Monday, 7 June 2010

6610 : Tamarancho Dirt Classic

The weekend of the 6th June saw me, Spangles and Rosson head to familiar territory for the Tamarancho Dirt Classic race. Car mechanicals and sunburn conspired to halt me and Spangles in our pursuit of dirt but thanks to Rosson giving us the keys to his truck, and aloe vera, the day was on! Now, I've said this (to myself) time and time again ; always, always carry a spare pair of gloves in your camelsack. Always. That was a lesson well learned at Napa. Not going to make the same mistake again. Nope, this time I won't bring ANY gloves with me instead. What a fool. I left all FOUR PAIRS of my gloves in the truck. Something I realised 20 minutes before the start and after 2 miles of climbing from the carpark....... My lizard skins were already dripping with sweat. This was not a good start. Luckily, lady MTB luck decided to step in, or at least Jason's mate did, and handed me a pair of fingerless gloves for the duration. Sorted.

After limbering up in the gorgeous sunshine and chatting to a few locals (including a fellow Sheffielder who, at 49, didn't look a day over his mid 30's - a great advert for riding and Cali' weather) we were all set! The race was to take in most of the regular Tamarancho loop with a few additions. The direction of travel was oppposite to what I'm used to riding which threw up a few pleasant suprises. The tough, tight switchbacks normally tackled on the climb are great fun on the way down. And the infamous Rock is far more manageable when riding down it's imposing face. It shone new light on an old friend, but I still had enough local knowledge to know when to keep my kung fu wits about me.

The main difference between the race and the regular Tamarancho loop was the inclusion of the Dead Heffer climb. I'm not entirely sure were it got it's name. But, it feels strangely appropriate. Your, once nimble feeling, bike soon feels like a hellish dead cow when you're at the pushing stage which - for me, was not long into the race. I did have a decent ride though. Really had my wits about me and enjoyed the flow of Tamarancho's perfectly groomed single track. The switchbacks were especially satisfying... keep off the front brake, let the bike track through, use momentum, point the bike and it'll go, use the back brake to skid out the rear a little - nice!

But the climbing killed me. Especially as we had to do the Dead Heffer climb 3 times. Three!?!?! There's a special place in hell for the person who thought that would be a fun addition to the race. The first climb was a "warm up!" After that we proceeded, heads bowed and panting, to push our steeds up it's unforgiving fireroad. Well no amount of sugary goodness in my camelsack could save my legs from fading fast. And then the cramps kicked in...... So any chance of a decent time was screwed. But this didn't stop me enjoying the course and the general atmosphere. There really is no better way to spend a sunny Sunday than riding hard in the company of fellow MTB enthusiasts. Although the day wasn't without its casualties. Navigating tight switchbacks and baby head rocks with the flutter of a rescue helicopter's blades in your ear is a visceral reminder of the dangers of this sport.

Still, we finished the race, a little more sunkissed, tired and happy. Spangles did a great job. The times haven't been posted as I write this, but he finished a good half hour ahead of me. A cracking job for his first race. We're doing Downieville next month. I think we (ok, I) need to get some conditioning in to cope with the climbing. Maybe a Mt Diablo ride is on the cards....

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