What a race. The CCCX was really different from most XC races I've done before. It was relatively flat, lots of single track, but very fast. It was almost like a XC short track or cyclo-cross race. The start whistle went off, and it was a mad sprint on pavement for the hole shot before it turned onto single-track. I sprinted towards the front, trying to catch up to my friend Ryan, but knew I had to back off the gas a tad, otherwise there was not point of return towards recovery. The pace was high all throughout the hour and a half long race, and I never backed down.
My wife and our friend Grant joined us and provided support for me during the race. Because the course was so close together they picked the perfect spot for taking pictures, hanging out in the sun and handing me water along the way. My friend Giles (pictured above) came down to race as he preps for Sea Otter and other more endurance style events. He and I both agreed this wasn't our ideal course, but it'd be good practice and experience at the very least.
I lined up alongside a couple of pros, my friend Ryan being one of them, and the rest of our group of 30 or so. I was a bit nervous because they stacked my category with all the younger fellas (19-34 Cat. 1). There are some really fast guys, and I knew I had to stay at the front from the start to get a good result.
I met some really cool people right before the race kicked off. Dean, who regularly rides the Marin Headlands, noticed me at the line. He's got the ultimate commute from Mill Valley, through the Headlands and into the city where he works. He was riding a 2011 Stumpjumper Comp 29er, the same bike I had a couple of years back. Then I met a nice guy by the name of Jeff who was aboard a custom pink and silver bike with a Lefty fork. I forgot the name of the builder, but it was one hell of a ride. Jeff went on to catch me halfway through the race and finish 3rd. 2nd place was just up the way from us, less than a minute or so.
The course was five miles long, without a lot of climbing. Not my ideal course, but it was familiar in that it raced a lot like the Granite Bay races I won last month. There were a few punchy climbs before it dropped into what seemed like endless downhill single-track. I pre-rode a portion of the start to get a feel for the terrain. Lots of sandy and dusty turns. Much like Sea Otter, which is just a half hour south of Fort Ord. I knew there weren't many opportunities for me to make up time on the climbs, which I consider my strength, so I had to make sure my efforts were timed and considered. I utilized many of the helpful tips I've been getting from my friends David and Jeremy about cornering, and it really paid off in this race. I was able to hang with everyone, and not lose too much time descending.
The chase group was pretty close to the leaders. It consisted of myself, Jeff, another Cat 1 racer and a single-speeder, whose front brake howled the entire time we were out on course. We all traded efforts, going back and forth with leading, surging ahead, getting caught, and finishing. I was the first to give out, conceding my position, but not by much. It really hurt, but I was really happy to have held my place, having sustained such a huge effort for the entire race, and finishing 4th.
I really worked myself over this race. It was good prep for Sea Otter. I learned that I need to work on my start sprint a bit more, and to be able to recover quickly from short punchy efforts. I also shouldn't get too comfortable when leading a chase group. Getting caught halfway really challenged me mentally. Physically I had just enough to finish within a minute of the top podium spots, but if I paced myself better maybe I would have had the win or a place or two better. I can't really beat myself up about it. I just have to learn from it and improve. I've come so far in a just a year. My early races last season were wrought with crashes and just getting back into the rhythm of racing. Towards the end I was seeing improvements with my fitness and handling skills. Starting off the season with all good results is something to be pumped about.
My bike performed flawlessly like always. It was the perfect setup for this style of course/race with lots of punchy efforts while maintaining a high average speed. It was also easy to stand up mash on the pedals and accelerate quickly. It's just so responsive in all respects. Carving the smooth corners was a lot of fun on this bike. It just held its line. I'll definitely be running the Racing Ralph tires for Sea Otter. I just had the fork seals serviced this week, and it never gave me any problems. I also picked up some new Giro fluro high-bright yellow gloves so my crew could identify me as I flew by.
My friend Ryan, whom I saw only once at the start, was the overall winner. It was his first win as a pro! I'm so proud of him. He was riding a Santa Cruz Tallboy with fully inflated tires and maxed/locked out suspension. The course was so fast that you really didn't need much to get around, just mad skills.
Here I am with the top 5 of the 19-34 Cat. 1 group. Oh yeah, there's Marlow, too. The race organizers weren't too organized in getting the results together. The awards ceremony took way too long, which got progressively worse as people started to get restless and leave. At the end of the day I was super happy with my result, getting to race and hang out with my friends. Afterwards we went down to Monterey, grabbed lunch and checked out the aquarium.