I was anxious about the grasshopper series opener all week cuz I knew the race was going to fricken explode from the get-go and Red Line till’ the finish… It was even more over the top….
Steve, Tommy, Nick, Michael, Angel, Steve and Kerry all raced for ZRCT, yes… it’s definitely a race! We blasted out of Oxy over 200+ strong FLYING down the road, 6 abreast, everyone screaming, “stay to the right of the yellow line”. Fricken crazy 35+ MPH nail biting peloton shit; I made my way through the pack on my CX bike and within the slip stream of the front 20 riders and tried to hang on…. OMG. I was so far beyond my red line that my internal tachometer rotated back to green, my stomach revolted and I felt like throwing up. The Epic Grasshopper season had begun.
Ten minutes later we hit the first of the dirt descents; steep, moist, and an utterly delicious fire road screamer down the Willow Creek watershed. I used every ounce of skill and descending technique and roosted most corners “outrigger” style. With my Kenda small block 8’s throwing Sonoma soil at those less adept at da crazy shit. I ripped it wide open, passing many of MTB riders as I hooted and hollered. The fun and adrenaline meters were both in the red zone as my cardiopulmonary system tried to re-boot. I caught up to DFL Drew and took particular pleasure in passing him. We would end up playing the cat and mouse game all day. I have to say he did have a flat on the day and I did not.
Things settled down as we made our way on to a single lane farm road. When we hit Hwy 1 and River Road I found myself in a large chase group getting larger as we began to pull in the spoils of the lead group at the head of the race. I stayed close to the sharp end of the chase group as we closed in on what I think was the lead pack. As we neared the pack a God Speed rider moved to the front for a pull and I joined him, giving him a flick of my right elbow as the two of us broke away and tried to bridge the gap. We each took about a half a dozen pulls and we were closing the gap fast. Little did (I) know that around the next bend ahead of us the course would leave River Road and begin one of the steeper climbs, Cherry Hill. Cherry; fricken, “see you all later” hill I mumbled under my panting, salt-crusted face. Damn.. there they all go… I had no choice but to settle into my own clydesdale rhythm and haul my wagon of Budweiser filled cellular mass up yet another damn hill.
Sycip, Kelly (is she 5’2″?) and Curtis Inglis helped me lick my wounds as we climbed in silence. The sound of rotating chains and struggling respiratory tracks trying to deliver oxygen to bodies devoid of pleasure and seething in lactic acid. Recovery was the moment-in-time it took to up shift as we crested the hill.
Things get kind of blurry after that…
Somewhere near here Tommy ran into a group of horses that had seen enough cycling mayhem and were determined to start sussing out what was going on. Tommy ended up dismounting and let the horses take nose hits off Tommy skanky saddle. Equestrians… go figure.
back to the race…..
I remember rolling up very fast on a group of riders off their bikes only to discover as I road past them that the road had been washed out. The final moments before I dismounted I distinctly remember riding on my front wheel with the brakes squealing as riders fully hazed me for riding what they were walking. The rocking fast decent down to Cazadero creek further amplified my insatiable quest for more Dopamine and Adrenaline. It was in fact, lightning fast. The creek crossing was shallow, cold, and a nice rest off the saddle. I crossed the creek with Andy of Sunshine cycles as he told me about the “Caz 300” A similar ride but starting from the GG Bridge. Hell Yeas. Now that’s EPIC, if you got the insane in the randonee membrane. Angel..? My journey out of Caz creek was tempered by the I-pod I broke out for the climb. I tried too sooth my actin and myosin firing into a more Zen like muscle twitch for climbing. Listening to some Ice Cube Gangsta riffs helped me stay focused on the chase.
At the top of the climb I hooked up with Isaiah (Roaring Mouse) and three other lads. The skinny roadie racer of the bunch was a clear hammerhead as he took the first pull into the head wind for nearly five minutes. The rest of us waited, and patiently took our turns at the front as we motored in over-drive down River Road and on to Hwy 1. We were an amazingly efficient crew as we ticked off the miles in seamless counter clockwise rotation. This was an awesome section of road and one of the few times I was semi-coherent and free from the screaming demons of my cerebral red zone.
We soon pulled on to Willow Creek completing the loop and beginning the final climb. The valley road to the base of the climb was fast and muddy and we shared some laughs about the finer moments of the last three hours. As the trail turned up I realized I had fully cracked and I bid farewell to our merry little pace line, which had swollen to more than 10. I clawed my way to the top of Willow Creek and on to the finish with a time of 3:38. A fabulous day of racing in some of Northern California’s magic topography and with some of its finest cycling citizens. Back at the start Zeitgeist Racing and 21st Amendment treated everyone to cold beers and good cheer…..Good days….Herb