Thursday, November 22, 2007

Southridge Races Nov 17-18

Super D Race

It's the last race of the season at Southridge, Fontana, CA. I load up Saturday morning, not getting the early start I had hoped to get, and wondering if I will make it to the venue in time to register to race the Super D. I know I'll get there in plenty of time for downhill practice. With both the trail bike and the DH bike on the back of my car, I speed north to Fontana.

I arrive just as they have closed the Super D registration, but they let me slip in as a last-minute registrant. Later I will curse my "luck," and wish I had only been another 10 minutes later to the venue, so that I wouldn't have been able to ride this course.

The shuttle van comes up and they load all the Super D racers and their bikes in the truck to take us to the top of the hill. Only, we don't go to the top of the hill.
We start the Super D at the cul-de-sac near "The Wall", almost at the bottom of the hill, and are told that the first part of the race would be climbing up to where the DH starts.

"You've got to be kidding me," I think to myself. I don't even want to know how many vertical feet it is.

My trail bike is an '02 Turner RFX that I used to race DH on. I changed out the 6" rockers for 5" rockers, to make it a 5"-rear/6"-front bike. Most of the other racers have very light-weight 4"-travel XC bikes. Translation: I have brought a mule out to race with Thoroughbreds. Granted, my mule can take on any of these Thoroughbreds when it comes to the nasty, steep, can't-see-the-dirt-because-there-are-too-many-rocks type of trail. But my little Mighty Flea is not a strong climber.

I start off optimistic, but am soon reminded why I don't race XC. I haven't been on a course I wanted to hurl on in a long time, and while I really like the "giving it all you've got" thing, I would prefer to do so in that last 2 minutes of a race, not the first two minutes of the race. By the time I get up to the top of the DH start, I am so relieved to be there, that I forget to unlock my suspension, and essentially have about 80mm of travel for the rest of the course.

Me at the top of the Cal State section

And the close-up of my "this-is-a-mistake" face...

By the time I hit the Cal State section, I am so exhausted and spent, I don't have the strength to wield the bike through the rocks. With my suspension locked out (I still don't realize it's locked out), the bike is unable to take care of me like I am used to. As the guy behind me bears down on me, I crash hard on the rocks, landing on my helmet and wadding in a heap amidst a swirling cloud of dust.

I moan and try to move as I hear him coming up behind me. "Pass me! Pass!" I yell to him. He leaps over my body and continues his race.

(Quick side-note: Notice there are all of maybe 4 people, including racers on the course at this location at this time. Yet, I had no less than 3 different people, one of whom I didn't even know, comment to me later, "Oh, hey, I heard you biffed pretty hard in the rocks on the Super D..." Sigh. Yeah. That was me.)

Carnage close-up

I stagger to my feet, and try to stand without falling over.

"Laura! Are you OK?" I hear someone yell to me from the side of the trail.

"AAARRRRGGGGHHHH!!!!!" I roar, by way of answer. So I get a little angry when I crash.

I pick up my bike and continue the race, hoping it won't be much further, and there won't be much more climbing. Like an idiot, I've come in and done this race blind, with no idea what the course lay-out is. I do not advise this as a race strategy.

Before the race is over, I manage to miss the hard right that would have avoided the lower rock section that runs along the wall.

Lower rock section looking onto the course

As I approach the wall, just AFTER I pass through the last set of rocks and manage to stay on my bike, I realize I'm off course. Sigh. It's another steep climb to get back to the Super D course... (note to self: always pre-ride the course).

Oh well. Other than crashing on my helmet and going off course, I rode really well!

The next day, I raced the DH, and did really well. No crashing. And I even did my last practice run on Saturday afternoon without coming unclipped once! I usually find myself dabbing in one section or another.

I dropped down from the "older expert women" category to race in the Expert 34 and under women's class (I'm over 35). Those girls are FAST! I managed to eke out 3rd of 4 women. :) Of course you never do all the things you hope to, and you rarely hit all the lines like you want to, but overall, I was pleased with my race run. The cool thing is that we are all very well matched. Our race times were all within a 10-second block.

Lower rock section
I felt myself squirreling out, so I pushed the bike forward and got off the back... I stayed on the bike!

Expert Women Podium
A great race weekend. See you all in January!

Big shout-out and thank you to
Chris "Sharky" for the race photos!

Laura Drexler