These mountain bikers really do love their sport.
Sabine and I arrived out at Toro Park just after the Sport division took their starts. The venue was really nice ... loads of bathrooms, lots of green and shade and people frolickin' about like squirrels at play.
As a spectator, we couldn't see much of the course ... but, since the loop was under 5 miles, we got to watch as riders zipped down through the start/finish each lap and could give out commentary on who did what and had how much of a time gap happened where. It was cool.
Grant Cutler of Alteeza40 was the fastest sport rider on the day. Team Wrong Way's Ty Brookhart was the closest to Grant, but still a good minute+ back. Cutler looked smooth and in control and was turning laps in a bit over 21 minutes. Not bad at all.
The course was a long, long climb up to the peak of some puke-out hill. It started with a soul-sucking pavement gradient, advancing into jeepy fire-road grindings, then topping out with that sweet dusty looseness that explodes you like cheap messican fireworks. As soon as the climb was crested, it was a brute fast descent, offering little time to recover before you swished it around past the finishing venue to start your next lap.
brutal hill'erval sessions out there. but ... damn good training for Sea Slaughter.
Henrietta "hot flashes" Stern was the fastest Sport woman of the day and ... i don't think there was more of a sentimental favorite out there to see for a win. She just kept on the gas the whole race, posing very respectable 27+ minute laps for her 4 trips around the fire.
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As the Sports were finishing up, you got to see all the Pro/Expert riders putting on their dancing closes and slicking themselves up, purtyfied. BlackMarket had the Howler and Schottzy going single on themselves. Apparently, Howie is doing singlespeed work to kick up his power for the cross races come fall.
And, he's looking very thin, too. That sucks for us cross weenies. Schottzy, on the otherhand, looks about as goofball as ever and is just out there enjoying himself ... like always.
In the Men's field - a young cur from Chico won the race in good commanding style. He was definitely the superior climber of the lead trio that contested the race and put in a solid kick on the final ascent to drop his chasers, Rob Anderson of AMD/Discovery Masters and Larry Hibbard of parts unknown.
Hibbard ... what a freak show that guy is. He's out there riding bald commuter tires on a bike made before the advent of email. No shocks, no disc brakes ... nothing but his leathery muscles and a tremendous pain tolerance pushing him to podium after podium on the dirt.
what an animal.
Some of the TWW guys asked me: "So ... like where does Hibbard live? What does he actually do?"
I said ... "you know, i think Hibbard just is. Hibbard just is."
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In the women's event, Mary-Ellen Ash put in a very powerful ride, averaging 24.5 minute laps for a full 5 laps. That's over 4500ft of climbing, folks. Not bad at all for the newly upgraded Pro rider. She moved ahead after the first climb and never looked back, winning with a healthy margin ... showing good fitness, solid technical skills, and a strong mental fortitude to keep the accelerator pinned for the entire 2 hours.
excellent to see.
Chasing her was the ever-improving Natasha Perry. Natasha was put in the hurt bag by a huge 3rd lap effort by Velo Bella's Kathleen Bartolussi. Bartolussi had been chasing the lead 3 riders with Sabine for half the race, but then threw it into warp drive on the 3rd time up the climb. She moved herself into 2nd and had put a good 40 seconds into Natasha by the start of the 4th lap. But, the effort caught up to her and the Spokesman rider rallied on the 5th trip up the hill, pushing past Bartolussi and taking a fine 2nd.
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In the Expert men - the fastest rider was actually a single-speeder, Mike Donahue. He was just a bit quicker than young Jeremy Blalock, a very promising junior rider out of Monterey. Buy-Cell's "The Brock" was next fastest among the experts, winning his age division and looking as though his fitness is coming on again.
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As we were packing up to head out, I was really psyched to see how many NorCal High School kids were showing up and getting ready for their races the following day. I had been talking to Mark Kintz earlier in the day and he was describing how they were planning out how to separate the waves to have as little impact on each field as possible regarding overlapping riders, to assist the competitiveness of the racing and, more importantly, improve the fun-meter and safety for all involved.
That's so frickin' cool.
Sabine and I have started digging through the supplies to see what we can donate to that cause.