SSouthridge Winter SSeries Opener

The first race of the year and the beginning of the Southridge Winter Series started this weekend in Fontana, CA. I was lucky enough to double-check the weather the night before which showed high temperatures for the day in the high 50’s. It was not going to be a warm day by California standards. I arrived at the race site approximately 90 minutes prior to start time to register and prep. The registration line was close to 30 min long so that ate a significant amount of time. I quickly stretched, warmed up and assumed my position on the starting line, which held a surprise. Everyone was expecting to ride two laps for the SS class, but we were informed that the race would be three laps increasing the distance by just over four miles. To be honest, I was not completely mentally prepared to do three laps, but at this point there wasn’t much of a choice.

First turn out of the gate.
First turn out of the gate.

As we lined up for the start of the race one of the SS racers had been in the same class as me in the last series, The Triple Crown (and happened to win the series as well). I figured the longer I kept him in my sights the better I would do. By the top of the first big climb I was beginning to realize that I would not be able to keep up my current pace for three laps. The course is a shorter one with only just over four miles per lap and in terms of elevation gain/change essentially climbs up the hill and then heads down the backside of it. The first section is flatter fire-road and rolling single-track that leads to the first big climb, a longer paved section. At the top of the pavement starts a single-track that briefly drops with some sharp turns, then continues on for the next longest climb and hardest (at least for me) of the lap. Next there is a brief respite from climbing with some nice rollers until the single-track hits a very steep climb to leave that section and finish the majority of the climbs. After that comes the fun mostly downhill technical single-track. Once down the hill, there is some flat fire-road for a bit which leads to a VERY steep loose short climb ending in single-track the feeds that chicane and eventual finish line.
Charging toward the chicane.
Charging toward the chicane.

This was the third time I have raced at Southridge, but the first time on a hard-tail. I found out very quickly I couldn’t rail the downhill sections quite as hard without rear suspension. The downhill sections on this course are a bit more technical than most of the other XC courses I have ridden. My rear wheel tried to slide around and lead down the trail, and I had a near washed out on a section, but I quickly recovered got a better feel for the trail and for the next two laps. Any distance I had lost on the climbs against my pace rider I made up in the downhill sections, and was only a few riders back.
Passing through the chicane.
Passing through the chicane.

By the end of the first lap I already felt like I was bonking. So, on the second lap I backed off on the longer climb just a little to make sure I could continue to push hard in the final lap. I hadn’t been keeping close tally on my race position, but by my count there were at least two other racers in my class ahead of my at this point, but I wasn’t positive. As I came over the top over one of the last rises on the second lap I passed the other rider I had been trying to pace against stopped with a mechanical. I checked to make sure he was ok as a rode by. Once I passed him, I pushed up the next climb to try and gain whatever distance I could. I completed the remainder of the second lap uneventfully only getting passed on the flatter sections by some of the older geared racers. The last lap was do or die time, and I laid everything else I had left on the table. On the steep climbs it was all I could do to keep the cranks turning. I made it to the flats on the back side of the hills and was nearing the home stretch to the finish line. As I previously mentioned, the last climb of the lap is a short steep, rocky and loose. Racing this course previously, I had never cleaned this climb. I usually was able to make it half-way to two-thirds of the way up before stalling out and having to dismount. I was stoked that I was about to clean it three times in row, but I “spoke” too soon. I came over the last bit of the climb, my front wheel caught a baby-head rock and I almost went OTB. My legs slammed into the bars and my feet came unclipped. As I balanced on the front wheel I was able to push back just enough to keep from completely falling and returned the rear wheel to the ground. I regained my position in the saddle and stood up for the last couple hundred yards of the race. Single-track to a small drop, a few turns into the home stretch, then an all-out sprint, or as close as I could muster at that point, and finally the chicane and finished line.
Approaching the finish line.
Approaching the finish line.

After waiting for a few hours for the results, second place! Can’t really complain about that for the first time out on the SS! Looking at the times, I was about four minutes behind the leader, so that definitely leaves room for improvement.

10 Replies to “SSouthridge Winter SSeries Opener”

  1. Dan, great job and great write up I throughly enjoyed reading it. Isn’t that just like life: “…I spoke to soon”

  2. Fancy pedal work if you ask me…”hey RL, what did you think of Dan’s racing skills?” RL replied, “I think its Fancy Pedal Work!”

    Nice pics, very dramatic!

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