The third Hopper of the season got off to a rather relaxed start on Saturday up in occidental. Because of some rather precarious road crossings early on in the ride the organizers decided to neutralize the first 10 miles. Representing Marc Pro-Strava was Conrad S, Paul M and myself. We were certainly a force to be reckoned with.
When we crossed River rd the race was on but remained tame until the first climb, the quad crushingly steep sweetwater springs rd. As the road tilted upward Garmin rider Peter Stetina went to the front and got out of the saddle. What probably amounted to a good stretching of the legs for Pete thoroughly put the hurt on the rest of the field and a group of six formed as we went over the top of the first climb on sweetwater. The group included myself, Pete, Bissel rider Jeremy Vennell, and a MikesBikes rider. Because all of us were on road bikes, we worked well together while winding our way through the redwoods. This was to gain time on those with cross bikes who would enjoy a significant advantage when it came to the rough and rocky Old Caz descent.
When we got to the main sweetwater climb Pete really put the hurt on. It was him and I over the top with Vennell just a few seconds behind. We regrouped on the descent and worked together until the climb up old caz. At this point JV and I were content to let Pete go and just ride tempo up the climb. We took it easier on the descent also, and Jeremy even took off his road shoes to cross the creek!
After being glared at and heckled by some local country folk we made our way through cazadero and set to work chasing down Pete. He was just cruising, waiting for us so he could destroy us again up willow creek. This was fine with me. I was just happy to have survived on my road bike and finish off a solid ride. Jeremy let my ride up the road to finish second and Conrad and Paul were 6th and 51st respectively. Best of all there were doughnuts and coke waiting for us at the finish. Pretty awesome day indeed! Here is Conrads story of events.
- Small or no entry fee
- No support
- Link local paved and dirt roads and trails into an epic loop
- No prizes (apparently they’ve gone big time and now do have a few prizes, read below)
- Maps, but no course markings
I chose to ride my ‘cross bike with 700 x 32c tires for the event. Probably overkill, but really comfortable on the rough roads and dirt sections. Pack stayed together until the first of 3 epic climbs. Then it was total carnage on the first climb, riders dropping off everywhere, and fast guys, drilling it up ahead. I climbed OK, still not good racing form, but was happy with the climb. Down the other side and made up some time and got into a small group to Old Caz. I was able to ride away from most of that group on the Old Caz climb, and made up a little more time on the dirt downhill and tried (unsuccessfully) to ride the creek. I made it half way across, and fortunately was able to dab a foot without tipping into the creek, which is the risk of trying to ride it!
I kept one foot in the pedals then kinda hobbled like a one legged Pirate the rest of the way across. After that it was a junk show unclipping the other foot, getting untangled from the bike and getting going running across the river rocks to the dirt road on the other side. Meanwhile, the two guys I passed, got me back, including my friend, fellow Masters rider, and ‘cross racer extraordinaire, Jamie Willin (Sterling Sports). So much for trying to ride the creek!
I got isolated on Austin Creek Rd., but found by drilling it on the little descents I could see a rider up ahead, so really pushed it on every little downhill, and eventually caught him. He turned out to be a great ally, Jim Whyte (Fightin’ Bobas). Of course he asked me to pull through right after I caught him, and I’m like, “Dude, I just killed myself to catch you, give me a minute!” After that we worked together well, caught a guy on River Road, and then a strong group of 3 guys came up behind us so we were six strong heading into the Westerly wind, which was perfect. I tried to feed and take care of myself in anticipation of the final dirt climb. I still had some juice going up Willow Creek and felt I finished pretty strong, passed 4 or 5 guys going up and nobody caught me.
I gave my name to the volunteer at the end and looked at the sheet… 51st place… I’m thinking… really? I rode that hard and I’m 51st??? Oh well, it’s a strong field, and not a Master’s race. Bottom line, I am happy with how I rode for my fitness level and first race of the season, and considering most of these guys are half my age… or less. Grasshopper Adventure race is about as much fun as you can have on the bike. The burger from Fork Catering, who parked in the Start/Finish area, was perhaps the best burger ever.