Its been one year since my first experience with Downieville, and it was great. Last year I managed to make my mark on the expert field, taking the win for both the cross country and downhill races. After that I knew I would have to step up my game because my upgrade to the Pro class happened soon thereafter. I have been training all year with this one race in the back of my mind, knowing that I would have to stand up to some of the best mountain bikers in the US.
The fun started the two Thursdays ago when my teammate Marshall called me up and said that my new Downieville race rig had finally arrived. A brand new 2014 Santa Cruz Tallboy LTc. Thanks Santa Cruz Bicycles. So I drove through rush-hour traffic happy as can be to pick my new frame up so that I could assemble it and have it ready by Friday evening when my other Teammate Clint and I would be heading up to Downieville for a weekend of pre-riding. I got home around 9pm and began swapping parts off my highball to build my new race weapon. 140mm of plush travel thanks to the Fox CTD float 29 fork and Float CTD rear shock. I installed my new Enve All mountain wheels that had been waiting patiently for this day. Along with brand new WTB Weirwolf 2.3 tires and my Shimano XTR 2×10 kit. My bike was almost complete. I had to get some sleep so I left the rest for completing Saturday morning in D-ville before our pre-riding.

ltc

The weekend was great! Maddie, Clint, Jen and I stayed at the Downieville river inn for the two nights and had a great time. The trails were perfect and Clint and I were able to work out some of the bugs such as a broken chain, lost pair of sunglasses, 4-5 flat tires and a broken shift cable. Better during pre-riding than during the race though!! The anticipation for the following race weekend was looming over the both of us.
Thursday night I rushed home from my new job to load the car up for the weekend. I would be taking my first ever vacation day that Friday. The drive went fairly well and got up to Downieville around 11pm. I pulled into the Lure Resort where my camping cabin awaited (thanks Dad). He was smart enough to book it right after last year’s race, so we lucked out. My Family came up Friday evening to share the celebration and amazing river. I gotta say, I think we won the prize for the best pre-race meal of Downieville… Sushi and fresh salad from my hometown and some tasty wine! Tomorrow’s 26 mile grueling XC race still awaits.

sushi

I woke up feeling well rested and ready for the pain of the 8 mile 2,500 foot continuous climb to start. After a nice long easy warmup the some 600 racers gathered to the starting positions, and luckily I managed to weasel my way to the second row of racers. Right behind Levi Leipheimer, Carl Decker, Jason Moeschler and Adam Craig. Bang, we were off, and the pace was crazy fast as Levi shot to the front. I managed to hold on for a few minutes and told Adam Craig that he crushed it last year. He looked over at me and said he’d like to crush it again (which he did) but “this pace is fast” he said loudly! A gap was already forming and he sprinted up to catch back with the lead. I couldn’t push any harder to I held my position near the front of the following group. I was giving the climb my all and was around 10th or 11th position as I crested the peak 53 minutes later (over 4 minutes better than last year)! My dad gave me a bottle hand up and threw an extra on in my jersey pocket as I crept by him up the last incline. Clint, my teammate was right on my heels, and I knew if all went well we would be finishing near each other at the end.

Thanks Forrest Arakawa for the sweet pic!

Thanks Forrest Arakawa for the sweet pic!

The first descent had begun and I felt really sloppy due to being so exhausted. I tried to stay calm and ease my way into hitting the corners at full speed. I didn’t want to mess things up now! I managed to pick off a couple riders, one of which was Alex Wild who seriously killed the climb to the top of the hill, but I guess he lost his contacts on the way down. I passed him and another rider and focused on pedaling and staying smooth through all the rocky sections and loose corners. I knew I was in great position and I could see dust from Kenny Burt who was probably 45 seconds ahead. All went well throughout the rest of the race and I descended to the last road section, about a mile from the finish line. I could see Kenny up ahead and knew if I gave it my all I could close the gap, and just possibly come in 7th place. I sprinted as hard as I could but there was not enough time for me to get around him into the finishing shoot, so I came in happily at 8th place, less than a second behind 7th!! I was so stoked for such a great finish in one of the hardest and most contested mountain bike races! Clint came in looking strong at the finish just one minute behind, and we congratulated each other for our efforts. Congratulations to the top three finishers, Carl Decker Adam Craig and my good friend Menso De Jong for 1st 2nd and 3rd!! Also to my other buddies who tore it up! My friend Jeremy beat his wishful time by 1 minute on the XC race riding a brand new ENVE equipt Santa Cruz Tallboy 2! Great job to everybody! I am so stoked that I was riding a longer travel and slightly heavier bike than last year (my tallboy) and I still managed to take off a ton of time on the climb and on the descent! I now knew that the Tallboy LTc was the perfect bike, and I was totally ready to put the 140mm of travel to the test tomorrow! It was now time to recover and take a dip in the river, in eagerness for the downhill race.
http://app.strava.com/activities/72304694
The morning came a little too soon as I wished I could sleep in past 6:00 am. But I did sleep really well, the sound of the river couldn’t be more relaxing. My dad was already cooking a tasty breakfast, some scrambled eggs and oatmeal. Racers’ choice. He, Clint and I left on the 45 minute drive up the mountain for dropoff at the peak where the start line awaited. We got there a bit early actually, but I won’t complain about a solid warmup before a 12 mile all-out sprint. I weighed my bike in and was proud that with a tube, Co2 cartridge and tire lever taped on it came in right at 28lbs!

weighing in

I rolled into the starting tent at 9:50, awaiting my 9:56 starting time. The minutes couldn’t tick by any slower at this point. The nerves in my stomach didn’t feel too great at this point, I just wanted to start pedaling. GO!!!! I was off!!! Feeling strong and surprisingly not too sore from yesterday, I sprinted up the first incline where Forrest Arakawa was hollering and taking photos. I crested the top of sunrise trail and started the descent. I was feeling good, and my line choices and cornering speed felt perfect. I was flying! Trying to ride light over all the jagged rocks, I let my suspension do the work and keep my tires in one piece. As I reached upper Butcher trail I was coming a little too hot into the first corner. Wham! I ate it and landed right on my knee! I knew I probably got a good gash, but I jumped up as quick as possible and sprinted to the next corner. I could feel blood on my shin, but I tried not to let it bother me. What could I do about it now anyway? My run was going excellent as I maintained my speed over all the technical sections with no other close calls. Until pisst pisst pisst, my tire was squirting Stans sealant out! Ahh! After about 15 feet or so it finally sealed up, and I never stopped pedaling! After a clean run and a ton of leg thrashing I finally came to the final road section with the finish line almost in sight. I looked down and saw that I was gonna beat my last years time! I kept cranking the pedals as hard as I could and came through the line blazing! I actually skid into the finishing area with a time of 47:29! 1 minute 45 seconds better than last year! Good enough for 5th place!!! I even got 4 stitches in my knee! Yay! I seriously had a smile for the rest of the day and still do actually (not because of the stitches of course)! Marshall did awesome with a solid run of 51:06! Clint had a little bad luck with a flat tire, but still rolled through the finish line under his own power (thanks to the Enve wheel for holding up after 4 miles of riding with a flat)! My Tallboy LTc, Enve Wheels, WTB tires and Shimano drivetrain treated me perfectly this weekend!! Not one gripe or issue to be had! Downieville is seriously a gnarly race, and just completing it can be a real challenge. There couldn’t be a better time for having the proper equipment! Thanks to my family for supporting me this weekend with tasty food and a very comfy stay in the Lure Resort! Also, thank you Santa Cruz for providing me with an awesome new ride! Look out podium; I’ll be training for next year!

http://app.strava.com/activities/72304683

Thank you Robert Lowe for the awesome photo

Thank you Robert Lowe for the awesome photo

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