Monday, 12 April 2010

Whine Country

So, this last sunday (11th April) was the annual Napa Valley Dirt Classic MTB race. My good friend Doctor Jason Rosson told me about it - wide eyed. I checked it out online - looked fantastic. So we signed up. Having done my research, ie watching a few youtube vids, I had it in my head that the race was going to be 22 miles of buttery singletrack, riding in the idyllic Napa countryside with the sun on our backs. We'd stop every now and again to nab some grapes and congratulate ourselves on how well we were riding. An amazing day was guaranteed.

Cut to sunday am. Driving to Napa, relieved that I'd packed warm riding gear (including a spanking new Canondale jacket.) Its heaving down with rain. No worries I thought, the website said "rain or shine." It must be designed for this kinda weather..... Oh how wrong I was.

Within about 6 or 7 minutes of arriving at Pacific Union College I'm soaked wet through. I meet up with Jason and we hang around the start line until its time to go. I'm still optimistic and he's poised and confident. No ideas of the horrors we're about to endure. Jason's riding single speed so he heads off. 10 minutes later me and a bunch of other 19-34 year old males are heading through the college towards the trail head.

Now, I won't labour over describing the ride. The part of my brain that deals with trauma has blocked much of it out. Needless to say it was, as the locals kept saying "brutal." About 4 out of the 22 mile track was fairly decent twisty single track that held up well in the mud. The rest was uphill slog, pushing the bike against a torrent of muddy water. The trails were seriously rutted which made the downhill switchbacks especially challenging when you're fading into a hypothermia induced delerium. I lost count of the number of poor souls I saw at the side of the trail shivering, waiting for the nice man with the quadbike ambulance and blankets. By mile 15 everyone's legs were getting cramped, but survival instincts kicked in and we pushed on.

After a few hard falls and some hairy muddy descents, I arrived at the finish line. Glad I'd made it one piece. I really didn't care about my time (which was just as well as I finished last in my category as it happens.) I found Rosson, shivering in his truck. He rolled down the window and I was horrified by his blood red eyes. He learned to wear goggles on a muddy ride the hard way. Jason saw my disgust at his eyes so decided to distract me by displaying his hideously disfigured hand. The poor fecker had dislocated a finger! (but still managed to finish ahead of me!?!) I offered sympathy to the poor dude.... but then realised I'd suffered an injury even more tragic. On one of my many high speed (ahem) tumbles I'd put a feckin' hole in my new Canondale jacket. Gutted. Jason shed a tear. We tried to console eachother. It was a great jacket.


  1. Fantastic Andy! - was that your first event or did you do a Bristol 12hour?
    Local enduro here in Wales in 2 weeks, I'm looking forward to it, although I hope, less rain...

  2. Just reading it has me being grateful for Yoga... :) Glad the only injury was a hole in a jacket.

  3. wow, you are a great photographer! seriously, wonderful composition and contrast in all your pics.

  4. ha! after some further research and investigation i now realize you are, in fact, a photographer. well anyways, i really like all your shots. i'm inspired to think black and white next time i hit the trails with my camera. thanks for this.