I can’t believe how quickly winter flew by this year! Julie and I were fortunate enough to be able to spend three weeks through the Christmas / New Years holidays on the beautiful island of Maui, thanks to some very generous in-laws. And yes, we brought our bikes and rode everyday that we were there. If you ever get the chance to visit Maui, bring or rent a bike because Maui has some of the best road riding. In a lot of ways, the road riding is better than Colorado.
I have a lot of the same sponsors returning to offer their incredibly generous support this year, Rasmussen Bike Shop, the best bike shop on the planet…of course everybody already knows that. Phil Godkin of Orbea Bicycles, the best bikes on the planet, especially the Orca and the Alma 29er! Rob Versteegh of Oakley, Oakley Rob has been an absolute champ when it comes to the local bike racing scene. Compass Chiropractic Care, I’ve been making regular visits to Compass for about nine months now and it has made a big difference in how I feel, especially after a long ride.
So for this year, after a lot of going back and forth, Julie and I decided to give 29” wheels a whirl. Neither of us had much of a chance to ride them before the first race, other than a shake down ride on paved bike paths. So we were both entering into some unknown territory heading into our first race at Swanson. I did a recon lap of the course and the bike and the engine both felt pretty good. I got off to a pretty decent start, fifth wheel going into the woods. I would have liked to have been a little closer to the front, but it probably ended up being for the better as it gave me a chance to get a feel for the bike at a slightly slower pace than what the leaders we were kicking out.
I settled in behind Shim and Steve Jarrett throughout the first lap and could see Kent McNeil and Garret Steinmetz rolling away from us until we could no longer see them. At some point during lap one, I remember thinking to myself that a top five finish would be great as it was the first race of the year, I’m the backyard of McNeil, Steve and Shim, I’m old, new bike, yada yada, yada.
As we hit the field at the end of lap one, I started to feel really comfortable with the bike. I slipped by Shim and Steve and kicked up the pace a little. It felt pretty good, so I kicked it up a little more with the hope of catching up to Kent or Garret before the end of the race. To my surprise, I had managed to reel both of them in by the end of lap 2. I had worked pretty hard to catch up, so I sat on for all of lap three in hopes of a little recovery. At some point during the lap, it felt like my pedal had smacked into a root or something. After that my back brake started making an awful squeal, even when I wasn’t braking. I tried to live with it for a while, until I began to realize that I was really starting to struggle to hold the wheels ahead of me. After getting gapped on one of the many short climbs on the course, I figured that at point I had nothing to loose in stopping to figure out what the deal was. I got off the bike, put some weight on the saddle, popped the rear skewer loose and could feel the back wheel reposition itself. I snapped the skewer back in place, hopped back on the bike and instantly noticed a difference how easily the bike rolled.
I managed to claw my way back up to Kent and Garret by the end of lap three. Shortly after I caught up, they both sat up, looked at me and suggested that I do a little work. I took the lead with a little reluctance as I was still a little tired and still had my tongue hangin’ out of my mouth from the effort of catching back up. I led the way throughout lap four and started to notice that I was opening an occasional small gap towards the end of the lap. I increased the effort a little more and by the end of the lap I had managed to separate myself from them. I kept the effort up throughout the first half of the lap, until I felt that I had a pretty comfortable lead and then eased it up a scosh. I held on to the end and was very surprised to score the W. I was very much expecting a severe beat down from the locals. Kent and Steve hadn’t been riding as much over the winter due to a few priorities in their lives and Shim had logged some pretty decent hours in over the winter. Their local knowledge will almost always trump a reasonably fit out of towner and I really wasn’t expecting to finish ahead of any of them.
The bike. My first assessment of the Alma 29er, the bike felt great! I felt very comfortable with the way that the bike fit me. It weighs in at 21.2 pounds, over two pounds less than my previous bike (full suspension). It scampered up hills with seemingly minimal effort, it cornered like a dream, especially through high speed corners. And even though I bleed Orbea, I opted for the Specialized S-Works Renegade for my tread and they hooked up like I was riding on Velcro on the dusty hard pack terrain. It was the first true ride on the bike, so we’ll see how the next few races go. Though at this point, I find it hard to believe that I’ll think any differently about it.
I have to give a shout out to the Psycowpath folks, Roxzanne, Ryan and the rest of the posse work their tails off the provide the state of Nebraska with a quality mountain bike racing series. THANK YOU! This race had no less than 200 participants, which made for a pretty crowded course at times. Crowded courses and lot’s of lapped traffic go hand in hand. I’m sure there were a few folks that I had passed, that either didn’t hear me, or thought that I might have sounded a little rude. I never intend to sound rude or impatient, however it’s hard to maintain my alleged ‘stoic’ disposition when I’m cross eyed from a red line effort. It was great to see so many folks out racing their bikes, especially the 20 or so that came from Iowa.
Thanks for reading,