After a heavy road racing schedule through the spring, switching over to mountain biking did wonders for my motivation. The last month has really been a bit of a breakthrough for me. I won Winthrop and Greenwater, placed second at Padden, and then had a huge win at Gearjammer last weekend. Yes, these are only local races, but they are the races that I enjoy and want to be at right now.
I was especially excited to race the Padden Pedal in Bellingham. I knew the course really well, but hadn't raced there since I was a junior. Luke Pennington and I had a great battle for second, while Canadian, Ricky Federau, took the win. Talking to Ricky after the race, he put this idea into my head of coming up to Whistler on thursday, racing the local "Toonie Race," mountain biking on Friday, then racing Gearjammer in Squamish on Saturday. hmmm, that sounds like it could be really awesome, I thought.
Photo: Katie Greene/The Bellingham Herald
After Wednesday Night Worlds(the best race around) I began my adventure by driving to Bellingham and staying with Whitney. Well actually, the adventure part began at home when my van wouldn't start and I had to fix the wiring to the starter solenoid. To make matters worse, it wouldn't start back up once I was in Bellingham. Whitney and I had to push start it down Railroad street in order to get it back to her house wed night.
Ok, so got the van going Thursday morning and slowly drove to Whistler. Once there, I did an easy lap on the Lost Lake trails to kill some time. In the afternoon, I drove over to Creekside for the Toonie race. At the start line I met a few familiar faces such as Ricky Federau, Mike Vine, Vesa Suomalainen, and Richie Schley. The race totally kicked ass! About 45 minutes of full-gas mountain biking on super fun Whistler trails. To make it even better, there were two kegs of beer and all the food you could eat at the finish! I finished 2nd, behind Ricky, and met a lot of great people.
Friday morning, I met with Ricky and a Whistler local and new friend, Chris Clark. On the drive to meet them, I picked up two hitchhikers from Spain who begged me to drive them to Seattle. Sorry guys. Chris took us on an awesome ride through the westside trails. One trail in particular, High Society, was ridiculously technical. Huge rock faces, chutes, roots, drops, trials moves, you name it. So much fun! After burritos, the rest of Friday was spent lounging on the beach at Rainbow Park. Ahhh, summer...
Swimming at Rainbow Park
After sleeping in the Walmart parking lot the night before(hey, it's free), I made oatmeal on my jetboil and got ready to race. For Gearjammer, everyone parks at the finish in downtown Squamish and either rides or takes a shuttle to the start at Alice Lake. I rode the 5 miles to the start with a friendly group of Canadians. On the start line I looked around and was surprised by the number of well-known riders around me. It looked like there was a lot more depth than I had remembered from 2008. I was reasonably hoping for a top-5 finish.
The race got underway and we climbed gradually on fireroads for about 10 minutes. Everyone was jockeying for position. Our lead group was still 20 riders strong when we hit the first singletrack, which made everyone sprint for the bottleneck. Neal Kindree went down and stopped a few riders behind him. I was able to skirt around the pile-up and enter the trail 3rd wheel behind Ricky and Kevin Calhoun. The three of us, and Collin Kerr behind me, began putting time into the chasing riders as we rode the various Squamish trails.
When we came out onto the Mashiter Creek fireroad, we had about a 20-30 second gap on the next group. It was becoming apparent that Ricky was the strongest of the four of us as we pacelined down the dirt road. After grabbing a cup of water in the first feed zone, we began a rolling climb. The two Rocky Mountain riders, Collin and Kevin, popped off the back and I was soon to follow. Ricky was really putting the hurt on up the climb and I struggled to stay close. As we climbed Skookum, I would catch glimpses of him in the straightaways. I was happy to reach the high point of the race and begin the fun singletrack descent down Power Smart and IMBA Smart. I knew I must not be too far behind Ricky because I could see his dust cloud settling.
Too soon was I once again climbing, this time up to the top of Recycle. Descending Recycle and Pseudo Tsuga, my upper body was really feeling the tough downhills to the point that I was actually relieved to start climbing the smooth Garibaldi gravel road. As I was about to turn right onto the Darwin Bridge trail, I could see Ricky riding straight up the road past the trail. I yelled at him and told a course marshall to let him know he had missed the turn. Unfortunately for him, he did not hear me. Back in 2008 when I raced Gearjammer, I missed a turn and lost a few minutes. I did not want to make that mistake again.
Now leading the race, I discovered some extra strength, but my legs felt like they might start cramping soon. I was out of water and the 80+ degree heat was taking its toll on my body. To make matters worse, I did not have anyone in the feed zone to give me water. Not good. Riding down Powerhouse Plunge I was making a lot of mistakes and even crashed once. I took a few deep breaths to reset myself and began riding smoothly again.
After the plunge, my legs really began to cramp as I rode the short climb up to the feed zone. I drank a neutral cup of water and then begged for someone to give me a bottle. Thankfully my Whistler friend Chris Clark's girlfriend gave me a half-full bottle. This bottle totally saved me! Thank you! It was a strange coincidence that it happened to be Chris' girlfriend who helped me because we had not actually met before. She did not even know who I was or that I knew Chris!
My legs now felt better, but I could see a rider coming into the feed zone, probably about 45 seconds behind me. It was going to be a close race. I pushed hard up Fartherside and powered down S&M Connector, thinking that I was close to the finish, but as I came out onto the Pipeline, I realized I was wrong. I had mixed up the Test of Metal and Gearjammer courses, forgetting that in Gearjammer we had to ride an extra loop in Crumpit Woods. This extra distance really hurt as I rode the switchbacking climb up to 7 Stitches. I focused hard on the descent out of Crumpit Woods, powered down Plateau Drive, descended past the Smoke Bluffs, and turned onto Loggers Lane. I looked back a final time, saw two riders far behind me, but knew I would win. Rolling through the finish line I couldn't believe I had done it!
Winning Gearjammer definately means a lot to me. I know it's not a national championship or a world cup, but it is the kind of race that I love. The trails are superb and the field is talented. I am now ever more excited for my years of racing to come!
Squamish Chief newspaper article: here
Pique News Magazine article: here
Full Results: here
Race Photos: here