My racing schedule and goals have changed this year and I've been really enjoying the change of pace. Besides a quick flight to Epic Rides Grand Junction Off-road I spent the last month and a half driving to races from my training base in Truckee. There seems to be an abundance of great events in the area and it was really nice to not be packing up for any trans-continental time change travel. It's been so much easier to stay healthy, motivated, and successful at the races. I just drove back up to Canada but it has been a really great stretch of racing with some good memories.
The second round of the Epic Rides series in May at Grand Junction was one I had never competed in and I was really looking forward to this location. Besides the one big painful 45min climb the course has the most thought provoking and challenging single track in the series.
The trail takes some finesse and skill to ride smooth and fast. If I had a chance of beating the climbing phenom Howard Grotts I thought this might be the course to do it on. After Howie disappeared on the first climb myself and a few others were able to close down a significant gap on a long 45min single track descent giving us a bit of hope. The following 45min climb was just too much though as Howie danced away and I had to enjoy a good battle ripping the trails to the finish with Finsty. I attacked late and had to be happy with second place.
It was another great Epic Rides weekend though as I was able to attack in the Friday night Fat Tire Crit and took the big win solo in front of a great crowd. Nothing like the crowd cheering to motivate me lap after lap.
The next event on my schedule was my first foray into longer distance gravel racing at the first round of the Sierra Triple Crown Series; the Lost and Found Gravel 100 miler. Yuri at GU Energy has been trying to convince me to do Dirty Kanza but I was more than happy to start out with 100 instead of 200 miles.
I learned a bit doing last year's Grinduro event and I enjoyed dialling in my SCOTT Addict CX bike after some lessons learned there. I adjusted my position a bit, put on a little lower gearing (46/34 chainrings, 11-30 cassette), and got some new Stan's Avion wheels. The wider internal width on these rims really made my Maxxis 40c Ramblers look like a whole different tire and gave them a much nicer air volume.
The turnout at these events is pretty cool to see and it was fun racing and pushing my bike on the rough gravel roads. The race sorted out to a good group of five who all thought we had a chance going into the fifth hour; myself, Barry Wicks, Jamey Driscoll, Tobin Ortenblad, and Carl Decker. The wiley veteran Decker attacked on his special MTB set-up and impressively came out on top.
I chased as hard as I could but had to settle for second as the rest of the group crumbled. I learned some more lessons at this event and already looking forward to next year. The Sierra Triple Crown overall chase should be really interesting with Downieville XC up next and Grinduro to follow later in the year.
My schedule gets filled really quick these days but one thing I wish I could more of is road racing. I find road racing is such good training so I jumped at the opportunity to race the classic Tour de Nez crit while I was around Reno at the start of June.
The course this year had a small but significant hill in it so it was a nice fit for me. I took the opportunity to jump in a break after 30min and we lapped the pack which was a first for me.
It was a lot of fun ripping pavement corners and I was able to come out on top at the finish to add another different kind of victory to my tally in 2017.
If I was to design a race perfectly suited to my skills it might be just like The Blitz in Bend, Oregon. After missing out on this event I was really happy to be able to head back to this awesome Wednesday evening event put on by Erik Eastland and the Bend community. Starting halfway out to Mt. Bachelor this is a very slightly one hour downhill single track race back to town with a showtime jump and finish at Tetherow Golf Course.
Besides being great fun there is an amazing $3K for the victory as well as $500 holeshot, max speed, big air, and arm wrestling primes. One other small note is to officially finish you have to chug a beer! Not always so easy when you are out of breath.
The race came down to another classic battle with Todd Wells and I was able to attack near the end for the win. Besides taking the race win I was probably more psyched about sending the big golf course jump on my XC high-post bike and winning the arm-wrestling contest for the second time.
Not sure exactly why I'm good at arm wrestling but psyched increase my career pro arm wrestling earnings up to $1000. Erik is thinking about trying to expand this event to other towns and I would be more than excited if this happened.
It was a quick turn-around from Bend to get back down to the final Epic Rides event in Carson City. Due to ridiculous amounts of snow in the Sierras the XC course was altered away from the Tahoe Rim this year to stick closer to town. After pre-riding I new the XC was going to be a hot, hard, long race. First up though was the Friday night Fat Tire Crit in downtown. I've been really enjoying these events this year and the racing has been a great showcase for the fans. After Grotts laid down some serious power which shattered the field with one lap to go it was really touch and go. I was able to just make contact with a leading group of three with three corners to go in time to attack for the win. I was able to follow Stefano Barberi's wheel as he closed a gap and I just had enough time to slingshot past Todd Wells into the critical second to last corner and maintain the lead for the win.
I felt great but the XC race didn't go quite as well for me at this event. The course had a lot of climbing and to beat Grotts I knew I needed to take some risks on tire set-up. Let's just say I gambled and lost this time! I had to stop more than a few times to make some repairs but proud to say I made it across the line even if it was on a flat tire. I can't complain as I've taken lots of risks before and won. Rumours are that the Epic Rides series is getting big and better next year which is great news for sport and everyone involved.
Carson City marked the end of over a couple months away from home so I was pretty happy to load up the car and head north for home base in Squamish. I was a little tired after a busy stretch of racing and travel but I couldn't miss out on Canada Cup Finals in Whistler a couple days after arriving home.
I wasn't sure how the legs were going to feel but after feeling a little bit sluggish the first couple laps I was able to bridge up to Stephen Ettinger and Evan Guthrie who were leading. It was a hot day and I think my pacing paid off as I was able to turn it up a notch the last couple laps to take the win.
I have a small break in the action but really looking forward to spending some time in BC and jumping into BC Bike Race coming up at the start of July. Nothing better than getting back to the woods and BC single track to refresh the mind and body!
Keep riding until the fun stops.