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2014 Sea Otter Classic

April 19, 2014

 

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The 2014 Sea Otter Classic is the official kickoff to the race season. The Ride Giant/Ride Northstar mountain bike team had a great weekend of racing, exploring the expo, watching the bike events at the festival, and getting caught-up with old friends.  On the racing front, we showed a strong presence in the enduro, cross country, and downhill events.

The enduro race was a first for the Sea Otter. With a stacked field of talent, racers shredded three stages that stretched across the Fort Ord National Monument. Stage one began on the famous downhill. Stage two and three were much longer and included furiously fast, gravel covered and rutted fire roads that led to tight twisting single track including the always fun Goat Trail.

The cross-country course and distances were mixed up a bit from years past. The XC course is a true test of fitness, attrition, and bike handling. The 2014 XC course had 24 miles of double and single track and 3500 ft of climbing!

The downhill course remained the same as years past. The DH course had a great mix of jumps, turns, pedaling sections, hi-rev speed traps, and a mix of other challenges.

Of these three disciplines, the Ride Giant/Ride Northstar team tore up the course and posted some respectable results.  The quiver of bikes raced on by the Ride Giant/Ride Northstar team included the Trance Advanced SX 27.5, Glory 0, Anthem Advanced 27.5 , and the Anthem X Advanced 29er, all performed flawlessly (and reminding us that we are just cracking into their potential)!

Enduro

Ryan Icanberry 5th Open Men 40-49

Cross Country

Paul Zarubin 4th Cat-1 60-64

Andrew Buckly 18th Cat-2 50-52

Allen Hill 48th Cat-2 45-47

Downhill

Steve Marty 8th Cat-1 35-39

Caleb Cooper 17th Cat-1 17-18

Todd Renwick 43rd Pro

Marty Sea Otter 2014

Steve Marty shredding the DH course.

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Giant Trance Advanced SX 27.5 was Ryan Icanberry’s weapon for the Enduro.

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Mammoth Kamikaze 2013-Race Report by Ryan Icanberry

September 11, 2013

Riding bikes is fun.  Festivals are fun.  Attending bike festivals is outrageously fun!  Many years ago, long before I got into racing bikes, a close friend of mine would make an annual pilgrimage to Mammoth Lakes, California to mountain bike, camp, race and have fun.  Looking on in admiration, I’d always hoped to someday make the trek myself.  This year it finally happened.

After a rough summer of training ups and downs, injuries, and unexpected life curveballs, I was ready to call it for the season.   The Ride Giant, Ride Northstar team managers Whitney Wall and Andy Buckley threw out a quick note to our team asking if anyone would like to race the Mammoth Kamikaze and represent Northstar.  The decision took no time and soon I was packed and headed south.

The drive to Mammoth from Reno/Tahoe is amazing!  More often than not I found myself staring at the landscape rather than focusing on the road.

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The entire town of Mammoth seemed to be involved with this event.   After following the many signs around town guiding racers and spectators to the festival, I found a perfect staging area near the course I’d be racing on.  The sounds of music, race announcers, and cheering fans got me fired up from the moment I parked.  After registering, I made my way back to prep my bike and pre-ride the course.

 

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The Giant Anthem X Advanced 29er 1 was a perfect bike for this course.  Light, agile, smooth, and fast!

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Though the Mammoth Kamikaze games are renowned for their downhill and dual slalom races, they had many other races listed on the schedule.   The cross country event I registered for began at noon.  The course was very similar to the cross country courses at Northstar-great mix of single track and fireroad climb mixed with rowdy descents.  The course wound its way up the mountain and crossed under many bridges that were being used for the downhill races that had already begun.  In addition to the bridges, a few well-manicured monster berms, a giant crescent moon wall ride, some drops, roots, rocks, moon dust, tight switchbacks, and few table tops highlighted the cross country course.

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The race itself was a ton of fun with bits of solid racing action mixed in.  I ended up taking 3rd in my category and left the Mammoth Kamikaze rejuvenated and motivated for the remaining races of the 2013 season.   I can’t wait until next year to race at Mammoth again!

Thank you Norhtstar California, Whitney and Andy for your continued support and belief in our team’s athletes! 

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Downieville Race Report by Paul Zarubin

August 6, 2013

Epic. That is the only word I can find to describe this race.

It started 11 years ago. My first mountain bike race was Downieville. I did this race in memory of my Dad and a good friend Andre, whom both had just lost their battles with cancer. I was racing not just for them, but also for myself. I wanted this race to be a milestone, or a turning point in my life, where personal health would become a priority in my life. After training hard, much to my surprise, I finished 2nd in the beginners class, I was stoked and hooked on this sport and there was no turning back. But winning this race has eluded me for 11 years until yesterday.

I mentioned my dad, just as I was leaving Truckee for Sierra City, where there is no cell phone coverage or internet, I received an email from my brother. He had just gotten out of surgery, his right coronary artery was 80% blocked, and the doctors had just successfully implanted a stent. My brother is a healthy guy for the most part and younger, for the doctors to find this on Friday was nothing short of a miracle because he did not suffer a heart attack and there was no damage to his heart muscle. Again, on my drive to Downieville, my thoughts were on health and how blessed we are to have good health and how glad I was to have my brother still with us. This was a Praise God moment and a great way to start a race.

This race starts in Sierra City and is the biggest annual event to happen in this sleepy hamlet and former gold rush town. The finish is in Downieville, 12 miles away via highway 49, but we would be taking a less direct route, up the barren face of the Sierra Buttes to Packer saddle, a 4,000 foot climb in 7 miles, then an extremely technical 5,000 foot, 20 mile descent to Downieville, with a couple short climbs thrown in for good measure. Being a good climber is an absolute must, but with so much descending you also need to be a great bike handler. This year due to my age, I entered the grandmaster division because the expert class only goes up to 45+. Grand master is 55+ and the competition is still incredible. With 425+ racers, there were 4 stage starts on a steep tiny little street packed with anxious racers. The gun sounded and we were off. With so many racers it is hard to know who is in your group, but prior to the race, I introduced myself to all the guys that looked old and had a pretty good idea who was in my age group. I have learned over the years to not go too hard at the beginning so as to not bonk, but to also be aware and not lose sight of your competition. Sure enough a couple guys in my group took off and I immediately put a target on their back and let them go but never lost sight of them. The start and the first 4 miles are pure climbing, and as you climbed the trail just got steeper. I know this course and I know where to pass and where not to, but with the adrenaline running it is hard to hold back. The first part starts on pavement and then turns to dirt in a half mile. As we sorted ourselves out, I passed one of my competitors on the pavement. We hit the dirt and I had one more guy in front. The fire road has basically 2 lines and one line will be smoother and firmer than the other. So everyone naturally migrates to the good line. To pass you need to go in the less desirable line which takes more energy, especially if there are rocks and loose gravel. For me the climb is all about conserving energy. By the time we got to the dirt, there was only one guy in my age group left in front. I was finally able to get on his back tire and decided to stay there for a while and conserve my energy. Looking ahead I could see a spot where the other line was firm and we were coming up on a slower group of people. Since he did not make a move, I did and zoomed past. We were 1.5 miles into the race and I was in the lead. I loved it, now I needed to hang on for another 26 miles! So this guy I passed was breathing hard and kept snorting through his nose. On the one hand, I could tell where he was by listening, but it was rather annoying to have a steam engine chugging right behind you. He immediately got behind me and would not go away. Now imagine a line of riders, wheel to wheel of all abilities stretching out for 3 miles. It is really quite a colorful sight to behold. 2 miles in and I was feeling good. I decided to pick it up and see if I could get away from my competition. In passing people, I was careful to wait for a spot where the passing line was clean with no loose gravel. It required a lot of patience and sometimes I would pass at the last second to make sure that the rider behind me would not get as good a passing line. Sometimes I would pass 3 or 4 riders, but within a few minutes the snorting would pick up again. Every mini attack I launched was met with a counter attack. Man, I could not get rid of this guy. But I did not panic, I just rode my race. I must have passed 50 younger riders by now and about 2/3rds of the way up I got behind a gal who was struggling up one of the steepest sections. In fact some guys had come off their bikes and were walking. Suddenly she stalled, our tires bumped and I was off my bike. The snorting behind me turned to cursing and the whole line was stopped. I quickly ran up the rise and hopped back on. Out of respect to my chaser I did not take off and pass this girl, I hung on to her wheel waiting for my competition to catch up, but after a minute I did not hear anyone behind me, so I took off. That was it, I had cracked him, the elastic was snapped and it was time to put some distance between us. The rest of the climb to Packer Saddle was all about keeping my heart rate just below the red line and using other riders to pull me. Finally we hit the top amidst lots of cheering fans, it was like the Tour with people standing in the road cheering and patting racers on the back, I was able to weave my way through all the fans and passed a few more riders that were refueling and then came the first singletrack descent.

In years past we used to ride down a really fast fire road from the top of Packer Saddle, but last year they changed to course to ride down a single track called Sunset trail. It is narrow, very twisty and no where to pass. Once you are in it you are like on a bobsled run for a mile of very turny and technical single track with lots of big trees on both sides. You just hope the guy in front does not make a mistake. So there is  a group of 6 riders and I am in second, I can hear this guy yelling in the back to get out of his way. Yeah right. Eventually we did end up on the fire road and sped our way to Pauley creek. Now came the famous baby head section. Basically for the next mile or so the road was all rock and very steep. You had to go fast or get run over, but you had to be careful because there were plenty of sharp rocks and a flat would have put me out of the race. It was here that I realized my rear shock was losing air. Bouncing off these rocks was really getting to me and I thought my arms were going to fall off. I just kept praying that God would protect me by keeping my vision sharp and alerting me to dangers. Finally we crossed Pauley creek and hit the Pauley creek trail which leveled off somewhat and had less rock but still very twisty and turny. I was so afraid that the guys behind me were going to catch me in this section. I went fast, but was a little conservative because the obstacles here would suddenly appear out of no where and my reactions had to be quick and precise. When you are out riding on a normal ride you would be going much slower and could anticipate the hazards, but when you are racing to win, you have to take chances and hope for the best. It was here that I got behind a pro female rider that was fast but really knew the trail. Her line was perfection, it was like she knew every rock and root and which line to take through them. Yes she was a little slower than some of the guys, I probably got passed by 10 younger guys in this section, but right now I was more concerned about not making a mistake, because one mistake could cost me the podium. I had a couple of scary spots where my rear tire slid out, but was able to hang on and not fall. After we crossed the 3rd bridge, we started another short climb. I felt great, no cramping no burning just a strong spin to the top of this short climb and we were once again off on a very fast single track, called the 3rd divide trail, which was much smoother but very dangerous. There was a steep cliff on the right side, that if you went off, there would be no coming back. Speeds here can reach 35 to 40 mph. There are a few hazards, but I knew where they were and hit them perfectly. Again praying every mile or so. Suddenly a guy passed me and he looked like one of my competitors. I was devastated. I decided that I was riding too conservative so I took off to catch him. He was just way too fast, so I stuck with my game plan. Coming up was this steep rock that is about 10 feet tall almost straight up and very few people can ride it. I heard some guys yell that the group in front got stalled and bottlenecked, if I could clear this I could catch them. I gave it some gas and flew right up and over and sure enough I could now see the guy that had passed me a mile back.

Finally we hit the Empire ranch and strangely enough there was a girl standing there with a bottle of whiskey offering riders a drink. Really? Maybe the riders in the back who are not planning on wining could use one, but whatever. I put my sights on the guy in front and took off after him. I gained a little on the road and then we shot right back onto the 1st divide trail, another single track with the same cliff on the right. This time it was more level like an old flume went through parts of it. This is where I poured it on. My legs felt so strong I just started pushing, caught the guy in front passed him, realized that he was not in my age group, (whew) and then caught a few more riders. I loved this section and knew it well. Back onto a dirt road, I made a sweeping right turn to hit the final single track that would take me to the streets of Downieville. I saw another fast rider about 30 seconds in front. I made a goal of trying to bridge to him to give me more incentive to distance myself from any potential chasers. He made a little mistake and went down briefly and got back up, but I caught him and he let me pass. All of a sudden I heard a lot of yelling and it sounded like he was yelling encouragement to me to go faster which I obliged him by doing. The faster I went, the more my back tire would slid out the more he would yell, it was crazy. It was here that I hit my top speed of 29 mph. We finally get to the pavement and he just takes off trying to get me to chase his tire, but I was too spent. I gave it everything at the finish but could not catch him, but then again I did not need to. Riding into the streets of Downieville with the cheering fans, hands raised high, there is no better feeling to know that all that hard work finally paid off. I finished in 2 hours and 37 minutes, 4 minutes ahead of second place!

11 years ago this race was a turning point for me. Last Friday was a turning point for my brother. Rare in life are those crossroads that can become a turning point. Even rarer it seems are those that are willing to go the distance when we face those challenges. My hope is that we would have the courage to break those chains that bind us and discover what more life has to offer. Whether it is a fitness goal, a work goal or a spiritual goal, I pray that you will have what it takes to change and to have the perseverance to carry it through to completion. For me 11 years is not a long time because my lifestyle has changed for the better and I celebrate every day as a victory! May you also celebrate your accomplishments with great joy!

Paul_Downieville

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4th Round of Oregon Enduro by Tim Evens

July 27, 2013

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July 14th marked the 4th round of the highly competitive Oregon Enduro series with a stop in Camas’ Larch mountain. Its been three years since riding these trails and I was excited to see how the Cold Creek cycling group had managed to shape their new trails. Before ever seeing the course there was plenty of hype going around the blog-o-sphere about the technical and dangerous nature of the two trails we’d be racing. full face helmets being REQUIRED is uncommon in pacific northwest enduros and gave a pretty good hint to the dangerous trails we’d compete on.

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Although I’ve been riding with some Northstar team Alumni on a regular basis i was excited to finally get to meetup with a team member and do some practice runs. Patrick Romano made his way up from Tahoe to try his hand in the competitive Junior field. Over the years there has been a steady influx of talent through the Northstar program and its been amazing to watch team riders take what they’ve learned in the Northstar team program and continue on to highly competitive ranks.

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Friday was to be my only day of practice, which was not ideal as it would pay off in spades to memorize the extremely technical course. I setup my Giant Reign with some serious fresh rubber, Schwalbe Muddy Mary’s, and dialed in suspension for a true beating. Rarely do i need  to wear body armor but after some of the hits I’ve taken this season I decided why not…. Having buddies like Adam Craig can sometimes save you from a trip to the ER. And he even washed the armor so it would smell spring-time fresh BEFORE i used it. Less so after a weekend of sprinting in 90 degree heat.

Within 3 minutes of beginning the first practice run I’d witnessed my first casualty as I witness Hood River native David Carr proceed to grade 4 (requires surgery) seperate his shoulder off the first of a many rock drops. Nothing like watching your friends squeal in pain to get you pumped up….

The course consisted of two major trails broken up into 5 stages. The first two involved some unreal rock gardens. Visualize riding 20 mph through a field of grapefruit to cantelope sized rocks with zero dirt. hilariously fun. Stages 3,4, and 5 would reward those willing to send huge jumps and carry massive speed through some of the best (albeit beat up) DH trails around.

The next casualty I witnessed involved my buddy Santa Cruz pinner, Scott Chapin. He knows how send jumps but on this day he’d enjoy a massive endo off a table top. Nothing like a concussion to get you pumped up. Needless to say my practice was spent with far too much time helping buddies scrape themselves off the hillside.

The Oregon Enduro series’ most endearing quality has always been the folks who ride/race these trails. Race day was an awesome time with friends pumping each other up, cheering each other on, and motivating each other to take their game to the next level. I love coming up to a trail/jump that scares me and using the screaming crowd to get that extra little boost. Enduro is about riding/racing your favorite trails and spending time with buddies. In the end I didn’t impress the clock but I did impress myself as I hit every obstacle that scared with with complete composure. And that was my real goal.

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Time to Build that DH 2013 Foundation with Timmy Evens

October 25, 2012

Now that the 2012 mtb season is essentially behind us its time to lay the foundation for a 2013 race season. If you truly aspire to grow as a competitor then you must look at your season objectively and evaluate your strengths and weaknesses.

 

Think back to when you felt strong and those times you came unravelled under the stress of competition.  You might see room for improvement on a number of components. where would you like to see yourself improve? high speed? technical flow? jumping/air? short duration intense fitness? endurance? or is it something more esoteric like your competitive mindset?

 

Are you someone who “freaks out” the morning of a race and never seem to ride as well in practice as competition? I encourage you to focus on where you want to see the most improvement and come up with an off-season plan.   Now find another sport venue to practice.   We can become stagnant when we drill the same rides/training into our bodies/minds over and over. Whether you’re an XC racer looking for improved output at lactate threshold or a DH racer looking to improve your focus at high speed I encourage you this winter to take up skiing.

 

Ask yourself what it takes to be an excellent DH racer…intense strength, mental focus, lack of fear, etc…etc, buying a season pass at your local ski hill might be the best thing you ever did for honing your body/mind for the 2013 race season.

I’m going to outline 3 reasons training on alpine skis, and to a slightly lesser extent snowboards, will transfer to better performance on a DH bike:

1. Comfort at speed

DH’ing your favorite course/run may feel like you’re going supersonic but odds are your max speed is nowhere near what you would attain on a clear day of skiing groomers. It’s not uncommon for seasoned skier’s to reach 50mph on a corduroy run. It may feel like you’re going 70 on your DH run but I assure you its very uncommon to reach 40mph on a dh race run. By getting use to seeing lines much farther ahead and anticipating a bigger line you can change your perception of speed. Powder days are the ones we really remember but skiing clear groomer is when we really get to play with speed. Of course I have to remind you to be safe! Careening high speed through a grey haired old lady is a good way to lose your pass and potentially end up in jail.

 

2. Edge control

Think of the last time you really surprised yourself on a DH run. Having perfect edge control of your tires is something we can all appreciate. To be a serious skier/boarder you must be intuitively weighting and unweighting your front and rear edges to hook up with the perfect arc. If we slow down video of alpine racers and dh mtb ers you can find similarities in the way they use hip strength to feel the terrain and adjust. by simply having fun on ski’s you are prepping your body to develop a better connection between you the bike and the trail.

 

3. Muscle Strength/Endurance

A typical DH race/enduro stage is somewhere between 2 and 10 minutes. In that time we go from pumped and strong to fatigued, erratic, and potentially out of control. Doing 10-15 runs on your local intermediate/advanced run is a great way to practice being strong and stable with your form. When we fatigue our form changes and control suffers. Be strong and controlled on your ski’s and we not only exercise our minds but develop FUNCTIONAL STRENGTH that we transfer to the bike. Squatting a 5 rep max 2x a week will make you strong but it might not transfer well to sport.

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Marathon National Championships – Words by Karin Edwards

October 10, 2012

Race Report: Marathon Nationals – Bend, Oregon
By Karin Edwards  

Women’s 30-39 Podium (from left to right): Karin Edwards, Heather Lyman, Rachel Hadley, Erin Alders, Claire Duncan  

Yet again, Bend lives up to its reputation as ‘Bike Town, USA’.  What it lacks in Tahoe granite, it makes up for in hundreds of miles of fun, smooth, fast singletrack, with more being built every year.

In addition to being an all around awesome town, Bend is a cyclist’s playground – no wonder a contingent of Giant riders live there, including some of our own Ride Giant-Ride Northstar athletes.  I had the opportunity to spend the week before the race hanging out in Bend – and let me tell you, come race day, my legs were probably more tired than they should’ve been (but happy) from playing on the trails all week.

The Marathon Nationals race course itself was a treat.  It was one big figure eight-ish loop between town and Mt. Bachelor, designed to maximize the singletrack with a minimal amount of fire roads used as connectors.

The race was well attended by the who’s who of mountain biking and you could feel the excitement in the air as the gun went off for the pro men and women’s races.  My field – women 30-39 – had some stiff competition, including a few familiar faces from Northern California: Heather Lyman (2nd overall women, XTERRA Amateur Nationals) and Erin Alders (3rd pro women, Downieville All-Mountain).  The pace started fast and just got faster as we pelotoned along a forest service road before crossing the highway and hitting the singletrack.  Knowing that I had 50+ miles left in the day, I finally found my rhythm and spent the next 5 hours grinding away on the climbs and fully enjoying the killer downhill segments with a small group of ladies.  Other than a closer than desired run-in with a manzanita bush, the day went without a hitch, and I ended up placing 5th.  It was a long, challenging day on the bike, but a super fun and well-organized race.

Thanks Bend for a great week!  - Karin Edwards

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The Athletes Mind – Winding Down – Staying Fresh – Words From the Wise Man, Timmy Evens

October 5, 2012
Photo – Robert Lowe Photography - http://www.robertnlowe.com/
As our competitive season winds down its time for a change. After long hours staring at the heart rate monitor and weekly road trips to the next race, we can finally take a relaxing breathe and unwind.
We’re all athletes at heart so i highly doubt any of us will spend the next six months eating chips and staring at the tv.  I know many exercise physiologists will talk about “specificity of training” as an important component of success but i think there is real value in stepping away from your competitive venue and doing something different.
I recently read a statement by a Phd talking about what our brains need to maintain a state of happiness, exercise was absolutely essential but the key point is it needs to be “new and novel” exercise.   This may mean you get out and do those long XC loops that you never found time for during the competitive season or it may mean picking up another sport entirely.
We all feel that excitement at the beginning of the cycling season when you first start ticking away miles and the trail is new and pure.  As days roll by the same trail becomes boring and repetitive.  Sometimes we can be too obsessed with watts and miles to remember we’re animals and something about sport is suppose to tap into that primal side.
It is important to have a coordinated/calculated approach to success but that included maintaining mental health.
As fall and winter approach I encourage all of you to take up another hobby.   Ask yourself what you like to do?  Yoga?  Crossfit? Alpine skiing? Nordic skiing? Trail-running? Soccer? Motocross?
I say you need to pick one and keep exercising a athletic state of mind.   Find something that supplements your sport, if you are a DH racer then find something that supplements the need for speed.   If you are an XC racer find another aerobic outlet.
If you want to start next season strong and refreshed then take time away from the bike and use your offseason to become stronger.   Learn from the people you respect, Aaron Gwin might not put a ton of miles in on his DH bike through the winter but he rides moto and does plyometrics like an animal.  Most good XC racers will put away the MTB and either break out the running shoes or nordic skis.
The point is find another outlet for your inner animal, it needs to be different, new, and exciting so you start your next season fit and looking forward to riding your bike.
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