Race Report 2007
3-time All-Mountain Champion
The number 3. Why so many people are infatuated with it, I don’t know. You win a race twice, and if you go for win number three and don’t get it, the first two will just be forgotten, and all people will talk about is how you lost the third one, instead of how you won the first two.
I have been hearing the number three ever since I won my second All Mountain title at the Downieville Classic, last year. I cannot count how many times I have had the “are you going for a three-pete” question asked to me since I won my second title last year. My team-mate Mark Weir deals with the same issue in the Downieville Classic Downhill Race. The one minor difference is that he was going for win number seven this year. How he has avoided stomach ulcers, I do not know.
I have been thinking about my race strategy for the 2007 Downieville Classic ever since I crossed the finish line in the 2006 Classic. I have anguished over which bike to use: a Santa Cruz Blur LT, or a Nomad. I have gone back and forth over whether or not to run a chain guide or use a three ring circus up front. My legs hurt at night thinking of the pain that would be brought on them by running 800 gram tires in the cross country race, yet my logic told me that 400 gram tires would flat like a balloon hitting a sewing needle. I changed my mind a million times as to whether I was going to run coil spring suspension, or air.
My final bike set up for this years race was a Santa Cruz Blur LT with a triple chain ring, versus a singe ring, Fox Float 140 fork, Fox RP23 rear shock, WTB WeirWolf LT 2.55 FR tires mounted to the new WTB Laser Disc Lite 28 spoke wheels. Rich from Hayes Disc Brakes personally delivered a set of the new Stroker Disc Brakes to me in Downieville. The Strokers are by far the best disc brakes I have ever taken to the hills in Downieville. Rich hung around the whole week before the race and provided tech support which I greatly appreciated. It was all topped off with a Gravity Dropper seat post, which has become a permanent fixture on all of my mountain bikes.
The All-Mountain competition was introduced into the Downieville Classic Race three years ago. The lowest combined time between the Cross Country and the Downhill race is awarded the All-Mountain Title. So far I have been undefeated, however 2006 was a close race, with only fifteen seconds in between second place finisher Tim Olson and myself, and another fifteen seconds in between Tim and my team-mate Mark Weir.
This years plan was simple: Weir and I wanted to win it all. All of it. Didn’t matter which one of us won what...we just wanted to take it all home. I was very bitter from last years race. Though I was the All-Mountain Champ, I didn’t win a single stage. I did not want to let that happen again. If stages were won, it would be Weir or myself winning them. It seemed like every week, Weir would call me and tell me of another super pro that was going to show up to the race. The more names that he threw at me, the more I was motivated. There is only one person I would feel comfortable giving the All Mountain title to, and that would be Weir. He helps me out so much, and motivates me more than anyone could ever imagine. Downieville is as special to him as it is to me. If things were to look sour for me regarding the All Mountain, my plan was to do everything I could to make sure Mark would be the next in line to take it.
Versus previous years, this year I decided to take two weeks off work leading up to the race. My normal strategy is to get off work on Friday, and leave for Downieville early Saturday morning an hour before start time, and then start racing. This time, my wife Erin and I decided to go up to Downieville two weeks early, and really do some homework. We recently purchased a house in Downieville, and had the luxury of being able to have a solid base camp in town from which to launch our training rides. For two weeks I did nothing but do what I needed to do to get the job done in the race. I apologize to anyone who felt that I was anti-social during those two weeks. Erin and I were both invited to do a lot of things over the course of the two weeks leading up to the race, and we skipped it all. I did exactly what I needed to do. Nothing more, nothing less. I allowed no changes to how I wanted my schedule to be. I was hell bent on making sure I was ready.
The start of the Cross Country race was as gnarly as ever. It was a very fast start. The pace felt like a pace that would be set for a short track race, not a twenty eight mile Cross Country race. Weir took a charge to the front to diffuse the situation. At this early point in the race, I felt like it was going to be a rough day. The top ten guys were charging. Luckily, Weir was there in the mix. I decided to drop the pace down, and watch the race develop a little more. I was in no hurry, as the climb usually takes between forty-five and fifty-five minutes. I eventually began to work my way up to Weir, and was planning on doing the whole climb with him if I could hang. As I worked my way up, I noticed that I felt exceptional. I would grab a harder gear, accelerate, and be able to hold it. Once I reached Weir, I decided to go ahead and keep plugging away at my own pace. There were riders ahead of us, and that did not make me happy. There happened to be a rider just ahead of Mark that had a problem with me taking the good line as I passed. He threw a little chicken wing elbow at me. Those silly little elbow throws indicate nothing but a firm “I have no idea how to ride a bike, so I am going to hold onto the bars as tight as possible, and stick my sharp little elbow out at you.” Why people get so upset by being passed, I will never know. It was obvious I was going a lot faster. If someone is passing me, I always will yield the good line. Period. It is simple common sense. I was feeling a bit aggressive, so I went ahead and threw my whole bike and body at him, sending him to the edge of the road, giving him a bit of a reminder of the e-mail that Heather sent out about yielding the trail to faster riders. It may have been a bit aggressive, but hey, I was suffering. Starting the race with the Pro/Experts, he should have known the rules. He began to squabble. I paid no attention. I just kept going. Anyone that could talk as much as he was, was obviously not working hard enough. I couldn’t talk at all. Weir diffused the situation in his own little way. Thanks Mark.
By the false top of the climb, I worked my way up to second place, with Kyle Dixon right in my sights. As I hit the flat gravel road section leading to the final push to the KOM, I looked back, and saw that Jason First (Crank Brothers) was quite a ways back. I decided to pin it all by myself, rather than wait for the rider behind me. Jason First had other plans. He reeled me in like a Pinto racing a Formula One car. I tried to jump on his wheel, to no avail. I kept it pinned at my own pace, slowly losing time to one and two. Cresting the KOM, I grabbed my water bottle from my Aunt Linda, and prepared for battle. While I was not pleased that there were still two riders in front of me, I was not worried, because they had no more than a minute on me, and we were about to enter the sweet decent of Baby Heads and Pauley Creek Trail. I sat up and relaxed a bit on the rolling fire road leading into Baby Heads, knowing that I was about to take a beating that only the Baby Heads could deliver.
The Baby Heads OHV gets very rowdy after the mid point creek crossing. This is where I figured I would be catching Kyle and Jason. When I caught them, they were riding together. Jason had just caught Kyle, but was having trouble passing. It only took about three seconds for me to pass them once I brought them into sight. I swiftly passed them, and never heard or saw them again in the race. From there, I had clear sailing to the finish. I road as smooth as possible, and did everything I could to avoid getting a flat or a mechanical.
Upon dropping off first divide trail, onto the finishing stretch of road, I felt like I had a lot of gas left in the tank, so I went ahead and punched it all the way into town. My time was 1:53:08. The old course record was 1:59:10, set by Tim Olson (Trek/VW) last year, when he beat me by 27 seconds. I am still upset for myself with that loss. I had no idea I was on pace to break the course record. I figured I was on about a two hour pace. I was felt very fortunate to have crossed the line first. I then waited patiently at the line, just hoping that Weir would be the next one through. Two and a half minutes later, Weir showed up We won the day. We promptly went into recovery mode to prepare for day two.
The downhill race added on some distance this year. Instead of starting at the top of Butcher Ranch Trail, the race started all the way at the top of Packer Saddle, using the very sweet new Sunrise Trail. I got in a very good warm up before the race, gave my Mom and Wife a possible last kiss, and reported to the start. Weir went off first, and I went off second. As rough as the downhill was, I was feeling very little fatigue. I swear, I felt like I was off the ground more than on the ground. My bike was silent. It was almost scary....Scary like the first night Erin and I spent in our new Downieville house. I just wasn’t sure if that much silence was O.K. The Sunrise Trail was an epic addition to the downhill race. It was built so well. I love how the corners just invited speed. And I loved that my arms were more tired than my legs by the bottom.
Butcher Ranch Trail was as rowdy as ever. Rocks all over the place. It was a game of skipping the bike over the rocks, kinda like skipping a rock in a pond. The more skips you get before you loose speed, the better. I took a new line through the water fall this year, and it treated me very good. I don’t even know if I hit my brakes coming into it. Those WeirWolf LT tires have so much air volume, they allow you to enter sections like the water fall at break-neck speeds, without the risk of flatting.
The climb up to Third Divide trail was as hateful as ever. I didn’t have a timer on, so I can’t say how fast I made it up, but I know it didn’t take to long, being that I stayed in my 44 up front, and had a cadence of like 100 rpm. I was a little tired at the top, and maybe not thinking as clearly as I should have been when I dropped into the ultra fast descent of Third Divide.
Third divide trail was as fast as ever. Riding off the floaters, I felt as if I was skipping 1/4 mile of trail before I landed. I always wished I could see how far we actually fly off the floaters. I can’t even begin to explain the feeling of flying through the air at 40 plus mph, and not being exactly sure where you are going to land. It feels as if you are cheating death. Third Divide trail also has more blind landings than any other trail that I know of. It is so intimidating to ride up to a blind peak at speed, and huck yourself off, without being able to see the other side until you are in flight. I thank god for the VPP suspension, Fox Forks, Gravity Dropper Seat Posts, and the 2.55 WeirWolf tires. I swear, I wouldn’t be alive without them. I never saw a trace of dust from Weir, and was never threatened from my minute man behind me. My legs felt incredible the whole run. I posted a time of 46:51 on the seventeen mile course. Weir got an incredible 46:14, taking the downhill win for the seventh time, and handing me my third All-Mountain win, while he took second in the All Mountain. Nathan Riddle, the Oregonian of our WTB team had Weir and I covered by taking up third place. We made a clean 1,2,3 sweep of the podium.
To me, the weekend was flawless. The big names came, but were sent home wondering what the hell happened. Team WTB/Fox/Santa Cruz scored one/two punches in each race, and in the All Mountain competition. My wife Erin took second in the Women’s All Mountain Pro category. Can you say there’s a new Moeschler in town We had good company the entire week leading up to the race. It was so fun, I just didn’t want to leave town. I have said it before, but I will say it again....the Downieville Classic is the most fun race I have ever done. And Downieville is by far my favorite place to ride.
Congratulations to Mark for winning the Downhill race for the seventh time. Incredible! Congratulations to the Yuba Crew for putting on the best Classic ever.