Just two weeks ago, I spent an exciting 4 day retreat in San Anselmo, California where I met my new teammates of Whole Athlete and spent the weekend riding hero dirt on the beautiful west coast. It was great getting to meet and greet with such a great crew and I left feeling not only welcomed but excited to start my adventure with them.
That adventure started with the first team race camp of the year: Bonelli-Fontana. Upon arriving that Thursday afternoon, I got to catch up with everyone and check out the (AMAZING) team house we'd be spending the next 10 days in. My teammate, Cypress, asked if I wanted to join him and coach Dario for a spin and I gladly accepted because I wanted to shake off the travel legs but also was eager to get out and see the beautiful surrounding. We got to make rooming arrangements and settle into our new home later that night and before we new it, the first team race camp was underway.
Bonelli Park pre-ride came SO quick...I mean, yes, it was the next day, but the fact that I was doing my first pre-ride of the season for the first race of the season in California was a mysterious rush all at once. No need to summarize again, so here's the Race Report I wrote for Bonelli:
As the team geared up for the pre-ride at Bonelli Park, it hit me that this was the first race of the 2015 racing season. After a long, unusually snowy winter where basically 80% of my training rides were indoors, it felt more than amazing to be out under the sun getting ready for the first race. It is hard to have expectations this early, but I felt I was in the position to compete pretty well. The course was super punchy, dry, and had some areas of sketchy rock and off-camber turns. I rode one lap smoothly to get a feel for the course and then did one hot lap. The hot lap caught my body by surprise at first when I hit the first couple of climbs, but I eventually settled in and found that "race rhythm" that I hadn't felt since last fall. I fell back into the pattern of learning to recover in between those punchy climbs. Following that, I did a smooth cool-down lap with Anders and rolled into the Whole Athlete Expo area as ready as I knew I would be for my first race on the team.
The 5:00 AM wake-up call came even earlier than it sounds. After an oatmeal breakfast, we rolled to the venue, set up, and got dressed. I started to recall what it was like to warm up and then made my way to staging. I was probably the second-third row and was able to calm my nerves by chatting with some friends. Before I knew it, 15 seconds, then "GO!" and I was off for the first time of the year. As expected, they started super fast, but I knew that wasn't necessarily what I needed, so I fought the urge to battle everyone passing me when we hit the first climb. I flowed with the group and tried to stay as idle as possible until we hit the open, powerline climb. I felt strong and ready so I took the right lane and passed about 7 guys swiftly. Then, I spent the rest of the first lap connecting with Daniel Johnson who was in 4th; we then connected with Jerry Dufour and another kid to make a strong group of four…Simon Andreassen was off the front by a minute + already. We worked to gap the field and then found a rhythm on the 2nd lap and set it in cruise control; the calm before the storm. Coming through to start the 3rd and final lap, we hit the first climb and I gave the group a little "teaser" attack and led them to the next climb where I hid back in the group behind Daniel. As we approached the infamous powerline climb, I knew what I had to do. I attacked and kept the gas on well over the top. On the downhill following I was spent and trying to recover and rode recklessly through the corners. I kept the gas on the next few hills and was surprised to see my body react so well. Without a moment to recover, I kept pushing every little roller and punch because I knew a couple of the guys in the group I broke from had strong roadie engines and could make up time on the flats. Approaching the last climb and super d downhill, I knew I could keep them off if I kept my bike upright. Completely spending myself on every last punchy climb coming into the finish, I was beginning to get excited because I knew I had secured 2nd. The podium spot behind Andreassen was more than I had imagined or even hoped for coming into this race. I was just hoping to feel things out, so this race definitely exceeded my expectations personally and excited me because it still is early in the season. Once I was out there, it felt good to be back in the groove again."
Just like that, my first race of the 2015 season was in the books and the stoke level was at an all time high. That following week, we explored the local park and were able to easily get in our training rides all the while enjoying the last bit of the beautiful mountain views as the infamous smog rolled back in. The weather was unbelievably warm and it was oddly amazing to be plunged into it after so much of Old Man Winter in Kentucky. The week in between races, even with my strongest efforts, seemed to fly by without my ability to control it. Time flies when you're having fun. We were graciously provided amazingly healthy and filling meals morning and night, a wonderful daily yoga/core routine, and were gifted with the best mechanic in the nation to keep our bikes primo without even laying a finger on them. The chemistry between this group is already unbreakable and we became as tight-knit as long lost friends. Between the rides, dinner time laughs, intense pool matches, and reggae music, we fell right into place together. Before we all knew it, the U.S. Cup at Fontana was already here and we were pre-riding the dusty, dry course in preparation for the first UCI race of the year. Here's my Race Report for Fontana:
UCI US Cup Fontana
Teammates: Chris and Anders
As quick as Bonelli came, so did Fontana, and everything in between was a blur of amazing bike rides, crazy-good weather, and even better food. It was great to have an entire park of both single and double track to ride and train on to get tuned up for the U.S. Cup at Fontana. The routine oatmeal wasn't bad at all, the rides/weather/view was killer, the homework time was well needed and spent, the yoga was on point, and the dinners were oh so welcoming. I began to love the pattern we fell in to during the week and grew close to everyone around me…before I knew it, we were setting up the expo for the race. Saturday's preride went as expected, one smooth lap, one hot lap, one cool down lap. All the meanwhile, I was taking in the character of the course. I felt strong coming into the race but knew the sustained flats would hurt me a little more; on the flip side, I could gain what I lost in the techy sections on the backside.
Again, a 5:00 AM wake up and morning commute in the dark took a little warming up to, but once we arrived and the sun was peaking over the Fontana "mound", I started to collect myself again. The warm-up was routine and before I knew it call-ups were commencing. After what I felt were strong results for me at Bonelli last week, I went into Fontana wielding the same strategy. The majority of the front group starts too fast for my liking, so I conserve much of the first lap (especially those heart-stopping first hills) and then turn the throttle up and begin picking my way up. This has just seemed to set on my body the right way. So, the gun goes off and I try keeping my position up the first main climb without killing myself to do so. I see Simon take off expectedly fast and then teammate Chris with a quick response. As we hit the techy top section of the climb the train immediately slowed, so I started picking people off from there and continued to ramp up the pace until catching Jerry Dufour. We were caught by Tofor Lewis and the three of us caught 3rd place and paced the rest of the race together. Once we hit the road climb, Tofor began picking it up and I stuck on his wheel; the two of us were able to break away in the technical rock and following a mistake by Lewis I was able to push through traffic and grind my way through the rest of the lap and into the finish. I was hit with the same exhilaration from Bonelli as I crossed the line. I was hopeful to compete at this UCI Jr. race, but I knew the competition would be stacked even higher. I was, and am, super excited to have been able to grab another podium spot in our field and this time I got to stand up there with Chris. All in all, it was a smooth race and I didn't hit the dirt, the legs felt very responsive and the support of the team was beyond amazing. This race camp was a solid week and really felt like an initiation into the Whole Athlete team and the 2015 race season."
This first race camp was beyond my expectations and I couldn't have been more blessed with the experience or the results. I am already excited to go back in just under three weeks and do it all again for Bonelli #2 and my first trip to the world-wide known Sea Otter event. The season sure has started off with a bang.
Carson Beckett, 22 // UCI MTB Racer // Coach // // Student // Outdoor Enthusiast