Monday, August 10, 2009
Howell Mountain Challenge XC
Cat 1 17/18
Will Curtis 1st
Davis Bentley 2nd
Joe Yoham 4th
Cat 1 35+
Dario Fredrick 1st
Women 35 & under
Victoria Yoham 3rd
Will Curtis's Race Report:
Last year Howell Mountain was my worst race of the season, and probably my worst race of all time (with Downieville coming in a close second). I had cramped in every muscle possible, and ended up second to last, way behind the leaders.
This year my only goal was to set the record straight and have a solid race at Howell, regardless of my place (although I was craving another win).
The race started off to a fast pace, with Dario leading up the hill and myself on his wheel. Right before the singletrack, Matt Dion popped around Dario and charged down the trail. Dario bridged up to him and I followed. Up the run-up, Dario and I were alone at the head of the pack. However, soon enough, a group of 5 riders caught us and we rode as a group through the flat fireroad. The group began to kick up a lot of dust, so I eased up and fell off the pack so that I could see. I wanted to pace myself well, so I did not push it too hard when we hit the singletrack and the real beginning of the loop. As a result, Ben Sukys, Davis, and Matt caught back onto my wheel. I countered everyone's attacks, but would ease up as soon as I hit the front and bring back down the pace.
About two thirds through the first lap, Bentley decided to attack with
a huge acceleration. I knew that this pace was way too hard to hold
through a 30 mile race in the heat, so I let him go. I did, however,
put in a little gas and drop Matt and Ben. I kept Davis in sight, and
reeled him in half way through the second lap. We rode together until
the end of that lap, where I accelerated up the final climb and got a
gap. I held this gap through the flats in the beginning of lap 3 and
then increased it through the singletrack and steep, punchy climbs. At
one point my chain fell off and I could not get it back on for about
20 seconds and I thought Davis was going to catch me for sure. This
gave me a lot more motivation to go fast, because I thought he would
be right behind me. However, I finished the race in first and was
stoked to have a well-paced and strong race at Howell. Winning was
Congrats to Bentley, who was very strong and came in a solid second
Victoria Yoham's Report:
Originally, I hadn't planned to do the Howell Mtn. Challenge, but decided on it last-minute and don't regret it! This laid-back approach to the race really set the mood for the day.
While well-organized, the event had a relaxed air about it; I roamed around a bit to check out the venue in the morning and spun around the track to get my legs loose before my race. I had never seen the course before, and had no idea what to expect, so I had a brief shadow of doubt as my wave rolled up to the start line.
As i surveyed the field, I was disheartened when I found that none of the riders in my category were under 18. Most appeared to be collegiate riders. Due to the limited number of women, the Cat 2 field was divided into 34&under and 35&up. It was then that I planned to just ride my race, and not worry too much about the results. This decision probably helped me out in the long run: I was not worried about who was in front of me and what position I wanted to get.
As the race started, the women went off quickly up the paved climb that led onto the singletrack, and I found myself mid-pack. Once the trail began climbing, I kept up the high level of intensity we had gone off with, and picked off many of the riders in front of me, one by one.
I was running fifth when I began climbing the twisty singletrack. I settled into my rhythm quickly, and quickly dropped the two riders who had entered the singletrack right behind me. I was then by myself, and tried to stay focused and motivated so i would not lose time to other riders by falling off my pace. A few miles in, I caught two other riders on a climb, and, feeling strong, decided to try to open up a gap where I could. I pushed the pace up the climbs, keeping up the effort over the crests. I secured a 20 second gap by the start of the downhill.
Having been fit a few days prior on my mountain bike, I felt confident about my ability to maintain or even lengthen my gap over the riders behind me on the descent. I handled the roots and ruts well, and felt very smooth on the technical sections. After the downhill, as I transitioned into the final climb of the first lap, I had lost sight of the other riders behind me.
My goal for the second, and final, lap, was to hold my position and hopefully podium. I did not know what place I was in, but figured myself to be in the top 5.
I cranked up the effort for the second lap, keeping my cadence regular and my riding smooth. On the short, steep climbs, many had begun to walk, but I kept my eyes on the line i wanted, and ground them out, passing multiple riders on each climb. I was one of the only riders I saw actually riding the climbs. Staying on the bike helped me gain a comfortable gap, and I rolled into the finish solo.
I ended up third in the Women's Cat 2 34&under, and was extremely proud of my result, but, more importantly, my effort. I worked hard, pushing my limits, which were redefined under the hot August sun. Can't wait for next year!
Back in the day...the early-mid 90s, that is...we used to have a bevy of mountain bike races to choose from in Northern California. There were "classic" cross country courses like the Shasta Lemurian, which were long, epic and usually one or two big loops of 30+ miles. Then the MTB race scene faded a bit, and one had to travel long distances to find fun courses and events...
I am happy to report that today, it seems that MTB racing is making a comeback. There are races each month, and many fall under the super-fun category. The Howell Mountain Challenge in Angwin is one of them. This race is well-organized, a fun course with lots of twisty singletrack, and long enough distance to provide a challenge, especially in the August heat.
A good turnout, they started the pros & singlespeeds first, then two minutes later gave us Cat 1s the green light, a combined age field. Next to me was another stars and bars jersey, Clint Claassen, the 25-29 national champ, and a few other speedy young riders. We started up a steep paved hill, then onto a brief singletrack, a long run-up, then onto the 10mi loop that we were to do three times.
Three of us separated from the pack right away, Clint, myself and a third rider. Clint was content to set the pace at the beginning and I was content to follow, as my plan was to check out the course without going too deep on the first lap, go as fast as possible on the second lap, and try to maintain on the third. The other guy was having some difficulty on the singletrack, so I passed him and stuck to Clint's wheel. Shortly after, I heard a wipe-out behind me and Clint and I we alone off the front. A big, strong guy, Clint seemed pretty smooth on the trails, so I followed his lines. Only a few miles into the first lap, we hit the first of many short, steep climbs. This was where I wanted to see how strong Clint was, so I let him lead it and just watched him. About halfway up, he faded a bit, and I rode past him without going too hard. By the top, I had a small gap, so I figured I would ride the downhill singletrack as smoothly as I could, and see what would happen. My gap opened up, so I conserved on the flat sections, not worried if he were to catch back up, knowing I could go get away on the climbs and consolidate on the trails the following lap if necessary.
I kept my pace steady, rode the hills moderately hard, and focused on being as smooth as possible on the descents and twisty, loose singletrack. My gap was 20-30 sec by the end of the first lap, and I could see him a ways back. Keeping to my plan, I decided it was the time to try to open up the gap on lap 2.
I got into the flow, carrying maximal speed through the twisty, fun course. Soon after, I started catching and passing pro riders, one by one. By the end of the second lap, Clint was no longer in sight, so I just needed to keep a hard tempo for the final lap. The heat was starting to take its toll on everyone, but I was hydrating well, and it paid off.
I finished the last lap and dropped back down to the finish area, winning the Cat 1 overall, and placing third among the pros. A fun, challenging day on the bike.
Congrats to Will Curtis and Davis Bentley for their 1-2 finish in the Junior Cat 1, and to Victoria Yoham for a strong 3rd place in women's field overall!
Posted by Dario Fredrick at 9:43 AM