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.
I could tell you every little detail about my weekend at the CES Kamikaze Games last weekend at Mammoth Mountain, CA but I'll just share what you really want to hear about...my crashes and other problems that no one wants on race day.
Quick rundown: We arrived at Mammoth 3 days before my race day. Beginners and sport raced on Saturday while Expert and pros had to deal with race butterflies one more day. Sunday came and all I hoped for was smooth runs with no broken bones.
2 days before the race day: While taking some practice runs, my shifter decided to skip. Ex-Path employee Mike Riess at the Shimano tent, saved the day and tuned it up for me.
I have been dying to get some new riding shoes, but that cost money and I have races to pay for! So I've been holding out. What happens a day before the race? The ratchet on my shoe won't secure. I'd like to give a shout out to Roger from Kenda Tires for providing Gorilla Tape to hold it together.
by Nathan Heronen, Ambassador and member of The Path Bike Shop Race Team.
The 2015 Rim Nordic Enduro Race Series attracts a wide variety of racers from all different backgrounds. The sometimes technical, sometimes pedal-y, always fun stages drive riders to make some pretty specific choices on bike setup. Here is an inside look in to a few of the racers’ bikes at the Aug 15, 2015 race at the Rim Nordic Ski Area in Running Springs, CA.
The Path Bike Shop local Geoff Knight running a large Kona Process 111 29er with a Rockshox 140mm Revelation fork. Drivetrain is handled by a WolfTooth modified 1×10 Shimano drivetrain with a 28t ring and a custom inner chain guide. Wheels are Stans ZTR Flow wheels with meaty On One tires. Seatpost duties taken care of by a 150mm KS Supernatural dropper. Brakes are the always trusty Shimano XT. A modified seat bag attached with an Awesome Strap keeps the tools and spares for racing in place, and a water bottle is well secure by a Salsa stainless steel cage.
Jill Hamilton of Petal Power was rocking the Turner Czar with Rockshox Sid Fork and Fox Float rear shock. Wheels are the ever lusted after Enve Carbons wrapped in WTB Bronson TCS tires. Drivetrain is handled by SRAM 1×11 with a 28t front ring. Jill is also running a KS Lev dropper seatpost to coax out the enduro abilities of her XC rig.
Race report by Nathan Heronen, member of The Path Bike Shop Race Team.
After hitting the Grizzly 100k race in Big Bear for the second time this year, I think I finally got my gear and bike setup dialed. The race is 100k (~63 Miles) with about 8000-ft of climbing and part of the National Ultra Endurance (NUE) MTB race series. Much of the race is technical singletrack for extended periods of time. Bike and gear choice can really make the difference between a good day and a rough day. Below is a list of what I chose and why. While I still struggled during the race, I felt good about all my gear choices. This is the setup I would choose for any similar distance race in the future.
Race report by Steven Nadaskai, member of The Path Bike Shop Race Team.
California Enduro Series Race #4: Ashland, Oregon/ Jr. Expert Under 18
With this race being my second California Enduro Series race, I knew I had signed up for a challenge.
We set off to Oregon on Wednesday afternoon, only to get there at around 12am and still having to set up the tents and camp. After getting some sleep, we took the day to practice stages 3 and 4. These were the two stages that we had to get shuttled up on. Once we starting riding down, we all heard a loud....BANG. From there on we finished practice in pouring rain and in some spots, hail. Surprisingly the rain didn't make the dirt muddy. Instead it made it extremely tacky and just amazing.
As Friday came, we were able to fit in another practice day. This day was a little bit different though. We shuttled stages 3 and 4 with no rain, but only extreme amounts of stoke. Once setting off to climb 3700 feet to stages 1 and 2, that's when the rain kicked in. Two of my teammates (Ben and Chris) and myself ended up climbing the full climb in pouring rain, taking about 2 hours. Then once at the top we rode both stages in pouring rain also. The experience of riding in that type of weather was insane and was truly memorable.
Race report by Blake Wray, Jr. racer and member of The Path Bike Shop Race Team. Photo: Jason Marr.
My first MTB National Championship Race was an awesome experience! Before the fun began, there was a lot of preparation and hard work. I had to work very hard with breathing, strength training, and nutrition. Getting on the stationary bike helped me with the strength and breathing. Once I was all ready and done with work, it was time to go up I was excited! It was a long drive up there, it was astonishing!
A week ago was Round 3 of the 2015 California Enduro Series in China Peak. I knew this race was going to be challenge because I've never been to China Peak or ridden any similar trails. The only way I could prepare myself for this race is by going in with the mindset of using all I've learned and trained for.
After hanging out and relaxing on Thursday, we set off to get some practice runs in on Friday. Having the use of chairlifts helped a whole lot, as we were able to fit in 7 practice runs. From the start of practice, I knew these trails were completely different than anything I'm used to. Stages 1 and 2 were what I would call the "warm-up" stages as they didn't have anything that technical but instead a lot of blown-out corners and pedaling sections between those corners.
Stage 3 was by far the most physically demanding stage; it started out with some sketchy technical sections, then dropped you into the trees into a bunch of tight switchbacks and a good amount of pedaling. After the pedaling section, you dropped into the infamous rock garden. I had to look at it a couple of times, but I chose my lines according to how smooth I can hit it. After the rock garden and a couple other fairly technical sections, the course dropped you into more pedaling between the trees all the way to the end.
Stage 4 was more on the technical side, but instead of tight rock sections, it was high speed, rowdy technical sections. This section was rowdy for the majority of the stage until the last 30 percent where it was all washed out turns that were extremely hard to get traction.
Race Report by David Hardwick, member of The Path Bike Shop Race Team. Photos: Carla Bray
Round Two of the 2015 California Enduro Series took us the furthest from home that I’ve ever been for a race. We traveled to a little town about 10 hours from home on the Mendocino coast called Caspar. The locals welcomed somewhere near 300 racers, their families, and support staff with open arms, and were thrilled to show their local riding area to a whole new group of people.
I had been saving my pennies and selling everything not bolted down so I could purchase a new bike in time for the race. With the help of Tani & Gerrin from the shop, I was able to get my hands on a Giant Trance 1 with exactly the build that I wanted. I picked up my bike one week before this race and tried to squeeze in every ride I could so I could get to know her a little better before leaving home for the race.
Thursday morning before the race was a blur; I tossed all the last minute things into the car and drove to meet with Zach for our trip 2/3 of the way up the state. The drive up was pretty uneventful and we made really good time. We arrived to find the rest of the team just finishing up their course pre-riding. We geared up and talked the world’s best team manager, Lou Mollineda, into dropping us off at the top so we could get some pre-rides in ourselves before we set up camp for the weekend.
Friday morning we awoke to beautiful weather, lots of sun and perfect temps for riding. After the arrival of a few more teammates, we put together the days plan, trying to get as many of the race stages covered as we possible could. The plan was well executed and I think the team had a good handle on what the trails were like. Friday night I started thinking about how many miles were ahead of me for the weekend, and the pre-race jitters certainly kicked in. I reviewed the trail map multiple times to try and remember all I could about the stages I would be racing on Saturday. The morale around camp was quite high, I think the team felt well prepared and ready to tackle the next days of racing.
Racing a 50 mile endurance race on tired legs with a single speed is a good experience and good training, but it does NOT feel good at all....I highly recommend it.
The endurance course was two laps on the 25-mile cross country course. I felt good for about 15 minutes after the start, then I had no choice but to settle into a slower more manageable pace while the group I was with rode away.
The following 15 minutes I rode with another group of riders, but again I needed to dial it down a bit more to deal with the altitude and leg fatigue so I fell off the back of that group. I rode in this position for the rest of the race. I did manage to catch a few riders, but not the two singlespeeders that were ahead of me. I finished third so I still managed to get a podium spot.
Race report by Steven Nadaskai, member of The Path Bike Shop Race Team.
OTH Race #3: Elite Short Track Brutality
This past Tuesday was the 3rd race of the 2015 Over The Hump MTB Race Series. It was also a special type of night; for this race, the Elite racers didn't have a main race but instead had a nearly 4-mile Short Track race after the main race. To qualify for the short track race, the elite racers were paired with a beginner or junior to be a ride-along coach during the main race. Giving myself a challenge, I set out to race the Elite/Pro Short track.
Before the main race, I was paired up with R.J., who was a beginner racer. The incredible thing when chatting with him on the start line was that it was his first time ever racing. He looked strong at the start line when I first met him and he proved to race even stronger. Being his ride-along, my job was to coach him and help him through the race. I tried my best to do so by giving tips and helping him to keep pushing to the finish. For his first race, he ended finishing 3rd in beginner men 29- class. By the way he was racing, I knew he going to be up there and he did exactly that. Big congrats to R.J.!!
I went back to Weaverville, California after a seven year hiatus to work on my climbing. Last year I raced a hundred mile race in Oregon with 17,000 vertical feet of climbing and had a meltdown on the way to a third place finish. It was a very ugly finish; I didn't pace properly, was under fueled, bonked, and in a world of hurt the last several hours.
Race Report by David Fong, member of The Path Bike Shop Race Team.
The 2015 Over The Hump MTB Race season got off to a great start with sellout attendance at Race #1. The venue at Irvine Lake was buzzing with excitement. While I was feeling excited about this race, I was also a bit apprehensive as well. The reason for that is that I jumped into a higher category a couple seasons ago and had typically finished in the last 3 to 5 spots of my group, Men Sport 50+. I knew I had to make changes going into the 2015 season, so I started being coached by teammate Luke Wronski, a successful Expert-level racer and employee at The Path Bike Shop.
Luke put me on a high-intensity/low-volume training plan, which worked well with my busy schedule. This incorporated strength training, interval work and a core workout routine. His coaching and my hard work (read: pain) paid off big at this race, my first XC race of the year.
I wasn’t really sure I wanted to go to the Santa Ynez Valley Classic, but after a few last minute considerations I decided it would be a good way to test the diet and training program I have been on for the past month. I departed home early Friday morning, prepared to sit in some LA traffic to aim for a 10AM arrival time so that team member Zach Graves and I could get a course pre-ride in. That plan worked rather well, as we arrived within 15 minutes of each other. I haven’t been to the Dirt Club in Los Olivos for many years, but I’m familiar with the hills and I was prepared for some good hard pedaling in the Enduro. I’m really glad that I had prepared mentally because stage one was, as fellow race team member Jordan Steyer put it, “one 12-minute interval”. And man, did it feel like it.
Race Report by Mario Correa, member of The Path Bike Shop Race Team
I went to a fun event with a great vibe, the 2015 6 Hours In Frog Hollow just outside of Zion on April 18, 2015. I wanted to test out my new singlespeed setup and to make a comparison to my result/fitness from the 2014 race.
12.8 mile course, perfect weather, SingleSpeed Solo category, pitted off my truck tailgate, wore the old green Path Bike Shop race kit since it was warm out and I haven't had time to make a sleeveless version of the new kit.
One tooth difference in gearing, fully rigid setup, lighter bike with carbon frame, bigger Path Bike Shop water bottles, new Giro Shoes from the shop, and I fueled up only on Poptarts and Rockstar Energy drink. Also, my fitness is not what it was at this point in 2014, but it would be a good sign if I wasn't too far off of my lap times from the race last year.
The week leading up to the 2015 Sea Otter Classic, I came down hard with a bacterial infection that wiped me out for three days. I seriously questioned whether or not I would be healthy enough to race. I picked up an antibiotic Thursday and hoped for the best. By race day Sunday I felt good. Huge shout out to my team mate Nathan Heronen for turning me on to a sinus spray that allowed me to breathe out my nose during the race!
At the start of the race I went out hard, doing everything I could to be up at the front before the course bottle-necked into the singletrack. After getting through the first singletrack, the race settled into a rhythm. I stayed with two other riders in my class for most of the race.
Race report by Steven Nadaskai, member of The Path Bike Shop Race Team.
2015 Sea Otter Classic - XC Race Cat-2, ages 15-18
As everyone knows, the Sea Otter Classic is like a mountain bikers' dream. Everything bike related is there, including the racing. I set out to race the very brutal XC race. The course was 24 miles and 3500' feet of climbing. It was the longest race I've ever done so far and it definitely hurt.
Waking up race morning was tough since race start was at 8AM, so I was awake by 6AM. To make things even better, it was super foggy and freezing cold. After doing a decent warmup, I went to go line up at the start and ended up waiting 20 minutes until the race actually began. I was freezing and shivering just standing there waiting for the race to start, but once the announcer said "go", the adrenaline warmed me up quickly!
Off the start everyone was just going at it and getting into draft groups right away. I dropped back towards the back of the field during the first few minutes as everyone was attacking and blasting ahead. I knew if I would do that, I would blow up later on since it was a very long race. Slowly but surely, I was gaining positions one by one; mainly on downhills and singletrack where I had my advantage of technical skills.