Monday, April 23, 2012

2012 US Cup/SERC #3/GSC #1--Conyers, GA (4/22/12)

This week's course, the site of the 1996 Olympic Mountain Bike event, was definitely one of my favorites of the US Cup/SERC series so far. There were blazing fast downhills, steep uphill climbs, and a feature you don't get to ride every day--a big, slick, mile and a half granite rock section.

The race this weekend was also the first race of the Georgia State Championship Series, so a lot of people showed up. Even with the addition of the Junior Sport and Junior Expert categories, there were still 18 kids that raced in my class. At least 4 of us were from Florida--John, Ethan, Parker, and me.
The start was nice and long. It was about 1/2 mile from the starting line to the woods across a grassy field, and allowed everyone to get into position before getting into the single-track. Pierce took the lead going into the woods, and John and I fell into 2nd and 3rd positions behind him. At the first turn, however, Pierce missed it (he didn't pre-ride) and went off-course briefly, so then John and I took over as one and two, with Pierce in third.

John and I stayed together for the whole first lap, trading leads 3 or 4 times. We got caught behind a large train of 15-18 year-old Juniors for a while (which was super frustrating!), and they didn't seem too happy to get passed by us. Even though John and I called out clearly for passes, one guy hit a root and fell as John was passing him. He yelled something very nasty at John as he was going down. I'm pretty sure that part will be edited out of the video (at least the audio). 

One of the parts that I definitely want to keep in the video is the sweet pass John made when he launched himself over a rock. At the time, I was in the lead and John was behind me. I was just settling in behind another rider and not paying a whole lot of attention to the trail. Well, I followed the right line of the rider in front of me and John just came around me on the left and launched himself off a rock. I know I should've been upset that he passed me, but it really was a very cool move and I wish I'd thought to take that line.

Pierce managed to hang on to John and me for the first half of the first lap, mixing it up with us a time or two, but John and I both attacked on the second big climb, and that allowed us to get away from him for the rest of the race.
Even though the granite rock section was an unusual feature of the course, I can't say that it was exactly fun. For some reason, that part took a lot of effort. Maybe it's because it was a pretty tough uphill and a super bumpy, sometimes sketchy downhill.

This is also the part where John seemed to gain ground on me. I just couldn't seem to ride it as fast as him. On the first lap, I was able to catch back up to within a few seconds by the time we crossed the line and started the second lap.

However, by the time we finished the granite section for the second time, John had gotten far enough ahead that I just wasn't able to catch him again. I had to settle for my third 2nd place in a row (four, if you count the time trial), and Pierce finished in third.

My dad and I ended up with matching 2nd place medals this week.

Next week, we go to another course that I really liked riding last year--Ft. Yargo.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

2012 Alafia Classic Six Hour Race--Lithia, Florida (4/7/12)

This weekend, my dad and I went down to Alafia River State Park with our friend Dave to do the Alafia Classic Six Hour mountain bike race. My dad decided to try the six hour solo race, and Dave and I did a base team race. It was a lot of fun!

I started the first lap, which meant I got to do the sprint to the bikes with my dad. I had a good start, although the other grown-ups kept pushing me aside, so I moved to the outside and just went around a bunch of them. My first lap was pretty fast, (although not the fastest) and I beat my dad's lap time by 30 seconds. By the time Dave and I had completed a couple of laps we were the first place team.

Pam Swails got this picture of my dad and me.
My dad was in 5th or 6th place when the pain in his back got so bad he had to stop. He came back out and rode the last lap with me though, and ended up 13th out of 21 in his class.
The hand-off
My team managed to stay ahead of the other teams, including a 3-man team, for the first 4 hours, but as we started getting tired, they started to catch up. By the time Dave and I were on our last laps, we had gotten passed and Cody Burnett, the fastest rider on their team, finished ahead of us by several minutes on the final lap. We ended up finishing in 2nd place, which was still pretty cool, because it was Dave's first time ever on the podium.

Another boy I know, Blake Hina, also had his first time on the podium with a 3rd place in the Beginner Solo Men's division. He was very excited and I was happy for him because he has really  been working hard and riding a lot. Plus, I just think it's fun when the kids beat the adults.

I wore the helmet cam for this race and my dad edited a video which is my favorite one so far. I picked out the music and it's really cool. I hope you enjoy it!

Monday, April 2, 2012

2012 US Cup East/SERC #2--Tsali Trails, Bryson City, North Carolina (3/31-4/1/12)

I really like this picture. It's from the overlook at Tsali and requires a LOT of effort just to get to this place on the trail. My dad took it during our pre-ride of the race loop on Saturday.

Anyway, last weekend's race was at Tsali trails in Bryson City, North Carolina. I did really well here last year, surprising everybody (including myself) by placing second in only my second-ever juniors race. This year, I knew I had been working hard and I wanted to win. After the pre-ride, we got ready for an individual time trial on a shorter, 4 mile loop that would be part of the Sport (cat 2) riders course. The ITT is worth up to 5 bonus points for the series, so it could make a big difference in the overall standings at the end of the season and I wanted to get the 5 points.

Well, I didn't quite do it. I slid out around one of the turns, fell down a hill, lost my momentum and some of my focus too, I think. My friend (and biggest competition this season), John Michael, beat me by less than a minute, but it might as well have been 10 minutes. I was so disappointed and mad at myself.

The next morning, we showed up early for the race so that we could get a good parking spot. (The parking lot at Tsali is very small and the sponsors take up most of the space.) The fog was so thick that you could barely see anything, but I thought it would probably all be gone by the start of my race at 11:30, and I was right.

Our class was the next to last to go. I got a quick jump off the line and won the hole shot for the second time, with John Michael right behind me for the second time. It was exciting and I felt really good about how I was climbing up the hills. About half-way up the starting climb, another boy passed both John and me for the lead. It wasn't long though before we passed him right back, and that was the last we saw of him or anybody else from our class for the rest of the race.

John Michael
NOT the guy who held me up. :-)
Unfortunately, I would lose sight of John Michael quicker than I should have too. He attacked on one of the early climbs also, when I was just riding along at a comfortable pace. Instead of chasing him down, like I should have, I figured I'd get him on the downhills or on the next climb. After all, I didn't want to blow myself up at the beginning of the race. What I forgot to take into consideration was lap traffic. I'm usually pretty good at getting around lap traffic, but every now and then I wait too long to pass somebody. John Michael obviously did a much better job of it in this race, because I got held up by a guy riding in the Junior 15-18 class and it took WAY TOO LONG for me to get around him. After watching the raw video footage with my dad on the way home, I had to admit that I could've been more aggressive about getting around him. 

John Michael rode a really good race and finished in first place again and I finished in second place again.
Some really cool things did happen in this race though. First of all, even though I came in second again, my lap time was 12 minutes faster than last year. Also, John Michael and I rode such fast lap times that we both actually would've made the podium or even won several of the other base classes as well. Not too bad for two kids from Florida!

It was actually a pretty good day for some other Florida Junior racers too. Two other Juniors from Florida (and my teammates), Jacob Deen and Dustin Zimmerman, decided to move up to the Juniors 15-18 category for this race. They did really well, finishing in 4th and 5th place. Congrats to Jacob and Dustin!!

 Check out this week's video.