Kenda Cup West #6, Big Bear Shoot Out

Well well well.
Big Bear Shootout / US Cup #6

That’s a nice little present for papa.  1st place at the Big Bear Shootout! In my opinion one of the hardest races of the series so far, though I’m starting to think they’re all hard. 7000 – 8000′ elevation mixed with dry hot air and a nice long 23.7 mile single-lap format had me burning inside and out. I know you mountain people will scoff at that altitude, but I live at the beach. I’m a flatlander and that shit hurt.

we drove up to Big Bear the morning before the race and stayed at a friend’s cabin. Good friends, indeed. It was nice to just hang out with the fam a little bit and take it easy. Going out on these “racecations” for the last three weeks has been taking its toll. I’m getting a little fuzzy mentally (OK, more fuzzy…) and physically it is hard to get recovered and also maintain decent race form when there’s a race every weekend. So Saturday I didn’t touch my bike. We rented a canoe on Big Bear lake and paddled around. It was pretty fun after the Prof and I came to a settlement on paddling technique (I think she won) and the sprout loved it.
Big Bear Shootout / US Cup #6

Grabbed a fantastic burger at Get The Burger. Hands down the best burger joint up there. You have gotta try out those milkshakes. Damn.

Sunday. Mellow morning with a full breakfast and 11 AM start. For some reason, I was really nervous about this race. I usually get some butterflies at the line, but this thing had me straight up nervous. Too much time to think about it perhaps. The previous race result should have made me more confident, but instead, I was even more nervous that I couldn’t do well twice.

Fuck it. Time for a spin.

Suit up, prep my bottles and food, check the bike. It all looks good. Gordon at B&L Bikes had my bike dialed with a sweet new XX drivetrain. My shit is light tight clean and mean. 21.4lbs with pedals and cages on a XL 29er. I love it. My weight weenie darkside loves it. That’s win win.

Big Bear Shootout / US Cup #6so clean and carefree at the start.

It’s go time. Mandelbaum! Mandelbaum! Mandelbaum! Get a good warm up for Big Bear. It’s a tough climb from the gun and cold lags go to the back.

I grab a wheel 5 riders back and set up camp for the climb. Get a good rhythm, a couple lengths farther than I like but I stay on my toes and grab the next wheel if the person in front so much as gives up half a length. Sitting in 3rd now. The pace is hard enough I know it’s there but not in the red.

Then Bam! Dude in front of me goes over the bars- on the climb! WTF?! his back wheel smashes into my bars, breaks my right shifter, twists my handlebars and has my break lever pointing to the sky. Well, that was unexpected…

I keep the leader in sight with one eye and assess with the other. Bike still pedals-that’s good, handlebars 10 degrees off, number plate dangling. Punch the brake lever and shifter back down with my fist as we keep grinding up the first hill. I have to reset my thumb lever every time I shift – it’s just like ’92 again, sweet!

Should I stop? Am I going to ride like this for the next 22 miles? The guys in front have no compassion. They just keep on riding. Guess I’m not stopping either. Lucky for me the handlebar bent towards the arm I broke last year which doesn’t extend fully anymore anyway. Hmm, that’s not so bad, actually…

The Bear Valley rider pulls away from me pretty easy like on the climbs. Maybe it’s the altitude or maybe he’s just a better climber. I push harder to keep him in sight. He’s pretty spry on that 26″ hardtail, but on my 29er I catch him easily on the descents. Hold his wheel on the climbs, make him work on the descents. 2 or 3 times repeat, then cut the cord and I’m on my own.

Then it’s just me and my demons. And that’s a long hard course if you are persuaded by what they have to say. I’ve noticed around mile 10-12 of any race, I usually go through a dark period of mental and physical discontent, but that if I take it easy and ride smart for a little bit, my rhythm comes back and I’m AOK again. This time was different. Nothing was coming back. Taking it easy wasn’t helping. I wasn’t AOK. Fuck. Climbing back up the Pineknot (?) section was the worst. The sun, the heat, my stomach. Nothing was working. Calm, calm, calm. Get to the jeep road. Regroup in my head a little. Get some food in me and hydrate.

Push through to Pirates and the lights turn on again. Then it’s a helter skelter spree of crazy down the mountain taking the worst lines imaginable just to pass lapped traffic. Definitely one of the most exciting and nerve racking parts of the course. The thrill of it all was putting some pep back in my legs.

What a freaking hard race.
Big Bear Shootout / US Cup #6

Who’s the pretty boy, now?

That thing shattered me, and that’s what made it great.  But the best part (well, aside from winning at Big Bear, Whoop Whoop!) was suffering that bad and digging that deep and finding something in there that got me through. Bike racing is all in the head, but it takes a hell of a lot of physical pain to reach it. It’s a good feeling when I do.

Clean up the cabbin and drive home.
Big Bear Shootout / US Cup #6

Next up is a little time off the bike. Time for some yoga and a little surfing.

Ciao.

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4 Responses to “Kenda Cup West #6, Big Bear Shoot Out”

  1. weegerbros Says:

    Congrats dude! Youre an animal on that 29er for sure, hope not too many bits broke on your fancy new XX drivetrain, I know firsthand those parts are $$$!

  2. Awesome job! Quite the hardware collection you’re putting together.

  3. you are killing it ben… another rad race & report. looking forward to see what you throwdown and the champs race in september!

  4. […] Sophie and Celeste, creating artistic stick-castles for ants, at last weekend’s Big Bear Kenda Cup race. Celeste’s dad had been planning to take her to the Big Bear zoo while Celeste’s mother […]

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