Trains Bikes, and Automobiles. And Ponderosa Pine.
A month ago I did some bike races in the U S of A and had a good time doing that. Here’s my update. Hey, better late than never. After having what I felt was a great race in Washington I had one day to hang out in Portland with the guys before I had to fly off to LA for a two day work thing. The work thing was something I didn’t want to say no to as it was a project I had helped get up and off the ground and it was finally coming true – we were going to race two cars at an old Air Force base in San Bernadino County. And I can’t really say more about it until the ad comes out! But it was cool to do and fun to see it all come together.
I flew out of Portland for LA and arrived at around 7:00pm, rented a car, and drove the 2 hours to San Bernadino, had a quick meeting with our team, and went to bed without being able to eat as everything was shut down. We were then up at 5:00am to get on set for sunrise and a 12 hour day. I did the same thing the next day and then immediately drove back to LAX and flew to Redmond where Mark picked me up at the airport, just outside of Bend. I had arrived – pretty tired, but pretty elated. I had two nights to get as much good sleep as I could before the 8:00am CAT4 start on both Saturday and Sunday, which would require getting up at, again, 5:30 so I could eat something, ride down to the course, dress for the conditions, and warm up.
I was a bit nervous. In the preceding five days I had spent 15 hours in a car on the drive south, 4 hours in airports, 5 hours in the air, and 5 hours driving a rental to and from an airport. With two 5:00am wake up calls to 12 hour work days thrown in the mix. Not really the type of week you want leading into your goal events of the year, but the dice were thrown and that was that, no choice but to suck it up, get positive, and try to have as much fun as I could.
There’s Pros Everywhere.
And it was fun. On my flight from LA I was psyched to see Tim Johnson the multiple US national champion; Chris Jones, a Rapha-Focus pro, and a few other skinny people wearing Cannondale Cyclocross World hoodies and stuff. I sat next to a guy named Chris that commutes from Bend to San Fran to do SEO work for AKQA, while his wife works for Ogilvy in Bend. Nice guy and we chatted work stuff for the whole flight. When I got to the airport arrivals terminal in Bend Geoff Kabush was renting a car. He’s a multiple Canadian CX and mountain bike champion, an Olympian, and a World Cup mountain bike winner. So, no big deal. These are the guys that Mark would be racing against – doesn’t get more elite in NA than that.
Speaking of pros, we were shacking up with the Harltons for our time in Bend. Pepper and her mom, Judy, were racing, and Pep’s dad, Kelly, was shooting video, while running around and keeping his girls uber well supported, getting some riding in during the down time. Pepper was racing the same elite category as Mark and had already regularly cracked the top ten this year, racing against women who, for the most part, have a pro team behind them with mechanics and people to help organize and orchestrate for success. I thought a bit about this after the first day, when Pepper was outside cleaning her bike off at 9:00pm after a 9th place finish. I’m sure she’s not the only one that is full on DIY like this but I bet a number of her competitors had some help with stuff like that. She is strong and committed – pretty rad.
Morning came fast but I had the luxury of not needing to be anywhere bright and early this day so I forced myself to stay in bed and try to get more sleep after waking up at the normal time. I zonked till about 10:00 and woke up feeling significantly refreshed after the previous week’s early wake ups and 4-5 hours a night of sleep. We kitted up and rolled down the hill towards the Old Mill District, where the Deschutes Brewery is. Man, I LOVE Bend! The air carried the smell of Ponderosa pine and sage with some juniper thrown in. If you closed your eyes and waited you could get a wiff of one, then another, then all at once, drifting around on the high desert wind.
The course looked to be awesome. I love the races I’ve been able to do in Alberta, and I think our courses are brilliant and make the absolute best of the geography that we’re permitted to use, but seeing what was going on in Bend, one of the Meccas of CX in North America, I was really impressed…and inspired to see if I can help grow the scene in AB once I got back there.
The weather was bone dry so the course was more dusty than anything, with one windy singletrack section bombing through the forest. Rocks were hidden underneath the fine, loose dirt and I made a mental note to make sure I remembered where the big ones were. Hitting one at speed, unexpectedly, would end things pretty quickly.
As we reconnoitered the course, with Mark and Pep both in full on focus mode, there were all sorts of fully kitted up pro team athletes zipping around, just flying through the course incredibly smoothly. I could hear Tim Johnson tell his support team that he wanted to go out for one more ‘hot one’. Er…ok. His warm up pace was twice the speed I’d be racing at, but hey, I was a participator here for a good time.