Team Campmor

Team Campmor

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Tara Wins Sea Otter

This years running of the Sea Otter Classic was April 14-17 in Monterey, CA. Sea Otter is a SPECTACLE!! At no other time in all year of being a bike racer, I have expereinced roadies and mtbers living in such harmony!! The race is centered around the Laguna Seca Race way. Which is surrounded by green sandy mountains. So literally, as you are being staged for your dirt race, right next to you are roadies killing it on the pavement! WILD (and very cool at the same time)!!

The expert race was on Friday. My race was one 20.2 mile course with almost 4000 feet of climbing on a combination of the FR/ DT/ ST and some pavement. I had no expectations heading into this race, I mean its Sea Otter after all and its where the big kids put it on the table and measure. I was just hoping for a respectable finish in the middle of the pack. One really neat thing about bigger races is taking the line with people from all over the country!

I love that people know Campmor! There was about 30 seconds to the start of my race and the announcer says "and we have Tara Walhart on the line, representing the east coast with Team Campmor!" I gave him 2 great big Jersey fist pumps for that!! Lol!

The race started on the Laguna Seca Speedway which was kinda cool- love that my old road racing skills still come in handy! I was able to settle into 3rd wheel on the speedway and just sit in as we went up a hill and made our way into the single track. I was still 3rd wheel as we hit the dirt, feeling ok, dealing with the short steep loose power climbs ok and feeling very happy that I was on Sue (my Racer X). I started to loose ground on the descent. The descents are different then back home, super fast and I still acquiring the skill set. At times they were off camber and hard packed- tight and FAST! Other times blind with deep sand pits in the turns (kinda like riding at Allaire!). The little bit of true ST on the course was fun! Tight and twisty with trees to play with and the only shade on the course! There were also some super steep descents that were just acres of sand and going down hill was more like surfing then riding, have to say that was FUN!

So the rhythm of the race we set for me, I would make up ground on the climbs and try to loose too much on the descents. Well I lost a little, I had been in 3rd for about half the race and I was passed by a women in gold. Now I was in 4th. There was a women leading the race in red and women in green in 2nd. I did not panic. The wm in gold was descending way faster then me, but I was still feeling ok and climbing ok so I get keep pluggin' away!

On a long ST climb called Goat Hill, I passed the wm in gold back, now I was back in 3rd. YAY! As we started to tackle the end of course- more and more hills to climb up were thrown at us. This was a good thing for me. The final climb to the finish was a 3 mile middle ring grinder- as we approached this climb, we were coming out of another long rolling ST climb, right before the end of the ST I caught the wm in green, now I was in 2nd! I thought, cool beans, I might have a chance to podium if I can get up this climb with enough of a gap not to get caught on the descent into the finish! And so I started to climb, I felt good! Found a good gear, tapped out a good pace and just went up, up , up!

The CX course finished on the top of the short track course. Narrow, bumpy, grassy, hard pack and OMG the ruts! Glad I didn't get victimized here, being at the end of the race and not seeing straight and all is a terrible time to toss it!

So, I crossed the finish line I thought, cool beans, I think I'm second! Super happy with my ride- stayed calm, didn't panic when I got gapped or caught- race my strengths...all good stuff! I never saw the wm in red. At the podium presentation, I was super happy to take the 2nd place spot. Here's where it gets interesting, Long story short, I received an email from the race promoters that the wm in red was not in my category, she mistakenly thought she raced on Friday when she was actually racing on Saturday in the Pro race! Ooopss!! So a correction was made to the results, that put me 1st!

When it all said in no expectations for this race, just gonna ride, have fun and hope for respectable finish, found my on top of the podium! I never expected to win Sea Otter, so it was a sweet surprise. Even better that LBW was at Sea Otter as well on Friday and I got to share it with her!!

Oh, and its totally true, Sea Otter does not have one single rock in the course!

Keep Going!


Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Tara takes win at Napa Valley Dirt Classic

Hello Mates!

Sunday, 4/11 I took part in the Napa Valley Dirt Classic. The race was held in the beautiful mountains that surround Napa Valley and we had a pretty awesome day for racing, 68 degrees, clear blue cloudless sky and a slight breeze. This was the 18th running of this race and they use the same course year after year- its a single 22 mile loop made up of fire roads, ST/DT and lots of climbing. The fact that its the same loop makes going back and comparing times (for those dorks of us out there) rather interesting! The race had a great turn out. Its been a long time since I saw 25 Pro men in a local field, WORD!

I just cat'ed up to Cat 1 this year and this was going to be my first race as a Cat 1. Man was I nervous! I even lined up in the back because I didn't want to get blown out of the water at the start! The start of the race was on pavement up a 1/2 mile low angle climb into double track. Once the race started I realized being at the back sucked and I made my way up to 3rd wheel and I wasn't working real hard to be there, so I thought "well this is good!". Once we hit the double track I could tell the women around me were tired- they were all breathing real heavy and not doing so much of the pedaling, so I thought again, I need to get around this, and I did. Not by attacking but just by riding a steady pace.

I soon found myself alone at the front of the race up a longish climb topped off by a nasty hike-a-bike. At the top of the hike-a-bike I was caught by 2 younger Expert women who were rolling and so I decided to jump on that and try and hang on as long as I could. At times I was totally red lined trying to stay with them, but it was the right move to make- and I did worry that I was burning through matches kinda early in a 22 mile race- but oh well- I had to go! We rode that way for the 45 min of the race. The track had a series of whoops (which were fun) but unexpected sans a pre-ride and separated us. One youngster got away and I was able to ride with the other. She set a good pace- a little above my comfort zone, but doable. I rode with her until we hit some fun twisty ST with lots of trees, off camber stuff and OH MY GOD rocks! Yes rocks, I loved it, I said hello to all of them! LoL!. I ended up dropping her through this section and found myself now riding with a Retrotec fella. That was all good- until I had to stop and pull a giant stick out of my rear triangle.

Back on the bike. I started to tackle the end of the course. Which had a very nasty loose steep, hike-a-bike a times sections to it. This climb really sucked and boy did I feel it. I was around all sorts of fellas, my favorite fella was the one that kept calling me 'young lady'! He's say, "you go get those fellas young lady, you can do it!" and "Nice line young lady" Classic.

I also rode my first loose CA decent, its was a super steep decent just covered with loose- powder like sand, dust, talc, etc. I put all my weight over the rear tire, pointed Arby down hill and held on for dear life, hoping for the best as racers washed out and stacked hard all around me (if anyone has a tire recommendation for this type of stuff, please share). I made it down, rubbersidedown, WooHoo!

I hadn't seen any women from my class since the start and as I neared the top of the climb I knew only a couple miles were left between me and the finish- that should be a good feeling right? Well it always makes me want to ride harder just so I don't *hit the bed at the end of the race and muck up all my hard work.

The race ended on a track at a local college. So as we came out of the ST we were directly to the track and had to ride 400m on the track to the finish. That was very cool because the after race party was set up in the track's infield so there were lots of people around.

At the end of the race, I ended up 1st, Go Team Campmor! Very cool since this was not only my first Cat 1 race since the darktimes, but also my first race on Arby (my 29'er) he was awesome! Such a good boy and sooo much fun to ride!!

I have to say it was very strange being at a mtb race and not knowing anyone! The overall vibe of the race and people was very cool! The 2011 mountain bike season is underway and I can't wait to read all your race reports!

Keep going.