Russell and I made the journey from Tucson to Ontario, Ca on Wednesday to prepare for the season opener, US Cup #1, a C1 at Bonelli Park just outside of San Dimas, Ca. My team arrived in on Friday and we quickly met up and headed to Bonelli Park for some course laps and fine tune equipment.
I was planning on racing the hard-tail, which I had yet to sit on. Fortunately, the bike’s geometry fit pretty well and was easy to get use to. The course was the same as last year. Picture an aerial view with the top of a small ridge line at the center of the frame. Then picture climbing up and then descending that same ridge line on all directions, too many times. That was the race. Around 700ft of climbing a lap, for 7 laps (luckily they shortened it, we were slated to do 8), in 96ºF heat. That was a bit of a shocker. However, everyone had to deal with it…
Friday night our team gathered at the dinner table for the first MTB team pow-wow. Fernando Paez is a really cool guy that I know from Colorado Springs and racing last year when he put together a really good couple of results. Caroline Manni, solo woman on the MTB program, I had known vicariously through our coach Jim Lehman and also through cross. our Mechanic James Sullivan is out of Boulder and a pleasure to work with. He has worked the last couple of years with Raleigh-Clement’s cross program as well as past MTB circuit for Geoff Kabush and world cup downhill wrenching for the Maxis DH team. Then there is “the man with the plan”, Donn Kellogg, who juggles way too many things but somehow manages to stay sane. Other team mates, Jamey Driscoll is resting after his unfortunate crash at cross worlds, Lance Haidet currently residing in Bend Oregon and going to high school, and Laurel Rathbun going to College at Marion University. The entire squad will be together at sea otter, which should be a good time.
Saturday was game day. The first race of the season is always an interesting one. No one really knows where everyone else is in terms of fitness. That’s why I always come into this race with open expectations. I was shooting for 10-15 in the back of my mind.
There was a big international field this year. The top ten was stacked with international competition, not counting the fast guys from North America that normally are in attendance.
I was lined up on the third row. Hoping to hold my position on the first lap then asses the situation from there.
The gun sounded and I actually managed to move up into top 15 on the first climb and made a few places more on the second lap. I was sitting around 10-12 when the fade hit me…
I realized there was no point in pushing to hard and blowing completely so I sat up some to recover, as well as crashed. Nothing like hitting the dirt to help you recover. But that’s what you get when riding like a hack.
Over the course of the middle of the race I maintained a good pace while loosing a place here and there. I came into two to go in 15. There was a decent gap behind and in front so I poured on as much as I could and finished up there. Sneaked it out for 1 UCI point!
Fernando was himself out there and had a bad day, these things happen. Caroline too. This race was her first effort after a long cross season and, in my opinion, this isn’t a good course to go out there and wing it on. There is no hiding in Bonelli when it is 96ºF. You either got it or you suffer, HARD!
If you missed the race you can catch the replay here!
Scott Tedro does an amazing job of promoting this sport, but filming the entire race from a birds eye view… He got a helicopter to film the whole race! That pro tour status!
The first race over, and some pressure alleviated, it was onto Sunday and the STXC. We did a team spin in the morning and hit up the local Klatch Coffee. Love these places, especially there nitro cold brew!! Crazy!
We lined up at 3pm and the gun went. There weren’t as many guys doing the stxc but enough fast guys to make it, well, fast!
I wasn’t sure how I was going to feel so I just wanted to stay a couple wheels off the front, out of trouble, and see what happened at the end.
This turned out to be a solid plan. I noticed that during the last few laps there was a lull on the pavement just after the start/finish. So on the bell lap I hit it hard! There were already two guys off the front so I was tail gunning for third. I thought I was going to be able to hold off a raging Todd Wells, however, his old man power brought me back just before the last corner and I was surpassed by him and Kohe from Trek Factory. I had just enough muster left to hold off the junior CX world champ by half a wheel length, which put me at 5th!
All in all a good start to the season. A UCI point and a top 5.
It was then time for much needed rest and rehydration. However, rest would have to wait. Monday morning was early! Russell picked me up and we were at Bonelli park at 7:30am for a video shoot with Universal Sports for USAC. We were shooting a short riding clip with interviews to air during some of the big road races this year, all to help promote the USAC Devo Programs. I am obviously a big fan of what USAC does. They are a huge reason I am where I am in the sport today. So when I was asked to help I was pretty excited.
After the shoot it was off to Temecula with the team, 45min south east of Ontario, for some quieter roads and rest until Fontana (or Fontucky as James likes to say). This weekend always falls on the weekend of the Fontana Nascar weekend so traffic is a shit show to put it lightly.
P.S. ——Breaking NEWS——-
This just in! VeloNews has published their recent issue with a 28mm tire shoot out with us, Michelin, Specialized and Vittoria. Clement came out on top with the Editor’s choice award!