It’s been a couple months since I started this, well, couple-month block of racing and traveling.
As I work on this transition back to Mountain Biking in the Mountains, the summer race block gets ever more complicated. This last month and change has included amazing riding in legendary places and racing on some of the best terrain in the world.
I’ve always said that you’ve got to be in great shape in order to dig deep enough to actually make your body genuinely fatigued. I was in shape at World Cup Finals. That, which was quite satisfying, has left me proper tired for the next two weeks. Having 48 hours at home between the France trip and the Downieville/Link/Whistler/Chilcotins trip was just enough time to scramble and develop the beginnings of a cold. Perfect.
There was also enough time to drop off my XTC Hardtail at Sunnyside Sports to get torn down and re-built on a Reign X frame for the Crankworx Enduro. While at the shop, I ran into Carl Decker’s roommate and pro triathlete Matt Lieto. He high-fived me on the good World Cup race and joked that I should “take it easy” on Carl at Downieville this weekend. That wouldn’t be a problem.
Carl is also in an interesting transitional period in his career. The Giant Factory Team has shifted its focus to Enduro and Marathon events, so Carl, who loves aggressive mountain biking but is also quite happy training on his road bike and racing XC, has ended up doing a bunch of what amounts to downhill stage racing.
He’s been a touch off the pace on the burly stuff. I was secretly pulling for him at Downieville, knowing he races well there and that he could use a little boost to his summer of racing.
There was someone else pulling for him in Downieville, too. As the cross-country race rolled off the pavement and started the fifty-minute climb up the Sierra Buttes, Junior National Champ Keegan Swenson went to the front and gave ‘er like only a junior who hasn’t yet ridden the climb can. (Ed. Note, on account of my long publishing timeline, I can report on Keegan’s 5th place ride at Junior World Championships in Austria last weekend. Dang, that’s strong work.)
Carl eventually left the excitable youngster and went on to win the XC for the third year in a row. I got around Keegan as we dropped into Baby Heads, which gave me the honor of finishing second to Carl, again.
An even higher honor was bestowed upon me a few meters shy of the finish line when I was suddenly covered in beer. From someone’s mouth. I looked at my assailant, expecting to see one of Mark Weir’s cronies, but it was just some random derelict.
He was working on a Wizard Staff (taping empty beer cans atop one another) that was about waist high at 11am. So I requested his staff, took a swig, and returned the favor.
Turns out, according to Mike Ferrentino (knower of all things mountain bike underworld) this guy, named Darrin, used to race for the Retrotec team. Those jerks knew how to party. Fortunately, my new friend Darrin still does. He ended up making quite the Staff, and quite the scene, before ultimately getting tased, twice, for exposing himself at the bar, and dragged off to jail, which was actually the first time anyone’s ever actually been arrested at the Downieville Classic. Impressive.
We all know it’s all about the downhill in Downieville. Carl most of all, after coming up short the last couple years. I woke up feeling ever crappier and was happy to see Carl decently chipper, for 7am. We were both wondering how the day would shake out.
Last year’s winner, Aaron Bradford, was in town and is always quick, and Moeschler can never be counted out, but we also had the wildcard of Frenchman Jerome Clementz. Dude is fast, but how fast? Not as fast as Carl. He laid down the fastest time of the day, which was only a few seconds up on perennial challenger Jason Moeschler’s. I fogged my way down the hill, unsure of whether I rode smooth and fast or just lazy and slow. It was the latter. Fifth place, which I should’ve probably sacrificed to silence some impressively cowardly hecklers at the bottom of First Divide the old-fashioned way…
Regardless of competitive success, the riding in Downieville is the definition of classic, as are the folks who put on the event.