Friday, October 07, 2011

SoCal 50 race coverages by Jens Raz on

Good grief.  No wonder so many people had a tough time with the heat.  Triple digits??  That is why I went through so many bottles!!  I concur with the mandatory snow cones plead!!
Thanks Jens for the awesome coverage!!
:D big grin
Written by: Jens Raz 
Temecula is locally known for its wineries, churches and lifted trucks. One has quite a range of options when visiting here. As of the last couple of years mountain biking has been a premier reason to come to this north San Diego County city. The first weekend of October 2011 showcased some of its finest riding. Saturday the "SOCAL FAT TIRE EPIC 50 - WEST COAST MARATHON CHAMPIONSHIP" was put on by Jason and Heather Ranoa, while Sunday the Specialized Invitational US Cup and Team Big Bear XC California State Championships were being held at the Vail Lake trails. 
The course consisted of 2 laps of 24 miles each with about 2,600' of climbing per lap. The first "Damn" climb was the longest by roughly 1.5 miles. The rest was littered with shorter and punchier ones. Temperatures were another challenge altogether, reaching 108 degrees by mid morning.
If the course doesn't seem tough, the competition sure was. Tinker Juarez (Cannondale), the juggernaut who is known for his ability to race in the heat was one of the leading candidates for victory. Nate Whitman (Herbalife24) coming of a strong showing at last months Leadville with a time of 7hrs and 6minutes and his team mate Gerry Cody (Herbalife24) who stomped Leadville in 10th place with 6hrs and 51 minutes besting the likes of Tinker and Carl Decker came for one purpose only. The "Rat Pack" challenging for the win were future Pro mountain biker Joel Titius (Corona Composite Cycling Team), John Hornbeck(Simple Green /Bike Religion), Allan LaFromboise (Don's Bicycles) and Daniel Munoz (Cyclery USA) who all rounded out the contending youths.
Could the Herbalife24 duo beat Tinker?
Nate's perspective went as follows:

"At the start, the group rolled out at a fairly controlled pace, with Gerry Cody and Tinker dictating the pace.  I took a few turns at the front to stretch it out slightly so that there would be less chance of a pile-up at the first hard uphand left turn.  about 8-10 riders were able to hold the pace initially, but as soon as we hit the base of the first real climb on course, it separated out pretty quickly.  Tinker and Cody were obviously the strongest.  I was able to just hang on to their wheel through the entire first big climbing section.  Behind me, John Hornbeck and Joel Titius were wavering but almost hanging on, about 10 to 20 seconds back.  

When we started into the first twisting singletrack section, it looked like we might have a group of 3 with Tinker and Gerry and myself.  But my lack of course knowledge caused me to pop off those two.  they both know the course really well and are great bike handlers.  I had not raced at Vail Lake in over 5 years.  A few untimely bobbles and I was riding by myself 1 minute back.  

From that point, a small wash out on my part and two forks in the course with no sign markings allowed Hornbeck and Titius to come back to me.  From there, we rode together for a sizable chunk of the first lap.  I was very impressed with Titus.  He is a high school senior and was state champ in the NICA league.  This was his first pro race.  He knew the course really well and helped us keep a good pace through the singletrack.  Up ahead, I could see Gerry leading Tinker on some of the switchbacks where the course doubled over itself, and I knew they would go head to head for the win, unless something weird happened.  We were not going to catch them.  
Chasing behind, the three of us traded places leading and following several times.  Hornbeck misjudged a roller and jammed his chain shifting.  He disappeared at that point.  Titius and I decided to work together for a while, with him leading on the descents and me taking bigger pulls on the flats and longer uphill drags.  We rode in tandem the rest of the entire first 24-mile lap and made time.  At this point, the temperature was really skyrocketing.  We later heard it was 107 degrees in some places on course.  Those that managed the heat and hydrated properly got some big gaps on that didn't.
With nobody in sight behind, Titius and I rolled through the start finish to start the second lap.  I think the heat and early effort got to Joel in his first big race.  I never attacked hard, but after getting fresh bottles, I felt a second wave of energy and picked up my effort.  He slowly drifted off my wheel, and I rode the remainder of the second lap completely solo.  I was able to avoid losing more time on the leaders, and stretch my gap to those behind.  After having seen the course on round 1, I handled some of the technical sections more smoothly.  

I continued to see the dual between Cody and Tinker up the trail ahead in the fingers section of the lap.  However, at one point, I saw that Tinker had created a gap and they were now separated with about 7 miles to go.  I rode on to get 3rd, with teammate Gerry Cody taking 2nd behind Tinker for the win.  I was very happy with the result, to get on the podium with my teammate and training partner, just a step or two below the legend Tinker.  Overall it was a great race and a good day."
The #1 challenger to Tinker, Gerry Cody (Herbalife25) had this to share of his battle with the Cannondale Predator:
The race began and the lead group found itself dicing it pretty quickly as we headed out of the park, and onto the dry dusty fire road. We hit "The Damn Climb" and as I suspected, Tinker went to the front and pressed the pace. I did my best to hang with him, and not long after we started climbing we were both left with our respective teammates just behind us 30 yards or so. I knew from previous experiences that Tinker is a beast both climbing and descending, so my plan was to ride and pace with him for as long as possible. It's nice knowing that the kind hearted warrior will still talk to you in the middle of a race. We took turns at the front, and made our way through the roller coaster single track. The temperatures climbed. In fact, a friend told me that temperatures on the back stretch were in the triple digits. The water in my bottles became hot. Countless squirts, and water dunks seemed useless. While climbing up one of the steep shoots, I missed a shift and threw my chain. Tinker cleared the climb, and I scrambled up the hill on foot. He looked back one last time, and that's when it was over. There was no chance of me catching him. I was cooked. He put it down, like the great cyclist he is, hard! I came in about 4 or 5 minutes after he did and went straight to the cold shower. I sat under the nozzle, still wearing my helmet, gloves, and even glasses. Sitting there, slowly cooling myself back to life,,,,with a big smile on my face! (Side note, Snow cones should be a must at any mountain bike race!)"
 Results - Pro Men
The women's Pro race was won in a tight fight by pro triathlete and coach Lesley Patterson (Trek) over her prodigy Jessica Noyola (Focus Bicycles). Patterson took the glory by just over 2 seconds.
Racing aside, the benefits of racing at Vail Lake are the amenities. 2 pools, outside showers, warm food, snow cones multiple mechanical support (Bike Bling), the Racers and Chasers support tent and other family friendly activities to keep the better half and offspring happy for the 3.5-5 hours of suffering.
What is next? Check out for the next weekends Singlespeed "Monster Mash", Super D and  "Krosstober-fest" CX racing and more at Vail Lake!

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