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NICA Race Reports

Race Report – 2016 NICA State Championships at Los Olivos

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2016 NICA State Championships at Los Olivos

Sunday May 22, 2016

by Conner Kredo-Brown, Senior @ Terra Linda

The pit zone – and just a fraction of the sea of cars parked

The pit zone – and just a fraction of the sea of cars parked

Welcome to Los Olivos where the 2016 California State Mountain Biking Championships were held. Where is Los Olivos? Well it is in Santa Ynez Valley in Santa Barbara County. Some of you know about States, but it may be new to others. So I’ll explain. State Championships are where all of California high school riders meet. There is SoCal and NorCal (both NorCal North conference and NorCal South conference) all competing against each other for the first time. The racing is very much the same as a season race with some exceptions. There are a lot more people racing, points don’t count to the regular season, and not everyone gets into states. So first the total number of people racing was crazy, just in my category sophomore D2 there were 85 riders. Not everyone qualifies to attend. All varsity members and all girls are automatically qualified to race. Everyone else must be part of a process. First, as a racer you must start at least 3 regular season races. Second you must finish one of your races in a specific percentage based on the amount of riders in your field. Third you have to register for states, if you qualify – before the spots fill. Well, let’s move on and talk about my race.

Just me – Conner riding in the middle of a spread out field

Just me – Conner riding in the middle of a spread out field

My race started with me being nervous about missing my call up in 40th. I had the very last call up position in a field of 85 riders. Thankfully I didn’t miss it and it made all the difference because I had to pass fewer riders and I got to stick with the front pack for a while. Well the first hill came and it was horrible. Riders couldn’t make it up certain sections of steep switchbacks and I got stuck behind someone who stopped mid course. I got off and ran to clear the jam. Yep I was running in a bike race but sometimes you have to do that. I hopped back on my bike and continued. When I reached the top it was time to rock and roll down. This downhill section is one of my favorites. I was flying downhill catching air-that’s for you Joey! -and catching up to riders. Then next sections boiled down to my thoughts which were something like; ‘Wait I’m catching people on the downhills? I usually catch them on uphill.”

Left to right: Conner in Blue; Otis Guy with the hat; and another racer

Left to right: Conner in Blue; Otis Guy with the hat; and another racer

As I came towards the finish line to complete my first lap, there were so many people cheering all the riders on. I knew I had one more lap until my official finish. During my second lap I was riding solo for a bit. I did pass some riders and at the same time encouraged a couple riders to keep up the good work. I got passed a few times, and then the finish came closer and closer. As I came out of the downhill single track and onto the fire road it was time to sprint. What was going through my head at that moment was the song Wild Frontier from Pelo and Alan yelling to go faster. There was a rider that had been lurking behind me and on that fire road he made his move. He was able to beat me to the finish line but I made him earn it. After we finished we both congratulated each other on a good race. Competition at every level is fierce but camaraderie is always there.

Sprinting to the finish

Sprinting to the finish

After some recovery time in the finish chutes, my parents and I found each other. We celebrated with shaved ice -thanks SoCal. Later my mom told me that I finished 30th, I was extremely happy about that because my goal was to move up a couple of spots from my call up. States this year was amazing and I had so much fun but it is my last SoCal states. The next two years States will be in NorCal.

I want to thank all the seniors on my team for teaching me so much about riding. I want to thank my friend Caroline Dezendorf for riding with me every week and mentoring me through the sport of mountain biking. I want to thank my parents for getting me to every race and supporting me as well. Last but not least I want to thank the Bicycle Brüstop team for supporting me in racing and riding. They have done so much, from having CO2 to fixing my brakes to encouraging words. I hope to see you all next year, have a great summer and keep riding.

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Race Report – 2016 NICA Race 5 at Laguna Seca

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2016 NICA Race 5 at Laguna Seca

Sunday, May 8th

by Joey Rempe, Senior @ Novato HS

May 8th was a bittersweet day for me, it was the day of one of my favorite races at Laguna Seca, but it also marked the day of my final High School race (I call this race the “Mother’s Day Challenge” as it is a true test of a mother’s temper and patience). Although I qualified for the final race in Los Olivos, my school scheduled Senior Prom on the same weekend. So this was it. With just weeks left of High School, the pressure of college and class projects had been slowly squeezing both the sanity and sleep out of me. So going into this last training week and race weekend, I was feeling exhausted. Just envisioning my 15th place call up position followed by the steep terrain at Laguna Seca made me nervous. I also couldn’t get over the fact that after 3 years in the league, this was the end for me. Ah but, hey enough about me being sad and emotional and stuff! What about the race?
We traveled down to Monterey on the day before the race to pre-ride the course, it had been more than a year since I had ridden it last and I wanted to see if Hurl Hill had gotten any steeper since I had climbed it last. Right before I arrived to pre-ride the course on Saturday, the course had been blessed with a healthy sprinkle of rain and cloud cover that provided perfect, cool pre-ride weather and optimal track conditions too. Just taking a slow pre-ride lap with fellow teammates Harrison, Sebastian, and Connor; I was recalling last year’s blisteringly hot and windy race and hoping tomorrow’s race wouldn’t feel as if I was riding inside a convection oven. As I re-learned all the flats, climbs, recovery spots, and good passing areas; I found myself chasing after Harrison, trying to catch him on the descents and the climbs… I see what you did there Harrison! Trying to wear me down before race day, eh? Pre-ride assessment: Fast and fun!

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Wake up in a hotel, take a hotel shower, eat hotel oatmeal, awkwardly walk my bike out of my hotel room and through the hotel, and then off to the coveted Laguna Seca course. When we arrived around 8:00, the weather was great: Overcast, cool, and dead still. Laguna Seca in the past has been notorious for strong winds and dusty conditions, but with El Niño weather comes tacky conditions! My race started at 1:30 in the afternoon, which felt like years away for me as I roamed around the course with my teammates, looking for a good spot to cheer on the riders. Feeling content with the course and the weather, I had settled into a fairly relaxed mindset, thinking: “Hey it’s my last race, I’m just gonna have fun and not get too competitive.” Then someone cranked the thermostat up to 80° and burned off all the clouds.

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Flash forward to 1:20 at the start line: I’m gulping down water and feeling a little queasy rolling into my 15th place call up position. I wasn’t sure if the weak stomach feeling was from hotel oatmeal or from being nervous. The race began before I knew it and a pack of 60 boys went charging up the hill. The course itself is a short 4.3 miles, but it begins and ends with steep climbs. All the downhill, fun, twisty bits are in the middle. 4 laps? No problem! At first, it was hard to settle into a grove but after the first dash up Hurl Hill, the field thinned out a little bit. I found myself in the middle of a spread out field, with no clue what position I was in. I did find myself in the company of my Novato teammate, Chris Sanford whose strength has really shone through late this season. In Petaluma, we worked cooperatively to get each other across the line and Laguna Seca looked like a similar story. Chris rode my rear wheel while we bombed the descents as hard as we could and cruised up the climbs with ease, waiting for the final lap.

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The deeper into the race we got, the more I found myself in the “Pain Cave” part of the riding spectrum versus the “I’m just gonna have fun” part. Chris and I crushed hard for the next two laps, overtaking a few from our division along the way. As we entered lap 4, Chris had begun his attack. It was picture perfect and went exactly like it did two weeks prior in Petaluma. Working together, with me in front pushing the most air, Chris had remained behind me, conserving energy for the final lap. Once he saw the opportunity, he left me in the dust, and I knew he still had the energy to catch the next rider ahead of him. I had done my job, and it was his turn to attack. As my legs began to cry and as Chris became a small speck in the distant hills, I just put my head down and tucked as best I could to make it through the last half lap. I then found myself back in front of aptly-named “Hurl Hill” for the final uphill crush to the finish. JV category races, having some of the latest start times, usually mean most of the spectators have packed up and gone home by the final lap. This time, Hurl Hill was still covered in teenagers and adults alike, screaming at the racers to keep climbing. After the peak, I tucked in behind a Varsity rider to pull me to the finish. It had become very windy and I had become very depleted. An amazing thing happened towards the finish though, maybe it was adrenaline, maybe it was numbness. A brief lapse in pain, I felt great as I crossed the finish line for the last time in 13th place.

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But then I tried to pull a wheelie and my legs seized in a horribly painful cramp! What a fitting ending! I rolled over and hugged my parents, chatted between gulping breaths with friends, posed for pictures, then found some chocolate milk back at team HQ. Overall, super happy with this race. I felt great, and I put up lap times that got faster and faster each lap.
I want to thank all the volunteers that make these races happen, every single course marshal, every single sweeper (SWEEP SWEEEEP!), every single medic, and every single clipboard-wielding traffic director. You guys are the best! Thank you to all the moms who instead of having a nice relaxing Mother’s Day at home with their family, came all the way down to Monterey to cheer on their son or daughter. Thank you coaches for always pushing our limits and asking the best of us. Thank you to all the racers for being such good sports on and off the trails. Thank you to my sponsor, Bicycle Brustop and the owners Carolyn and Aaron for being huge contributors and positive promoters of the sport. Finally, thank you to the Norcal league for providing this opportunity for riders of any skill level and age. You have impacted so many young lives in a positive way. Keep riding, keep learning, and keep giving. *mic drop*

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Race Report – 2016 NICA Race 4 at Five Springs Farm

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2016 NICA Race 4 at Five Springs Farm

Saturday, April 23rd

by Sebastian Dow, Freshman @ San Marin HS

Time flies during race season! It has already been two weeks since race #3 at Fort Ord. Race #4 took place at Five Springs Farm in Petaluma. I had heard mixed emotions about this course from my teammates. Some liked it and some didn’t. All I knew for sure was that one lap consisted of a long climb and then a long descent (6.5 miles 800ft). Knowing this was good because my team is from Marin County and all we have here are hills, therefore courses with more climbing benefited us. I woke up on race day nervous as usual. It was nice to sleep in my own bed before race day because most of the races have been in Monterey and we have stayed in a hotel. Finally around seven thirty we made it to the race course. I didn’t know what to expect so I hopped on my bike and did a pre-ride of the course. The rain from the previous day made the dirt perfect! The course started on a paved road and connected up with a double track. This allowed for great passing everywhere throughout the course.

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I came into this race wearing the leader jersey and I intended on keeping it. You receive a leader jersey when you are leading your division in points. First place gets you 500 points, second gives you 490 etc. My main competition was Sean and he is from Granite Bay. He is a very strong rider and would be tough to beat. My coach and I devised a plan that would hopefully bring me to victory. I would stay behind Sean for the first lap and see how he is doing. When I felt ready I would pass him and stay in front to take the win.

Sean and I were together for the whole race. I stayed right behind him for lap 1 and half of lap 2. After I passed him he wasn’t that far behind me. I managed to keep a small lead to the finish to take the win. I will be holding on to the leader jersey for another race!

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I was very happy to take the win and keep the leader jersey. I want to congratulate my fellow Brustop teammate and good friend of mine, Kyle Hammer. He pulled a solid third place. I am proud of all my teammates because everyone did very good at this race. This course was my favorite so far. Stoked for Laguna Seca in two weeks!
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Race Report – 2016 NICA Race 3 at Fort Ord

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2016 NICA Race 3 at Fort Ord

Saturday, April 9th

by Kyle Hammer, Freshman @ Marin Catholic HS

Race three of the NorCal series here we go back to Fort Ord. This is one of my favorite courses that the NorCal league puts on. It all started out that Saturday morning, the nerves kicked in and the butterflies have already unleashed themselves and I haven’t even left the hotel yet. Finally we made it to Fort Ord and it was time to pre-ride for one last time. The course was about the same as the first time we raced here. An uphill sprint to a tiny single track where passing was limited. There were a lot more little pitch climbs that I knew I could blow up on and was very cautious of my heart rate. Finally I had finished my final pre-lap and now the clock was winding down to start of my race. Finally 10:55 rolled around and my heart was racing. I didn’t have a call up this race because I had crashed out in the previous race which resulted in a DNF (did not finish). I had general staging which put about 8 rows back on, which meant there were about 40 kids in front of me. Then they called the final call ups and we lined up game faces on and it was time. As the lady counted down “5…4…3…2…1 GO” we were off. The D2 freshman boys were on the race course. I made it up the first hill with my heart racing and the nerves starting to go away.

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We made it to the single track and it was time to pass to start making my way towards the front. Passing kids was sure a challenge having to go off course. I passed the majority of the kids after about 2 miles or so. After I passed those kids I was sitting in about tenth and all alone. No one to draft on, no one to pass, no one to pull me along. I was feeling good staying at a steady pace trying not to blow up. Finally after racing by myself for almost all of the first lap I finally caught up to the the 9 place rider. I turned the right hand corner after the finish line and I sprinted after that kid. Finally I caught up to him and sat on his wheel until I had enough in the tank to get ahead of him. After sitting on his wheel I passed him with about 2 miles to go for the last lap. I passed him on one of the many short up hills this course has. I was once again by myself. No one in my division to pass or sit on to make it a sprint finish. So finally I had made it to the end of my second lap and there is this little drop before the finish and I see a rider. I was so happy I was like “I am gonna catch this guy”.  So I put everything I had and we were about even until I couldn’t give it any more and he beat me by a bike length. Then I went to congratulate and I realized I had just sprinted after one of the sophomore racers. It’s ok though still made for an exciting finish. The race was over I had finished 9th in my division.

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I was happy I made it into the top ten because my points were not looking so good due to the DNF in the previous race. After cooling down and getting my body back to a good resting point my dad told me that Sebastian had won the race. He is not only my Brüstop teammate, but a really good buddy of mine and I was so happy for him because he was so ready to beat the kid who kept beating him. He had been telling me the night before his gameplan on how to win the race and he did great. Congratulations Sebastian. Also congratulations to everyone who finished the mid season challenge. This was one of my favorite races by far.

Race Report – 2016 NICA Race 2 at Granite Bay

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2016 NICA Race 2 at Granite Bay

Saturday, March 19th

by Joey Rempe, Senior @ Novato HS

Ahhh yes, nothing like waking up earlier than usual on a weekend to drive to a NICA race! I woke up and stumbled out of bed far later than the time I had set my alarm to the previous night. In a groggy daze, I wondered whether I had packed all my essential riding stuff; smelly gloves, smelly helmet, muddy shoes, scratched glasses, and old bottles. I was really happy to have stayed late the previous night at Brustop, replacing a destroyed bottom bracket and spending some quality time with my fussy drivetrain (huge shout out to Aaron and Kevin for getting me dialed). As long as my bike is functioning properly, I know the ride is going to be great. Let’s go racing!

Granite Bay was calling my name and I couldn’t wait to get out there and shred! Granite Bay has always been a favorite for me. The terrain is more steep and technical than our first race at Fort Ord which makes the racing a little slower, but more challenging. The course is diverse throughout offering up rock gardens, sharp turns, flowey descents, and sand. The course also always feels great to race since it’s so well traveled. Just riding it, you can feel the thousands of race laps that have gone into it, honing the perfect tacky lines that weave in and out of the trees. Lots of shade, lots of flow, lots of fun!

San Marin Novato High School - Race Pit NICA

I had secured a solid 13th place finish in the Junior Varsity (JV) D2 division at the Fort Ord opener race two weeks prior which gave me a 13th place call-up. I rolled up to my starting spot expecting a 30 second wait until race start, chatting with the other riders around me. Then the flag dropped after only a 5 second pause from the race announcer and we were off! Almost immediately, I was overtaken by what seemed like a swarm of 10+ riders, all kicking up rooster-tails of sand as they passed. I knew as long as I found a happy place within a group of riders, I could pace myself then wait to attack at the end of the lap where I could make up time on the descents and the flats. This plan always works without fail… unless you get dropped.

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Somewhere around the beginning of lap 2 I was alone, except for a rider from Waldorf who was probably 15 seconds back, and he was gaining. I decided to try and hold my pace instead of run from him, which I knew would leave me with an empty tank for lap 3. Nearing the end of lap 2, the racer from Waldorf had passed me and I had stuck to his wheel, trying to hitch a ride. I made my move to pass and then it was on to lap 3 to see if I could pick up any more positions.

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Lap 3 was fairly uneventful, I could tell I was slowing down and I was wishing that I hadn’t trained as hard the previous Thursday. I caught two riders from my division at the first climb of the lap, and tried the same strategy: Stick with ‘em, draft, and attack late. Towards the end of the lap, there is a peak, then a descent onto a stretch of pavement, then onto the final segment before the finish. At the peak, I managed to pass the two I had been following by taking a more aggressive line through a climbing rock garden. Then I widened the gap by being as aggressive as I could on the descent. Then, disappointingly, the duo caught me on the flat pavement before the final push to the finish. I don’t know how but sometime between the top of the hill and the end of the flat, the duo had become a trio as another JV D2 rider had caught up. In a panic, I foolishly tried to take a more aggressive line through a muddy corner, which landed me in a pile of rocks and shrubs that wasn’t on the trail. So I ended up losing 3 positions going into the last few turns! I managed to gain two of these spots back fairly far from the finish but I knew the last one would be decided in the last 100 feet with a crank-bending sprint!

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Although my overall finish was decided within the last 100 feet, it was not as glorious nor as beautiful as it had played out in my mind. I wish I had photos to show what happened, but you will have to use your imagination. Coming around the final turn, I attempted to pass a rider from the Granite Bay Grizzlies named Ben Gould. I was way too aggressive and didn’t realize how tight he was taking the corner until I punched one of the course’s fence polls with my left hand that sent me rolling directly into Ben. Fortunately, neither of us wrecked and I ended up rolling across the line just before him. I want to apologize dearly to Ben, I shouldn’t have taken that last corner so aggressively and I certainly didn’t intend on passing him like that.

That was the conclusion to my long race day. Though for some of my team mates, the day ended much earlier than expected. An early accident took my friends Gavin Parnes of Novato High and Kyle Hammer of Marin Catholic, out of their race just seconds after the flag dropped on the Frosh D2 category. Both got roughened up enough to stop and take a DNF on this one. Both of them have recovered and will come back to race #3 in Lagoon Valley with a vengeance!

In the end, Granite Bay was just as I remembered, a great mix of dry sand, tacky dirt, and a true test of a rider’s technical ability. My lap times were solid and my bike performed wonderfully. As a bonus, securing 17th place in my division bumped me up to 10th place overall in individual points! Woo hoo! Now all there is to do is buckle down for the next three weeks and train my butt off so I can hold my place in the standings. Thanks again to Bicycle Brustop for helping me stay out there and continue to do what I love. Stay tuned for race #3!

Race Report – 2016 NICA Race 1 at Fort Ord

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2016 NICA Race 1 at Fort Ord

Sunday, March 6th

by Harrison Jantze, Senior @ Redwood HS

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5, 4, 3, 2, 1, and just like that the first race of the season was underway. For as long as I have raced with the NorCal league race number one has always been Fun at the Fort, located at Fort Ord in the beautiful Salinas, or is it Monteray, California. This year however, this race was special too me. Last year I had come out a little too strong and cramped up in the last lap and was determined to not tell the same story this year. The first race is always an interesting one because there are so many aspects at play. There’s new competition to scope out, new kids to help as they attempt their first ever race, and it’s the first chance you get to put all the hard work that you’ve been putting in to the test. Which brings me to 12:45, precisely. The time I mounted my bike to begin my warm up. I had my music in and my pre-race playlist going, nothing like a strange mix Sublime, ODESZA, Nirvana, and a couple other bands to really get you in the mood. By 1:20 I was at the start line with just five more minutes to go. As Vanessa started her countdown I took one last deep breath and before I knew it we were off.

The entire JV field shot up the first hill, later I found out that there was a crash off the line, but that’s neither here nor there. The first lap may have been one of the most painful experiences of my life. As I desperately tried to fight my way up to the lead group to grab a wheel there seemed to be borderline chaos. Kids dropping off the front of the pack and falling back, kids coming up from the back to the front, and even kids riding off the side of the course. But, by the time we reached the first descent everything seemed to be sorted out fairly well and things began to calm down as we all settled into what would be a fairly consistent pace for the next eighteen miles. After the start my first lap was pretty uneventful, but I did manage to pull a sub twenty minute lap which I thought was pretty cool.

As I moved into the second lap I found myself quickly gaining on what appeared to be another rider in front of me. I was soon drafting off of his wheel waiting to make my next move which I did shortly after one of the descents. After that I was alone, and was alone for almost a full lap before someone came up from behind and attempted to pass me. This ended up being a pleasant surprise because there were a few sections of the course with a bit of a headwind and it was nice to have someone to draft off of once again. But, by the time we reached what was my favorite spot to attack on the entire course, a gravely fire road that was borderline too long to sprint up, I was ready to make another move and so I buried myself a little bit deeper in the pain cave and pushed it as hard as I could up the hill.

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Then it was onto my fourth and final lap. As I started up the first climb of the final lap I found myself thinking a bit about how this was the last time I would be doing this climb and how this was my last season and my last first NorCal race, but was quick to push all those thoughts away so I could focus on the final lap. As I moved into the final lap I caught another group that was ahead of me and was yet again relieved that I could draft. However, as we entered the final descent the two riders in the front made a move to get around a rider and there wasn’t quite enough room for me to get around. By the time I could get around they were long gone and there just wasn’t enough time left to catch back up.

I couldn’t be more happy with the first race of the season. Consistent lap times, a solid fourteenth place, and I now know just how tough JV is going to be this year. Looks like all that’s left to do is go put in some more miles in the pain cave to get ready for the rest of the season. That and take my bike to Bicycle Brustop and have the mechanics dial in my shifting; which after all the mud and sand is much needed.

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