It doesn't take long at home before I’m scratching to get back to California. There’s just something about twisting around in a redwood-dense forrest, or descending down to Highway 1 by the beach, or climbing smoothy up a single-lane, picturesque road that seems to have a consistent pull on me. But maybe that’s just me. Bags were packed and it was off to Southern California again for two more weeks of racing and two more weeks of living the greatest blessing I could imagine.
I was happy to wake up in our century-old, Great Gatsby-styled mansion in sunny SoCal, walk down stairs to greet everyone, and scoop coach Dario’s famous oatmeal in my bowl once again. As odd as it may be, that stuff never gets old…in fact I look forward to it because it means I’m on the road racing bikes, it’s kind of a homey feeling. The first race weekend came quicker than I could’ve imagined; we were in Fontana shredding some sandy, dusty, pumice-like trails.
RACE REPORT : "I was able to get a slow, lengthy warm up in—instead of being rushed as sometimes happens—which has seemed to do well for me in these first couple of races. To my surprise, I had a great random selection on the 3rd or 4th row. The race shot off and I was able to narrowly miss two crashes that occurred even before the first left turn. I found myself in great position, just outside of top 10, going through the pits and heading towards the first climb. I knew that this position wouldn’t efficiently stick for me so I settled into a pace that was seemingly manageable. The first lap or two actually stuck together well, but the pace was certainly quick. I started to feel the punishing heat about lap 3, midway. I tried to be conservative and pick my spots, hoping to sustain what I had, but it seemed my legs were beginning to hit a wall as well. Coming in laps 4 and 5, I was unsure if I was going to make the time cut-off, so I gave it a final push both times approaching the last climb and 2k of the race. I paid for it each time, but I was thankful to know I was getting to finish all 6. The wheels slowly came off for me at Fontana but having survived and been able to finish against this stacked field does make me happy.
Sunday served as a bit of redemption for me in the STXC. My legs felt tanked and I wasn’t sure how they would hold up in the ST, but I knew this race was a good opportunity for me. I settled in decently in the top 25 early on, battling back and forth with riders. I held as many wheels as I was able to, rarely being exposed to the wind by myself. The fatigue began to hit as we got out “3 lap call” about 16 minutes in and I emptied what I had into the next couple of laps. This was definitely one of the fastest and most brutal short-tracks I have done, but it was nonetheless fun to compete. Christopher absolutely killed it on the front end and I’m super happy to have shared this race with him.
This weekend has given me some amazing experience! I’m walking away with some super tough miles under my belt and I believe that Bonelli should be a good opportunity for a great race. I am so very thankful for the support of Dario, Josh, and Cammie at one of the toughest race weekends I’ve experienced yet. The experience of racing with this field is doing nothing but helping me to grow. I’m happy to spend a week fine-tuning here in SoCal in preparation for Bonelli!"
Following a heated weekend in Fontana, it was exciting to be able to relax at our vintage pad in the hills of La Habra Heights. We spent our days poolside, playing pool, in the theatre downstairs, and battling in way-to-intense chess matches. That week we rode decently mild in recovery and preparation for upcoming Bonelli. The food was phenomenal, the weather beautiful, and the memories priceless. We even had a rooftop view of the nightly, 9:30 pm fireworks from Disneyland. Other than the omnipresent lurk of smog, the outskirts of L.A. weren’t too bad there in our house. The best of times seem to go by the fastest, and we were getting our routine on again for the next round of races.
RACE REPORT : " I had confidence in my legs coming into the weekend and was excited about the layout of Bonelli. The punchy climbs, added technical sections, and race day monsoon was encouraging for an interesting race. I had a 61st call up, but used any opportunities early on in the start loop and first few climbs to gain a few positions. I knew that trying to climb up too drastically might put me too deep early on, so after gaining a little ground I settled in. The nasty conditions allowed me to gain some natural positions without having to put in extra work the first few laps, and I continued to pace well into the 4th lap. By this point, I had noticed that the patience paid off and began to ramp it up little by little each lap. Staying within myself early allowed me to empty the tank later in the race.
I was battling with a couple riders coming into the last two laps and had actually gained a margin on them. Beginning the last lap, mud mixed with rock had dislodged my chain and I spent more time than hoped for putting it back on; the riders caught me but I used this incident as encouragement to go all in and was able to come back and eventually ride off from them. I fought off cramps on the last set of climbs and rode in satisfyingly to the finish. I’m very happy with how this race went. Staying off the ground, successfully seeing the results of riding my own race, and cracking the top 30 in an international field made for a great experience. The bike was flawless on one of the nastiest days and I’m very thankful for the encouragement and feeds throughout!
To my surprise on Sunday morning, my legs felt fairly recovered during our morning spin. I allowed for a lengthy warm-up and was on the line about 4 rows back before I knew it. This was definitely one of the most stacked and dense short-tracks I’ve been in, with 60 + riders on the line. We were off at an expected blistering speed and I was focused early in the race with getting through to the front group. The early expenditure paid off and within a few laps and I was sitting on the wheels on the lead group. We weren’t really disconnected from the main group but were almost 20 riders large specifically. As the race found its groove, and riders jumped back and forth, gaps began to open up and our lead group began to separate. For most of the race I was filling gaps and grabbing wheels in the group…we approached the final laps and things began to get more dicey. It was all-in on the last lap and I was able to squeeze in 11th. I’m SO happy with this race. The experience was phenomenal and it was such a blast to hang in there with world class racers. Major kudos go out to Chris for an amazing 2nd in that field!
I can’t begin to thank Dario, Cammie, and Josh for all their sacrifice and work. The product of what they do is a beautiful thing and I’m so grateful to be apart of it! Also, major thanks to all our sponsors and partners for what they do and produce. It was such an amazing trip and set of races for everyone. The experience of spending so much time together will be missed!"
I’m beyond stoked on how the racing has gone this year so far; this season has opened up in such a satisfying way. I knew stepping into the pro field would be no easy feat. I also know that its going to get harder before it gets easier. Although, I can easily say that I’ve learned more in these first pro races than I probably have in three years of racing. It’s a whole new ballgame, and there are faster pitchers and more innings. All this may sound daunting, but I’m thoroughly excited about this chapter. I’m pleased to get to race with Whole Athlete/ Specialized this year as I experience this step in racing. Here’s to the 2016 season and the experiences that lay ahead!
Coming into the 2016 race season, I knew I’d be taking a step into the big pond. This season serves as the bridge from junior racing to professional racing and calls for a re-evaluation of my goals and expectations for the year. Although, I’ve confidently set some expectations that mostly consist of and mean making this the most experiential year as possible. The racing will be longer, faster, harder, and deeper than ever before, but I couldn’t be more excited for this step. Being a first year U23 racer, (19-22 year olds) I’ll be separated in results but the actual racing occurs in one massive pro field. So sometimes I might end up creating a race within the race for myself. I’m so grateful to be able to represent Whole Athlete/ Specialized again for this season and very thankful for their support in one of the most crucial seasons in all of racing.
The Whole Athlete crew kicked the year off in early March with an awesome team camp. We rode the beautiful roads and luscious trails of Marin County, California all while bonding to our new set of teammates. The week was filled with photoshoots, sponsor information, our first healthy dose of team meals, and a NorCal’s winter worth of beautiful rain.
It was great to get some quality time all together and to gain some stoke for the 2016 season. Later in the week, we drove to SoCal to participate in the season opener at Bonelli Park. I’m not sure whether it was vibes of nervousness or excitement that was higher for us. The course, which is infamous for being typical SoCal (dry and dusty), actually received a gift from God in the form of a short monsoon…which created a tacky, perfect trail.
RACE REPORT : "Finally, race season is here. Long winter months on the bike gave way to spring racing once again and I couldn't have been more excited. A great week with the team in Marin had everyone excited for the beginning of a new season!
This year's season, however, is taking on a new face. Being my first year in U23 as a pro racer, my priorities and direction definitely change a bit. So I was eager to get a taste of what it was like.
Bonelli quickly rolled around and it was race day once again. This time I spent most of the day trying to be conservative as the race wasn't until 2:45 pm. Although, before I knew it, it was go time. Starting at the back of the pack, I intended to slowly use draft on the start loop to gain some spots before the single track without taxing myself too much. The first lap was basically smooth sailing, although the pace was quite strong even 30 riders back. Pacing myself early on was difficult to do with the flow of the race. Other than paying for my early race expenditure on the 2nd and 3rd lap, patience paid off and I gained some legs back.
The race strolled on and I found myself moving forward, which was to my surprise and also was the best thing possible. Ticking the last few laps off, I emptied the tank and crossed the line. I knew my form wouldn't be prime for this time of year, so finishing top 20 was definitely more than satisfactory. I also found success in being a patient and persistent racer. I can only look forward to more experience and progress as the season goes on!
HUGE thanks to Dario, Cammie, Josh, and all that participated to help make a great start to the 2016 season. Couldn't be more thankful for the support!"
All in all, I couldn’t be happier with how the season opened up at Bonelli for my first Pro race. There’s a lot to be learned but I’m grateful to be able to do so. Here’s to the season and to my family of Whole Athlete/ Specialized for a successful and amazing season!
Carson Beckett, 22 // UCI MTB Racer // Coach // // Student // Outdoor Enthusiast