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!