Thursday, February 21, 2008

Stump Grinder Dirt Club XC Race

Last Saturday, a scant five Chicken Ranchers braved the frost, sub-freezing temperatures, and bovines to race Mike Hecker's Stump Grinder Dirt Club Winter XC Race up at the Chamberlin Ranch.

It was literally below freezing when we arrived. Dave Lettieri, Mike Abbott and I did a short warm up out on the course beforehand with all the clothing and gloves we could find and were still frozen. In honor of his son (Cash), Dave even sported a rather "Man in Black" look in his long, black Oakley coat. However, his tough look disappeared when we came upon a whopping three-foot wide creek-crossing and he balked (he's not a big fan of the water crossings as some of you know). We finally convinced him to give it a whirl and, surprise, he didn't melt (though he did have to rush back to his truck to change into dry socks).

Fortunately, right before the race the sun rose above the hill and took some of the chill off of Charlotte's Meadow. Dave, Mike (The Abbot) and Phil Friden (Tazer) first took off in the two-lap Sport 35-49 race, followed by me in the Sport 50+ race, and later by Pete Sproul in the Expert 19-44 race.
Despite the impending creek-crossings, Dave was on fire and had a great first lap, followed by the best second lap of any of his competitors. At the finishing line he was closing fast on the first place finisher, but couldn't quite get to him and took 2nd Place, only six seconds behind. This was Dave's highest placing yet in a mountain bike race, and he was pumped.
Nicely done, Dave! Mike and Philip rode well and fought off mechanical and other issues to place 10th and 11th, respectively.

I managed to only go off course once and took 2nd Place in my race behind a previously unknown guy from Lompoc. It was lactic shock therapy for me, having not done any real prep for the race. I got a flavor for what I was up against when, talking to the 1st Place finisher afterwards, he told me that his group trains secretly on Vandenberg Base and on local, private cattle ranches. So between dodging Feds, bullets and bulls, it appears the Lompoc guys might be a tough group. I'll be better prepared next time.

Pete Sproul had a great start to the season in his first Expert race, hitting 'em hard on the first lap and holding on for the second lap to take 3rd Place, with Bob Nisbett passing him on the last hill to take 2nd place.
Their lap times were ridiculously fast! Good job Pete.

All in all, it was great fun on a great course. We no longer go through the Vineyard, but Hecker's added a tough little singletrack climb and made a great 11 mile course. Can't wait to do it for real in May and throughout the summer. And dodging the occasional calves and cattle added a fun new element to the elements. Hope to see more of you Mountain Chickens out there next time!

Bring on the Tour of Cali! Looking forward to Matt and Blinger beating some
of the Pro times in the Solvang TT.


No comments: