|Race Report 2006, Jason Moeschler, two-time All-Mountain Champion
All I can say is, "what a freaking weekend!" If there is one event that I can‚t wait for each year, it is the Downieville Classic. This year, like last year, my focus for the entire race season to date was aimed at performing well at Downieville.
I like the Downieville Classic because the races are won with a combination of fitness, and handling skills, unlike Mountain Bike National Championships two weeks ago, which was nothing but a fitness course. I am sure that any fit roadie could have come to Nationals, and placed pretty well, even though it was a mountain bike race. The course was that tame. On the contrary, there aren‚t many roadies that could survive the Downieville Cross Country. I bet that most of them would not even be able to stay on there bikes going up starting climb, due to it‚s steepness, and looseness. In short, Downieville is a real mountain bike race.
Like most of us, I work full time, so my fitness is never all it could be. The Classic gives me a chance to use my handling skills to help try to win the race. This year was the second year that the classic incorporated the All Mountain Pro competition, which combines the finishing times of the two days of racing (Downhill race on Saturday, and the Cross Country race on Sunday). The lowest time wins. I won the All Mountain Competition in 2005, and therefore was bestowed the stress of defending my title this year. My goal is always to try to win both days, and thus win the All Mountain competition. However, in the end, stage wins aside, the All Mountain win is the most important to me.
My buddy and WTB teammate Mark Weir has owned the Downhill race for years now. It is his race to lose. I really don‚t think he will be losing it any time soon. I have been very privileged to race in a lot of races with Mark this year. We have had a win-win season, helping each other out in many races all season long. While we are friends and teammates, I would still like to beat Mark in the downhill race. Weir knows that, and I am sure he respects that. That is just the nature of competition, and is one of the reasons why Weir and I like racing so much.
I on the other hand, have faired well in the Cross Country race over the years, and really do not like loosing the XC race. I won the XC in 2005, and venomously wanted to win it again this year.
I made a few major equipment changes this year. I wanted to go after the win in the downhill race, so I decided to ride a Santa Cruz Nomad, which ended up weighing in at 30.7 lbs. My ride last year was 26 lbs. Big change, hey? After watching Weir stomp cross-country races on his Nomad, I was convinced that the Nomad would be able to climb the cross-country climb just fine, and maybe give me the edge I needed on the downhill. My fork choice was a Fox Talas 36, rear shock, a Fox Float R, and Tire choice was the new WTB Weirwolf LT 2.55, front and rear.
Competition was stiff in the All Mountain Pro category this year. Maverick sent their Super D sensations Ariel Lindsley, and Mike West. Tim Olson from Trek, who finished 2nd in the All Mountain Class last year also showed up. Soul Craft sent a full on arsenal of guy‚s; led buy the super fit Aren Timmel, who has been killing it all season on the road, and on the dirt. There is also Downieville local Henry O'Donnell, who knows the Downieville trails better than all of us.
O.k., O.k., the race report!
The Downhill race starts at the Butcher Ranch trail head, just below Packer Saddle. Since I finished 2nd last year in the DH race, I was seeded to start 2nd this year, which I liked much better than my 10th place starting position last year. Besides loosing my chain, which required having to stop, get off, un-jam it, and get back on, I had a really good run. My legs felt good on the pedaling sections, and I don‚t feel that I made any bad mistakes. I figure the chain jam took about 20 seconds away from my time. At the end of the day, my time of 40:22 was good enough for second place. I was 1:24 behind Weir. I have no idea how he goes that fast, because I felt like I was giving it pretty good. Weir really does own the downhill race, but you better believe I will be working on a way to get him next year!
I finished a narrow 39 seconds ahead of Ariel Lindsley of Maverick, and 45 seconds ahead of Trek‚s Tim Olson. The pressure was now on for winning the All Mountain Competition. A lot of time can be made or lost in Sundays Cross Country race. But to win the All Mountain competition, I had to beat Weir by 1min, 24 seconds, and make sure that Ariel didn‚t beat me by more than 39 seconds, and I couldn‚t let Tim Olson beat me by more than 45 seconds. I had my hands full.
Sundays Cross Country race starts in Sierra City, and climbs an immediate 3000‚ in eight miles up to packer saddle. The race started hard. Tim Olson, and Ariel Lindsley were far ahead of me on the climb. Weir was somewhere behind me, but I didn‚t look back, because of fear of what I might see. I just went as hard as I could up the climb, which was only good enough to get me to the top in eleventh place, somewhere plus or minus six minutes down from the leaders.
I felt pretty pathetic on the climb. In years past, I have made it to the top of the climb in 45 minutes, and here I am cresting the top at just over 59 minutes. What in the world? My legs were just flat. Many have speculated that it was the heavier bike, but really, it was just that I was flat. I just couldn‚t go. Upon the top of the climb, I decided that it was time to get my fanny in gear. I had a lot of people to catch on the downhill.
I nabbed six guys on the baby head decent, which is a River Bed like descent that takes us to the Pauley Creek Crossing. Most of the passes that I made on baby heads were crazy, to say the least. I was making lines out of stuff that I usually wouldn‚t have considered ride able.
Just before starting Pauley Creek, I caught Maverick rider Mike West, who is a stellar descended. Mike followed me down Pauley Creek trail, where we soon passed Soul Craft rider Aren Timmel. Mike continued to stay with me all the way until the start of the climb up to 3rd divide trails descent. Upon starting the climb, I heard an ear-piercing scream from Mike. I knew what it was from the pain of the scream, he had cramped, and bad. I kept climbing as hard as possible, and soon caught Mikes team mate, Ariel, who was on the side of the trail, fixing a flat. I was then confident that I had Ariel out of my way for the All Mountain.
Cresting the top of the climb, and starting the descent down Third divide, I was now in third place. My next worry was trying to make sure Tim Olson was no more that 45 seconds ahead of me. I was told that the leader was 3 minutes ahead of me, and second was 30 seconds ahead of me. I was just hoping that the leader was not Tim Olson, because I knew I would not be able to take that much time out of him with such a short amount to time to go. I had a dust trail in front of me the whole way down third divide trail, I just didn‚t know exactly who‚s it was. I was just hoping that it was Tim Olson's.
Third divide trail drop us out onto Lavezzola Creek road, which brings us to first divide trail. On my way down Lavezzola Creek road, I passed Kyle Dixon, who was on the side of the road fixing a flat. I still had a dust trail ahead of me, which meant that Kyle was the one that was three minutes ahead of me. I had Tim Olson within reach. Now I just had to get him.
I tasted Tim‚s dust for the rest of the race, only catching sight of him once we were on the paved finishing stretch riding into down town Downieville. I knew that I couldn‚t catch him at that point, and just made sure to keep him within 45 seconds of me by the finish line.
I ended up finishing second in the XC, 27 seconds behind Tim Olson. I immediately started my stopwatch at the finish line, because though I had kept Tim at bay from beating me in the All Mountain, I had no idea how far back Weir was. I watched the seconds tick by. I had to get Weir by 1:24 to get the overall. It seemed like an eternity, but eventually the numbers 1 2 4 appeared on my stopwatch∑and still no Mark. I had won the All Mountain. Thirty seconds later, Weir came roaring in, just short of taking second in the All Mountain away from Tim Olson.
My combined times between the two days for the All Mountain competition was 2:39:59. Treks Tim Olson, who finished second in the All Mountain had a time of 2:40:16, while my teammate Mark Weir finished a close third at 2:40:31. I only edged Tim out by 17 seconds, and Mark by 32 seconds. This racing stuff is getting too stressful!
Thanks WTB and Yuba Expeditions for another killer race. I already can‚t wait for next year. Also, thanks to my team WTB/Fox Racing Shox/SantaCruz for a super fun season...and it aint over yet!
Until next time