Quicky play by play from my perspective in the Pro Open field (all race photos courtesy of Jill B. and Jamie H.).

Large overall field with a small-ish Pro Open class that included myself, Justin Paulson, Jared Kessler, Clint Claassen, and Matt Obregon.   Justin and I were the lone single speeders in the Pro class.

At 32 miles, this was the longest TBF race to date with the previous two being 18 and 24 miles respectively.  The additional mileage made selecting a SS gear a tough one:  Put on a spinnier gear that I know the legs will be able to push on the last lap at the risk of getting spun out on the flats trying to chase down the Pro geared riders?  Or put on a honkin ‘big ring’ gear to spin a more natural (for me) cadence on the flats, at the risk of blowing up the legs in the ups & downs of the singletrack on the last lap?  I went with the big honkin gear.

Lap 1:  Take the hole shot from the field and be the first onto singletrack.  Eventually get passed on the flats by Kessler who was pulling a wheelie on his 6 inch travel FS BMC Trailfox as he passed at 25 mph with Obregon on his heels.  Stay on their wheels through the first lap when I realize that I am working way too hard this early in the race and back off the pace.  Notice a chase group of about 3 or 4 riders 30 seconds back, and slow down a bit to let them catch.

Lap 2:  Drop to the back end of the chase group which included Riley Howard, Justin Paulson, and another rider that I don’t know.  At this point, I’m content to just go their pace and recover a bit from my too-hard of an effort on the first lap.   Half way through the lap, Justin, Riley and I pull away from the other rider and we’re a chase group of 3.  Then near the end of the last section of singletrack, Riley glances down at his GPS and his front tire washes out and I nearly run him over..disaster averted, Justin and I motor on, and Riley quickly hops back on his bike to try and catch back up (he never did which was unfortunate because Justin and I could have used the help of his gears on the flats!)

Lap 3:  Going through the start/finish area at the start of lap 3, Justin and I caught sight of Kessler and Obregon maybe 30 – 40 seconds ahead.  It seemed like we were either gaining or they were dropping back.  I had a bigger gear than Justin, so we worked together, and I pulled us along on the flats, and then Justin swung in front for the singletrack and motored us through the twisties.  Clean lap, kept our pace up, and tried to make clean fast passes around traffic.

Lap 4:  Going through the start/finish area between laps one last time we noticed that we were only 15 seconds behind the lead duo.  We weren’t sure if they knew we were there, so I tried to ‘hide’ us behind lap traffic on the flats only pulling around at the last second then ducking back in.  As we entered the singletrack and the climb to the bench for the last time I saw they were only 10 seconds ahead of us so I punched it up the lower half of the climb and we finally caught them about half way up the bench.  We were now the lead group of 4 and instantly this last lap became less of a horse race and more of a chess match as we tried to figure out who was still feeling strong, and who was totally gassed.

Kessler and Obregon, charging:

As we crested the bench climb for the last time, Obregon had the lead, followed by Kessler, then myself, then Paulson.  On the way from the Bench to Beek’s Bight parking area, I made a sneaky pass around Kessler, and then held Obregon’s wheel.  At Beek’s Bight, Kessler passed me right back by jumping the curb back onto the dirt as I went around, and our order shuffled again.  Then at the next steep punchy climb, Obregon and Kessler both stayed on the right and a line opened up on the left so I punched it, passed them both and took the lead.  I thought Paulson might follow but he stayed put, Obregon didn’t have the momentum to respond, and Kessler grabbed my wheel and pulled around Obregon.  For the remainder of the singletrack out to the aid station at Doton’s Point, it was myself in the lead being pushed from behind by  Kessler as we tried to push the pace a bit and open up a gap.

After rounding Doton’s Point, riding through the sandy open meadow area, my legs were HURTING.  As we crossed the pavement and up one last steep puncher of a climb, I warned Kessler who was right behind me that I was probably going to get bogged down on this climb as i burnt my last match a few miles back when I made my move on the last climb to get into first.  I grunted and cursed up this climb then at the top, Kessler moved around me and pulled on through.  I couldn’t stay on his wheel as I needed an extended recovery and at this point, I began looking more over my shoulder than looking ahead.  With about 2 miles left to go, Kessler disappeared.

Through the last twisty bits of singletrack I kept seeing glimpses of Obregon over my shoulder and through the trees so I tried to keep the speed up as I knew he was close.   I had to build any gap that I could before we left the singletrack as the last mile or so is completely flat and I knew Matt could use his gears there to quickly catch me and pull away.   Luckily, as we hit the flats, I had about a 30 second gap, but I looked back and saw Matt charging HARD.   My legs didn’t have much left, but luckily the finish chute saved me and I didn’t have to pedal anymore.  Crossed the line in 2nd Place Pro, 30 seconds behind Kessler, and just 20 seconds ahead of Obregon.  Paulson rounded out 4th Place and Claassen not far behind in 5th.

Fun race.  Time to rest up a bit and go skiing.

Pro Podium.  Kessler 1st. Me 2nd.  (missing is Obregon in 3rd):

Race setup.  Just a tad under 21 lbs (20.95 according to garage scale).  Pretty good for titanium. (i.e. non-carbon!)

Here’s a cool video of the Independent Fabrication factory up in New Hampshire produced by Logan Hodson.  These are the guys that created my Ti Deluxe 29’er SS race bike.  They’ll be exhibiting at the 2012 North American Handmade Bike Show at the Sacramento Convention Center March 2 – 4 this year…please stop by and say hello.


This past weekend the local MTB race season kicked off with the TBF Kickstart MTB Race at Granite Bay, CA.  Held every year in late January, this race is just a local opener to test out the legs and gives some early (very early) season insight as to who has been riding during the winter months.

I normally enter Single Speed Expert in this race, because during a normal winter, I am skiing alot more than riding…however this year, with the dismal winter that we have been having, my hobbies have been reversed and I’ve spent much more time on the bike than I ever have during these winter months.   So with that in mind, I thought I’d still race single speed (of course…), but enter Pro Open and try to hang with the fastest local geared guys.

Unfortunately, despite an impressive group of age group Experts on the start line, there were only two of us in Pro Open with the other aside from me being Clint Claassen.  Which was kind of intimidating because in a sense, it would mean that I would either get first place or last place! 😉  But at least, the first start wave was a mass start with the Pro Open, age group Experts, and Single Speed Experts all starting at the same time which is great because that means we all get to race each other from the start line.

Clint and I on the start line…I have a weird look on my face (photo by J. Kollman):

We would do 3 laps of a course that was approximately 6 miles a pop for a around 18 miles with not a whole lot of elevation gain, but a heaping serving of damp, grippy, and twisty fun singletrack.   I was guessing the race would take us 1:15 – 1:30 to complete so it seemed like a nice easy way to start off the race season and test the legs….

I say seemed like a nice easy way to start because even though it is a short race, it basically means that you go pretty damn hard since you don’t have to conserve much energy for a long drawn out race.   So with that in mind my strategy was pretty simple….attack the first climb to try and build an early gap, and then hope that the race was short enough to where I didn’t blow my legs up and lose whatever cushion I might have gained on the first lap.

We hit the first climb at about 1 mile into the race and I gunned it.  This climb is only about a half mile long and doesn’t get much steeper than 6%, but it is definitely enough where it can make a difference as on a single speed, this where I stand the best chance of making an impact on the race.  Nobody seemed to want to give chase so as I crested the top and started swooping on down through the rest of the course, I knew I had a gap but wasn’t sure of how much so I just tried to recover a bit from that first effort and keep the momentum up a bit.

Unfortunately, about half way through this lap I made a mistake….in past years the organizers include a short stretch of pavement in an area known as Doton’s Point and I had assumed that just like in past years, this year’s course would follow suit.  So when I got to Doton’s, I exited the singletrack, hit the pavement, put my head down and started hammering up the road.  Alongside the pavement were some friends of mine who were volunteering for the race and setting up an aid station out there and they didn’t see me coming down the singletrack.  As I passed them and continued on,  I yelled “hey guys” over to them and they looked surprised to see me and then started yelling something as I pedaled away.  I couldn’t quite make out what they were saying but they were making enough commotion to worry me so I looked back over my shoulder and they’re jumping up and down and waving me back the other way…..ah crap, I think I made a wrong turn!  So I slam on the brakes, turn around and start pedaling back and sure enough, I blew through a turn.  Instead of doing the pavement section this year, the organizers decided to add some dirt that paralleled the pavement.  DOH!  And just after I turn around I see Clint exiting the singletrack and continue on along the correct route…Well, there goes my lead……Fortunately though I was able to get back on his tire fairly quickly and I tried to put the mistake out of mind.

Despite that mistake, the rest of the race was extremely fun.  Clint and I race each other well as we both seem to have different strengths and are each faster than the other in certain sections of the course, but in the end, it seems to balance itself all out.  Clint crushes me on the flats in between laps and I have to spin out of mind to hold his wheel and stay in his draft, while I tend to pull away a bit on the short punchy climbs.  Alot of the twisty stuff is fairly equal although sometimes I would certainly benefit from having an easier gear where I could spin a quicker cadence.  So with these differences, we traded the lead a few times on lap #2, and then on on the third and final lap, things got interesting.

this is the flat boring stretch that exposes my single speeds weak point (photo by J. Kollman):

As we started the 3rd and final lap, it was clear that we had a pretty good gap on the rest of the field and that we would just be racing each other for the last 6 miles, so we eased up on the pace a bit.  I’d say we went from “race pace” to “fast fun group ride pace” and I for one certainly had no complaints about it.  My legs were definitely feeling heavy on the short punchy climbs and I knew I wouldn’t be able to pull away anywhere so I was hoping we could stay together for the last lap and then duke it out at the end with a sprint finish or something, and that’s pretty much happened.

Tire to tire for nearly the whole race, Clint and I finish up one of the last climbs (photo by S. Guzman):

Finished with the last bit of single track in the oak forest, we hit the last downhill portion and the pace began to creep back up.  We left the single track and hit the long flat straightaway to the finish area.  I had to fight hard to stay on Clint’s wheel and my eyes were fixated on his rear derailleur… each time I saw his derailleur move down a gear, I’d try to increase my cadence and effort a bit to keep pace and stay in the draft.  Luckily I was able to hold his wheel, and made my move to get in front just as the the long flat ended and all that was left was a handful of tighter turns with minimal pass opportunities before the sprint to the finish.   As the fireroad we were on began to narrow, I pulled out of Clint’s draft and gave one last kick to try and surge forward and get in front.  I just barely pulled that off, I got in front for just a short bit, but in one of the last turns  I left an opening on the inside and Clint capitalized on it and passed me right on back.  Now with less than 75 yards from the finish I figured the only place left for me to pass was the last right hand turn at the bottom of a little incline with the finish chute in sight.  Of course, Clint knew this and as he rounded the turn he gunned it, then I gunned it, and being a bike length behind and maxed out and not gaining ground, I knew that was it for me.  So 25 yards before the finish chute, I pulled up and coasted it on in with a huge smile on my face.  Win or lose, that was super fun and you just can’t get a battle like that on just a regular ordinary ride.

Super fun race and looks like the next one on the same basic course will be in two weeks.  Except we’ll have to do one extra lap for a total of 24 miles.  With that in mind, I maaaay have to put on a spinnier gear ratio…we’ll see…;-)

Full results are here: http://www.tbfracing.com/results/results/2012/kickstartmtb/div.html

Bike set-up:

A year or a lifetime – sometimes one makes
or breaks the other

The season of color emblazes
again these hillsides, and I am but
an ember burning in this wedge

of evening. Through this screened
window comes a cooling
breeze, these nights form a mosaic

memory of wire mesh, that porch
swing, a metronome counting
my final days on that coast. Beyond ancient

oaks we meet pale as midnight
moon, she barefoot and arched
against Northern nights

an omen hanging thick
in air. The old train trestle, a
bridge connecting past

to future, spans an unforgiving
drop, and hand in hand our
cadence marks time on its ribs.

There, far below us, is our lake in Northern Pennsylvania.

The moon shows the lone opening
into this shadowed world, the forest
and lakeshore beneath

that moonlight awash in shadowy
mist. We empty our pockets stone
by stone into its dark waters, reciting

dreams as the lake swallows
them whole. I yearn for a winter beyond
this safe, mid-Atlantic town, and she…

She longs for these long nights by the lake to never end.

I know now how fragile that iron
trestle was. I walked home alone that
changed night to distant, soft

applause. The cold rains dropped swiftly,
iridescent, liquid pearls pelting
the tidy, patchwork lawns. I cursed

concrete, the town I knew too well,
and continued to walk its hooded streets under
shadows of melancholy skeletons.

A cacophonous traffic jam of emotions, I halted
beneath the stormy torrent, my arms extended, fists
turned heavenward, and pleaded to

the cleansing rain. A lightness
falling, my angst melted to sudden
wonder as the rain turned chalky

white; a growing silence. An intense flood
of scenes flashed staccato in my head:






Standing atop an open white bowl pushing
off explosively snow billowing whispering
a thousand thought messages up and over


my shoulders rolling off my back an
enveloping conversation no words just motion
kinetic understanding more keen


than discourse no earthly ties
just snow and gravity and falling freely
down my own line my own tracks I leave in time…


The snow fell soft as candlelight, yet
clung to both the pine boughs
and my arms with a strength

greater than religion. Our limbs
weighed with the burden of growth
and the bread of our lives, we—


the tree and I—both reach to break
through the clouds and sip those stars
dry, to drink their champagne

essence, to feel their bubbles sing down
our throats. Yet we bend in the slow
methodical struggle of opposing forces:

gravity and weightlessness, adventure
and comfort, effort and repose, confusion
and clarity. I weighed the

security of 23 familiar years and a heart’s
compulsion to move on. In that snowy
moment the algebra of intention

and instinct merged, complexity melted
into a decision of crystal purity:
A new home. A new life.


It was time to find it.


Stars now sunken and rains retreated, dawn
breaks in swords crashing through old oak
trees. Through this screened window faint

sounds echo of the night’s torrent. This last
cold morning out East hits like ice in warm
soda. I drink its effervescence and toast

it goodbye, the soft amorphous
layers beyond the raised window
bleed like open wounds

coloring themselves another shade.


Legs still not recovered from the 8 & 24 Hours of Gold on Saturday, October 29th, it was straight into a week that held 3 individual cyclocross races:  Folsom Rodeo CX under the lights at the Folsom Pro Rodeo Area on Wednesday night, and the Sacramento Cyclocross Series Races #4 and #5 held on Saturday and Sunday at Lembi Park and the (again) the Folsom Rodeo respecitively.

Had some decent results, but paid the price in the end…..

Race #1 – Folsom Rodeo Cross under the lights

Wednesday Night under the lights at the Folsom Rodeo CX went well.  Just 4 days after racing for 8 hours, it was time to see if the legs still had any punch.  They definitely didn’t feel great, but they held up enough for a 2nd in the SS Open field.   The official results have me in 1st place, but I know better….while I finished first, I certainly wasn’t the strongest rider for the evening.  That honor goes once again to Pete Knudsen who probably would have won if he hadn’t flatted after the 5th or 6th lap allowing to overtake him.  We rode tire to tire for much of the race, but Pete launched an attack on that 5th or 6th lap that my legs couldn’t answer and he was pulling away.  And just as I was relegating myself to holding on for 2nd, he got the flat, which gave me first place on the night.  So even though the result sheet says I got 1st, there should be an asterisk next to that….

Despite the legs not feeling 100%, it certainly was fun bunny hopping the barriers:

Race #2: Sacramento Cyclocross Race Sereis #4 – Lembi Park Folsom, CA

Lembi Park is by far my favorite course of the Sacramento CX series.  It just has a little bit of everything to keep one entertainined and having fun throughout the entire race course:  lots of “hero” grass on off-camber hillsides and turns, very twisty, a handful of straight flats, a tricky sandpit, a mandatory hill run up with barriers, and all set in a really nice park that makes spectating and heckling extremely easy.

25 single speeders toed the line at the start, and I had enough legs to battle back from a terrible start into 3rd Place.  Off the line I think I was in 6th place, and then quickly lost another spot to drop into 7th, before finally getting into the groove to start moving up.  Clawed my way up into 3rd and onto the podium which felt great as I haven’t had a podium finish in a Sac Cyclocross race yet this year.

Hans Kellner did a great job of putting together a helmet cam video of the 1st lap of our SS race.  After the first corner, I sneak in front of his camera before pulling away slightly on the straightaway trying to bridge back to the front after my not so hot start:

Race #3 – Sacramento Cyclocross Series Race #5 – Folsom Rodeo Arena

Even though Lembi Park is my favorite ‘cross course in the area, this next race offered a nice change from all the grass that is at Lembi.  What was hero grass at Lembi, became bumpy singletrack at the Rodeo.  And intead of a few short little off-camber hills, the Rodeo course held some actually climbing…and muddy at that as it rained heavily the night before.

This race started with a flat mile or 2 around the adjacent baseball and soccer fields, before diving down into “Sherwood Forest” behind the rodeo grounds where the course would be become much more technical with rocky climbing, a sandy 180 degree turn, lots of singletrack, and some natural fallen log barriers that had been dragged onto the course.

Like the Lembi Park race, I once again did not get a very start and was already in ‘chase’ mode right off the bat.  Stuck behind some slower traffic in the singletrack for the first lap the two race leaders, eventual winnner Pete Knudsen and eventually second place finisher, Chris Elbow, got off to an extremely fast start and had already put in nearly a minute on me and the rest of the field by the end of the first lap.  While I eventually made it around the traffic to start the 2nd lap, the leaders were way out of sight and despite my best efforts I could not bridge back up.  Despite not being able to bridge back to the leaders I was still happy to come away with another 3rd out of 30 singlespeeders.

Demolished Back

After the weekends racing, my legs were pretty shot, and my back felt a little wrenched.  Didn’t seem like anything serious at the time, but felt just like a minor strain or muscle pull.  In retrospect, I should have taken some time off the bike, but with SSCXWC coming up very soon, I wanted to keep on riding.  Bad idea…..

Tuesday night, while on a MTB ride with the Folsom Breakouts, I mashed down on my gear to head up a steep hill and severely “threw my back out”.  Meaning, I severely pulled a muscle in my lower back and I had to get carried off the trails and I’ve been laid up in bed for the past 2 and a half days.  So it looks like no more CX racing of any kind for the next month or so.  Bah.  Oh well…my legs probably needed the rest anyway.  Just bummed that I won’t be able to race in SSCXWC in two weeks.  I guess there is always next year…..


Got convinced last minute to sign up for an 8 Hour solo MTB race in Oroville, CA…the 8 & 24  Hours of Gold put on by the fine folks at the Lake Oroville Bicyclist Organization. Being that it’s cyclocross season, I wasn’t exactly in endurance racing shape, but also, considering the evidence from my last two cyclocross races, I am not exactly in prime cyclocross shape either so I figured “ah what the heck let’s mix everything up” and do an 8 Hour endurance race smack in the middle 45 minute sufferfest season.

It surely seemed like a poor decision to sign up at the time, but then again, some of the most fun times of my life have been  the result of poor decisions, so I figured why not.  Let’s do this.  I also figured that the 2 weeks of East Coast travel for work (with absolutely no riding) just prior to the race would also factor into the ‘poor decision’ algorithm so really, there was no way that I could possibly say no.

The one thing that I had in my favor is that while I was away on my work trip for the two weeks just before the race, my shiny new Independent Fabrications Ti Deluxe 29’er SS arrived and it was getting built up in my absence.  So I hoped that whatever ‘endurance speed and grit’ that I currently lacked would be made up for by ‘new bike speed and grit’.   Regardless, I thought it would be fun to get to know and break in the new ride with a long race in the saddle.

(click to make bigger)

The race was held at the Loafer Creek Campground just a bit up the hill and to the East of Oroville along the shore of Lake Oroville.  Driving into the campground, we caught glimpses of the trails and race course as it crossed the access road in several spots and one thing became clear:  This was going to be a smooth and fast race!  There was neither not one rock or technical feature anywhere to be seen.  Just rolling hills, schwoopy corners, and slithering singletrack all packed into a course that was approximately 7.5 miles and right around 1,000 feet of climbing per lap.

I picked a 34×18 gear for this race knowing that there would be one hill that I would end up walking after the first few laps, but geared more for the flats of this race as I really hate spinning out on the flats of which there were several sections.   And as the start gun went off promptly at 10 AM, and we hit the first major climb within a few minutes from the start, I knew for sure that I would be riding this hill probably just for 2 laps tops out of however many I ended up doing within the 8 hours.  The 34×18 had me out of the saddle nearly immediately at the bottom of the climb for the solid 5 minutes it took to get up it.  Generally not a good sign to be standing and mashing so early in an endurance race, but that is usually my style.  And in this instance it gave me the added benefit of carrying me to the front of the overall field as geared riders began to shift down and spin.

During the first lap, after I pulled ahead on the first climb, I was soon joined by two other geared riders.  One I knew was part of a 4-man 8-hour team, so I wasn’t too worried about him, but the other was clearly another solo 8 hour rider and it was super strong Greg Golet from Chico on his 1×10 Santa Cruz Tallboy.   Greg and I pulled away from the team rider halfway through the lap, and we rode tire to tire for the first lap chatting a bit.  There was a bit of a mixup when we came through the start/finish area after only about 32 minutes and we had to stop and turn around and make sure the timers had recorded our numbers.  No biggie:

(Greg turning around to get his first lap counted)

The second lap we rode together as well, swapping out positions here and there, but I already knew that I was riding above my abilities for a long 8-hour race.   I figured I’d try to stay with Greg for at least this 2nd lap, then I’d start walking the major climb to conserve energy for the rest of the day and then Greg would easily pull away.   All of that basically went according to plan, however one thing that DIDN’T go according to plan was that just as we were finishing our 2nd lap (about 1 hour into the race) I reached down to grab some front brake and the lever was gone.  GONE!  So I look down and see the lever still there, but it was completely out of position and just flopping around wildly out of reach.  Apparently the screw from the master cylinder plunger that threads into the barrel adjuster in the lever came unthreaded (DOH!) and the brake lever had nothing to hold onto nor no way to actuate the brake (DOH!).   Looks like from this point on I would be finishing this race with only a rear brake.  Luckily there was nothing technical on this course…but I for sure would be fishtailing around corners quite a bit with no front brake to help slow me down.

So after losing the front brake, I had to slow WAY down.  Greg easily rode away from me (not that I’d be able to match his pace all day anyway) and now my goal was just to ride consistent and steady enough so that no else would catch me.  The laps rolled on by, I crashed into the bushes more than few times when my rear brake wasn’t enough to slow me down for particularly fast corners, I ate nearly a carton of Honey Stinger gels, pedaled through consistent cramping in my left quad, pedaled through consistent muscle cramps in my left quad by repeatedly shouting out “pedal through it!” “pedal through it!” as my mind over matter mantra, eventually got lapped by Greg on my second to last lap, and walked that stupid climb about 9 more times to hold off anyone else behind me and finish in 2nd Overall and 1st Singlespeed with 11 laps in around 7 hours and 20 minutes.

I figure that the broken front brake cost me 1 full lap….so I *think* I could have gotten 12 laps in, but it wouldn’t have changed my placing at all because Greg powered through to 13 laps, and there’s no way I could attain that number while walking that hill as much as I did.  Surprised and stoked with how everything turned out and I’ll definitely be back again next year.

Final Stats:
11 Laps
7:20 ride time
84 miles
approximately 11,00o vert.

2nd Place Overall and 1st Single speed (broken brake lever shown…I don’t think it’s supposed to look like that)


And one last thing….why the hell didn’t I think of this solution during the race?!?! Would have taken 2 minutes to fix….

More coming soon….can’t wait to start riding and racing this beautiful frame.  For more info, check out Independent Fabrication

New script logo

Chain stays and seat stays left unpainted to show the raw shot-peened titanium

more to come……….

Hot damn I was so excited for the first installment of the Sacramento Cyclocross series today.   Just three days ago I finished and mopped up the decaying remnants of the local MTB race season with the finale of the Prairie City Fall Flash series (i.e. the late Summer Wednesday Night World Championships that really no cares about because they’re kinda burnt out and over MTB racing around this time of year and the real Wednesday Night World Championships are held in the Spring around these parts).

And when I say “mopped up”, I sorta mean that literally, meaning that I crashed spectacularly on lap two and mopped up the dirt with my helmet while trying to not come unglued from  the wheel of eventual winner Clint Claassen.  And when I say, “not come unglued”, I mean that metaphorically, because it felt like my heart was pumping glue and I was exhaling it’s fumes then re-breathing it’s sticky funk back into my lungs making me all light headed and nauseous and all bulgy eye’d….yes, I said “bulgy eye’d”.   Those are real words if you’ve ever pedaled a 40:16 29’er MTB SS gear in a 100 degree race and tried to keep up with one of the local Pro’s on a his full-suspension geared bike…you get “bulgy eye’d”, then your heart starts pumping glue, you breathe in toxic fumes, you get light headed, then you crash and mop up the dirt with your helmet.  End of story.  End of race.  It’s FUN! REALLY!

So with that behind me, today was a new start.  A new dawn.  A new dawn to a new season.  A fresh beginning.    A fresh beginning to a new dawn of a new season.   There were birds chirping and streams bubbling.  Rays of light through popcorn clouds.  The coffee was fresh.  But then 40 nutball single speeders toed the line at the College Cyclery Compound, the starter said “GO”! and it was back to “bulgy eyes”, and hearts pumping glue for blood, and toxic fumes, and nauseousness, and crashing and mopping up the dirt with my helmet after only one lap.   Turns out I hate new dawns and new seasons, fresh beginnings, and birds chirping, streams bubbling, and rays of light and popcorn clouds.  All those things suck.  Yes, I am BITTER and I am venting.

And when I say “I am bitter”, that is by no means a typo for, “I am better”.  I say that because even though I know that crashing is quite commonplace in races, I usually have no one and nothing to fault but my own damn self and my lack of skills (i.e. reference the 2nd paragraph).  But when I get crashed into and taken out by another rider, by another rider that wasn’t even in my class), in a situation that was completely avoidable, that causes multiple hundreds of dollars of damage to my bike, I get bitter.  But hey, that’s bike racing.  And probably why I don’t race criteriums.

In any event, my one lap around the course was satisfying and I learned a lot.  I learned that finally (FINALLY!) some ability to contest for a holeshot has crept into my legs.  I learned that Pete Knudsen (eventual winner) is extremely powerful and fast on flat straightaways.  I learned that I get all bulgy eye’d from trying to chase Pete on those fast flat straightaways and I should probably learn to deal with that better in future races.  I learned that singlespeed cyclocross racing is getting more and more popular around here…which might have a little something to do with THIS race coming up soon.  And even though I was able to only race one lap, I remembered how fun and intense cyclocross racing is.  Hot damn I can’t wait for the next one (just as soon as I find a new wheelset).

Folsom Cyclebration is a weekend long bike festival with a variety of MTB, road, and cyclocross races peppered throughout the 3-day event.  Started in 2008, 2011 marks the 4th year that Cyclebration has been held and it has steadily been growing in popularity.  Its timing at the beginning of September gives it an ideal “close-out” to the long Northern California mountain bike and road race season, as well as the “opener” for the cyclocross season.

For mountain bike racers, Folsom Cyclebration offers 3 distinct events that can either be raced separately, or as I prefer, raced together in what is known as the “MTB Stage Race” which compiles points from your finishes from each of the three individual races to crown an overall Stage Race champion in each racing category.  The three individual races which comprise the MTB Stage Race are: MTB Short Track race on Saturday morning, followed by a MTB Time Trial on Saturday afternoon.  Then a full blown cross-country race on Sunday morning.

In 2010, I was able to sweep all 3 races in Single Speed Expert class with 1st Place victories in the short track, time trial and the XC for the overall Stage Race win.  So naturally, this year my goal was simple….repeat 2010’s results and defend.

Saturday morning – Willow Hills MTB Short Track

I always seem to underestimate how hard of an effort this race can be.  On the surface, it seems relatively benign: 7 laps for the Expert classes around a 1.4 mile swoopy track with 90 feet of elevation gain per lap.  Piece of cake right?  Not when you are getting pushed by some of the fastest single speeders in the region and while at the same time trying to save something in your legs for the MTB time trial later in the day and the XC the following morning.

The race started as usual with the single speed Expert class bringing up the rear of all the other geared Expert age-groups spaced apart by about 15 second gaps.  I’m not sure why the single speeders are always started at the back of the pack when we routinely put in some of the fastest times around here, but so be it, it can be fun trying to chase everyone down, and I’m more of a chaser than anything, so I can use the extra motivation of having other riders ahead.

The start field of the single speed class wasn’t huge, but I knew it was going to be fast.  Basically, take the top 6 or 7 guys from the Prairie City Expert Single Speed field, and drop them onto this start line and there you have it.  I haven’t raced directly against these guys in about a year as I had been racing in the Pro/Expert Open field at PCRS so I wasn’t quite sure where their fitness was nor how it would go racing directly against them in the same category again.

The gun goes off and immediately, Dean Bailey, absolutely floors it and throws any hope I had of a nice slow easy start to this weekend right out the window.  I was tempted to settle into my own pace for the first lap and let him ride away, but then I saw Steve Bowman grab his wheel and I knew I couldn’t let both of them get away so early in case they got a gap on the rest us and started working together.  So 10 seconds in and it was already go time.

Halfway through the first lap I grabbed Dean and Steve’s wheels, and then slid into 2nd behind Dean at the bottom of the one and only “climb” which was on the back half of the course.  I stayed tucked in behind Dean’s wheel to see what kind of pace he would pull and to see if Steve wanted to surge foward.  We stayed in order throughout the climb and as we crested and let momentum and gravity pull us around the next corner I stayed off the brakes and coasted around Dean when he tapped them before the apex.  Steve followed and we picked up the pace just a bit, and put a small gap on the field.

As we coasted through the finish of lap 1, my strategy became clear.  I was going to punch that climb on that back stretch for all I was worth each lap, and then just use the rest of the course to recover and roll at the speed that my 36×15 would naturally allow me.

It worked.

On lap #2, as we approached the bottom of the back stretch climb, I tried to give no indication of the surge I was about to try and  make and then as soon as we hit the incline, got out of the saddle and just punched it for all I was worth trying to carry this power throughout the length of the short climb.  Stretched out along the climb was the geared 40 – 49 field that we had caught by this time, and weaved through them at full gas to get to the front.  At the top, I stole a quick glance back and saw that I caught Steve off guard a bit with the early attack so I tried to keep on the power a bit beyond the top of the climb.

After this first power surge, it was recovery time to get the heart rate back down as I cruised around the course, until it was time to surge up the power climb on the back stretch again.  Coast, let the heart rate come back down, then repeat.  By the 5th lap, I had caught the overall leader, Max Foorman in the geared Expert 29- Under group, and we rode together for a half a lap or so, then I began to pull away continually stealing glances back over the course trying to make sure that Steve wasn’t gaining any ground.

Finished the 7 laps in 1st Place Single Speed Expert and 1st Place Overall with a 32:52.  Steve was pretty close behind with a 33:13 and Justin Paulson in 3rd with a 33:26 and Dean Bailey in 4th with 33:38.    The 4 of us single speeders had the 4 fastest times on the day…which is why I asked at the beginning, why do the single speeders always start at the back?

MTB Short Track SS Expert podium:

Saturday afternoon – MTB Time Trial

In year’s past, the MTB Time Trial was held on the south shore of Lake Natoma on a 6 mile point-to-point stretch of sandy singletrack that while extremely fast, offered little in the way of technical challenge.  It was so tame of a course that each year someone would enevitably ask, “Can I enter this with my cyclocross bike?”.  However, this year would be different.

The 2011 MTB Time Trial would be held on the swoopy and more technically demanding “Folsom Prison Course”.  It would be 1 lap of the course  but run in “reverse” direction than what is typically run.  It was approximately a 5 mile loop with a bunch of steep ups and downs that would surely have everyone’s heart rates pegged.  There were no long sustained climbs, but carrying momentum up the steep bits and rolling smoothly through the turns without braking would be key.  Being able to push through the pain in the legs after each repeated short but steep hill again and again would also be key.  Also, another key (I know, that’s a lot of keys..) would be the first mile of the course would be narrow rolling, primarily uphill singletrack.   Lots of mistakes could be made in this first stretch…the race probably wouldn’t be won there, but it most certainly could be lost by making a careless mistake.

Last year, on the old Lake Natoma time trial course, I was able to snag the 3rd overall fastest time while on my single speed.  However on this course, with all of it’s short steep up and down power climbs, I thought it might be possible for a single speeder to take the overall fastest time.   With the excpetion of one long stretch of flat straight terrain along a levy near the end of the course, there was really no place else on the course that having gears would be an advantage and I was thinking that my 36×15 29’er gear would be able to closely match a geared riders speed on this section.

Luckily, I was right.  Aside from some sloppy mistakes that I made within the first mile of singletrack due to over excitement and anxiousness, I was able to have a clean run, felt strong, and put in a time of 19:40 which was good enough for the fastest overall time of the day.  No one else was able to break 20 minutes.  In 2nd place SS, and also 2nd place overall (again!) was Steve Bowman with a 20:09, and 3rd place SS went to Justin Paulson with a 20:44 for an exact repeat of the mornings results.

MTB Time Trial SS Expert podium:

Sunday Morning – Cross Country (XC)

So with Day 1 in the bag and results as good as I could hope for, my goal for Sunday’s 21 mile XC race on the Folsom Prison Grounds was simple, “don’t screw up”.  i.e. Don’t crash, finish respectably, and don’t do anything that would cause myself to “blow up” too early causing to slip out of the top 3 on the day which would kick me out of the top spot in the Overall Stage Race standings…which was the real objective.  In the two prior races, I was able to snag the fastest overall time in each, and in the back of my mind I thought it might be nice to try for the fastest overall time in the XC as well, but I was too worried about blowing up, and with super fast geared riders showing up for the XC today (i.e. Team Mad Cat’s Clint Claassen and Marc-Pro Strava rider, Frank Spiteri), I knew that it would be a longshot for a single speeder to take the overall.  (especially with the single speed field starting way at the back of the entire geared expert field AGAIN, so lap traffic would be an issue for the entire race…this despite single speeders repeatedly putting in the fastest times of the weekend in the earlier races).

This race was hard.  21 miles doesn’t seem like very far of a distance to race, but with two hard efforts the day before, everyone in for the complete stage race was definitely feeling a little something bugging them in their legs, and I was no exception.  Fortunately at the start, those of us in the single speed field decided to extend our neutral start a bit and we basically cruised at an easy pace as a unified field all the way around the baseball and soccer fields, down into the singletrack, up onto the levy, and stayed together into the first climb along the prison property.  Certainly a nice way to start a race.  Once we hit the climb however, we all kind of settled into our natural rhythm and I pedaled to the front with Steve Bowman and Justin Paulson once again not very far behind.

My overall goal for this race of “don’t do anything stupid” was achieved and I stayed within myself to avoid any and all risk of blowing up too early allowing me to hold off Steve Bowman for 1st Place SS.  My time was 1:27:33 and Steve finished close behind with a 1:28:17.  Justin came in 3rd for a repeat performance of yesterday’s two races.  I was quite surprised that my time was good enough (just barely) for 2nd Overall in the entire field with Clint Claassen getting the fastest time of the day with a 1:26:18 despite having to stop a few times to deal with a torn sidewall (good job Clint!).

So in the overall MTB Stage Race in SS Expert it was myself in 1st, with Steve Bowman in 2nd, and Justin Paulson in 3rd.  Great work guys and thanks for pushing me.  Hopefully we’ll all be back again next year to give it another go.

MTB Cross Country SS Expert Podium:

MTB Stage Race SS Expert Podium:

Since 2008, local NorCal race promoter, Jim Northey of Global Biorhythm Events (www.globalbiorhythmevents.com), has been putting on what is arguably one of the toughest one-day mountain bike races around, the Tahoe-Sierra 100 MTB Race (TS100).  As the name suggests, it is a 100 mile MTB race held in the rough and tumble “backwoods” of the Greater Lake Tahoe region and Western Slope of the Sierra Nevada. 


For the past few years, the TS100 has been more of a loop style course which would have racers starting and ending at the same point.  However, for 2011, Jim and his crew devised a menacing point-to-point course that had the start point in Soda Springs, CA (elevation 6,738 ft) and ending in Foresthill, CA (elevation 3,096 feet).  This actually shortened the race length to approximately 83 miles, but not many racers were complaining about the “shorter” race this year because stuffed inbetween the start and finish was over 12,000 vertical of climbing and over 15,000 vertical feet of descending.  Check out the elevation profile below, paying close attention to how much steeper the climbs get as you get closer to the finish:

Much of the course would also take place on the famous Western States Trail. This is the same trail that is used in the Western States 100 mile endurance run (held every year since 1974), and also in the equine version, The Tevis Cup (http://www.teviscup.org). Until this year, and thanks to Jim Northey and his crew of race volunteers’ herculean race promotion and organization efforts, there has never been a MTB race held on this route making this year’s TS100 a race with significant historical significance. Finally, mountain bikers would have their own race on the Western States trail alongside our friends in the running and equestrian racing communities. (Note: The TS100 route only followed the Western States trail for the portions that are designated as legal for bikes.).

It’s been a few years since I’ve tried my hand at a 100 mile MTB race (last time was in the inaugural 2008 version of the TS100), as I’ve focued mainly on the more traditional XC length races that last anywhere from 1 – 3 hrs, but after learning that the 2011 version of the TS100 would be the point-to-point monster that it was, I just had to sign up for the adventure. I had originally signed up for the race in a geared class, but as the event drew closer, I decided to switch over to what I know best, racing singlespeeds, and changed categories into the Pro/Expert Single Speed Open Class.

When I race shorter traditional length XC races, I am generally known for running steeper gearing than most others and have had some success with that strategy.  I’m definitely more of a “masher” than a “spinnner” and I’ve spent a significant amount of time trying to get stronger in order to push gears tall enough to be able to keep up with the fastest geared class riders  in my local area on the flats, but still be able to climb efficiently as well.  In a 2 hr XC race on rolling terrain, this strategy has served me well, and I decided to take this strategy into the TS100.  I knew it could backfire, but I went with it anyway.  My line of thinking followed that no matter how ‘spinny’ of a gear the other single speeders would be riding, they would still all be walking out of the last 3 crazy steep climbs at the end of the race (these climbs are so steep and heinous that many of the geared riders have to walk them as well).  So my thought process was, since we’ll be hiking out of the climbs anyway, maybe I can put on a bigger gear for the first 2/3rds of the course and “out mash” everyone until we got to the crazy hikes out of the canyons at the end where it would essentially become a footrace.  I’d also use my lightest wheelset/tire combo (Maxxis Ikons without the EXO sidewall protection shod on Stan’s NoTubes lightest wheelset, the ZTR Race 29’ers) to hopefully make the mashing of the taller gear a little easier.  It was a risky strategy for sure, but went with it anyway.  I also “guestimated” an 11 – 12 hour finish and tried to plan my fuel/water consumption apporpriately as you can see below:

Race started promptly at 6AM and about 150 excited racers were off.  The race started with about a miles worth of pavement before turning onto dirt and predictably, a group of about 10 of the fastest Pro class geared riders pushed the pace and were off the front.  Even though I knew this was a LONG race, I knew that with my steeper gear choice, now was the time to try and take advantage of it and get off the front as early as possible so I got into the paceline and drafted behind the lead group and onto the dirt. 

photo credit: Jeff Barker

The first 20 miles or so went by extremely fast.  Much faster than my “guesstimations” in the photo above where I thought it would be possible to manage a 10mph for the first 20 miles.  In reality, we hit the 20 mile mark at about hour and half mark.  And after the first significant climb at mile 21 and it’s fast descent to mile 30, I was still ahead of my schedule by about 30 minutes and thoroughly enjoying trying to keep pace within the top 7 or 8 geared riders overall (which at this point was Jesse Miller-Smith, Chuck Ross, Chris Schulze, Aren Timmel, Greg Golet, and Rich Thurman).  This pace (for me) would not last much longer however…

photo credit: Jeff Barker

As you can see from the “strategy” pic above, at approximately Mile 31 we hit the second major climb of the day.  The Category 2 climb up to the singletrack of Red Star Ridge.  This climb gains approximately 1,700 vert in 5 miles at an average grade of 6.4% with a few steeper bits touching 25 – 28% (stats taken from www.strava.com) into it, I knew this would be the first significant test of my 34×19 gear and I was fearing that I would have to walk a few spots.  Fortunately, I was able to ride the entire climb, but unfortunately, the grinding of my gear slowed me down significantly and just before the top I was caught by fellow singlespeeder, Mike Harrison.  As he passed, we chit-chatted briefly and I noticed that he was sitting down and spinning comfortably, while I was standing and mashing.  Already at this point, mile 35, I knew that I could be in some serious trouble.

One thing that I completely underestimated when developing my strategy of pushing a bigger gear than most was the condition of the high elevation trails and their corresponding chunkiness and looseness.  Mashing a bigger gear up climbs works great when the trail is hardpack, but when they are scorched with deep dusty ruts, littered with loose baby head rock debris, and twist and turn tightly forcing repeated hard re-accelerations…the larger gear begins to wear you down…and quickly.  This was my fate on the singletrack of Red Star Ridge

photo credit: Jeff Barker


Red Star Ridge destroyed me.  The photo above is one of the nicer sections of trails, but on a single speed with too hard of a gear, it was generally, THE SUCK.  I was off my bike and walking a LOT.  Which was very disconcerting for more than a few reasons: 1) I knew that Mike was ahead spinning away happily and probably laughing at my gear choice, 2) I knew that I was going to have a hell of a time holding off whoever else was behind me, and 3) if I’m walking this much now, and there’s a LOT more mandatory walking ahead down the road..how friggin long is this race going to really take me?.  Huge trains of geared riders swept me up and left me in their dust and wake on Red Star Ridge.  Already at the end of this section, at approximately mile 41, I was mentally toeing the line between treating this as a “race” and treated it as “just survive and finish”

photo credit: Jeff Barker


Following Red Star Ridge, we were treated to a FAST pavement descent on Mosquito Ridge Road for a few miles which gave me some time to drink/eat and recover mentally from the total beatdown that Red Star Ridge just served me.  This recovery would not last long however, as we got back on dirt at about mile 45 and began what would ultimately be the longest climb of the day checking in at 8 – 9 miles. 

In my strategy map above, I wrote the word “walk?” at the very top of this climb where it appeared to get steeper way up at mile 56 or 57.  And I was correct in that assessment…I definitely walked the crap out of that section up there.  However, what I actually should have done was written the word “walk?” about 80 more times along the length of this climb.  Seriously.  From the bottom, to the middle, to the very top…I walked alot and grinded my pedals a little.  It was pretty crushing and the constant “get off bike”, “get back on bike” really began wearing on me and I felt my quads getting small twinges of cramps. Uh-Oh don’t do this already here..not now…it’s too early.  About 1/3 of the way up this climb was an aid station and just before reaching it I was caught and passed by another single speeder, Aron Yevuta who looking very strong and also spinning away at a much easier gear than me.  We spent some time at the aid station together re-filling bottles and hydration packs, left at about the same time, and I tried my best to stay on his wheel for the fire road climb along Cavanaugh Ridge when not more than 2 minutes after the aid station, my left quad completly seized, cramped, and locked.  Off the bike again.

There at approximately mile 54, I double-over my bike for about 10 minutes trying to get my quad to un-cramp.  Literally couldn’t move for 10 minutes and all I could do was contemplate about how I was even going to finish this race when the worst climbing was still a long ways away.  The thoughts of backing out and heading back to the aid station for the dreaded DNF finally faded away along with the cramp that eventually released it’s strangle hold on my quad and I found that I could actually make a few pedal strokes without it seizing up again.  Just a few more miles to the top of this climb and then I knew there was finally some descending to be had. 

Miles 55 to 61 went by pretty fast and relatively uneventful.  It was fast fun technical descending on chunky loose trails with amazing scenery at high alpine elevation.  Pretty easy to forget the pain of seizing quads and mashing too big a gear on steep climbs in terrain like that and I took full advantage and begin to recover mentally.  I finally began to feel fresh again like I did during the first 25 – 30 miles.  This recurring feeling of freshness got another boost when I rolled into my teammates (Team Mad Cat – www.teammadcat.com) aid station at about mile 61.  Mad Cat has staffed this aid station for the past few years and have become famous for cooking up some mean bacon tacos and being being incredibly efficient and friendly at helping racers fix any issues with their bikes, throw cool water towels on their necks, and refill their bottles.  My team mates and friends treated me like royalty when I rolled in and I can’t thank them enough.  I had been hurting and I left them feeling rejuvenated so THANK YOU.

After the Mad Cat aid station, the most fun part of the race course (for me) was ahead.  We dipped onto the Western States trail for some true ripping singletrack on historic flume trails in shaded pine forest that just made you smile. A few miles of that to about mile 70 and the trail dropped off the end of the earth on one of the steepest descents I have ever been on.  Miles 71 – 73 plummted into a deep canyon through steep loose switchbacks and long fall line straightaways that overheated rotors and seared brake pads.  It was nice to rack up miles quickly, but I knew that we would have to climb out the other side of this canyon and there would be a few miles of walking to get up and out of the other side.

So after reaching the bottom of the canyon at mile 73.  I walked.  And walked.  And walked some more.  It was steep.  It seemed never ending.  It was extremely hot.  I got blisters on my heels.  Blisters on my toes.  My back ached. I began to have visions of ice cold beer and it almost brought a tear to my eye. Ice. Cold. Beer.  I began to question my sanity for entering this dang race.  More than a few times I uttered the “Never again” mantra…and if anyone at the bottom of this canyon heard someone yell “THHIISSSS SSSUUUUCCKKKKSSS!!!‘ at the top of their lungs from somewhere half way up the climb….well yeah, that was me 🙂  I think it took me an hour to hike out of that canyon.  I have no idea.  Luckily there was an aid station at the top.  The friendly volunteers who staffed it were very nice as they tried to make sense of whatever came out of my mouth when they asked how I was doing. “Gunga.  Gunga galunga. gungagalungddffaddfs….”.  They just looked at me and nodded and sent me on my way.

Fortunately, with that hell climb behind me, there was another one almost exactly like it just a few miles ahead.  Awesome.  And inbetween where I was now and that next hike from/out-of-hell was another steep ripping singletrack descent into another canyon.  It was on this descent that my rear brake completely went out.  I wore the brake pad down to nothing and was now left without whatever was left of it constantly rubbing on my brake rotor.  More awesomenes.  Thankfully the descent ended soon and I was facing a hike of another 45 minutes to an hour so I wouldn’t be needing my brakes anyway for awhile.  “gunga. gungagalunga” – all over again. 

By my calculations, by the time I hiked out of this second hell climb/death march I was only about 14.56 percent of my former self.  I was basically a walking shell.  A walking shell of a mountain biker who couldn’t get visions of Ice. Cold. Beer. out of his head. I stumbed into the last aid station at Mile 80-something looking like the Charlie Brown character Pig Pen with a bad meth habit.  “gunga. gungagalunga. gungaldfdhfsddf.”  The friendly aid station volunteers checked me in and checked me out and I was on my way.

As I pedaled out of the last aid station, one of the volunteers shouted out, “hey! you’re the 3rd SS’er!  Keep going and you’re on the podium!!”.  Huh?  Wait what? How?  This is a race?….ooooohhh yeahhhh… and I’m in 3rd!  I suddenly got a jolt of energy and wave of euphoria came over me when I realized that hey, I’m in 3rd place, and hey, I’m nearly done with this fricking thing.  I began to have more visions of Ice. Cold. Beer. and I heard the fantastic refreshing hissing sound that Ice. Cold. Beer cans make when you pop them open after a long hard ride echo throughout the hills.  However, I began to realize that the hissing sound I was hearing was indeed a very real sound and it was not coming from Ice. Cold. Beer.  but rather from my rear tire.  Nooooooooooooo!  My risky strategy had once again backfired and lmy ightweight tire had a torn sidewall with Stan’s fluid gushing out all over the place.   Pull over.  Spend 10 minutest screwing around with CO2 cartridiges and tire sealant and get moving.  Ughh…end this.  Now.

Two miles after the tire slashing and fixing, it did end.  I suddenly popped out on Foresthill Rd, and cruised into the finish line at around 10 hours 40 minutes.  Just 8 minutes and change behind the 2nd place single speeder, Aron, who passed me way back at mile 50-something just prior to my quad cramps.  I had somehow made some time up, but not enough.  Mike Harrison had a great race and won with a time right around 10 hours on the mark and took the days top spot for the single speeders.  I pulled into the finish.  Was handed a finishing medal and Ice. Cold. Beer. and was told to hang around for a few minutes because I arrived just in time for the SS podium presentation.  Sweet 🙂

photo credit: Jeff Barker (me on far right)


Immediately after the podium, I emphatically told anyone around me who dared to listen that I would never ever put myself though this torture again.  Actually, immediately after the podium I had an Ice. Cold. Beer. but it was after THAT when I began saying such things.  But now today, one day after, I want to get after it again.  I want to get after it with a not-so-dumb gearing choice.  I want to get after it with non-paper thin tires.  And most of all I want to get after it with another Ice. Cold. Beer. at the end.   What is it in our nature that make us so quickly forget all that pain and suffering and want to do it again?  It must have something to do with the Ice. Cold. Beer. Gunga.  Gungagalunga.  See ya next year TS100.


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