(Sit down, buckle up and hold on!)
Where do I even begin? Race morning? Monday night? March 15?
Justin and I had determined late last year that this would be my XC year. He chose one race that he wanted to do: the Downieville Classic. I was on the fence, but figured that if I got my races, he deserved to choose one as well.
There was some uncertainty about the race, if I recall correctly, due to its title sponsor pulling out this year. Eventually they posted that registration would open on March 15 at 8 pm. Due to my inexperience with the race I assumed it was no big deal to register right at 8pm, but we'd heard that the All-Mountain spots sold out, so despite being in the desert for some family time and Justin's bike fit we beat feet home Sunday afternoon and I made sure to be online at 8pm and load the active.com site. I remember one minor hiccup, and then registration confirmed. Sweet!
A few weeks later I checked one of the Nor Cal message boards and read that most of the spots had sold out in minutes. Score for us since we got in. I considered myself lucky and moved on. Eventually around April I decided we needed to find out if we were hoteling it or camping it. B&B rooms were running around $150/night at least for the week. Yikes. Considering we wanted to go up a few days early and pre-ride and hang out that was a bit pricey. The only other option was camping with little amenities!
At some point we realized we may be able to borrow Justin's mom's RV, so once we got that figured out I called one of the RV parks in Downieville. The guy laughed at me when I asked if he had any availablity. Uh oh! He recommended one in Sierra City and I promptly booked a pull-thru RV spot for a massive rig.
So, we had our spots and somewhere to camp and that was about it. Sometime in late May or early June Stephanie called me and said that she had registered for the Expert Women XC and was trying to talk Dan into it as well. Awesome! Camp buddies!
Due to all the other racing and training that has kept us busy we didn't plan much else until last week! I started to get worried about our XC pre-ride (a 30-mi ride with a lot of climbing 3 days out from race day sounded cool, but I didn't think it was the best idea!) and shuttles. We were lucky that town wasn't too booked Tuesday/Wednesday, so even as of Sunday we got four spots on the 3pm shuttle from Downieville back up to the saddle.
We also decided over 4th of July weekend to leave Monday night and get a head start on traffic and the extremely long drive up in the RV. So, Monday night after work Stephanie and Dan showed up and we got all packed up and headed north!
Some of the food and gear
What mountain bikers fill the fridge with for a 7 day trip!
We made it up to the other side of the Grapevine and "camped" at the Flying J. It was aight. Noisy, but free.
We set out after watching a few minutes of the TTT on Tuesday morning for the looong drive up.
Gettin' ready TO GO
We stopped up near the turn-off for Sea Otter/Paso Robles to refuel and dump
We got to camp early enough to hook up, get dressed and head out in the Jeep for a quick spin up the bottom of the XC climb
Luckily it was RIGHT by our camp. Literally about a minute spin up hill and there we were. If we had known it was that close we would've just ridden!
Pretty, even if it was just a fire road climb!
Flyin' back to town
We drove up to Bassett's and got a shot of the waning light over Sierra Buttes
Dinner is served! We'd stopped in Auburn for stuff for burgers and more food. Amazing how much food we had and we still needed more.
We slept in a little, got breakfast together and got ready to ride!
Sights of Sierra City and on the way up to Packer Saddle
The Buttes never fail to deliver a gorgeous scene
Off we went to preview the TOP of the fire road XC climb
After that we headed down trying to follow the course map, but unfortunately it was a bit old, so we missed out on hitting Sunrise the first time around.
We hit everything else on the course from the top down to Downieville
Coming out of Pauley Creek
The Downieville Destroyer!
Danimal hits the log ride at the Butcher Ranch intersection
Yuba shuttled us back up to Packer Saddle after we got some lunch in town at the corner market. Steph and I were stoked to see Adam Craig and Ross Schnell up top ready to ride! We were kind of nervous to ask Ross for a pic cause he looked busy with his bike.
Was cool to chat with Adam. He was up there with his girlfriend who was also racing Pro All-Mountain and doesn't race! Jamie, another pro, was up there and ready to rock down baby-heads, so off she went.
Once we got back to camp Steph and I headed down the trail to the campground's little watering hole.
So nice, but soo cold. I put my legs in. A little.
Once back to camp it was laptop city
All that and not ONE wifi signal. Er, not one that we could use :(
Salad and bottle city
Breakfast with my new Yuba coffee mug. Sweet!
Since we didn't line up any shuttles we were shuttling each other on Thursday. Steph and Dan shuttled us Thursday morning so that we could get in a full DH course run!
Justin attacks the waterfall
I decided to hit the p-line for my race run
I made it cleanly once, messed up once, and then made it through the waterfall but unclipped on the roots/rocks just after on time #3. Better than nothin'!
Cruisin' in the greenery
Stephanie had said a friend told her to watch out for the snakes in the river. I laughed. What? Yes, Downieville does have water snakes.
The infamous sock
We headed down Sunrise for a second time and then descended down the fire road a ways with Steph and Dan, who were off to experience Big Boulder and Second Divide.
We cruised it back up the road to the saddle and then headed back to town to scope out the haps and see if Justin could get some help on his rear derailleur from the SRAM booth.
We took advantage of Downieville's latest craze - free wifi from the Carriage House Inn.
Scenes from town:
When Steph and Dan finished up their ride they hopped in the river!
Justin skipped rocks
Oh hai! Cell service comes to D-ville
Great sandwiches and killer selection of healthy foods
Oh, and beer
Heading back up to Sierra City
We definitely enjoyed Thursday evening
Dinner in progress
Lovin' the veggies this week
Justin sat outside getting my bike race day ready - trying to stave off the mosquitos
We'd scheduled Friday as our super chill relax day. We slept in, sat around, did some prep work. The boys cleaned up the bikes while Steph and I did laundry.
Yeah, we pretty much took the place over!
Gatorade has it goin' on with their bottles lately. I saw quite a few "Bring it" bottles in town also
The bike - ready to rock
Spinning up the opening hill climb
After our easy spin in the heat we headed down to the local swimming hole to cool off and soak the legs. It was COLD
Look at that dive! Great form, but minor deduction for the left hand
After the dip in the river we headed back down to Downieville to check-in for the race
Someone had a '10 Enduro S-Works
The swag (pretty sweet IMO - and this doesn't include the free pint glass and New Belgium beer)
This was the most oats I've ever seen for one setting
Saturday - XC Race Day
Race day breakfast!
The bike - ready to rock
Dville socks and timing chip
Unfortunately I don't have any shots from Saturday aside from that since none of us carried a camera for the race.
We'd heard conflicting info on the race start - some said that people line up at 8:30 (an HOUR before race start) to get a spot on the line, so Justin took off from camp around 8 or so to check out the bike weigh-in and see what the start line was like. We'd thought we'd be starting in town and having to race up the uber steep pavement section, but turns out the race started just above that on an easier slope. He weighed in his bike and then I headed up shortly after. 22.28lbs with Captain tires, 705 on the mount, extra tube, and C02 Big Air canister on the seat post. They told me I was getting time penalties per pound under 30! :eek:
We spun around a little, unsure of when to stand at the line. It was sort of tough to gauge what to do and where to be. I think I wound up lining up where they said to stage/line up at probably 9 am. 30 mins to race start. As crunch time closed in on us more and more people came from the hill and just lined up in front of us. Eventually there were probably a good 80 or so people that had gotten in line in front of the "line" and even quite a few up in front of the actual start banner. Really no one policing the start line tactics what-so-ever. Would've been cool if they would've at least staged everyone in their correct class, but it was basically a mass start free-for-all of all Pro Men (XC and All-Mountain), Expert Men, Pro Women, and Expert Women. The Sport Men and Women were staged for 9:35, and Beginners at 9:40. That was about it.
They called 5 minutes to start, and we all stood around trying not to get our bikes broken by the mass of humanity with bikes standing on top of one another. All of a sudden totally random and unannounced bells started ringing and apparently it was go time. Mass confusion. Some people not even on their bikes. It was tri-poding for probably 15-20 seconds for me and eventually we could clip in and ride. Lots of passing on the edges of the road with people nearly getting pushed off. We hit dirt soon enough.
I was totally surrounded by men. I had no idea in the Pro Women's field where I was at. Katerina, Willow, and Kelli (and I'm guessing Rachel and Lizzy) had all lined up under the start banner. By 9:05 I couldn't move from my position, but saw them crawling through the trees to push up front.
I couldn't see any females up ahead, and while I was getting passed by a TON of people, they were all men. I felt like I was going seriously in reverse for the first 2-3 miles. My legs were just loaded up and not working with me. I kept plugging away in the middle ring until we hit the chalkier section before the rocks where about 80% of the people were walking. I had dabbed in our pre-ride, and was determined to try to stay on the bike. It was slow going with people just stacked up, but I managed to stay clipped in and made it through. After a while in the granny ring I felt a sudden surge of energy and took off passing around guys that had passed me. After a bit of an effort I felt like I was getting toasted and had to slow up again. Did another short stint in granny, and went for it again and put in a good effort. The next 2-3 miles were totally new to me since we hadn't pre-ridden the entire climb. It got steep in sections, some sections were a little rocky, but traffic was thinning out quite a bit.
I made it up to the water feed station on a big switchback and grabbed a cup of water to sip and dump on my back. They had said Rachel was just up ahead, but I sort of didn't buy that since I honestly hadn't seen any females at all. I still put in an effort and saw only men up ahead. It got pretty steep at this point for awhile, and I just kept ticking over the pedals.
The climb flattens out a bit with some little descents and I was in a group of 4 with one guy pulling and we were just booking hardly pedaling at all, aero tuck around the corners. We got to one short steep climb and then I knew we were close to Sunrise since there was a massive feed zone with all the fixin's (Clif Shot, water, Bloks - I didn't pick anything up or slow down). Someone said I was maybe in 5th and someone else said that I'd made the climb in just over an hour. I tried not to pay too much attention and just kept at it.
I hit the singletrack and let out a HUGE "Yes!!!" as loud as I could. I was stoked to finally be on singletrack and not climbing. Sunrise was a blast passing and being passed and then we hit the fire road and hooked right to traverse over to Pauley Creek.
I looked up after awhile and one of the kids I’d been riding with for awhile was right on the wheel of another rider. I noticed rainbow stripes on the left sleeve and it was a sweet blue/white kit. “Who is that?” I wondered. Once the kid pulled around I noticed the Oakley kit and realized it was Brian Lopes. Highlight of my XC race was for sure sitting on Lopes’ wheel on this short stint of the traverse. Cool to be riding with a big time Pro for one, and for two the view was awesome. I realized I was racing and put the hammer down to pass a few guys.
Not too long after I saw a wife beater up ahead. Thursday at the saddle when we’d talked to Adam Craig he mentioned his girlfriend was also racing AM Pro and that while she didn’t race, she’d signed up for Pro because, “She’s pretty fast”. He said she was going to wear a wife beater cause she didn’t have any bike jerseys. So I figured that had to have been Lizzy. I went around on a corner and put the hammer down to try to pull away. I didn’t look back.
I hit the baby heads fire road descent and was passed by Lopes and one other guy. After Lopes kicked up a massive rock that nearly took off my head, not 30 seconds later the other guy crashed hard just in front of me. He was getting up when I passed and while I asked if he was okay, I was racing for position. Lizzy was right on my wheel because she asked the same thing and then blew past me. I couldn’t hold her wheel after seeing the crash, and she pulled away.
I cleaned the creek crossing and short rocky climb after, and then struggled to stay on the wheel of a singlespeeder. One thing that kept me from “attacking” was that I knew he’d be faster on the Pauley Creek descent, so I didn’t figure it was all that useful to put in a massive effort to pass him only to have to stop and let him pass me back shortly after.
I hit the singletrack and just tried to be as fast and smooth and possible. When there was room I’d pull out of the way of the faster expert/sport men and then try to hold on as long as I could. I made it down through the most techy stuff cleanly and eventually got Lizzy back in my sights. My lower back and my hands/arms were barely hanging on, though, so I had nothing to catch on her wheel. I kept her in sight for awhile and eventually fell back trying to get my body to cooperate.
I hit Butcher and just tried to keep it moving as fast as possible. I made it through all the rocks with no dabs and was moving good trying not to hold anyone up and to make passes where I could.
I looked up on the climb up to Third Divide and saw an all too familiar jersey in front of me. I thought I was going okay, but not THAT good. I yelled some words of encouragement to Justin. He yelled some back and said he had been cramping and to go go go. He took a few Endurolytes after I passed and I kept the hammer down on the climb passing a few more guys, who I knew would soon want to pass me back once we started the fast descent down Third.
Not too far down I heard Justin’s bear bell closing in on me, so I pulled over and a few riders passed with him. They were gone!
I hit the fire road off of Third and tried to pin it, with Justin in sight. He was motioning for me to catch up to him, and I passed and we railed the descent full bore passing a kid and then a guy riding on his rear wheel (no tire) just before entering First. Justin pulled in front and I was soon off the back. He was stopped and waiting about ½ mile later, and then maybe another mile later I felt something that I don’t often experience… Rear tire slip. No!
Oh, yes. Rear rim strike on solid rock, time to stop.
Why do I always flat in the races that I don’t want to flat in? I pulled over and 4.5 minutes or so later was off again with a fresh tube and empty Big Air C02.
The tube and air held up for the remainder of First Divide, which after the short break I was totally killing! Pinning it like crazy downhill and up trying to make up lost time and not get passed. I was stoked that no women had gone by the entire time, but I knew there was no way for me to catch up to Lizzy either.
Justin and I hit the pavement and sprinted up the two short hills, barely getting over the second. He was a few bike lengths in front of me as we got near town and everyone was yelling to slow up. What? We are racing for SECONDS here in this all-mountain event and they want us to stop? There was a rider down, but we went around, traversed the hay bale zig-zags and crossed the line. Phew. Time to breathe.
We each took a water bottle and kind of soft pedaled around looking lost and not sure of what to do. Neil from Intense Cycles had been cool enough to keep our cooler with recovery drinks in it, so we pedaled over to the Intense booth. So awesome, he even gave us fresh ice. Thanks Neil!!!
We drank our recovery drinks and headed over to the results wall. They were posting results every so often. I still had no idea how I had done, and Justin wasn’t sure either as he was killing it until his cramps before the Pauley Creek singletrack. His waiting up for me probably didn’t help his result at all, either.
Justin was actually sitting 12th overall in the All-Mountain category, and I was 6th behind Katerina Nash, Willow Koerber, Kelli Emmett, Rachel Lloyd, and Adam Craig’s gf Lizzy. I was pretty happy with my result, considering the competition in front of me! I figured that my flat tire probably would cost me being able to make up enough time for top-5, but wanted to prepare as best as I could for the next day!
Dan came in not long after me, proving yet again he is the “training sandbagger”. After not having ridden a bike in weeks (cross bike fork is in warranty for defects, and suspension fork isn’t working again and back for repair), Dan killed it finishing 6th overall in his category.
Justin and I eventually felt we had start doing our recovery for Sunday and decided to drop our bikes in the bike valet, get our free beers, hop in the Yuba to soak our legs, and then hit up the free food. Worked out pretty well. The Fat Tire went down well, and sitting in the free “ice bath” of the river was totally chilly, but felt awesome in the heat of the day. Lots of racers were hoping in to clean off and soak. After we couldn’t feel our feet anymore it was time to find the high school cafeteria.
We got a plate of salad and a huge plate of pasta and garlic bread. I don’t know if I had carb overload or what, but the food didn’t sit well and I wound up feeling kind of sick for awhile Saturday afternoon.
We heard that the next shuttle was at 3pm, so around 2:10 or so we collected our bikes and headed across the bridge to the shuttle pick up. No one was around, so we sat in the shade. Around 2:35 we looked and a massive line of people had formed. We hopped in line and sat in the sun baking for 10 or so minutes until they started to load us up. The first U-Haul truck was full of bikes and #2 was halfway full. I was kind of worried we’d miss out and have to hitch hike back to Sierra City! Luckily they got us and a few more people on and we jumped on the school bus back up to town.
Steph and Dan wanted to head back to Downieville as she’d been told that they were doing podiums 5-deep and separate for XC and All-Mountain, and she had been 5th in XC only.
I poured some chocolate milk in my fresh pint glass in the hopes of calming down the stomach issues.
Justin and I grabbed some water and headed down to the campground’s swimming hole for another soak after sitting in the hot sun and hot bus for awhile. Felt awesome to jump in the Yuba again, and once back at the RV we laid down for a nap. Unfortunately there was a really loud dog barking at first, and then it started to rain. We hopped up to bring in the drying clothes, camp chairs and anything else out in the rain and laid back down. Then we kept hearing weird noises thinking that people were messing with the bikes.
A note on that, though… we left stuff out all day and weren’t around and everything was really safe. Cool campground with mostly retired folks. Generally quiet. The sites were pretty tiny, and no fire pits or tents allowed, but it was quiet and safe and clean.
So, after our nap fail we got up to start working on stuff for Sunday. Justin wanted to clean up my bike again to be race ready, and I had bottles and clothes and dinner to prep.
Another note… I had been drinking off my Camelbak (full of drink mix instead of water – I took one 24oz bottle of water and 50oz of drink mix in the pack for the race) since after the race. I had a few sips walking around town, with lunch, and then I swear I drank about 8oz on the bus ride back to Sierra City.
When I took my bladder out of the pack this is what I saw:
My bottle probably had 8oz or so in it. My bladder had about 28oz. There’s no way I drank more than 28oz of liquid during the entire race. 2.5 hours. Somehow I don’t think I was even dehydrated Saturday afternoon!
We seriously love our veggies –
Dinner Saturday night
We tried to get to bed at a decent hour to be rested and recovered for DH day! We have a “bad” habit of being way early to races, and Sunday was no exception. Half of the pro men weren’t even at Packer Saddle when we showed up.
It had rained a fair bit overnight with some heavy thunder and lots of rain, so we had no idea what to expect in the morning.
Sunday - DH Race Day
It was chilly on the drive up to Packer Saddle, so we knew we were under-dressed. I hadn’t packed for cold weather to begin with, much less rain.
It was pretty up top, but windy and cold.
Justin had decided to not put the top back on the Jeep, so we were sitting on trash bags, and if it started raining…we were gonna be SOL.
Justin was trying to stay warm in the Jeep before his warm-up
Lopes warming up
Eventually it was about 45 minutes to Justin’s race start, so he braved the cold and got on his bike to ride around for a bit. It wasn’t getting any warmer for sure, so I stayed bundled up in the car as much as I could.
I wanted to see his start, so headed over as he was staged to hit the trail
Off he goes!
I got back in the Jeep and had my pre-race sandwich (too long in between breakfast and my race start to not eat again!) and tried to stay warm. It sprinkled on and off. Eventually I saw a few of the pro women out spinning, so got my gear on and hopped out to follow suit.
After a few efforts the temperature wasn’t too bad, but it was windy. I knew once I was racing I wouldn’t notice, especially descending the singletrack through the trees.
I got to staging about 2:13 or so after race start, and before I knew it Willow was off in front of me and the clock was ticking toward 2:17. It was GO TIME!
Steph and Dan were just up the trail ringing bells and cheering loudly! I stood up and was determined to stand and big ring wherever I could!
I felt totally out of breath and slow for most of the top part of the course, and only looked back once on Butcher Ranch’s fire road but saw no one there. I dabbed a few times being in the wrong gear, and came in to waterfall. I set out to make it through, but the water all over from the rain and the medical volunteer threw me off a little. I was off line so unclipped and ran.
I heard a racer coming up behind me and when I saw the Luna kit of Katerina I stayed pulled off the trail entirely to not get in her way. She blew by and I spent the next 5 minutes or so just trying to keep her within eyesight.
She was flying!
I hammered up the hill to Third Divide and tried to rail it as fast as I could pedaling and less brake than the day before. I made it down and began silently begging my tires not to get any flats on First Divide this time around. I hit First Divide and just tried to pedal as hard as I could anywhere that I could. I had passed maybe 1-2 guys (one riding on his rim). I passed another in the transition through Lavezzola on the short descent with the wall rides.
I thought I saw another female up ahead, but when I looked I didn’t see anyone. I came around another corner before the short climb on First and realized I had caught one of the women riders. I was fairly stoked because no one else had passed me after Katerina!
I called left (totally anaerobic and out of breath) and hammered by. I kept pushing and was happy to see the pavers leading down to the street to the final push in to town.
I hit the first hill hard, and as I crested and headed toward the second little rise I saw Justin sitting on the bridge. He stood up and started yelling for me running next to me with the bell as I barely ticked over the pedals in the big ring, standing, hitting my highest HR for the day.
Once over I dropped a gear or so and hammered it out to the hay bales. I had no idea what my time was!
Rachel was the only Pro female with a time up (she was first off as she’d won last year) with a time of 0:49:54.
I felt really full of liquid for some reason, so barely choked down some chocolate milk and water, after Steph and Dan had run over and Justin cruised down from the bridge.
They posted results not long after. Justin had moved up a spot with his DH time, and I had stayed thoroughly consistent finishing 6th again for DH time, and 6th overall.
It wasn’t as warm as Saturday, but we headed on down to the river anyway to cool off and mostly to wash off.
It was pretty overcast, but lots of racers were hanging out in the water, including Adam and his girlfriend. He told me that she had tried to get a flat, but was unsuccessful. Darn!
Once we were sufficiently cold enough we got dressed by the Jeep and went to walk around the vendor area. Justin and I got an organic muffin from a local vendor and picked up some Clif samples. Yummy.
Jason was out reppin’ for Crankbrothers
Most popular booth of the day
The finish line
Since we had a ton of stuff to pack up and podiums weren’t going to be for another 2-3 hours, we decided to head back up to Sierra City and get camp cleaned up a bit. It was set to be a looong day driving back south on Monday, so we wanted to get as early a start as possible.
On the drive up Justin suggested Dan go do a run on the DH course, and once back to camp Stephanie said she’d go with. Cool cause I think they both want to do the All-Mountain next year, and neither had ridden the entire DH course yet!
Justin shuttled them while I sat and chilled, trying to rehydrate and relax a little in the RV doing my picture thing. Once he headed back down to Downieville to scoop them up I started to get dinner prepped. MORE veggies, including a mélange of starchy vege’s and complete with filet and cabernet. Stellar.
They got back and we got to the dinner making.
I had brought some Patron so we could each do a celebratory shot. We did, and drank wine, and finished off the beers. After dinner Justin remembered I’d wanted to do ‘smores on the propane grill, so we wandered outside and sat huddled around our camp grill roasting smores and laughing.
Perfection (with the newly patented marshmallow fold-over technique)
We got to bed a little late and a little buzzed, but it had been a great weekend. Such a good way to end the week.
I think we all went to bed wanting more next year.
No regrets. I raced as hard as I could. My bike was awesome all weekend thanks to my biggest supporter and the best mechanic ever! Was stoked for the Sunday shuttle by Steph and Dan so we had clean clothes and our gear with us post-race.
We didn’t do a ton of hanging out in town after the race each day, but that was partly due to being up in Sierra City (killer for XC race morning, however). I wasn’t really sad to miss out on some of the festivities since I think if we’d hung out in town all day walking around and not resting it would’ve made Sunday a lot more painful!
Downieville in 2010? It’s a possibility!
Between the snows
11 hours ago