Mountain Bike Skills are Important when Mountain Biking

ImageReno is a long way from Los Angeles. This might be something we all know, but it’s hard to truly comprehend it until you’ve driven it, in a car, having to stop every hour or so because you know you’re going to race at altitude and are forcing fluids. Karl and I know this, because that’s just about how our drive up north went this past weekend. While lacking some of the epic vistas of our drive up there last year, the views were stunning as always and we arrived Friday afternoon (after a 6.30am departure) to a wonderful venue up in Tahoe. This year Reno hosted its race at Sky Tavern, a resort dedicated to making skiing and snowboarding affordable so that anyone who wants to can enjoy sliding downhill fast without the barrier of cost. An excellent vibe that translated well to an excellent race. 

We pre-rode the course Friday, which turned out to be a great idea because, ladies and gentlemen, we had ourselves some real mountain bikin’ on our hands! While Parkfield is always the most popular race, its notoriety is based more on its party atmosphere than the quality of riding. UNR offered up both in spades! The race started off with a maybe 3.5 mile fire road climb, then went into a rolly singletrack bit and ended up with a mix of fireroad and singletrack screaming descent. And the singletrack was tricky! The top rolling bit had a number of step ups and creek crossings that it was good to have been able to practice, to make sure we were in the right gear and confident in clearing the obstacles. But the highlight of the course was the WAY loose and gnarly (for XC) singletrack down at the bottom. Karl and I ran through it a couple of times, and after three tries I felt good about being able to clear it all during the race. Georgia (dog), of course, was able to get through everything no problem, sitting in the shade while we struggled to keep traction in the wet grass and loose sand. 

After a horrible showing at Parkfield, I was looking forward to doing a little something at Reno. The race was at altitude, which doesn’t help those of us who live at sea level, but after a summer of racing Rim Nordics I felt confident that I knew how to handle the challenge. With so much fire road climbing, our race started off at a reasonable pace with the terrain breaking up our group as we climbed. First place quickly got out of sight, but I was able to keep second in view for all of the climb. I was able to get past Eileen, from Stanford, on the descent and hoped that I could keep her within reach again, once she passed me on the second lap, to do it again and end up second on the day. I wasn’t, but even still, I am happy to have finished third. I pushed myself the whole race, really getting after it through the rollers, and cleared everything on the course at least once. All in all, a fun day! 

Unfortunately the short track race the next day wouldn’t play out the same way. The course featured a 2/3 road, 1/3 fire road climb up into a hairpin, then down through some berms and over some bumpy stuff through the campsite (WCCC courses seem to be running the short tracks through the campground, and it makes for a great atmosphere!) and into another hairpin before spitting you back out on the pavement. I spent about half the race chasing third place and finally caught her heading around the top hairpin into the downhill, but ate it coming out of the second berm on the descent, which claimed its fair share of victims over the course of the day. Game over. With four laps to go, after a race of chasing, I didn’t have it in me to catch Liz from Berkeley again and I phoned it in for 4th. It was a great short track, and felt good to actually be racing instead of just pedaling around in circles. Great races by Maren from SLO and Eileen from Stanford to win the XC and STXC races, respectively, and thanks to Reno for giving us some real mountain biking! 

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