Saturday, 18 August 2012

Dirty Faces

That's what we had. Battle weary, sun kissed and caked deep with California dust. Yep, our faces told the story of this year's Annadel Bike Monkey Race. Last year I had some teeth yanked so had to rest up while the other lads took up the challenge of a few hours in the dust. This year, I was set. I'd even done a cheeky pre-ride the week before. So I was super excited to finally get to ride my favourite NorCal trails with a couple hundred like minded souls and see what I could do.

We started out en mass from Bike Monkey headquarters in downtown Santa Rosa. A couple of miles of police escorted riding must've been one hell of a sight. We buzzed along, our knobbly tires on asphalt like a swarm of angry wasps. Once we reached Howard Park it was time to set the clocks and hit the dirt. The race was on!

We worked our way to Channel Drive. Jostling eachother out of the way, any slight widening of trail was used to gain an extra place. I took things easy as I was keen to warm up. But I also knew that none of the climbing was that steep or sustained. So kept the pressure on the pedals, inching ahead of slower riders. The mass kept bottlenecking though. Anytime we hit something remotely technical, things would grind to a halt. Disappointing, and slightly odd. Maybe we had one too many casual MTB riding roadies amongst us. This pattern carried on as we hit Richardson and then North Burma. I'm never especially aggressive with fellow racers, but I couldn't help but gnash my teeth as people refused to pull on the descents. Hmm.... The buzz was getting somewhat killed and the climbs were even less appealing than usual as I knew the descents were going to be throttled by discourteous, timid arseholes riders.

Still, I felt really strong. The pre-ride helped a lot as I knew when to settle back in the granny and spin out to catch my breath, and when it was worth surging ahead up a techy climb overtaking as many people as I could. Forewarned is forearmed as they say and today was proof. As we crested the South Burma climb, I pushed hard to Lawndale. Determined to have a good crack at a fast descent before the final climb out. After a couple of early overtaking moves I found myself with Annadel's (arguably) best trail all to myself. Dust hung thick in the air masking a clear view, but I felt familiar enough with Lawndale's curves to drop the hammers and enjoy the lovely flow.

Hitting the little step jump at the end of the trail, I landed in the Lawndale car park just shy of 2 hours in. I could feel a few twinges in my legs but a welcome rest stop and water douse reinvigorated  me enough to push any thoughts of cramp to the back of my mind and push on. A couple more salty pills mixed with a Gu gel and I ended up feeling fine for the rest of the race.

Once we climbed Shultz I knew the homestretch was just around the corner. A little more techy climbing through Ridge, and then a fast blast down Marsh and Canyon. I checked the Garmin... 2:45. I'd entertained a fantasy about coming in around the 3 hour mark (our pre-ride was done in 3:20.) With 15 minutes to go it seemed almost feasible. A few Strava PRs are proof that I rode like the clappers and came in seconds under the 3 hour mark. Woo hoo! Great stuff.

This year's Annadel race was certainly a highlight in terms of how good I felt. I felt strong all the way around (a stark contrast to the Howell Mountain Challenge a few weeks before.) Never did I feel like my fitness was hindering my riding. I climbed strong and passed enough people on the descents to know I was riding smooth and fast. Good stuff. Just a shame about those feckin rock shy lycra bunnies clogging up the fun bits ;o)

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