I got the win today on The Headland Heifer, the unofficial underground mountain bike race through Marin County. I battled it out with 20 strong locals for 45 miles of dirt, 7,500' of climbing to the top of Mt. Tam, by way of the Marin Headlands, Muir Woods, the coast and back. I knew the route like the back of my hand, which gave me a significant advantage. Not only did I get the win, but I collected enough points to claim the king of the mountains title. There were three climbing segments and three downhill/Super-D sections. It was a great of riding with my buds and crushing it at the same time. Thanks to Peter for organizing everything. All finishers got a bolo tie, and the top points winners got custom trucker hats.
I rode my new Epic, which worked out flawlessly. I even grabbed a handful of personal records and top tens throughout the race. Having suspension on a long course like that made a big difference, especially on all of the descents. I managed to float over everything and carve the corners better, rather than get beat up by a hard tail. Climbing felt good, despite the extra weight and slightly harder gearing due to the X01 drivetrain. There were a few sections where I wished I had an extra gear or two. The Specialized tires I was running (Ground Control front and Fast Track rear) were the perfect combo today.
Nutrition wise I treated it like a mini Leadville. The course profile and format is very similar, which was my go-to route for pre-Leadville training. I went with two bottles of OSMO and three bags of GU Chomps. That kept me going throughout the entire day. However, I did experience some major leg cramps towards the end, leading me to believe I didn't hydrate well enough. I kept to my eat/drink every 20 minutes plan and it worked.
The start of the race saw a neutral role out from Crissey Field to the other side of the Bridge. Once we hit Conzulman Road it was game on. I jumped out ahead and hammered. I was joined by the elite group and rode together for most of the first descent/climb. By the time we reached the top of Miwok I opened it up a bit and got a gap going down to the horse stables on the Old Springs trail. My friend Giles was there with me, but I managed to open up a bigger gap climbing up onto the other side of Miwok.
I wanted to distance myself from the group before hitting the first downhill section, Dias Ridge. I hammered hard and put in a good time for Dias, snagging the top spot. From there it was the long grind up to the top of Tam via Dear Park. I decided to dial it back a notch and pace myself, making sure I maintained a good gap. Halfway up I spotted Ultra Marathon runners going down Coastal View. Damnit! That's going to be a factor on the way down.
As I was nearing the top of Tam I spotted Mat creeping up on me. He must have put in a monster effort to bridge back up to me. At the turn around point we were riding together, but I knew I could get some time back on the long descent, and that's what I did. I came down Old Railroad Grade, passing all my buddies close to the turn around point, and never looked back. Fortunately there weren't that many runners on the trail for most of the Coastal View descent. I had opened up at minute or two gap on Mat.
From there was the dreaded Middle Green Gulch climb. You have to pass through a gated garden before making the climb. I made quick work of the gate latches and turned up the power to the top of the Headlands. All that was left was the Marincello climb. Every time I do this ride I crack going up Marincello. My goal today was to feel good going into that climb and make sure I don't back down too much. I wanted to gain/hold time over my rivals there. By the time I reached the top my legs were cramping, but I knew there was a nice long descent before the last climb which is gradual. I kept looking back to see if Mat was hot on my heals, but no one was to be seen. I crossed the finished point, five or so minutes ahead of second place. My total time was three hours and 34 minutes.
We all geeked out once we uploaded our rides onto Strava. There was plenty of post ride food and beer, as well as plenty of sunshine to kick back and relax to. It was great to catch up with all of my riding buddies and commiserate over the hard day in the saddle. It felt really good to finish up my season with a win like this, where local bragging rights are at stake. Looking forward to the next one!