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By Abby Cunningham
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The annual Tamarancho Dirt Classic offers little more than bragging rights, but since those bragging rights are awarded in Marin County, an acknowledged home of the mountain bike, the stakes are high.
Contested on June 6 by a star-studded field including many current and former National Champions and Mountain Bike Hall of Fame members, this near 30-mile race on technical singletrack and steep climbs saw local Marin racer Dario Fredrick (Whole Athlete Cycling Team) win the pro men’s event over a field of pro riders and past and present National Champions — and a notable World Champion.
Fredrick, current Masters National XC Champion, decided to race in the Pro Category after learning the Masters group would start behind younger riders less familiar with the course, creating a potential traffic jam.
Even as the cool June fog enveloped San Francisco, the long-awaited sunshine smiled upon the Tamarancho Dirt Classic, just 23 miles north in Marin County. An exceptionally cold, wet spring in Northern California has made training and racing here uncharacteristically gritty. Yet the conditions couldn’t have been more perfect on what is arguably some of the world’s most beautiful singletrack.
Legends turned out for the event, including former Mountain Bike World Champion, Ned Overend, and local Marin mountain bike pioneers, Joe Breeze and Otis Guy. Overend, who will be 55 this year, raced in the pro field, while Breeze and Guy raced in the Masters’ categories.
“I thought I would be racing for fifth place,” said Fredrick. “I can’t believe I won!”
Fredrick took the lead on the first of four trips up the 28-percent grade Dead Heifer fire road and built his lead to a minute and a half on the subsequent three laps. A resurgent Overend closed the gap to within 15 seconds on the last lap, but then lost contact and crossed the line in second. Summit Bikes rider Jim Hewett salvaged third after Marin Bikes pro rider Brian Astell crashed hard and lost significant time on the third of four laps.
“I had a lot of fun,” said Overend. “The course was beautiful.”
Barb “Barbarella” Howe (Vanderkitten), also from the San Francisco Bay Area, won the Women’s Pro race. Other notable victories included podium sweeps in the Cat 1 Juniors male and female races by the Whole Athlete junior development team.
The race is a qualifier for Nationals as part of the USA Cycling/NORBA Alison Dunlap Junior Mountain Bike Series, held for the first time in Marin, and the only one on the West Coast in 2010.