The Nevada City Dirt Classic is a race that I always see on the calendar and get excited about each year but unfortunately it never seems to line up with my race calendar and I never seem to be able to race it. That's why I was even more stoked when I looked at the calendar this year and saw the stars had aligned; I would fit it in between Bonelli and Sea Otter, a weekend tune up to keep things sharp and have some fun in the mountains.
I drove up to the event the morning of the race, the hour and a half drive feeling like it was in my backyard after the back to back jaunts to LA the two weekends prior. As I climbed along HWY 20, I grew more and more excited as the forests grew thick with pine trees and I could practically smell the loam in the air. It was going to be a good day.
After getting checked in and grabbing my number plate, I decided to rip a quick lap to get familiar with the mountain course, one which I hadn't ridden since my middle school racing days years prior. The loop started out with a gradual descent along fire roads, diving off into the woods occasionally for a single track reprieve. The course then turned to a short kicker of a climb, dumping you onto some fresh cut winding single track, culminating in the truly epic Hoot Trail, a 5 minute long flow-style trail recently built by local riders that had perfectly spaced berms and jumps, the right mix of natural features, and super grip afforded by the hero-dirt conditions after the rain a few days prior. This was one of the best trails I have ridden in recent memory. After all of that awesome descending it was time to come back up, and ride up the main climb back to the start, about 650 feet of climbing spread along many short switchbacks and kickers.
The race started out pretty fast, with most of the group sticking together into the descent that started the race off. After following the wheel ahead of me for the first few miles, I decided to take a pull out front and push the pace a little bit. I attacked early into a short and twisty downhill section, and with some smooth riding was able to open up a gap of about 5-10 seconds. Into the first kicker of a climb I hit the gas and opened my gap to around 15-20 seconds going into the Hoot Trail descent. Another rider from behind started to make up some ground on me, so I focused on being really smooth and using my brakes as little as possible. During the race I thought I had extended my lead through this smooth riding, but after learned the rider behind me had actually crashed in one of corners, which is why I didn't see him at the bottom. Regardless that was one of my fastest and smoothest descents in a long time and it motivated me to push on and extend my lead. I went into the final climb of the lap with a full head of steam, motoring on up as fast as I could, and crossed through the start arch about a minute and 15 seconds ahead of 2nd place. The next lap was tougher, as I was all alone, and I really focused on riding smoothly and minimizing mistakes. I was really feeling the first lap's explosive efforts on the main climb, but I sat down and powered through, knowing the others would be hurting too. The last lap rolled around and I hadn't seen any other racers since the start, so I was worried, knowing they were either very far away or very close. I told myself it was the latter and pushed on, determined to hold my lead. I crossed the line in 1st place, around 2:15 ahead of second place, proud of my effort out there.
This race was full of firsts for me, my first Pro XC win, first time finally racing this event, and my first time racing XC on a flow trail! All in all it was a super satisfying day of racing bikes up in the mountains and I couldn't be more excited to head into Sea Otter this week!