The Fontana City National

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The Fontana City National: stop three of the US Cup.

I was uncertain of coming down to Fontana this weekend. Last weekend I went to Bonelli and had a tiring weekend sandwiched into a busy time at work. After the race, I made some comments to Scott Tedro, the president of Sho-air, about neutral support for the riders at the back of the field. They were very minor complaints from an otherwise great weekend. ┬áThe organisation of the races this year has been exceptional. The combination of well marketed, high payout and high points races has got a buzz going for cross country racing. I’m not racing for any of the reasons above though; I’m racing for the chance to race against those people who will get the prize money. I realise now that Mr. Tedro understands that. He understands why a fresh faced racer like me spends my motivation on his races. I really appreciate his investment in XC mountain biking, and I’m very glad to be part of the resurgence of the sport in the US. The US Cup this year has been absolutely fantastic.

I jumped on a plane at 10:30pm on Friday night. I worked a couple of 12 hour days doing an experiment on Thursday and Friday; there were no illusions that I’d be in for an easy weekend. I slept heavily, head rested over the tray table in front of me, and landed at Ontario bleary eyed.

Plane > Rental Car > Motel > Sleep

I got to bed at 1am and was wide awake with the traffic of I-10 outside at 6am. I felt fresh; perhaps compression tights do help with traveling. I found a breakfast restaurant which served a stack of six pancakes for $4.59 and devoured them; a new slosh of syrup with each bite. Coffee lubricated the entire breakfast.

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I met Bryan, and he drove us over to Fontana. The event expo was huge. I met up with the Turner family in the event expo – I’m lucky enough to be racing a Turner this year, and it was great to meet them and see a little glimpse into the small business. They are kind and generous people, and I’m really happy that Deidre connected us. The Czar is an awesome bike.
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Just as I was finishing my warm up I saw Miles – the owner of Red Ace Organics. He had come out to watch me specifically; people spending their time and money on me is fantastic and scary at the same time. Am I worth the investment? It was the first time I’d met him; some people’s enthusiasm shines right through, and it was inspiring to hear his ideas for the company. I think he’s going to do some big things with Elite performance.

The call up procedure is something I’m still getting used to. Standing in a huge pool of riders waiting to hear your name is daunting.

“Please welcome the National Champion of…..”
“Olympian from London 2012….”
“Former U23 World Champion…..”

The big names of the US scene were lining up on the second and third row. I was on row seven, with four more rows behind me.

I avoided the first and second corner crashes, using the unfashionable but effective get-off-and-run technique. It gained me about 20 places immediately. Perfect start.

The course started out flat, on sandy loose trails, before hitting a steep road to gain the elevation quickly. The race then traversed around the top of the hill, shot up a steep and loose trail to the summit, and then plummited around the back on a loose and blown out singletrack trail. The final section was a flat blast on a sandy fire road back to the start.

Sand, Rocks, Dust. SMOG.

I was riding entirely blind, committed to the wheel in front of me in a blanket of red dust. Mistakes were everywhere; pedalling hard into corners before coming to a complete stop. Think 80 mph to 0 mph on the highway. Scary.

It was productive hurt – the kind where you push your body to the limit, and it responds by going fast. Each time up the paved climb I grabbed a couple more places, and recovered well on the singletrack afterwards. I was making a lot of mistakes on the downhills though – I really need to spend some quality time riding my bike on trails until I get the good vibes back.

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Towards the end of the race I realised I wasn’t hurting as badly as at Bonelli. Better pacing? or just better understanding of how these races work? I got caught by a French rider who I had battled with at Bonelli. He pulled me up the last climb, gaining three or four spots from riders who had done their fireworks – weaving across the trail as if transfixed by the stars circling above their heads. I followed the Frenchmans wheel, certain that I could come around him at the finish. As is often the case, though, my focus on him lead to a couple small mistakes, which sealed my fate of 38th, for the second week in a row.
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I am a lot happier with the numerical position that I was last week. At Bonelli I had unrealistic expectations of what I could achieve. At Fontana I realised that I’m learning, and gaining knowledge that is second nature to the riders I’m up against. I like to think that I have fitness to gain, and the rest of the season is going to go very well indeed.
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Positive vibes from my version of March Madness.