By David Fong
The drive up the mountain from Orange County was pleasant with light traffic. I was both excited and nervous to race the last event in the Team Big Bear and Kenda Tires CAMTB XC series. I had no idea how my fitness would stand up against the competition, as I hadn’t raced since March. Additionally, this would be only the third race on my 2021 Santa Cruz Blur CC. Opening my car door on arrival, I was greeted by high altitude, warm, dry air and knew it’d be a tough day as it was already in the low 80s at 9am. However, seeing many friends, some whom I had not seen in over a year due to COVID, quickly put me at ease. Everyone at the venue was so excited to actually be at a race!
I held back some effort in my warm up, as we had to climb up a very steep half-mile street to get to the start line. Any races allowed thus far have been in a time trial format and today’s race was to be the same. One’s time would begin recording as he or she crossed the start line. A cat-and-mouse game then ensued with racers waiting for others to go first—is it better to chase or be chased? I decided to chase, but I waited a bit too long and ended up riding alone most of the 17.31 mile course.
I don’t get up to Big Bear too often and had forgotten the difficulty range of the climbs. I had taped a hill profile from Strava on my handlebar and that helped some but real help would’ve come from pre-riding the course a week or two ahead. Big Bear has a lot of skatey, kitty litter soil so racers needed to be careful turning on it. Several folks went down in clouds of dust. I nearly had a crash but saved it.
There are gorgeous, scenic views along the super fun Skyline single-track. Unfortunately, one can’t risk taking them in because of the technical nature of the course. Pass-throughs between boulders and narrow, punchy climbs dot this half of the course.
One of my goals at this race was to not accidentally cut the course like I did in 2020 (I earned a DQ for that). This year was different, I was on high alert for the turnoff and the course was well marked at this race. I ended up taking 4th place in my category. What I learned from this race is to not overthink things and to pre-ride the course. The latter would be a pleasure to do as the course is so nice to ride and I could actually enjoy the scenic views!