Backbone Race Report from Sea Otter is up! Might have to submit this one for the next Hemingway write-alike contest.
... Backbone Race Report from Sea Otter Classic!
It was a dark and stormy night. No, scratch that, that was some of the previous years in Monterey - in 2013, unlike the entire northern tier of the United States, the Sea Otter Classic saw perfect weather all weekend. The kind of weather the semi-native Californians would proclaim, "Dude, it's kind of chilly" - - at an evening low of 49. Bright, sunny, breezy days. The kind of days that make for world-class wine growing regions, and world-class bicycle racing.
The turnout was huge in every way, too. The Sea Otter Expo area was packed with industry companies, including Backbone sponsors Kenda Tire, Xpedo Pedals, Sigma Computers, Hydrapak, KMC Chain, Formula Brakes, Royal Racing, and many more.
Yours truly (Mark Thome) was on point to see and be seen for the Backbone team, and the weekend did not disappoint. Good conversations with many of the vendors (check out a bunch more photos over on the Malakye FB page), and plenty of time on the XC course, pre-riding on Friday, and racing the HUGE Cat 3 Men 50-52 class on Sunday. How huge? For an age group of fast old geezers across just three years, there were 53 racers on the line in this class!
My race went just about according to plan. Ripped a big holeshot off the starting line putting the Backbone colors in the lead in front of hundreds of flashing cameras, then settled in behind some uber-fast roadie to draft in second partway around the famed Laguna Seca raceway, then sorted into my customary mid-pack position by the time we got into dirt, just below the Corkscrew, and headed out into the Fort Ord backcountry.
I was already sipping on the first of my two bottles of Amino Vital Pro (Grape) by then, just recovering from the dizzying pace around the paved course. Recharched, I began passing back some of the guys in my class as the dirt section picked up the rolling high speed sections. There's a fairly new "wall" that I climbed easily enough on the pre-ride, but so many people were flailing around on the race line, it was faster to just cyclocross-push-carry my bike up the hill, and I grabbed back about another 8 positions right there.
The singletrack sections kicked in shortly after that, yielding to a mix of rolling gravel fireroad fire road climbs, and technical sandy sections to navigate. The sheer size of the field was evident in the number of broken bikes and bodies littering the course. My chosen tire combination of Kenda's Small Block Eight in the rear, and Slant Six in the front of my Raleigh Talus Carbon 29er were perfect for the terrain and surfaces we were racing on, allowing complete confidence in the predictability of the handling. My simple little Sigma 1009 bike computer was working flawlessly as well, giving me just the right info I needed to monitor the mileage and time clicking by out on the course.
Last year, my buddy David Zaitz got all serious with his diet and training, and beat me for his first time ever at Sea Otter, by three minutes. My main goal was to not let that happen this year. Sure enough, "Inappropriate Dave" caught & passed me in the same exact spot as last year, up on the top fire road about halfway through the course, after the long switchback climb. The guy's built like a freakin' thoroughbred, long and lanky, born with a natural hairy man-sweater that would make Sasquatch envious. Anyway, once iDave gets on those flat sections and winds out that diesel motor in his legs, it's hard to keep in sight, which was all I hoped to do - at least enough to keep him close enough to have a shot at sprinting him down for the finish, if I could.
Thanks to perfect visibility through all the dust with my Ryders Eyewear, I caught iDave in the ridiculously fun new twisty singletrack section, and tried every shenanigan and moto trick I could to spook him into letting me by, but to no avail. Even verbal panic-revs weren't working, so we hit the next long fire road section, and all I could do was watch him motor off into the distance again. Crap!
The rest of the race was spent trying to minimize the time gap between me up to iDave. We popped out on the long rolling fireroad combo climb back to the finish, into the wind, with iDave looking around 2-1/2 minutes up the road. I put it into roadie mode, sitting on some faster wheels to draft guys (and girls, and little kids - anybody going by me) as best I could to grab every advantage to reel in iDave. The gap was slowwwwwly closing at the top of each of the Bitches, as they're pretty universally called, but it was still a little ways to iDave when we were about done with climbs. Fortunately, he didn't look too perky, so I put in one more hard effort before we got the drop back down into the Corkscrew.
Sure enough, that put right on iDave's wheel down the sketchy descent leading to the wooden bridge, and I put a fairly hard pass on him before we got to the other side. Heading into the singletrack dirt that parallels Rainey Corner, a guy in front of me ate crap right on my line. I had to adjust, and barely got around him. Fortunately, my Xpedo pedals allowed be to unclip and clip back in with confidence through the MX-like section, and then (thank goodness for paying attention to the lines through there when we pre-rode), picked lines through the next few corners that allowed me to gain a little more time on iDave, while passing other riders who were crashing all over the place.
At the finish, I got across in 27th place (out of 53 in our class) in 1:44:34, while iDave was just 24 seconds back in 28th. All in all, a great race, really fun, and everything went about as according to plan as you can ever really make happen in the chaos that's called mountain bike racing.
Thanks again to all our Team Backbone sponsors for your support - we really couldn't do it without you, and it was great to see everyone in Monterey this week!
Next stops =
4/28 US Cup XC, Sycamore Canyon, Riverside, CA
5/11 Catalina Island Gran Fondo, Avalon, CA
5/19 US Cup XC, Sagebrush Safari, Lake Morena, CA
5/21 Over the Hump Series Opener, Irvine Lake, CA
5/28 Over the Hump Series Round 2, Irvine Lake, CA
6/2 US Cup XC Finals, Big Bear Shootout, Big Bear, CA
6/4 Over the Hump Series Round 3, Irvine Lake, CA
6/11 Over the Hump Series Round 4, Irvine Lake, CA
6/16 CA State XC Championships, Big Bear, CA
6/18 Over the Hump Series, Round 5, Irvine Lake, CA
6/22 Hammer XC, Missoula, MT