Minh had this great idea a few months ago that I should start mountain bike racing. Unlike foot races and triathlons, the competitive field in women’s cycling is rather small. And then if you divide the sport of cycling into its two parts (mainly road and mountain), the field gets even smaller. And if you go even further and divide out the categories and age groups, each field of competitors (for women) gets really small. For instance, the Camp Pendleton Bulldog Bike Race I competed in a few weeks ago (see my last post), the Women’s 25-29 age group consisted of 2 people. So, even if I’m slow, I default to second place. YEA!
If we don’t count our local Over the Hump races last summer, the US Cup Race at Bonelli this past weekend (March 14) was my first official mountain bike race ever. Minh and I wanted to be ready for it, mainly because Minh was hoping to score an invitation to the Kenda Cup Invitational Shootout in September and secondarily because I like to know what I’m getting into ahead of time, so we went out to pre-ride the course the weekend before the race. Unfortunately, we had quite a bit of rain the week before that weekend, and the course was muddy. So muddy, in fact, that they closed off more than half of it, which didn’t make for a very good “pre-ride.” However, we did what parts of the course that we could, which were all still pretty muddy (can’t even imagine how muddy the closed sections were if open sections were any indication). We even went back and practiced some technical sections that we were a little wobbly on, which is something that we never do when leisurely riding. Luckily for us, the parts of the course that were open were the more technical sections of the course, so we were in good shape. We were out there for a couple hours, and we got pretty dirty. Minh had a good time cleaning up our bikes later that day.
Race day was exciting. Our race wasn’t starting until 11:30AM, so Minh and I were able to sleep-in.. OK.. not really sleep in. First, we actually lost an hour of sleep because Daylight Savings Time started this weekend (huzzah!!). Secondly, we got up early to go to Mass so that we wouldn’t have to sit in Mass tired later that day. Just our luck, the priest forgot to change his clocks and was late, but only by 15 minutes. After Mass, we went home to pack up the gear and change, and then stopped by Arsenio’s for a breakfast burrito (breakfast of champions) before heading up to San Dimas.
The park was pretty crowded already by the time we got there. We had to park the car pretty far from the race start, but it didn’t matter much since we had our mountain bikes. Team Velosport/Team Sho-Air/Sonance were out in full force. Seemed like at least 80% of racers were sporting team kits of some sort, and atleast 20% of those were representing Sho-Air/Sonance. Or so it seemed, but I don’t know the exact numbers. Our fearless team captain, Tim Zandbergen, made sure that the EZup was up and fully stocked with food and energy.. oh… and massages provided by Dynamic Touch.
After Minh and I picked up our race plates and registration stuff, we had some time left to pre-ride/warm-up before race start. I was able to get a couple miles of the first part of the course (which we didn’t pre-ride the prior week because of mud), which was good to do (for a warm-up) and good to see (because it was a long, but not too steep, fire road climb). My class (Cat 3 Women 19-29) was the last wave to go (all Cat 3 Women were in this wave), just minutes behind Minh’s class (Cat 3 Men 25-29). There were about 10 of us in the wave, and only 1 other girl in my class (yea! default podium!).
I think I started out pretty strong, but my problem, with all races or rides of any sort, is that I totally use way too much energy at the start of the ride and end up burning out pretty fast. I lost the other girl in my class pretty early on because I am not a strong climber. I made up for it, however, by passing some guys who were weaker riders than myself. That was nice. I’m glad Minh and I were able to pre-ride part of the course because those tricky parts were really easy during the race. Most likely because I was trying to go fast and not over-analyzing the ruts/rocks/gravel/etc. I finished my first lap in just about 45 minutes, and the second one a bit longer because I was getting tired. Also, about half way through my second lap, this tree just came out of nowhere and took me out. I fell off sideways into the course tape and the end of my handlebar somehow jabbed into my upper thigh. Came out with a few bloody scratches, but had to get up and finish the race.
Minh was already at the finish when I got there. He DNF’d. His crazy, non-destructive tubless tires did not hold out as he had hoped, and he got a flat during his second lap. But, he did have fun and got a fairly decent ride out of it, so he was happy. Afterwards, we stuck around for the awards ceremony and to watch the Pro Women’s Short Track Race (and the beginning of the Pro Men’s Short Track Race). I also got a nice post-race massage and In-n-Out was there giving out free burgers to race participants.
Overall, it was an awesome time. I’m excited to get out and ride the rest of this year/season. I know that if I get out on the trails enough, I’ll get a lot stronger on the climbs, and I’ll be that much faster. And maybe one of these days, I won’t be defaulting to second, but will actually beat someone for first.