The Whiskey Sea Otter

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I have had some strange races this spring. I have been having great STXCs but lackluster XCs. I usually race better the second day so to be better for the STXC then the XC is fairly normal for me but I usually don’t have such a disparity in the results. Normally if I’m good for one I’m good for the other and if I’m bad I’m bad. I have been doing a lot of explosive work and am a few lbs heavier then normal for this time of year so that might explain it but not quite sure.

That brings me to the Sea Otter. I had a great week between Bonelli #2 and Sea Otter hanging out with the majority of the Specialized team in Santa Cruz. We did a trail work day in the Demo forest just outside of Santa Cruz one day and had some good rides, great meals and plenty of trips to Verve. It was a quick couple of days though and before I knew it we were lining up for the STXC on Friday at Sea Otter.

STXC Setup: S-Works Epic WC with a 36 tooth XX1 Ring, S-Works 1.8 Renegade front and rear with 35 psi. I ran my front and rear shock super hard since it was almost all pavement. I also used the Evade and skinsuit.

The US fields have been awesome this year with Scott Tedro putting on two HC events in the US Cup and Sea Otter falling at the tail end of the early races. We had the best field assembled for the SOC in a long time when we lined up for the 25 minute race. This year the course was probably 80% pavement and 20% gravel or hard packed dirt. With that much pavement and no elevation gain the only thing to break the race up were 2,180 degree turns on hard pack dirt inside of 250 meters of the finish line. The race was pinned from the gun for the first half I had all I could do to maintain my position. By the middle of the race guys started to attack and sit up so I was able to make it to front. My new Kiwi teammate, Sam Gaze was covering moves and patrolling the front until 1 lap to go when Nino attacked and I jumped on his wheel along with Dan McConell. I couldn’t get around him before the 180 corners at the end and we finished in the same position we started the lap, Nino, me and Dan. It was a great race for me sprinting for the win with such class guys.

XC Setup: S-Works Epic WC with 36 tooth XX1 Ring, 1.95 S-Works Renegades 26/28 front rear. 90 psi RS1, 165 rear shock.

With Friday going so well and usually racing better on the 2nd day I had high hopes for the XC on Saturday. I knew right away it was going to be a long day though when we sprinted up the first climb and my legs felt like someone was hitting them with a hammer. I faked it for the first lap but every time we came off a road section and sprinted for the single track I could feel the ache in my legs. As soon as we got to the first climb on the second lap I jettisoned off the back and just could not push anymore. It was my worst Sea Otter showing in as long as I can remember. A great result and terrible all in 24 hours.

I didn’t have time to do much training after Sea Otter before lining up for the fat tire crit at Whiskey 50 on Friday evening. Whiskey is one of my favorite events all year. It has an awesome setting in the old west town of Prescott, AZ, a good vibe, great trails and lots of riders.

Crit Setup: S-Works Epic WC 38 tooth XX1 Ring Fatboy tires with 60 psi front/rear. Front and rear suspension very hard.

The crit takes place down town and is all pavement with on stair step climb on the just over two minute lap. I spent a lot of time off the front with Menso(Clif Bar), Derek Zandstra and Sam Gaze. We got caught with 3 or 4 laps to go and I rolled in for 8th I think. It wasn’t a bad or good race for me, just average.

50 Mile Setup: S-Works WC Epic with 36 tooth XX1 front ring. Renegade 1.95 Control front/rear 26/28 psi. RS1 90 psi, rear 165, SWAT Box with spare, Evade helmet, skisuit.

Sunday we lined up on Whiskey Row for the 50 mile MTB. The past 2 years have been cold and wet compared to normal and it was probably low 40s at the start and very moist. The first few miles are pavement and always pretty easy. This year Jamey Driscoll went up the road but nobody chased. We sprinted for the single track at the top of the first climb and I got in there third behind my teammate Susi and Zandstra. Susi flatted five minutes later. luckily Sam gave him his wheel since he broke the valve off the spare tube.

I managed to get to the front and led for most of single track before popping out on the fire road for the 10-15 minute climb up to feedzone 1. We arrived at feed 1 with a group of 6; myself, Howie, Zandstra, Keegan, Fernando and a flying Susi. We rode down to Skull Valley together and as soon as we turned around and started the 12 mile climb back up I was in trouble. Howie was putting the pressure on in the front and it was all I had to make it over the first steep pitch with the group. Luckily the grade mellows after that and I hung on for 7 miles before blowing out the back of the group. From there I was on my own until a mile or so from the top when Ben Sontag caught me and we rode together before hitting the single track. I was able to make up some time on the descent and just before I hit the pavement for the final few mile descent into town I could see Susi who had flatted again. Just when I was thinking I was going to make contact with him I punctured in the last rock garden and hit it with a CO2 once I got on the road. It only held for a minute or two and Ben quickly overtook me. I rode in the last 2 miles on a front flat which sucked but I was happy to keep it upright on the pavement. If you’ve ever tried to ride a front MTB flat down a paved road you know what I’m talking about. I crossed the line for 7, which was far better then Sea Otter but much worse then last year when I was 2nd nearly sprinting for the win.

I’m currently in Augusta, GA getting ready for Marathon National Champs. The past few years we’ve been in Sun Valley on a course that has had multiple nearly hour long climbs, this years course looks like this:
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Even though there isn’t much climbing the course is quite challenging. Tons of single track means the upper body gets a serious workout and you can never lose concentration for a minute. I’m looking forward to race day on Saturday.

I wonder what Coops’ doing right now……

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