Friday, March 28, 2014

2014 Fontana National (3/22-23/14)

Casey took 3rd in the Pro Super D & I took 2nd in the 18 & Under Open
Guarding the trade secrets at the Oakley HQ
After having such great results at Bonelli, I was super excited to line up again at Fontana. Unfortunately, I had to wait a whole week to do it. Lucky for me, there were lots of things to do around Los Angeles during that time. We rode some different trails, visited family friends, and even got to go to the Oakley Intergalactic Headquarters for a tour, courtesy of Steve Blick, and also got to ride a few laps around their company pump track out back.

Shredding it on the Oakley pump track
I really enjoyed the course at Fontana! The terrain consisted of fun, technical climbs, and awesome rocky descents.

Waiting for my turn at the Super-D with Kate and Casey

On Saturday, I decided to do the Super-D race again. I did one last pre-ride lap of the course with Casey Williams and Kate Courtney. While bombing down the course, there was a spot in which there were two lines separated by a little sand dune. My front wheel went down the inside line, my back wheel decided to take the outside, and I slid out, scraping up my leg in the process.

After my 2nd place finish at Bonelli the week before, I was anxious to see if I could win it this time. When I went off the start, I could feel all the adrenaline rushing through my body. Right after the 2nd turn, both of my feet twisted out, causing me to unclip from my pedals. I started waddling over some rocks in order to keep moving forward, while simultaneously trying to get clipped back in. Once I got clipped in again, the rest of the ride went smoothly. I finished 2nd in the race, (again) behind an older Junior from Canada. In fact, 4 of the top 5 finishers were Canadian.
Super-D Podium

My XC race was on Sunday. I really, really, REALLY wanted to compete in the Cat 1 race on Saturday, but after many emails and phone calls to USAC officials, I was denied an exemption from the rule that says 14 and under racers can't do Category 1 races. Nonetheless, I was still excited to get on the dirt and race. This time, I thought I'd race in the 15-16 Cat 2 class, rather than the 14 and under, even though we were all starting together.

Leading the XC race after the start

I was first off the line, attacking off the get-go and opening a gap right away. On the climbs I was able to pick my way through lap traffic, but on the descents I was forced to slow down behind other racers, as there were few opportunities to pass. This was pretty much what I did for all three laps, until I took the win at the finish.

Crossing the finish line
Even though I wasn't able to do the Cat 1 XC race, I was allowed to compete in the Cat 1 open short track race that started about an hour and a half after the finish of my XC race.

Short Track hole shot
I took the hole shot off the start, but got passed shortly after. I rode in third for a lap or two before Nicholas Jenkins passed me and I rode his wheel. After a couple of laps, I passed him back on a climb. I stayed in third for a few more laps (one lap too many, obviously) before my legs explodinated (that's exploded + detonated) and I began working my way backwards through the pack, settling for 6th place, despite a last ditch attempt to catch 5th before the finish.

Once again, I just want to thank Dario Frederick and the Whole Athlete Team for providing all their support, and Head Mechanic/Bike Wizard, Josh Snead, for everything he does for the team.

Friday, March 21, 2014

2014 Bonelli Park (3/15-16/14)

Last weekend was my first big race in California since I got crashed out at Sea Otter last year and broke my wrist, and I was looking forward to racing Bonelli. My dad and I stayed at a team house with some of the guys and Dario, our coach. It was nice to be able to get to know my teammates better and spend some time goofing off.

After pre-riding the course I couldn't wait to get to the starting line and race. I thought the course was a good mix of climbing and somewhat technical descents, with plenty of flat sections that made it easy to get a quick drink. At this event I competed in the Super-D 18 and under open class and the XC Cat 2 14 and under class. The Super-D was on Saturday and the XC was on Sunday, so I really wasn't all that worried about wearing myself out.

For Saturday's race, I warmed up by riding the first section of the Super-D course three times to dial in this hard off-camber right turn. Once I lined up I knew I was ready for the hard effort. Off the start I was going so hard that I was sliding out on most of the corners. But once I got to the top of the descent that led to the off-camber turn, I started gaining control over my bike and I just drilled it through the rest of the course. In the end I finished with a time of exactly 7 minutes, which put me in second place, missing first by only 8 seconds. I thought that was a great way to start the weekend and looked forward to my race the next morning.

Me cooling off during staging with my KewlFit vest.
On Sunday, I got over to the course feeling really exited.  I couldn't wait to get on that starting line. I threw on my skinsuit and KewlFit vest and started my warm-up. After only warming up for 20 minutes I realized that they had just started staging and most of the kids were already up there, so I rode as fast as I could to get over to those guys. When I first got up I was only able to get on the second row but after some aggressive moves I made it to the middle of the front row right where I wanted to be. All of the Cat 2 juniors were going to go off together. So I had to start with both my age group and the 15-18 year old guys. After waiting for the other classes to go off I finally made it to the starting line that I waited so long to see. 

Once I heard the one minute to go I started my Garmin and waited for the sound of that whistle my ears were longing to hear. Once I heard it, I was off and there was no stopping me. I got the hole shot, making my way down the road to the fist climb. Right when I got to the top, a 15-16 kid attacked and just got around me going into the downhill. But once he got to the bottom and started pedaling, his chain popped off and I never saw him again. So from then on I just drilled it through the lap traffic and hammered the entire race. As soon as I finished, I jumped off the bike and sat down, coughing up all the dust I had breathed in.

At this race I finished 1st place in my class and also beat all of the 15-18 year old kids. Thanks to Josh Snead for making my bike work perfectly and Dario Fredrick for the support.  I was really pleased with my performance and can't wait to race at Fontana this coming weekend!

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

2014 Mellow Johnny's Classic (aka Florida Invades Texas)

The first weekend of March took my family and I out to Dripping Springs, Texas for the Mellow Johnny's Classic. This was the third year in a row that we went out for this event.

Josh working on my bike
We arrived at the Flat Creek Ranch on Thursday and pre-rode a couple of laps of the course. Three members of my Whole Athlete/Specialized team, plus our awesome head mechanic, Josh Snead, arrived on Friday. We got to set up under the Specialized factory team tent, which was really cool, because we were sharing with Todd Wells. Friday afternoon I rode with my teammates, Sean Bennett and Casey Williams. That evening, we all went out to dinner together at a local pizza/pasta restaurant.

On Saturday, I did the first of my two races, the Juniors 13-14. I was first off the line, taking the hole shot. After the parade lap, I started getting into lap traffic from the classes that started ahead of us. I wove my way through traffic and flew through the course. The course was the perfect mix of rocky, technical sections and fast flats, making it a really fun race for me. After less than 40 minutes, I sprinted to the finish, (because sprinting is the only cool way to finish a race-haha), and took the win.

Several friends from Florida also came up to race at Mellow Johnny's, and three of them (Nico Tabares, Harrison Knight, and Ethan Negas) also finished in the top 10 in the Juniors 13-14 class. In addition, Clayton Knight raced in the 10 and under group, finishing 2nd, after taking an early lead, which he held until his chain dropped and Will Drummond was able to pass him for the win. Ethan Negas raced in the Juniors 11-12 class, and took the win like a boss. Dustin Zimmerman lined up for the Cat 3 15-18 class, got the hole shot and never looked back, crushing the rest of the field. All in all, the Florida juniors were a dominant presence in Texas and I was excited to see my friends do so well.

Sunday I lined up to race the Cat 2 Juniors. The weather that morning was crazy! When we started our race, the temperature was 70 degrees. Twenty minutes into the race, it dropped to 40 and started to rain. Fortunately, I was so focused on racing that it really didn't bother me. 

My friend, Adam Cohen, had come out from Miami to do the race too. The best part of doing this one was riding with him on my wheel during the first lap. During the parade loop, Adam and I created a significant gap between ourselves and the rest of the field. It was just like racing back home, pushing each other to ride to our limits.  About midway through the first lap though, he made a mistake and I got away from him also. I kept going as hard as I could and wove my way through the lap traffic that consisted of all the classes that started behind us. Again, I sprinted to the finish for the win. Adam finished about a minute and a half behind me for second place. 

Adam and Me
After 4 months of base training, back to back wins at Mellow Johnny's was a great way to start my race season and I CAN'T WAIT to race at Bonelli Park in California in a couple of weeks!!