RL Policar-“Here’s a race report from our newest team member, David Sanderson.”
I nervously await the start, wishing I had done so many things differently, but I know I did at least one thing right, and that was enter my first bike race ever…but I’m getting ahead of myself, lets start at the beginning.
The past 4 weeks of my life have been an amazing whirlwind, I’ve gone from a guy who lives in Fullerton and rides the Fullerton Loop by himself, to befriending a great group of people here on MtnBikeRiders.com. It all started with a simple email, something along the lines of “Hey, when are you guys gonna ride the loop?” and now four weeks later, I can say I have a new group of riding buddies and friendships developing that I’m sure will transcend mountain biking. My decision to race was just as nonchalant as could be. RL-“Hey Dave, you ride pretty good, want to race?” David-“Sure”.
I recently bought a Redline Monocog and have been hooked on Single Speed ever since. If you want to increase your climbing strength (no gears), improve your line selection (without suspension, you’ll be more judicious) and sharpen your skills (amazing feedback), get a rigid single speed, I can think of no better (inexpensive) training tool, and it’s so much fun! It feels like a big BMX bike! It’s the only bike I’ve ridden on the Loop since! So that’s the category I decided to enter, Men’s Single Speed 34 & Under.
Back to the starting line, admittedly I’m a lil nervous with this being my first bike race ever, but more excited than anything else. Most of the pressure I put on myself is my own desire to do well. Not helping my chances were the fact that most of the other riders in my class were wearing full spandex from several local bike shops, riding significantly more expensive bikes and were not wearing hydration packs, all signs of the dedicated mountain bike racer. Fortunately team support is close by in the form of Eric “The Animal” Hunner, who last minute made it out, got registered and got to the starting line cold, no warm up for “The Animal”. He has the ability to just sign the dotted line and drop the hammer.
With a yell by the one and only Donny Jackson (the man very much responsible for the race series with support from Shimano & Subaru), we’re off. I’m trailing badly at the start; I quickly learn that you should do a proper warm-up before racing (Tip One)! I’m smart enough from past sporting experience to not blow everything I got all at once and to save myself, for this is going to be a long race. Besides, I know Eric is upfront and battling for the lead, the team will look good as long as I don’t DNF!
My energy conservation strategy pays off in the form of picking off three riders as we make the long climb up the road to the water tower (Tip Two, never let your heart rate climb above what you can maintain climbing, its very difficult to slow it back down to something acceptable while climbing). We top the climb and now we’re in my strength, single-track! Its here I’m able to make up the ground on one more rider. I wait until there is a little extra space on the trail and squeeze by.
At this point I’m pretty much alone, I’ve dropped the guys that I’m quicker than, and those quicker than me are out of my site. Now my legs are waking up and I’m really starting to enjoy the ride, just like my normal fun ride the previous week with Priscilla, just at a quicker pace (Tip 3 Pre-ride the course if you can). About thirty minutes in and lap one is over. RL and Priscilla are cheering me on, taking some pictures and RL is handing out some much needed GU. I quickly learn the value of what is known as “race support” (Tip 4 If you’re like me, you’ll peter out of glycogen somewhere between thirty minutes and an hour, get some form of easy to digest energy into your body, before you hit the wall!).
Beginning lap two and my legs are really starting to wake up and are ready to work, I’m in my groove and even make another pass on the climb to the water tower. Told you I had a bad start! I’m beginning to encounter traffic from behind now. It’s the top sport riders who started after us single speeders, they’ve made up the ground and I have to concede and let them by.
I’m ticked now! The sport rider who I graciously let by is now slowing me down in my single-track section! I’m waiting for my opportunity to pass back and it comes soon as he goes down in one of the trickier sections, its here I notice he’s listening to an IPod while racing. I’m fine with that but if you do, have the volume low enough so that you can hear someone yelling “passing on the left!”
I’m trying too hard to be quick in a slow part of the course. A sharp downhill left turn followed by a sharp right that heads uphill. As I turn left I’ve got my weight back as if I’m going down a steep hill. This is fine in a straight line, but here I pay the price as my front tire does not have enough weight on it and washes out. No real damage other than a couple scrapes and having to let three sport riders pass before I remount.
About half-way through the second lap and my hands are beginning to cramp, particularly my ring fingers. I tend to brake with either my index or index and middle fingers so they get to rest while the ring finger carries the load.
As I near the end of lap two I feel my calves beginning to give warning sings of impending cramps. They burn and tighten up like a seized engine. I clean up my pedal strokes and move back in the saddle to give them a stretch and rest. I try to eat an energy block to replace what my body has lost only to drop it in the dirt. I also realize that I’m not in race shape. (Tip 5 Prepare for your race by riding at your race pace for the length of time you anticipate your race lasting. You can look up previous winning times for Southridge here http://www.southridgeusa.com/index.php .)
I come around for the beginning of lap three and RL and Priscilla are still there cheering me on. It hits me like a ton of bricks when I realize the RL is not holding GU! I don’t know why but I keep this info to myself, instead of screaming for GU like a hungry infant. Really things are going well. I’m in a good mood, had no delusions of a podium finish and was just riding for fun. I smile as I ride by and pop an exhausted excuse for a wheelie for the guys. A few big gulps of water and onto lap three.
It’s the water tower climb again! I’m digging in as hard as I can and the head wind has definitely picked up. I grind out about half of the climb and realize I’d be quicker in low gear (single speed bikes actually have two gears)! I hop out of the saddle and try to run but my calves remind me of the dues I’ve not paid and proceed to walk fast. Again, I’m not in race shape! I top the climb and its back in the saddle again. The fun single track is all too short and now I’m riding in the flat getting set to attack the last half a lap when it happens. A bike passes me, not that big a deal; sport riders have been catching and passing for quite some time now. Until I realize he has no derailleur! He’s in the same category as me! I dig deep and push hard, but my tank is empty as I watch him pull away.
I come around the last lil’ climb and proceed to the mini rock garden that’s been giving people fits all day. I take my “secret” line off to the right of the main line and quickly discover that my line isn’t a secret and is now completely rutted. My front wheel digs in and I’m heading down quick. I manage to unclip, hop over the bars and run out my momentum as the bike flips end over end. Spectators call out “Are you okay?”, and I think “No, I can’t catch the guy who passed me!”, but I don’t think this is what they were referring to though so I reply “Yeah!”
I’m trying to be quick through the final section which consists of flat turns, I hate flat turns! I’ve tried early, middle and late apex turns to no avail. I’m just slow here! I make a mental note to practice flat turns at home.
I’m dead tired, cramping, hungry and nearly out of water when I hear RL on a megaphone! “You can do it David, let’s go!” I can’t help but smile as I spin out the last 50 yards. Its all smiles at the end, I can’t believe how much fun that was. I really enjoy pushing myself and finding my limits. I did that today. I found the strengths and weaknesses in my riding and am satisfied with my non-podium finish. I mull around for a bit to recover before I head over to check out DH practice, I even get to glimpse Joe and The Moe racing Super D.
Funny story, Joe passes by and keeps on the gas, he is racing after all. Moe, who is in a sprint race with two others at the time, looks over at me and say’s hello. I’m laughing now and wondering if Moe is too nice or just that damn good! A lil while later, RL calls me “Hey David, the results are posted, come check it out”. I’m shocked to see my name in third place, that guy that passed me must’ve been in a different category! Race time is an hour and thirty six minutes, ten minutes behind Eric “The Animal” Hunner. I’m psyched, I podiumed my first race out, in an open class filled with sport and expert riders. I also quickly deduce that Eric is approximately ten percent faster than I am today. (Note: Eric was slowed down by a stomach flu he overcame only a day earlier!)
Racing was an awesome experience! I’m absolutely hooked and intend to “train” so that my times will improve. I know most racers were like me and slowed by our behavior over the holiday season, but it’s a New Year and time to get in gear. My biggest regret about racing is not doing this sooner! If you enjoy pushing yourself and finding your limits, then racing is for you!