The Grasshopper Adventure Series are some of my favorite events of the year. I have used the Old Caz Hopper as a perfect early season race for quite a few years now. For the first time this year, I had a cross bike and was excited to have the chance to complete the ride without flatting in the dirt. A few days before the race, our team manager told me he would be at the event. Now, you have to understand that our team manger, Phil Mooney is what we like to call “washed up”. He is well past his glory days of racing, often recounting his tales of epic race wins, impossibly hard mountain stages etc etc.
However, recently Phil has been putting some effort into getting back in shape, he regularly claims that he hopes to beat at least half the racers on the team at our training camp time trial. While we all know that won’t be happening, on this team we like to encourage each other to aim high with our goals. I feel that it is important to encourage him, once you reach Phil’s age, staying active is very important for general health. With these thoughts in mind, I knew that my number one goal for the Old Caz Hopper was to make sure that Phil was able to beat me, he really needed a win to stay motivated.
We started off with over 400 riders up the short steep road climb of colman valley and were quickly down to around 30-40 riders by the start of the willow creek dirt descent. I quickly lost contact from the lead group on the descent (my manager would be pissed if I crashed in the dirt). A flat road section followed the descent and I began chasing back onto the leaders. Up the road I could see Phil desperately driving the group he was in, trying to keep me from regaining contact. After a short chase I rolled up to him, “wow Phil you made it really hard for me to get back onto the group”, I lied. He seemed pleased to hear that as we rolled toward the next climb.
We started the next climb with a short steep kicker then clambered through a gate and continued up the dirt portion of the climb. I could hear Phil huffing and puffing next to me, he tried to mumble something to me but I couldn’t understand him through his labored breathing. Near the top of the climb one of the fast mountain bikers turned the screws a bit and I was gapped going into the descent. Knowing that Phil made the group I took it easy down the dirt descent and continued on, hoping that he hadn’t over extended himself too early.
I rolled up the next climb in maybe the top 20, made my way across the creek then found one other ride to work with on the flat roads back to the finishing climb. Into the bottom of the climb, I managed to jam my chain in my front derailleur, I saw this as a positive. I knew Phil would be cracking on the final climb, it was important to give him a significant head start. After almost ripping my derailleur off, I started up the climb as hard as I could. I passed the perfect number of riders to land in a prize winning spot (10th) and never saw Phil, mission accomplished!
I love the Grasshopper Adventure Series, and I will be doing as many as I can this season, I hope that I can still do them even when I reach Phil’s age!