This weekend was host for the 4th installation of the Southridge Winter Series. Heavy rain had preceded the race both the day and night before, even more had been forecasted for this Saturday. Luckily enough, the morning of the race was relatively free of rain but still fairly chilly. Due to the poor weather (I assume) combined with the Bootleg Canyon race in Las Vegas, there didn’t seem to be anywhere near the normal turnout of racers showing up for this race. I checked the weather and radar before leaving for Fontana in the morning and it showed temps peaking at 64 degrees just after the race and the rain arriving about the same time. I layered up and even put on my Serfas shoes covers lest the rain arrive early during the race. I had spent some time on the bike the night before adjusting the bottom bracket (finally got rid of a creak I had for a few weeks), adjusted my chainline (which didn’t solve another issue I’ve been having), and raised my stem up on the fork to above the last spacer. This last geometry change I think I’ll keep for two reasons: first being comfort. It is easier on my back when torqueing away on the climbs. Secondly I felt like I had a little more torque and leverage on the bars during the climb because of a more upright position.
Once everyone lined up at the start there were only five single-speeders, and four of them were in the older age bracket. This left me the only SS rider in my age bracket. I didn’t really mind the lack of riders for this race, as I hadn’t gotten in my normal workouts the previous week partly due to rain and general busyness with work. I was worried about paying the price for the lack of training during this race, but luckily for me this would just be a race against the clock alone. Lined up at the start all of the single-speeders were prepared to start. One thing I’ve noticed over the last few races is the benefit of bike skills like track-standing. While I’m not great at this, I am still working on it, but on the starting line none of the riders track-stand for a faster start. I find it better to balance this way before the proverbially starting gun. This way I am already completely on the bike with both feet clipped in. I was able to use this tool to be the first one off the line and through the first turn. The riders in the older bracket are significantly faster than I am, so I tried to keep up with this group for as long as I could. By the time we hit the HAB section I was trailing the pack. I had issues my shoe covers on the hike in that they slipped off of my toes and were pointing up like elf feet. While I’m sure it looked goofy, it didn’t really impede me, so I left them alone for the race.
By the time I finished the hike, the other SS riders were already on their bikes and climbing the next hill. I jumped on my bike and headed down this section of single-track. I caught some geared riders on the climb and passed them. By the top of the climb there was only one geared rider ahead of me and I continued to follow him down the technical single-track. I was struggling to hold my line, and clipped a rock with my front wheel. I was able to quickly recover and continued only to be thrown badly off my line on the next turn into a climb where I had to dab, losing time and distance on the other rider.
I finally started to find my groove as I headed up the last bit of single-track climbing and started to head down the back of the hill. I caught a coupled a geared riders and was able to get around them on the way down. Up that last climb and down to the flats, I spin away. This is usually the point where the geared sport riders catch up to me, but there weren’t any today. I continued to spin toward the last climb of the lap. In my warm up, I had checked out the hill to see what a good line would be after the rain. Most riders take a far left line or just walk up the middle. I had seen a good line on the right and hit that one hard. I made it two-thirds of the way up and then spun-out on over some loose rocks. Not what I was shooting for. I jumped off the bike, ran up the last bit of the hill and got back on as quickly as I could. For some reason after that steep hill the next 20-30 yards always feels like riding through molasses, and that no matter how hard I push I can’t gain any momentum. The last descent of the lap had been severely changed damaged by the rain with a rock protruding in the middle, a large rain run on the left, and mud at the bottom to make the turn out at the bottom and more difficult.
As I crossed the finish line for the first lap I noted the time on the clock, which I thought was about a minute faster than I thought I had done before. I thought I had gotten off to a slower start, but maybe I was making better time. This encouraged me to push harder on the second lap. Coming through the opening flats and into the single-track I came upon a geared rider who decided to fix his chain in the middle of the trail (it is true single-track here, and no means a two-way street), not off to the side. I call out to warn of my approach and he slides over just enough for me to get by. I passed through the remaining single-track heading toward the HAB and began my ascent. I was gaining on a couple of geared riders ahead of me, but inasmuch ground as I was gaining on them, there were a couple a riders behind gaining on me. At the top of the HAB I was worried I wouldn’t been able to stay ahead of them, but as soon as my feet were off the ground and back on the pedals I had put sufficient ground between us to maintain my position.
Coming down the next single-track section felt much better than it did on the first lap. I focused on holding my lines and minimizing braking through the corners. Up the pavement and back to single-track, I come over the first rise with a little more oxygen left in my lungs than normal. As I climbed through this single-track section I am able to catch and pass several geared riders. I am feeling pretty strong at this point and continue to push up this climb and eventually out of this section of the course. I start the fun backside of the hill, and pass a few more geared riders, but none of the other SSers are within sight. There is one medium climb partway through the descent. I stand up and really crank on the bars on my way of up the hill. Two more geared riders down, and I’m almost to the top, when another geared rider returns the favor. I open up my fork for the last descent to the flats and follow him the rest of the way down. I can’t match his pace on the flats, but I try and keep my cadence as high as I can at this point and am determined to clear the short uber-steep last climb of the lap. A few yards from the base of the climb I ramp up my speed and give it all I have left and am able to clean it this time using the line on the left side. Through the “molasses” section and the last big of single-track leading to the finish line, I clear the last turn and it take the final charge of a full-out sprint to the chicane.
I ended up finishing about a minute slower than the previous race, but due to the lack of other riders I still came in first. You can never really complain about a first place finish. The good part of this is that this race and the final race of the series are for double points towards overall standings. Before the start of this race I had been in second overall for the series, but the double points for this race pushes me ahead of the first place rider, and should keep me there for the overalls through the next race assuming I complete the final stage. In two weeks I will be wrapping up this series and my first race series on the single-speed.