Carson City Off-Road Race DiaryWords by Geoff Kabush
The trails used in the Carson City Off-Road have perhaps some of the most iconic views you can see from a mountain bike. This year, the Flume trail and Tahoe Rim trail were incorporated into the backcountry course with spectacular views over Sand Harbour and Lake Tahoe. The challenge, however, was that most of us were too cross-eyed after climbing for a couple hours to enjoy the views during the race. Luckily most people arrived a few days early and took the opportunity to explore the trails and snap some Instabangers beforehand. I have one of my US base camps close by in Truckee and really appreciated having a great Epic Rides event within driving distance this time around.Pre-Event, Pre-Ride, Equipment Choices:
Leading into Carson City Off-Road I had my first weekend off since early April so I figured I’d have lots of time to rest up, go check out the big loop and get all my equipment dialled in. Unfortunately, it didn’t quite work out that way; I was only able to make it over to the course once. As I mentioned in my last diary I was going to race this little gravel event called Dirty Kanza a couple weeks back. At 11hrs or so and 206miles long it took a bit of a toll on my body, I got a bit sick, and I had to take a week-long timeout off the bike. While sitting on the couch I thought about all kinds of fun, or silly, depending on your perspective equipment choices I could make for Carson City Off-Road. The climbs are massive and the crushed granite around Lake Tahoe makes a lot of the course smooth. My first fun idea was to try my OPEN U.P. curly bar bike which fits 27.5 x 2.1 MTB tires, among other wheel/tire combos.
It was pretty fun to ride my OPEN around the trails in adventure mode but wasn’t too sure I would be able to attack the rough sections fast enough on the race course. I’m also known to take some equipment risks, mostly super light tires which was my second idea, and see how far I can push my luck. Just like Formula 1, I think sometimes you need to push the limits to win; I’ve won more than I’ve lost and sometimes it is fun rolling the dice. Maxxis makes a ridiculous light tire called the Maxxlite; it is probably about half the weight of a normal tire. It is pretty ridiculous how fast you can accelerate and it almost feels like cheating sometimes. It does, however, pretty much look like a road tire. With the right pressure, rubber compound, and trail awareness though it is amazing how you can make a tire like the Maxxlite work.
To try my second idea I went out to pre-ride some of the course on Tuesday; it was no problem riding everything but again I didn’t feel like I would be able to push as hard on the trail when I needed to. Near the finish, there is a really loose, sandy sidecut trail along with some hairball steep fire road descents. Maybe I would make up a lot of time on the climbing but pushing with real XC tires I would smash my time compared to trying to descend with Maxxlites. In the end, I decided to just switch back to a full XC high post on my SB100 to help a bit with the climbing and run some new XC tires I’ve been testing for Maxxis. I think my stock Yeti SB100 set-up was definitely the best option but who knows, next year, maybe I’ll roll the dice.El Yucateco Fat Tire Crit Friday:
From Truckee to Carson City it is about an hour commute and I headed over with some friends on Friday to get there in time for the Pro Rider’s meeting at 2pm. The Carson City meeting really highlights what makes the Epic Rides events successful. The events take over downtown core and are really embraced by the communities. Carson City is the capital of Nevada so the meeting takes place inside the State Capitol building and we were welcomed not only by Carson City Mayor Robert Crowell but also Governor of Nevada Brian Sandoval. Cycling is promoted and valued in Carson City and it is great to see the progress constantly being made by the town and local trail crew Muscle Powered. After the race briefing, I went out for a short pre-ride to dial in the last piece of the backcountry course and then got suited up for the evening Fat Tire Crit.
Some people may think it is a little weird having a bunch of mountain bikers racing around on pavement but I really enjoy these races. We often all travel quite far for a race and it is great to get another event during the race weekend that is a great showcase for the fans. It’s not often you can win mountain bike races with your head, experience, and tactics and the Fat Tire Crit gives everyone a shot to get to the front of the race. In the men’s race, several riders took turns attacking at the front while I tried to stay patient and maintain a good position. The final attack almost stayed away but it all came back together in the last half lap. Tristan Uhl used his crit experience to put himself in the perfect spot going into the last couple corners to take a big win for himself and the team. I was a little too far back but was happy to slide into third place on the podium and keep my podium streak alive.
The race didn’t wrap up until after 8pm, so after a quick wipe down we hit Whole Foods for dinner in Reno on the way back to Truckee base camp. Whole Foods meals can be a racer’s best friend when trying to get some good quick food; everyone can find something they like, and no reservations are required. Nothing burns the legs like wasting a couple hours trying to find a restaurant and a table.Up, Up, and Away. Backcountry Sunday:
The Carson City Off-Road course climbs around 1200m from downtown up to Marlette Peak at over 2600m, and high mountain weather was definitely a big concern Sunday on the start line. Hail storms, rain, and even a dusting of snow on the high mountain peaks happened overnight and a black cloud was hanging over the top of the course as everyone suited up.
I put my trust in the radar which showed the storm moving off and just wore my regular Garneau Course racing suit and an undershirt; being Canadian I’m used to a little cold and I figured it wasn’t going to be any colder than a winter cyclocross race. We did get hit with some rain and hail 10 minutes into our race, and another short burst mid-race, but other than that it was just a little brisk and windy.
Both the men's and women’s race sounded quite exciting, but I can’t say I saw too much of the front of the race on Sunday. With more or less 2hr45min pedalling to the high point my body wasn’t firing on all cylinders and there was nowhere to hide. I didn’t want to detonate like at Grand Junction Off-Road so I just found my rhythm, suffered all day and tried to limit the damage. I eventually rolled across the finish line in 7th about five minutes down. The level at these events just keeps on going up and it was great to see everyone scrapping it out all the way to the finish. After a lot of jockeying at the front, the men’s race came down to a three-up sprint and Ben Sonntag used his experience to snag a very gratifying win.
After the huge loop, the women’s racing also came down to a seesaw battle on the last descent. Katerina Nash was able to get a slight gap but Chloe Woodruff fought back after an earlier crash to get a gap on the final singletrack and grab the win. Everyone is fighting hard for the win but it is great to see the camaraderie among all the competitors at these events.What does it take to finish 7th at Carson City Off-Road?
Looking at my Stages Cycling power file and comparing the results is always interesting after the event. For the approxiate 3hr 39min of racing my average power was 271W and normalized power 331W. Up at this elevation, these numbers are around 10% lower than they would be at sea level. These power numbers overall were pretty similar to the guys at the front but unfortunately, I’m a little larger than them at around 77kg. This meant my power to weight ratio just wasn’t as good going uphill and this is where I lost most of my time. On the first major 20-30 mininute climb up Ash to Kings trail I lost a couple minutes and then on another similar steep effort up to Marlette Lake I lost another couple of minutes.
On the majority of the course, on the remaining flatter and descending sections, the power to weight ratio wasn’t as important and I only lost another minute overall. My body was still recovering a bit from my Dirty Kanza effort but that’s racing and the balance that athletes are always fighting. The most important part of performance is staying healthy and balancing fatigue through a race season. How much more horsepower would I need to ride at the front? I’d guess another 20W and I might have been able to hang but I’ll never know. From training, I know this is in my bandwidth but sometimes the body just doesn't click on race day.
Luckily I have lots of time to regroup before the Epic Rides Series final October 5-7th in Bentonville, Arkansas. I’m pretty excited as this will be the first event at a lower elevation with no major climbs and great singletrack from what I hear. I’ve heard nothing but good things about the riding so definitely check it out if you have been thinking about it.
Right now I’m am finally heading back to Canada and excited to be at home in Squamish for a while this summer. BC Bike Race is up next and I can’t wait for some good BC singletrack. No silly equipment decisions for this one. My Yeti SB100 is going to be perfect. I can't wait. Happy Trails!