Monday, March 03, 2008

We're gonna what?

Shane, Duncan and Timmel astride their bikes of choice: Mtb with 700c wheels. Isn't that technically a cross bike with flat bars? Does it matter? Yes. Did it matter, No! Saturday's race was won by the "surprise" favorite, Rocky Mountain's Max Plaxton. Who's that, some asked... check last year's Pro results from the Sea Otter or World Cup races. And don't forget Kona's Chris Sneddon in 2nd. But what about this new Nor Cal guy in third? Some say he looks a lot like Ex-Gianni superstar Roger Bartels. Last week, I rode the Willow Creek section and was talking strategy with Duncan, and I think he summed it up best. Perhaps his plan paralleled yours: "I'll work like hell to get over Old Caz with a fast group and then make it to Willow Creek. From there on, it will be damage control."
The helicopters were grounded, motorcycles couldn't get around the locked gates and Paul, Phil and Graham Watson were busy so... what's your story? Anyone have cool photos? Send 'em in. And thanks again to Kim!


At 2:01 PM , Blogger Patrick said...

What a great day! 3 cheers for Kim! Thanks to all you great Gianni folks for making these days happen.

At 3:46 PM , Blogger Josh Litwack said...

So. Fucking. Epic.

I am laying broken like the hollow candy man that I am. Stage 1 of the Grasshopper has stripped away all my illusions of grandeur and left me bereft of any semblance of fortitude.

No one could have asked for a better day for the 10th running of the Hopper. Clear, warm and...........windy as hell. 140 (Yes, 140! Seriously!?!?) hearty souls bent on Grasshopper glory were on hand at the start and a greater variety of tweakey bikes, I have never seen, each with it's owner claiming a divine revelation on the gear needed to conquer Old Caz.

Carbon Cross bikes with disc brakes? Commonplace.
Road bikes with flat bars and 28c tires? Sure!
Titanium Hardtail Mountain bikes with rigid carbon forks and 700c disc wheels? There were 5.
Full suspension MTBs with road tires? Absolutely!

The group rolled north to the river chatting easily with false bravado, hoping the voice they projected bore no trace of the apprehension and fear that had chilled their heart to blood red crystal. Along river road we paraded, the group getting nervous and jockeying for position at the front, critical for the Hole Shot at the Duncan's Grade gate.


Up the hill we ripped, knees creaking, sprockets and chains popping, ragged breath. pedalpedalpedal. eyes spurting blood, back muscles wrenching, lungs gasping for air. off the bike through the gate on the bike pedalpedalpedal catch the lead group!

I'm in the front group at the top of the hill, and a select group of a dozen or so it is. BUT......on the first dirt corner of the descent my front wheel slides out and I end up on my face, with only a bloody knee and sore shoulder to show for my efforts as I watched the group dwindle off down the hill. Back on, just in time to hook up with the chase group of 10 or so and rolling along to the Old Caz hwy climb, a paved burner about 20 minutes long...and oh HOW it burned!

Rip the dirt descent down to Austin creek, wading across thigh deep, freezing water, shouldering the bike and running across a rocky beach and up a muddy hill, only to have to jump back on the bike and immediately start a dirt climb again. Grind to the top, another gravel/paved descent to Cazadero and then a long power sapping roller out to River Road followed by a strength draining, into a brutal headwind, MTBer's who can't ride a f-ing paceline, gap closing burn out to the coast.

Across the Russian River and up Willow Creek we rolled. Here is where it got interesting, (thanks to Miguel's inspiration to add on "an extra little bonus climb.")

Fuck. Me.

This "extra little bonus climb" turned out to be a 20 minute, almost vertical, soft and wet climb that lasted FOREVER. I blew like a Roman Candle. I was walking my bike at one point. As were many others. Just brutal. (ps-Ben's remarks on this? "Did you see the beautiful views? Just gorgous" ....Dick).

At the top we dropped back down a fast, slick, muddy and wild descent that had many guys being very cautious. I said "Fuck it", went for it and picked up 4-5 places before we hit Willow Creek again....just in time to climb all the way back up it to Coleman Valley. I passed and got passed and ended up catching a group of 4 on the last paved straight away before the finish. Blowing by them like a muddy, fat freight train I was finally done.

25th. 60 miles of cross. Glorious. I'm shattered.

You should've been there.


At 3:40 AM , Blogger surfvivor said...

While going up Old Caz I met Nigel. I told him that later, none of us will really care who we are riding with and we will all be in a world of deep meditation. As I said that, a kid in baggy shorts, t-shirt and skate shoes came flying by us. Get this guy on a team!
As my calories plummetted in that Hwy. 116 headwind, I unfortunately lost contact with our group of eight in damage control mode. I remember a guy on a single-speed, sure as ever just spinning his ass off.

Riders I had been with earlier in the day started appearing. One just sitting in the grass, others cramping, and someone with a broken chain as I approached the 'bonus dirt.' I found Nigel, weaving back and forth up the steep climb. Trying to make light of the situation, we both muttered something to eachother but neither of us laughed. Several of us crested the top of Willow Cr. Everyone hammered those last few miles in spite of the fact that were finishing 50-60th place.

When I got back to the car my body felt like my "legs had been ripped off." As I sat there in my endorphined state, I was amused at two riders parked next to me who were in a serious argument about whether or not a bike could be placed in the car or on the rack!

Anyways, it was a great day. Everyone looked out for eachother and to just finish was an accomplishment. I wish there were more of these rides. Today I was reading on the NCNCA forum all the bickering about race tactics and results being a mess in the latest sanctioned races. It makes me not motivated to pin a number on. Basically, I would take the Grasshopper any day over the Merco Foothills.

For those of you who know, know. For those of you who don't, you missed out. Can't wait for the next one. And thanks so much to those who make it work.


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