Happy New Year...Now Let’s Race!
This past weekend marked the first race of the calendar year in Southern California, as both grass roots and World Cup level racers made their annual return to the sandy, rutted, and rock-strewn hills of Fontana, California for the 2016 KMC Chain Winter Series presented by Southridge USA.
The week leading up to the race saw El Nino raise its head, as rain pummeled the SoCal terrain. While this may create a sloppy mess in some regions, the decomposed granite and sandy soils of Fontana simply sucked it up, and racers arrived on Saturday to find some of the most amazing track conditions you could desire at Fontana! No blown out berms, lots of grip, little wind, and cool temps.
Last year saw the preponderance of the one run race format, but this year, Donny and the gang at Southridge brought back the two run format for the first Super D of the year, meaning that riders rode down one stage starting on one hill, then climbed back up to race a second stage on a different hill. So, in essence, we raced a two-stage enduro race. Speaking with many of the other racers, it seems that this was a welcomed format, and racers want more of this. Hey, this guy is included in that! If we did this two run format the rest of the series, I can only see more racers showing up, so let’s keep it going!
Unfortunately I had quite a bit of time off the bike the past few months due to injury and illness, so I knew I wasn’t going to have the optimum stamina and leg/lung power for this race. Therefore I concentrated on bike setup, with emphasis on tire pressure and suspension settings. My Kenda Honey Badger DH tire I used up front felt like I could lean on it in both sandy turns and on rocks, and not once did I feel like it was going to push or give out on me. I also fine-tuned the use of bottomless tokens in my RockShox Pike fork and bottomless rings in my Monarch shock. This helped to keep my Santa Cruz Nomad riding above the holes in between the rocks, yet still gave me great traction, as well as a great pedaling platform when it was time to sprint! Shameless sponsor plug: go to The Path Bike Shop and they’ll help get your rig set up like they helped me!
Back to racing! Stage one started off with rocks, rocks, and more rocks, along with a few small jumps, rocks slab rollers, and steep sections that lead you into sharp corners...more than a few things to keep you on your toes. This fun and rather quick stage finished just to the right of the infamous “wall”, then riders climbed back up for the second stage. The second stage was much more physical, as there was one long pedaling section in the middle that required a good balance of flow and power to keep your speed up, just as it dropped you into another steep rock slab, crossing the fire road into some super fun swooping banked turns with a few jumps thrown in for good measure. You then crossed back over the road, into the Super D Rock Garden, then a long sprint into the bottom of the 4X course before you finish at the vendor area!
The Path Bike Shop Race Team had a very good showing for the first Super D race of the year! Blake Wray was on the podium, earning 2nd in Beginner Men 18 & Under! Sean Small and Nick Patricio has strong showings in a very competitive class, earning 6th and 7th respectively in Expert Men 35 & Under, and Zachary Graves got 9th in Sport Men 35 & Up. Me...I managed to get on the podium with a 4th place finish in Sport Men 35 & Up! I couldn’t have been happier with my finish. By a very long shot, I felt this was the best Super D race I have experienced at Fontana!
I would like to thank Tani and all his employees at The Path Bike Shop, and all the other team sponsors: Kenda Tires, SRAM, Race Face, Crank Brothers, Speed Tuned Wheels, Tustin Brewing (YUM!), Invigorade, Ford & Mazda of Orange, IXS Sports Division, Cal Boring, GoDirect Fumigation, and Johan at Acumed.