Pro XCT 1 - Mellow Johnny'sMarch 14, 2012
The first round of the Pro XCT (formerly known as the NORBA series) was held down in Dripping Springs, TX. Pua Mata and myself made a somewhat eventful trip down to Texas on Monday, 27 Feb. To start things off, around 2hrs into the trip, the turbo on the Sprinter van blew. This resulted in us crawling down the freeway with Trucks rolling by us as if we were standing still. Then came the long wait once we had found a dealership to replace the part. 6hrs later we eventually rolled out ofRedlands and began to make some serious progress on the road, but this too was short lived. Rain began to pelt down, then came some snow, then came wind storms, then came sand storms, then came sand storms with rain, it was absolutely crazy! After a brutal day on the road, we pulled into a hotel for the night, got some rest and hit the road first thing the next morning. The next day and a half of driving went by pretty smoothly and we eventually rolled into our accommodation in Dripping Springs.
Over the course of the next few days I put some time in on the new S-Works Epic 29 from Specialized. A few slight changes to the 2012 line up means the bike is lighter and stiffer, trust Specialized to better an already amazing bicycle!
The Epic rolled over the super technical terrain with ease, which left me in a really positive and quietly confident state of mind as race day was fast approaching. With Friday being the final day of practice before Saturday afternoons Pro Mens event, it would be my final opportunity to dial in the rocky, technical terrain. I burnt a couple laps out early on in the day before heading back to our house to kick my feet up for the remainder of the day. Dinner time rolled around, which presented a pretty surreal situation. Ben and Eric Bostrom (Team Sho-Air team mates), two motorcycle legends that both my brother and I had spoken about when we were kids, made the entire team a delicious pasta dinner. I also got to hang out and hear some of the stories from the Boz Bros early days of racing.
A good nights rest and a late sleep in left me feeling super rested going into race day. With close on 80 riders I was a little nervous to see where I'd actually be called up. Ty, Team Sho-Air manager, soon learnt that I was seeded 41st, which put me on the 5th or 6th row, and with a course as tight and twisty as this, my work was definitely going to be cut out for me. Another huge factor that was looming in the air, was the fact that this race was going to be an Olympic Qualifying event for both the Americans and Canadians, meaning all the top guns would be here. Max Plaxton, Todd Wells, Geoff Kabush, Jeremiah Bishop, Sam Schultz, JHK, Spenser Paxson, you name them, the best riders in North America were there!
The start was mayhem and utter carnage. We sprinted our way towards the first single track, which was only a few hundred meters down the road, causing massive bottle- necking, allowing the riders at the front of the pack to get away and put in an almost impossible gap to close back down. I was able to work my way up into 25th after the start loop, and so my battle to get to the front end of the race began. By the end of the 1st lap I had moved up to 18th and I was still reeling in riders. I made passes wherever possible, sometimes aggressive, sometimes upsetting the applecart in the process, but it was the only efficient way of me working my way up through the field. By the third lap I was up to 12th with a group of 7 ahead of me.I made a push to get onto the group, when I eventually latched onto the group, I was surprised to see the likes of JHK and Spenser Paxson as well as Ryan Woodall and Russel Fintsterwald all in the group. I then got news that Sam Schultz and Jeremiah Bishop were a couple seconds up ahead of the road. JHK launched an attack shortly after I caught onto the group, leaving the rest of us to battle it out in the dust. Going into the final lap I was sitting around 8th, but a hard charging Adam Craig put me into 9th shortly after. Then came a series of attacks from myself and Spenser Paxson (Jamis Factory), this catapulted us off the front of the group and resulted in us battling it out as we were approaching the finish line at a rapid rate of knots. Spenser managed to open a gap in the final single track after I made a silly mistake, but I was able to recover and regained contact as we popped onto the finishing straight. He started his sprint early, I countered and began to reel him in and started to come around him, but I simply had left it too late. I ended up 10th Pro and 1st u23 after one of the hardest and most epic days on my bike ever! one major confidence booster for me was the fact that every rider that finished ahead of me is an Olympic hopeful for 2012, so Im insanely happy with my ride.
A huge thanks needs to go out to everyone from Team Sho-Air/Specialized. Ty Kady had the tech/feed zone dialed, Johnny Muller was the best supporter out of anyone, hands down! Ben and Eric Bostrom taught me a lot, and who better to take lesson from!!?? Pua rode an amazing race, going from 16th to 3rd in the Pro Women's race. I have no doubt she would have won had she started in the front...
Stay tuned for the Bonelli Pro XCT post coming shortly!