US Cramp . . . I mean Cup at Bonelli

Posted by in MTB XC, Race Reports

That’s right, this post is about Bonelli, since I didn’t race Fontana.  I apologize for spoiling the story of my Bonelli race with the title, but I am very much frustrated.  It’s taken me a really long time to post this race report because I thought it would sound too much like the race at Vail Lake.  The gist is the same: felt good, then cramped.

Bonelli always seems to attract a lot more people than the other venues, and it was evident right at the start.  We had a lot of people lined up again, close to the same amount of racers as Vail, the difference was that at Vail there were two groups in the same wave: 40-44 and 45-49.  At Bonelli it was all one big 40-44 group.  And again, just like at Vail, the competition was daunting: Omar from Red Zone again, Mike Oceguera from SC Velo; of course, fellow Celo Miguel Sutter; and none other than Chris Bautista, racing for The Cyclery Bike Shop.

Pre-RideI staged feeling better about Bonelli because of the good pre-ride we had the week before and on the morning of the race.  I had a good idea of the technical sections that would cause me to lose time and the technical sections that wouldn’t (yes, there were actually technical sections that I thought I could handle well enough to not lose time; that’s not to say that I wasn’t slower than most people, just not slow enough to make me feel like I was interfering with someone else’s ability to race).  Dave, Miguel and I had spent a good 2+ hours at Bonelli the week before and but for a few changes, the course on race day was close to what we rode.  They added a single track climb and another single track here or there; fortunately I didn’t feel like the changes worked against me.  In fact, Dave said that the single track climb was advantage: Chuy.

Start ine Omar Miguel and OmaWe lined up and I handed Claire one of my water bottles to lighten the load, I talked to Miguel and Chris and Omar and sorted out my race strategy.  When they sent us off I, in typical Chuy fashion, started in the back.  Chris Bautista and I were the last off the line and hit the asphalt descent in last place.

My plan was not to burn all my energy passing people in the first climb.  Everyone was together and Chris and I were in the back.  I immediately thought of the first tricky tech single track and decided it was a good idea to stay behind Chris because he rides Bonelli regularly.  I was hoping I could follow his line down giving me a fighting chance to stay with the group on the descent.  I followed Chris until the second climb and he got unhitched from the group so I went around and caught on and followed them down.  I made a couple of mistakes, but didn’t fall too far behind.  We did a little single track climbing and descending before we came out of the tree line and started another climb.  By this point I started to pay attention to who I was racing against: Miguel was a few racers ahead of me.

Chuy HurtingI was ok with my spot because I was with the group and could keep an eye on Miguel.  Part of my strategy has been that if I could see Miguel, I was probably doing pretty good.  The single track eventually climbed out onto the fire road and we went up again.  Another single track and we were out headed toward the back section.  I followed a guy passed some people until the street by Raging Waters where I finally lost sight of Miguel.  I noticed my heart rate was super high and thought there was no way I could maintain the effort so I took the opportunity to recover a bit.

We climbed up and again I passed a few people, and started to notice that I was passing some of the same guys more than once.  I’d pass on the climbs and they passed on the twisty or technical sections.  At the top we turned left away from Tractor Hill and followed a single track down along the grass.  I was pleased because I always go too fast and have gone over my bars turning right and going down.  Admittedly, I wasn’t what you would call smooth down the new way, but I managed to stay close to the guy in front of me.  When we came out and crossed the street section, we entered the next single track and someone fell at the little rock barrier they created and I dismounted and cyclo-crossed it over, remounted and went through to the next single track climb.

I was feeling pretty good by the end of my first lap, yet still had doubts whether I could do three laps.  This was my first time racing Bonelli as a Cat 2, hence the first time I had to race three laps.   I decided to use lap two as a recovery lap, so that the 3rd lap could be my fastest, I was just trying to keep the guys in sight.  Miguel was long gone, but the guys I passed on the climbs who passed me on the technical sections were still there, so although I wanted to conserve, I didn’t want to make it a throw-away lap, and I tried to keep everyone somewhat close.  On the newly added single track climb  I passed one guy in my age group from Serious Cycling and Steve Herrera of The Cyclery Bike Shop was watching from the top and cheering me on.  That guy would eventually pass me in the next technical section.

Chuy C2C3I figured there were at least two people between Miguel and me, and shortly after the start of the third lap I caught onto the back of a group of 45-49 guys who were moving pretty good through the tree line following the technical single track early on in the lap.  I followed those guys for most of the first part of the final lap.  In the single track climb I passed the same guy from Serious Cycling who must have had a mechanical because he was walking it this time.  At the very I knew there was another guy in a yellow and green jersey still to catch.  I was able to stay with those guys through the back section by the lake, and somewhere between there and the  street section next to Raging Waters we eventually passed the green and yellow jersey and a couple of other guys in my AG.  On the next climb leading to the grassy descent I saw another guy from my AG and went smoothly passed him and onto the wheel of the guy ahead.  As I tried to gap the guy I felt my hamstring twitching, so I eased up a little and just spun up allowing one of the 45-49 guys to catch onto my wheel.

Chuy C2C1We went down the grassy descent and back around to the next single track.  After passing and getting a good gap between not only the two guys I knew were between Miguel and me, but about 3 or 4 others I didn’t know were ahead of me, my left hamstring finally cramped before the little rock barrier on that single track.  I doubled over trying to stretch it as quickly as I could, but I couldn’t stand without the hamstring cramping up.  With my head near my knees I was in a good line of sight and could see everyone’s number as they passed me.


Chuy 1  Bonelli Finishing

I counted about 8 or 9 guys and after walking a little and getting passed by Dave Williams, I finally finished in 28th place.    I was disappointed and frustrated and that experience partially led to my decision to not race at the Fontana City National.  I figured it would be best to get some more mountain bike riding in and get reacquainted with the mountain bike, the terrain and its demands.  Also, the Xterra is coming up and running is of the essence.  Not to mention that I believe the Fontana course to be too technical, that I cannot race it effectively.  Consequently, while everyone was out racing Fontucky in 2013, I was home typing this.

So some Carbon Canyon and Turnbull Canyon for us, some running and some road riding.  Hopefully I can strengthen my hamstring enough, or get it acclimated enough, or stretched enough to get me through the rest of the season without a problem with cramps.  This year I will be doing the longer lap at the Sea Otter XC race, and probably extra laps in the other US Cup races on my schedule.

I suppose I didn’t consider the additional demands of becoming a Cat 2.  Until next time!


Pictures by Claire, Phil Beckman and Called to Creation.