Monday, March 7, 2011

Whole Athlete-Specialized Team on Top

Tony Smith
photos: Nick Gaetano & Rob Evans

A few WA-S riders decided to test their legs at the Lake Sonoma Mountain Bike Cross Country race in Northern California over the weekend. Despite the recent heavy rain turning the dirt into sloppy mud, the team prevailed finishing 1-2 in the Pro race with Tony Smith & Dario Fredrick, and 1-2 in the Expert Open category as well with Taylor Smith & Bobby Zidek. For more details about the race, check out the race report below.

Dario Fredrick

Bobby Zidek

Taylor Smith

Meanwhile, in other Whole Athlete-Specialized riders were making waves of their own. Junior National Champion Keegan Swenson took 2nd in the Pro Open category at the Red Rock Rampage in St. George, UT, while on the road Will Patterson took 3rd at the UCSC collegiate criterium and Cody Tapley 4th in the Cat 3 Merco Criterium on his 19th Birthday.

Keegan Swenson

Cody Tapley

Great job to all! Next stop: Bonelli Park ProXCT. Let the games begin...


Lake Sonoma MTB XC - Race Report
Pro Category
4 x 5 mile laps
Teammates: Tony Smith & Riley Predum
Results: Tony 1st, Dario 2nd, Riley 10th (broken bike!)

One word to describe this race: Mudfest. A full on bike-wrecking, leg-sapping, tire-sliding, sloppy, splashing mud bath with plenty of creek crossings thrown in for good measure. It was a survival race, both for body and bike. And believe it or not, it was a blast! Especially racing our there with the boys in blue and red.

A few fast puppies showed up, including Kris Sneddon (Kona), Jim Hewett (Summit), Kevin Smallman (Cannondale) and a handful of other local speedsters. We started fast up the steep, paved hill that funnels left into a singletrack, led by Sneddon, Hewett, a couple of Marin riders, Tony, then me and Riley. We blasted down into the first mud bog and chaos ensued. It was like slip 'n slide but on bikes. I backed off slightly and let the carnage happen while I took my time to figure out the tech sections and avoid crashing into rocks or flatting. I knew the course would open up soon to allow safe passing and I could tell that most of the guys in front of me were in waaay over their heads in terms of effort. Sure enough, just a few minutes later on the first lap it was just Tony and me chasing Sneddon and Hewett. By the end of the first lap, we were gaining, and then Sneddon flatted. So we charged ahead to track down Hewett who appeared to be paying for his early efforts.

We rode a super-smooth lap two without all the traffic and mayhem in front of us, and began ripping the rolling singletrack. We soon caught Hewett, and I realized he was slowing a bit on the tech stuff, so I passed him, putting Jim in a Whole Athlete sandwich. I would open up small gaps on the descents and technical sections, and Hewett would claw his way back. Tony patiently sat his wheel and saved what energy he could just behind him. Team tactics are not that common in MTB racing, but it's times like this that road experience can pay off.

On lap three, I think Hewett's efforts finally caught up with him and he crashed twice in the muddiest section, the second time breaking his brake lever off. Tony yelled up to me to let me know and we regrouped and rode a smooth, fast lap three together. We also agreed that with a fast tire change, Sneddon could easily hunt us down, while Smallman pacing himself well, could claw his way back also. We needed to keep the pace up and stay focused, as it took tremendous effort to ride the mud, both uphill and down.

On the final lap, and after nearly flawless functioning thus far, my bike started to protest and for some reason, the drivetrain didn't seem to like being continuously massaged with mud and grass. I had to dismount a few times and got back going again. Tony would pull away, riding super-strong and smoothly, and I would put in big efforts to get back up to him. On the third time, I realized that I couldn't quite close the gap without risking self-implosion. So I settled into a solid pace I could hold to avoid a complete meltdown and get caught from behind. In fact, Smallman was starting to close down on us, and I could even see Sneddon gaining back there too.

Tony took the well-deserved win, and I followed in second to take a Whole Athlete-Specialized one-two. I was happy to get in my first race of the season, and actually only my first race since Nationals last year. Riley unfortunately broke his derailluer hanger (yet again), but amazingly got a bike change from Taylor's dad and still finished the race in 10th. Way to stick it out, Riley. Meanwhile in the expert race, Taylor and Bobby were busy rocking their competitors world, going 1-2 as well! A solid day for the team.


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