacle of the day, the first dirt climb, and the race was on. Immediately the pace was upped, and I was working really hard to stay within sight of the front group. After I crested the first climb, I was within sight  of the lead group of around 7 and I knew I had to catch them or I'd be in no man's land. I pedaled as fast as my gear would allow on the next descent and into the base of the second climb and caught back on to the lead group. After extending our lead on the second climb, the group set a blistering pace on the gravel and dirt fire roads through the valley. I was reduced to following the faint outline of the jersey in front of me, matching his body movements to avoid obstacles and ditches hidden by the massive cloud of dust in his wake. After reaching the first aid station, the pace let up just enough for me to look around and realize the company I was keeping. The group consisted of Geoff Kabush (Scott-Maxxis), eventual winner Carl Decker (Giant), Barry Wicks (Kona), Tobin Ortenblad (Santa Cruz), Jamey Driscoll (Raleigh Clement), Anthony Clarke (Squid Bikes), and Chris Jones (United Health Care). This was a group of dudes who knew how to ride. And how to ride fast. After a brief breather where riders hopped off to take bathroom breaks and the group kept rolling at a conversation pace, discussing upcoming races and plans for summer, a chase group caught back on to us, and we were now a group of 20 or so. 

The pace continued to be relaxed, and I took a few turns up front, getting to know other racers and taking my turn in the wind. Eventually, Carl and Geoff decided it was time to really race, and moved up front to attack on one of the rolling descents. I jumped up and joined the group, moving at breakneck speed through the loose and rocky forest. Just as we were approaching the second aid station, around mile 35 or so, disaster struck. On one of the high speed descents, my front tire, obscured by dust, hit a rock or rut and I was hurled into a barrel roll on the ground at 30 mph.  After rolling off the trail as not to be run over by the group (one guy still managed to hit me), I laid there for a few minutes assessing the damage to make sure I was still in one piece. After assuring every thing was still functional, I rolled onto the next aid station, where I fixed my bike and took copious amounts of sour patch kid hand ups and watched most of my race pass me by. 


The next 15 miles were some of the toughest of the race, as I had no one to ride with and was seriously contemplating the meaning of life as I rolled though the forest, alone, bruised, bleeding, and hungry. After another refuel at mile 50, I caught a group of local guys I knew and joined in and rode the next 25 miles with them, hanging in and hiding from the wind. At this point my legs were on the edge of cramping and I had to ride right at the edge of cramps to balance speed and hopes of finishing cramp-free. After a much needed bacon handup from Paul of Paul Components at mile 75, I was energized and motivated to finish. After a few creek crossings and navigating the notorious 'vicious cows' section (I saw no cows), I was within spitting distance of the finish. I got so excited I decided to lay down the power up the second to last climb on the pavement, a choice I would soon regret. Right as I hit the final dirt climb of the day, my legs started cramping, an eventuality I had been trying to fend off for the last 85 miles. After climbing that section 3 times slower than I had in pre ride the day prior (check Strava, it happened), I limped up the pavement and across the finish line in 5 hours and 52 minutes. 

After spending half an hour laying on the ground, I finally got some food in me and began the recovery cycle. Luckily for me there was a catered post race meal, and plenty of food being made back at camp, so all I had to worry about in my cracked state was staying upright, which I did, but barely. That evening people from campsites all over gathered around the campfire as we all took turns telling our stories of the day's adventure and what we faced out on the race course. Snacks and drinks were passed around and everyone soaked up the outrageous tales of triple flats, racers drinking entire bottles of liquor on course, and the fine art of peeing from a bib short. As the sun set over the lake I thought back on my effort and what I had accomplished.  Maybe next year I'll do some bigger rides before Lost and Found to help me prepare. Or maybe not, seeing as I didn't die this year and it all just adds to the adventure. Either way I know I'll definitely be back!

Epic Rides Grand Junction - Cody Schwartz

 Coming into the Grand Junction Off Road I was expecting an easier time than the last Epic Rides event, the Whiskey, with only 40 ish miles on tap and 'only' 5500 ft of climbing. Boy was I wrong. To make the most out of the 1000 mile journey to Colorado's western desert I decided to make a road trip of it with a friend, leaving as soon as I finished up my last final exam, officially starting off Summer break with a bang. When we arrived on Friday, after the 2 day, 1000 mile drive over, I was pretty tired but excited to be racing in such a cool place. Racing kicked off Friday night with the Fat Tire Crit and it did not fail to disappoint. 

   I was able to start on the front line of the race, which was a major help in a race which consisted of endless .75 mile laps with 8 turns, sprint, turn, sprint, turn. The race started really fast, and I was working my hardest to stay at the front of it, ready to respond but out of trouble in the back. About halfway through, Geoff Kabush (Scott-Maxxis) jumped off the front and started a solo attack, and the pace really picked up. I jumped to the front and did my best to help reel him back in, taking my turn making pulls when needed. After a few laps, Todd Wells (TLD-SRAM) and Carl Decker (Giant) broke away and splintered our chase group. I did what I could to stay in the front, but was afraid of getting caught in a crash, navigating the many corners and curbs, and rolled across the line in 20th after 25 minutes of anaerobic awesomeness. 

    After a bit of a preride Saturday, Sunday was the backcountry race. Going into it I was expecting a real challenge with all of the technical rock and slab riding Grand Junction has on tap, but also looking forward to the new experience. The most treacherous part of the whole race was the first 3 miles on pavement, as the massive peloton weaved around traffic pylons and dodged parked cars, everyone on red alert for the next hidden obstacle. Luckily no one went down but it was really close a few times. Once we hit the dirt the race was on. A few bottlenecks up the road caused a traffic jam and I was forced off my bike to run up the first few climbs. After settling back in we hit the major hike-a-bike section of the day with a solid several hundred yard rock ascent, everyone settling in and just trying to make it up the loose and rocky trail. After the stop and go nature of the beginning, we hit the first descent of the day, Butterknife trail. I was sitting mid pack or so going on and feeling pretty good. In that 10 mile section of trail I passed probably 15 people stopped with flat tires from the super chunky terrain. Luckily my Stan's No Tubes Valors and Maxxis Icons helped carry me to a flat-free race. As soon as I hit the first major climb at mile 20 I knew I was cooked. I was out of water and my upper body was mush from the 20-mile rock garden I had just ridden.  I ate some food and settled in, riding a pace I knew I could sustain at my current cracked state but still move decently quick. By mile 30 everything had changed.  My legs had started cramping and any hopes of a speedy finish were dashed. I just wanted to finish. After taking handups of cupcakes, pickles, and coke, I got a second wind at mile 35 and felt like things were starting to turn around. Unfortunately though a few rock gardens later my legs began their vicious cramp cycle again and I was forced into limp mode. My only motivation came at mile 40, with the finish line only a few miles away when a racer from behind yelled," the women are right behind us, let's go!" Somehow I found enough strength within to drill the last section of pavement and not get passed by the women, although they are super fast and I think the winner probably beat me with our staggered start time taken into account, these gals are cray! 

  Overall though it was a race of mental strength and one I'm just glad I could finish. It was humbling to be put in my place by a race again and be reminded of what this is all about. The fun, and the pain. These endurance races haven't gotten any easier yet, just more educational. Hopefully I can put it all together for Lost and Found and Carson City the next few weekends!
    After the race we rounded out the road trip by spending some time in Durango, riding the epic mountain singletrack around there, including the famed Colorado Trail, as well as some in-town trails Quinn Simmons was kind enough to show to me. After a hard weekend of racing; relaxation by the lake, some fishing, and a whole lot of gourmet camp cooking was also in order.   On the return trip home we were able to stop in Moab for a quick rip around some of their local trails and it was amazing. The views were incredible and the trails were world class. I wish I could've spent more time there but I'm glad I got to see what it was all about at least.  My biggest takeaway from the week though, besides the fun, was the capability of my Scott Spark WC. Riding trails on my XC race bike most people were riding on full on trail bikes was pretty rewarding. The spark made the climbs nice and easy but still was able to hang when the trail got rough. Super impressed with this bike! That's it for now, stay tuned for the next summer adventure!

California State Championships - Lauren Desrosiers

This past weekend is a weekend I will always hold near and dear to my heart. It held lots of firsts and lots of lasts for me. It was the first time bringing the new edition of our family (our dog Darcy) camping, and first time having my dad and brother watch me race states. This also would ring in my last high school state championships and seeing many faces I have come to know the past four years.

Racing in the NorCal league since a young freshman in the JV category my goal was and always has been to leave it all out there on course, especially in a field of competitive girl racers hungry for a podium spot. I thought to myself as I sat on the line eyeing the competition and knowing that I had done everything I could to prepare for this moment. Nonetheless, I felt tons of nerves as I do before every race. Thankfully I had my coaches making me laugh from the sidelines and I couldn’t help but to smile and ease the nerves. Vanessa counted us down and the 40 or so of us were off the line and sprinting our way towards the long climb ahead. The group split up and right away Mina and Gwen were setting a speedy pace. I knew that I couldn’t hold that pace so I put myself in 4th knowing that I had people in sight to chase and people behind chasing me. On my first and second laps I felt kind off my game with too high of tire pressure and little air in my fork and shock, feeling more sluggish than I wanted to but I remained focus.

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Finally, when I was catching back onto the group I found myself on the ground in the matter of seconds! I couldn’t believe it as I picked myself off of the simple dusty downhill and scrambled to get back on my bike. Taking a pretty hard fall covered with plenty of dust, blood, and a little bit of mud with a lap to go. Getting back on my bike I felt pretty shaken up mentally as it is difficult to be in a race and take a spill. Behind me I knew the girls were going all in for the final podium position.  Coming into my third I heard my coach Mark Ferry yell “give this last lap everything you’ve got.” By now my momentum and energy levels had worn off quite a bit, and I couldn’t grip onto getting myself going again to pick up where I left off after my fall. Sadly, I was passed by 3 riders up the climb but I could see them just 100 feet or so ahead of me. This definitely was a close race, and it was bittersweet to be 10 seconds off the podium this year after I had a mechanical during states last year resulting in me to finish off the podium.

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Reflecting and writing this a week later and the satisfaction of being able to leave it all out there on the course and put in a solid effort alongside some speedy ladies. The competition in women’s mountain biking seems to become more fierce each year and that’s very exciting! My Cycling Development teammates had great races and it was loads of fun spending the weekend camping with them and cheering from the sidelines.  In the grand scheme of things… it’s just bike racing. Mountain biking especially is so humbling. There are good days and bad days and we have to appreciate them all. I couldn’t do what I do without the support and guidance of my coaches Jon Hyatt, Chris Sargent, and Mark Ferry. And I loved having my family there to cheer me on and it was the highlight of my season. ALSO a big big big thank you to all of the staff, volunteers, high school teams, racers, etc. involved in making high school racing into what it is today… you all ROCK and keep riding!

California State Championships - Tyler Sargent

My final states race was a memorable and bittersweet time. The racing was hard, but the event was fun and filled with memories that will last. Petaluma is a fantastic area, and a beautiful course was set up for us to race.

On the Saturday before the race, we headed out to Petaluma for the pre-ride. Fortunately for us, the drive was fairly short, no more than a few hours, and we were at the venue in good time. The venue at the ranch was beautiful, but windy for previewing the course, nevertheless, it was a good ride, and I was feeling confident going into the race the next day. That night, the ranch owners generously put on dinner and live music in the barn for the guests to enjoy! The food was wonderful and it helped to calm all the nerves before the anxiety filled event to come.

On the morning of the race, I came to the pits as the girls were beginning to line up. Watching them race gave us an idea of how the course conditions were. There were numerous crashes, which helped us realize that being in front early was key to doing well this race. Eventually, the time came to start warming up, and I got on the trainer, doing my best to block out the surrounding festivities and focus solely on what I needed to do.

Once I was warmed up and ready to go, I headed to the start line, arriving just as my wave was being called up. I took my place on the start line, and couldn’t help but think back to the first time I ever rode with my team. When I joined the team, I could not have imagined being in the front row of the varsity state championship. The countdown to the race start snapped me out of my nostalgia, and just like that, we were off.

On the first lap, everyone was pushing hard to get to the front. With a course that had basically one climb followed by a single descent, the entire pack stayed together for the most part. I was sitting second wheel, behind Xander Sugarman, and we charged up the hill. Coming around on the first lap, there were probably about 20 guys with us, all in a line up the singletrack.

I wanted to push the pace somewhat to try and get a gap, which is exactly what happened. Xander upped the pace, and got away with one other, while I was in a chase group with two others. I was still feeling good on this lap, but pushing as hard as I could, I still couldn’t catch up to the leaders. After two I was sitting in a respectable third, leading out the group of three.

On the third lap, however, I began to feel the fatigue. My legs started to burn going up the climb and I willed myself to hang on. I knew I couldn’t let anyone else slip away, but I could not hold on as one of my group of three dropped me and the other. Now sitting in fourth, I tried to keep the pace up as I definitely wanted a podium spot.

On the final lap, just as we passed through the finish line, Dylan Fryer attacked from behind me. After pushing the pace for three laps already, my legs had no response. He dropped me and went on to punish the rest of the racers in front of us as well. After being dropped three times, I was tired and my legs were basically dead. I was passed twice more before the end of the race, finishing in a slightly disappointing, but respectable nonetheless 7th.

Overall, I would have hoped for a better result, but I am happy with the effort I put forth and I have no regrets about my four-year high school mountain biking career. For me, it’s Nationals in West Virginia -- and then off to race in college for Colorado State University, which should be an equally invigorating experience.

California State Championships - Sean Dickie

Leading into the State Championship Race I retained the leader's jersey from NorCal. Winning NorCal there was a lot of pressure to perform well at states from myself as I knew I should be in the front, I just had to get my mind in the right place. The weeks leading up to the race my coach (Jon Hyatt) made sure to give me ample time to rest my legs and help me peak for this race. With this in mind I felt ready physically and mentally as this is what I was training for all year. The morning I traveled to the race I even shaved my legs for the first time. When I finally got to the line and my name was called my heart felt like it was about to explode I was so nervous. The few minutes I had to wait on the line before the race started felt like an hour there was so much anticipation. Once my race started it was a full sprint to try to get into position. I quickly fell behind Matt Saldaña and a crazy fast pace was set. Within the first half mile Matt and I had already dropped the rest of the competition. I fell in behind Matt's draft and tried to hang on for dear life. Being only one beat below my max heart rate I knew I was in for a brutal ride. I hung in with Matt for the first lap but he broke away from me on a major hill climb the next lap. I was able to slowly close the gap from about 40 seconds to 30 thanks to people keeping me updating along with my coach Mark Ferry. As the race wasn't even close to being over I kept pushing and I was told there was a 10 second gap after trying to catch up. This was motivating and I kept pushing but unfortunately with the course being so bumpy I bottomed out my suspension and ended up going over the bars. This easily set my back 20 seconds but I got back up and kept going. I ended up finishing the race in second not to far behind Matt but I gave it my all and pushed myself to a new level I had never gone to before. States was a great experience and my whole year has been and incredible journey to get where I am now. I couldn't have achieved what I have this year without the help of my coaches , my teammates and my family.  

Six Sigma Ranch - Tyler Sargent

What a fantastic end to my high school NorCal racing career! This final race of my senior year season left me feeling satisfied with all that has happened over the past four years. The race weekend started off on Friday driving down to the brand-new course at a fantastic venue in Clearlake. We arrived and set up camp with many of my teammates. After pre-riding the course, we all went back to camp to eat some dinner and have fun that evening before the race. The night before was a blast with all the camping festivities that occurred.

Before we knew it, the morning had arrived and it was time for the races to begin. The women’s races were first as always, and the rest of us eagerly anticipated a report on how the course was at race pace. The consensus was that the course was very tight and would therefore make for a technical and difficult race. As this was unlike any other course we had raced, our race strategies had to change somewhat.

Nevertheless, noon still came and the race was set to begin. My strategy was to pin it at the beginning to try and establish a breakaway early that would hopefully maintain position through the race. The gun went off and I sprinted for the hole shot. I got the front position and took the usual five lead riders with me. We had a gap on the rest of the group within the first 100 yards and the race was on! About ¾ of the way up the first climb, the initial sprint took its toll on me and Xander Sugarman and Tate Mentjies took off leaving me with Dylan Fryer and Julian LePelch. Soon after this, Dylan attacked and I could not hold his wheel.

I rode the rest of the first two laps of four completely alone, suffering along the way. Fortunately, I kept the pace up while also being able to recover and regain my focus. Going out for the third lap, my coach told me that I had made up almost 30 seconds on Dylan and Julian and that they were only 10 more seconds in front of me. Knowing this gave me an extra boost of motivation and I picked up my pace and caught the two in front of me by the top of the climb. I knew I could push through and drop them both if I attacked, so I made a move and went as hard as I could for a few minutes to establish separation. I managed to drop Dylan, but Julian was still with me. Going into the final lap I was in third, with Julian right on my wheel. We were together for the first half of the lap until I started taking risks and pushing the pace through the technical latter sections of the course. Fortunately, I made no mistakes and the risks paid off, allowing me to get away from Julian and finish in a highly respectable third on the day.

This was the final race of the NorCal season and overall I finished up with a second place in Varsity, which is an amazing result of which I am extremely proud.  I did miss the actual podium ceremony as I had to leave to attend senior prom! Still, I am overjoyed with the results of the season and now I am ready to prepare for States on the 14th !

Six Sigma Ranch - Lauren Desrosiers

I’ll start my race recap off with a quote that definitely has applied to me over the past couple of months. “Time flies when you’re having fun.” Well, after 6 weeks in a row of being on the road racing bikes every weekend, the fact of the matter just became my reality. Coming into NorCal Championships always ends the long block of intense spring racing and while it’s nice to get a week break, it’s also bittersweet to know that this was going to be my last NorCal race EVER before heading into State Championships on May 14th.

The crack of dawn rolled around and I was on the road again to make the trek to Lower Clearlake to pre ride this course that many that rode the day before described as “technical, climby, with lots of switchbacks.” It didn’t sound to favorable to most and right away I knew that this type of course would be great for my strengths as a rider and confidence to take risks and leave it all out there.

On the line I experienced excitement and a little bit of jitters as my competitors and I caught up on each others past couple weeks of racing, made some small talk, and soon enough we were off! We made our way through the grassy bumpy fields into a switchback climb that soon filed into singletrack. I knew that positioning would make all the difference in this race since there wasn’t too much room for passing girls or the possibility of error. I put myself in third wheel behind a speedy pace set by Kate Kelley. The group of 6 stuck together but I could already tell we had made a gap from the rest of the field. On a switchback climb Kate made a small mistake allowing Mina to take the lead and for the rest of us to follow. Mina held a consist pace and we came through the finish with a small gap on the group of 5, but they would continue to catch us on flatter parts of the course. Coming through the feed zone I was glad the pace slowed down quite a bit, so I threw my bottle to grab a fresh one and began to visualize my next lap. Everything was going to plan, my legs were feeling strong, and most of all I was focused on the moment. I knew the time to rip attack and rip each others legs off to the finish would be coming on this third lap.

Mina took off while I dug myself to not let her slip from me. I began to suffer a ton and make a few mistakes so Clodagh came around me. It was nice to have her pacing me just a few seconds ahead so I had someone to chase and motivate catching the leader. It was a close race and a great effort by everyone on the podium! I was more than happy to finish in 3rd, and to come away knowing I left it all out there!

Again, I can’t believe we are wrapping up HS season and my last one to boot. These past 4 years with Cycling Development and Vista Del Lago High School have been some of my best. I am beyond thankful for all of the memories made, opportunities presented, and race weekends that have come from my cycling family and the NorCal League. I’ll see you all at Petaluma for State Championships in 2 weeks of time! :)

Six Sigma Ranch - Alexander Hill

After a very successful Sea Otter weekend along with a great weekend of training featuring me having some of my favorite workouts on the bike I’ve had all season, I was pumped for the last NorCal of the season. This season for me has been all about learning, racing as a Junior with the big shots in Varsity hasn’t been easy at all, but as the season has gone by, my confidence within these fast races and knowledge of how they go down has improved significantly.

 

Having a call up in this last race was honoring to say the least, as I’ve maintained and proven that I can race amongst the best in the league and have remained in that top 10 bracket, even with some races not going to plan. I woke up early and drove up to Clear Lake the day of the race, sleeping in the car as my dad drove then pre-riding the course before the Varsity Girls headed off. The course was a lot different to anything I’ve ridden for a race. Sharp switchbacks, tight single track with not a lot of room to pass, steep punchy climbs, and some creek crossings thrown in there just for the fun of it. One thing that the entire course had in common though, was bumps……lots of bumps. Now, being a 125 pound guy, Im pretty light so I tend to bump around a lot over rough courses. Overall though, with the fitness I knew I had, and a good warm up, I rode over into my start line at 12:20 under the blaring sun ready for whatever was coming.

As we all sprinted towards the single track, I got a little caught up in the pack and slipped into 8th hitting the trail, not ideal but we quickly formed a group as the lead group pulled away less than 3 minutes into the race. This was due to a rider pushing too hard then bonking at the very beginning of the race, forcing him to pull off and recover and leaving us with a gap not even 5 minutes into the race. I held with this group for the first lap before dropping back into a group of 3. We held this for the second lap. Going into the third lap, after fairly consistent laps, my lower back started to bug me a lot. Along with the intense heat, this actually caused me a great deal of discomfort. Fluids were a huge deal in this race, to make sure I wouldn’t cramp, I had to intake around 2 and a half bottles.

 

I would say the third lap of this race was probably one of the greatest mental challenges I’ve been dealt all season. I knew I was not in an ideal position for the race and that all parts of my body were being rattled around by this course. Coming around for the last lap, I took a bottle to dump over my back, reminded myself that bike racing is just fun, and just kept it together as I rounded the single track for the fourth time of the race. Rolling through the finish in 13th was not rewarding, but that’s racing. It wasn’t a great race for me and that’s just something I have to deal with, but as my coach told me after the race, you learn more from the tough races than from the ones you win. After battling with my back bugging me and the intense heat, I was proud of myself at least.

This first season in Varsity has taught me a lot, it takes everything you have to race amongst these guys. After months of blood, sweat, maybe some tears here and there, I’m happy with my NorCal season. With ups and downs, I’ve enjoyed the experience greatly and am excited to put in the work for next year after this season is over. States is the last challenge for my high school racing this year and I’m gearing up for a challenge as we take on the SoCal Varsity squad in one big race. This week though, I’m switching gears for some AP testing and some SAT work, while still training and building my fitness to ensure States will be a good one.

Sea Otter Classic - Alexander Hill

After a stellar few days of Sea Otter under my belt, including a solid Pre Ride on Friday, watching my best friend rip it up in the downhill, and having the honor of meeting my idols and Olympic Gold Medalists Jenny and Nino, all while having a blast with my team mates and friends at the festival, I was finally ready to race. With all that plus more behind me, escaping the craziness of Sea Otter early on Saturday afternoon to get off my legs, hydrate, and rest the day before my race was a key part to my result this weekend. After a good dinner too, I hit the hay before my alarm beeped off at 5:30 the following morning. Going through my race morning prep on auto pilot as I have so many times this spring, I gathered my race gear, grabbed my bag and headed for the track around 6:30 after eating my traditional race-day breakfast. I rolled into the Mazda race way around 7, went to my coach’s camper to grab my bike then headed over to the team pits. After watching my team mates roll out on their Cat 1 race, I focused completely only own task ahead.

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Attaching my bike to the trainer, grabbing the bottles I had loaded with Osmo the night before then hopping on my bike, I began rolling to start my warmup. I have my warmup known by heart at this point in the season and just went through the motions. After a great warmup, I through on my jacket and rolled to the start line, butterflies in my stomach. When I got to the start area, 40 racers were already there, 16 more to come to make a huge pack of 56 talented young racers. I looked ahead, stayed calm and waited for the start. As soon as GO was yelled, I knew where I had to go and got there as soon as possible. After learning the hard way the past two years, I now know that positioning is everything at Sea Otter. 30 seconds into the race, i’m up sitting in third, aero tucked to match everyone around me trying to conserve energy for the long circuit ahead.

Cresting the first climb, I’m in an early break of 6 riders heading down the fast first descent. One that would later break into 4 after a mile of the first single track section. With a new SRAM Eagle chainring on my bike, staying up with the front pack was not a problem, and not spinning out on the long downhills helped my race a ton. Around mile 7, with the sand pit behind us and our solid lead group of 4 out in front, featuring a fellow team mate Josh, I felt comfortable as we settled into a rhythm. The course started to blend together at this point: fire road, single track, asphalt…repeat. We all stayed closely knit together and broke further from the pack behind us all the way up the grinder of a climb when approaching Couch Canyon. This is where things started to shake up. The last mile an a half of the race, our group of four began to separate and I found myself at the back, trying to grit my teeth and push every piece of energy I had left in me to the finish. Hitting the asphalt on the race way, we knew our finishing positions. As I sprinted to the line, I couldn’t be more stoked. Going from almost last in 2016, to 4th out of 56 riders in 2017 at one of the biggest races of the season is an amazing feeling. Also to make it better, my team mate Josh won the race, and I couldn’t be happier as he deserved it more out of anyone in our front pack.

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A successful weekend out at Sea Otter with a great result makes me hungrier than ever to get back to the world of High School racing next weekend to see what my legs can do.