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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Advice by John Tomlinson – Two-time Junior Track National Champion

Just a few things I have come across over the years that I figured I would quickly share:

1. Always carry a spare derailleur hanger with you when you travel, or go to a race! 

It is a piece of your bike that is designed to break off if unnecessary stress is put onto it, and can ruin your day as usually they are specific from bike to bike and not an easy purchase at most bike shops. If you have one with you, it can be a 3 minute fix, no problem. Either call a dealer shop of your bike and ask to order it, or go here: http://derailleurhanger.com/index.htm and search for your make and model. I have had a teammate crash in his first race of the day, change his bent hanger, and race the p1/2 later that day no problem. When you bend or break one, you will need to order a new one anyhow, so might as well plan ahead!

2. Race bag spares. 

May be smart to throw a spare set of your preferred cleats into your race bag incase you break a set at a race. Also, a spare chain, and set of cables could be a smart as well as anything on your bike that is proprietary (seat post collar, bolts, anything). Just a few easy things you can keep in your race bag that could save your race when you are in the middle of no where USA at 7am in the morning.

3. Saddle bags.

It is good practice to have a stocked saddle bag (not a huge one!) if you are training a lot, and especially if you are training alone.

I always carry:

      • 2 Tubes
      • 2 CO2’s
      • CO2 Gun head
      • Tire Lever
      • $20 emergency
      • $1 or cliff bar wrapper to boot a tire, and
      • some super stick patches that will patch a tube and get me home.          (If I am riding deep carbon clinchers, I might bring a valve extender, just     in case)

These things can keep you rolling after a small mechanical instead of ruining your day and making you call someone. Again, not a lunch box saddle bag, just one big enough to jam all that in there.

4. Below 65 degrees? Wear knee coverings and arm coverings!

I doesn’t matter if they are knee warmers, leg warmers, or tights (Embro does not count). You can really hurt your joint/tendons  if you ride in the cold with them exposed.  There is a lot of movement and not a lot of fat/blood flow to help protect them. Be sure you own at the very least knee warmers and arm warmers.

5. Mark your saddle height with a piece of electrical tape.

It’s easy. Put a piece of tape just above the seat collar leaving a 3mm window. If the post slips, that little window will close and you will know to fix the height. And if you are jamming your bike in a car and have to take the post out, you will know where to put it back.

That is it for now. By no means do you have to follow any of this, but take them into consideration!

About John Tomlinson

John Tomlinson grew up in downtown Chicago, IL and went to school on the South Side of the city. After riding his mountain bike around Chicago city parks all his life, he upgraded to a road bike and began racing at age thirteen. John quickly excelled, winning two Junior Track National Championships in the scratch race (2009) and points race (2010), which qualified him to represent the USA at Junior Track World Championships in Montichiari, Italy. John is now a freshman at USC.  He races with the Trojan Cycling Team while at school, and with Nova IsCorp Elite Cycling Team out of Milwaukee, WI when he is back home in the Midwest for the summer.

Sean Perry – 3rd place Road Race – Men’s Bs, UC Davis –

PART II

(Read Part I)

No one even tried to get on his wheel as he came up.  I let him ride right past me and off the front, sure that Davis would mark it straightaway as they did every other such attempt. Although they took their time, they eventually reacted. The chase was officially on. About half a lap after Jim and I did our thing, Mr. Beast himself, Karl Tingwald, rode up the left side of the field on the first roller and immediately assumed the front to the tune of “Alright!” and “There he is!” from some embattled riders near me.

After hitting the front for the first time all day, Karl used every last ounce of his strength to pull the field, including me, for the greater part of a lap.  By the end of that lap the break was only a few seconds ahead and doomed to certain failure. It was an impressive effort and I was not going to let it go to waste.

We finally caught the break with just under 6 miles to go, and by this point it was a given that nothing else would be allowed even a foot of breathing room. The pace slowed to a crawl. Davis assembled their lead-out train but were understandably weary of hitting the gas too early and waited in the wings. Just as we approached the second-to-last corner with just over a mile to go, the pack sprang to life and each rider jumped to hit the corner ahead of the next guy.

As always, I was not about to muscle for position at the risk of life and limb and so lost a couple of spots after the jump, ultimately settling in around 20th. However, I used some energy to pop around some people during the straightaway, entering the last corner at about 10th after being cut off by a rider from a team that will not be named.

Rounding the final corner, some riders forgot that there were about 600 meters to go and launched immediately, only to quickly sputter out. For my part, I continued to follow the surging wheels and surfed up to third position with about 200 meters to go and prepared to launch my sprint. However, just as I readied to strike, the same rider who had previously cut me off, now riding in second, swerved again (I don’t even understand why this time, as there were only three of us at the front with the entire road to ourselves), forcing me to either sit down and brake or go off the road. Easy choice. I sat in behind him and rolled across the line, seated, in third.

The result could have and should have and would have been better, but that was certainly a good enough result to be happy with, particularly in light of the terrific work the team did to get me there. I was getting nervous, but they definitely pulled through in the clutch, making for a damn exciting race, if I do say so myself. Props to Justin for sticking it out in the field in his first Bs road race, which is a lot more than I can say for myself.

The next day at the UC Davis Criterium, the plan was for me to try to set Karl up for the win, but upon seeing the technical, dangerous nature of the course, we quickly set those plans aside for another day. After witnessing two crashes in the first three laps, Justin and I mutually decided to find a coffee shop and then return to spectate. Jim and Karl weren’t having the times of their lives either and abandoned shortly after. Despite this disappointment, however, I think all of us would call the weekend a rousing success and a lot of fun to boot. Fight On!

John Tomlinson – 2nd place Crit – Men’s As, Cal Poly

Fight on! John Tomlinson

“I am going to quit…” I kept telling myself this over, and over again in the criterium race Sunday in San Luis Obispo. My legs were in so much pain. Not a good pain, a blocked, hurt muscle pain. I had raced in cold, wet conditions the day before, and my legs seemed to be telling me just that. Between a good block of training, and the cold, my legs were ready for a day off. Cal Poly Wheelman found the hardest 0.6km circuit they could in the area, which did not help my situation. It was a good-sized hill, downhill tight two corners, and a false-flat uphill headwind to the line.

We had stayed at a Cal Poly Cyclist’s apartment the night before (very generous, if I might add) and our newest, and very ambitious rider Luke Walker woke up early for his first ever crit. When he came back he had a huge grin on his face and said “that was so much fun!” Hearing that from a guy new to bike racing was probably more satisfying then any result I have gotten all year.

My race time crept up on us and I was as ready as I was going to be. After a quick parade lap with some Cal Poly VIP’s, it was race time. I took the front immediately as it was a technical course, I did not want to get caught out early, and I needed a warm up. Attacks began to fly early, as it was not that long of a race. At this point, my legs were screaming, but I tried to fake it as best I could. A break went off with two good friends, Cody O’rielly and Stephen Leece, from Santa Barbara and one other Davis rider.

I knew that I could not let that roll away. I put in a hard effort, and caught the move. After a few laps the field was strung out, but for the most part patched back together. I knew that if I wanted to get off the front now was the time to go. Going into a points lap, I hit it. My legs finally feeling like what a bike racer’s legs should feel like! I put my head down and went. I looked back and had Cody O’rielly with me and we had a gap. We began to rotate and soon got out of sight. Virginia, Luke, and Ben were yelling time gaps and it sounded like at one point we had forty-five seconds. Cody and I were pretty civil, I tried to lose him on the climb the last few laps but it was not happening. He made me look like a child in the sprint, and I rolled in second.

All in all, a fun weekend with friends and a great race at Cal Poly. Thanks so much to Danny Heeley for letting us stay on his couch, and Kat from SLO for putting a roof over our heads! Round of applause for Cal Poly!

Sean Perry – 3rd place Road Race – Men’s Bs, UC Davis –

PART I

The UC Davis Road Race course was very unique, Sean Perry, Men's Bsconsisting of 8 short, 6-mile laps with some small rollers towards the middle that would clearly have no appreciable effect on the race’s outcome. Similarly, while I imagine that wind could have been a significant factor on another day, and perhaps this is what UC Davis had hoped for, the air was relatively still. The pavement, while somewhat rough and gravelly in portions, was also not something that would enable strong riders and teams to break the field.

These characteristics all notwithstanding, however, the course was made challenging by the sheer narrowness of the roads. As in most road races, we were confined to one lane (besides the race finish, thankfully – take note race organizers). However, on this course there was seldom any shoulder, meaning that literally no more than three riders could comfortably ride side by side. Add the four tight, gravelly corners per lap and the twisty “bottom leg” (the course was effectively a rectangle) and you’re going to have a very interesting race. Positioning, a well-documented weak point of the Trojan offensive, was to be almost the sole dynamic.

As expected, more than 20% of our 40-something man field was made up of Davis riders. Most other teams brought somewhere from 3 to 6 riders, and with 4 from USC (Karl Tingwald, Jim Yuan, the newly upgraded Justin Eagleton, and myself), we would not be left out of the proceedings. Even before the whistle sounded to signal the start, all eyes were on the Davis squad in anticipation of the inevitable onslaught. We were not let down.

Interestingly, however, it was not Davis that began to force the proceedings altogether too early in the race. It was one of only three riders from Santa Clara that attacked again, and again, and again. Of course, Davis was unwilling to let any break go without one of them in it, and no other teams wanted to see a break go that had Davis and not them; so it took a full lap for something to stick. Ultimately, it was a small group that got away, with one Davis and the Santa Clara rider who were soon joined by a rider from UCLA (and perhaps someone else that I’m forgetting).

Now, the race was interesting. While most of the riders and teams in the field were stuck without anyone up the road, it was utterly impossible to organize a chase on such a narrow road and with all those Davis riders taking up space. As the race wore on and we entered the 5th lap, the break’s advantage exceeded a minute and a half.  At this point, they had become black specks in the distance, only visible on the long, back straight.

Since other teams were failing to mount any sort of real chase and since my teammates were nowhere in sight (I blame the difficulty of moving up on those roads), I began to panic and put in a couple minute-long, lung-blasting efforts.  I wanted to both make up some time and  spur some sort of reaction from everyone else who was just watching the race ride away from them. Seeing this and knowing that I was  supposed to be saving my legs for the sprint, Jim immediately came to my rescue and rode right past me in a blaze.

Justin Eagleton – 3rd Road Race, 4th Crit – Men’s Cs, UC Berkeley

Road Race:

After being in rainy northern California and checking the weather just about everyday during the week, I was relieved to get to the race and see partly cloudy skies. The course was still wet, but everyone said it wasn’t too technical so it shouldn’t matter (and by my last lap it had dried out anyways). As the group lined up, I though that the forecast might have been a deterrent as the field was a bit smaller then usual. The pack got rolling and a rider went pretty hard right from the start, but the pace cooled down quickly enough as we rolled around the course. That is, until the (for me) unexpected right turn up the Mc Ewen wall,  a relatively short but burningly steep climb about 2/3 of the way through the 10 mile lap. At some point there or shortly after, a Cal rider slipped ahead of the pack and would manage to stay away on a solo break for the entire race.

Justin Eagleton riding hard for the USC Cycling Team.

I stayed with the pack, which after the Mc Ewen climb, on lap 2 dwindled to only about 9 or so riders. While some people tried to initiate a chase on the break away rider, no one was really committed, and two slightly technical turns on the backside of the course only served as an advantage for him to keep a small but persistent gap. I knew the last time up the wall was going to be one of the most decisive parts of the race, so I tried to push as hard as possible while still keeping enough in the tank for the more gradual up hill finish. The group was no longer together by this point and I managed to get to the top and stay on the wheel of a Davis rider on the small descent before the final short climb up to the finish line. When I turned onto the final uphill stretch I saw that there was another Davis rider who had managed to pull away, so I knew at this point it was going to be a battle for 3rd place with the rider behind me. We played the game, but I managed to just beat him out on an uphill sprint to take 3rd. (Or perhaps he decided his teammate already got second and was just being nice J, either way). While it was definitely painful, it turned out to be a fun day of racing and I was glad the weather gods decided to play along after a week of rain.

Criterium:

Once again, when I got to the course adjacent to the Cal campus, I was relieved that it was not raining and that the road was dry (although it was unusually cold). I was hoping that the uphill half of the ½-up-½-down course would play more in my favor then previous crits this season. As the race started, I took it easy to see how the field would react to the difficult 3rd corner at the bottom of the down hill.  Thankfully the early leaders established a good line and people were being smart and singling up. I stayed in the pack pretty much the whole time, except for one lap when the course marshal held up a 3, then 2, then 1. The pack was still moving pretty slow so I decided to go on a break, but when there was no bell, and no chase I realized that he had been holding another hand drawn 1 to make it actually a count down from 13 (used to them staring from 8… now I know I guess). Oh well. I managed to sit towards the back and recover before getting into a good position by the last lap. The uphill finish definitely played to my advantage and I was able to sprint into 4th: my best crit result this season. So, despite the cold, it was a pretty good day on a surprisingly fun course.

Raquel Orellana – 1st place – Women’s Cs, UC Berkeley Road Race

She got a new look for her great performance. She looks great in red!

Two topics dominated the conversation as we drove up to UC Berkeley: the brutal weather forecast for the weekend and the amount of climbing we’d have to do on Saturday’s Road Race.

On Saturday morning, we were pleasantly surprised by the weather: it was freezing, but at least it wasn’t raining.  The climb, on the other hand, was also a surprise, but certainly not a pleasant one.

Women’s Cs and Women’s Bs were racing together and were required to do three 10 mile laps, each with 1,100 ft of climbing.  I didn’t do a very good job of warming up before the race, so my legs started hurting as soon as I started working up the course’s initial steady climb.  Half jokingly and half wishfully, I asked a UC Berkeley girl if this was the difficult climb everybody talked about.  She just sort of smirked and didn’t answer.

After that first climb came a long descent, followed by rolling hills.  And then, when my Garmin said we had done just over 6.5 miles, I saw someone directing us to a sharp turn.  And there it was: the infamous climb.  More like a wall really, a long wall.

At this point, the group had spread out.  I estimated that I was in the second half of it, but had no idea how many of the riders ahead of me were Cs.  The climb was much steeper than I expected but I kept pushing hard because I figured it couldn’t last very long.  I was wrong.  It was very long, but I was able to pass several of the riders, including two UC Davis girls at the very end of the climb.

As I started the second lap, however, the two Davis girls, who had started working together, managed to catch up with me and  eventually dropped me.  I tried my best to keep up, but descents are not my strength.  I rode on my own for a while until I reached the steep climb.  To my surprise, towards the end of the climb I had the two UC Davis girls within eyesight again.

I wasn’t able to catch up with them, and during the descent of the third lap, they increased the distance again.  As I approached the climb, I started to doubt whether I had enough energy to do it a third time.  But I ate half a Power Bar and told myself that I at least had to try.

The bar gave me a boost, and once again I managed to get close to the Davis girls.  I noticed that they were no longer side by side, and realized that it was my chance to beat at least one of them.  I caught up with and passed her and then followed the other one to the end.

I crossed the finish line and stopped next to a few of my teammates who where standing there watching.  I was extremely tired and glad to have finished, so when one of my teammates said he thought I was the first of the Women’s Cs to come in, I wasn’t really paying attention.  I was satisfied with my hard work and with my continued effort until the end.

I was about to jump in the car, but decided it was worth going to the finish line to try to figure out my results.  “735?  I have you down as first.”

By the way, if you’re in the LA Area, please join our team and others in the community this Sunday for the Trojan Cycling Benefit Ride.