Wednesday, August 27, 2008

SSWC Napa Report

For all of you folks who weren't there, here's what it was like to ride in the Single Speed world championships at Napa, California. This wall is on a ridge on one of the upper parts of the course. The race was three laps, the first a bit longer and hillier than the last two .The race started with everyone walking thier bikes down to a meadow about 200 yards from the start. The start consisted of a run around a corral and down a fire road to the place where the bikes were parked. This run was probably about 1/4 mile, give or take. The 300-400 riders found their bikes ( not that easy to do, actually) and formed a dusty promenade up and out of the campground start area and immediately into a long steady climb. It was possible to pass people on this stretch so that's what some of us did, finally settling into a pace. The first lap had a lot of easy riding to start with but after a few miles the real race started with a long hike section, too steep to ride for most of the folks back where I was. The hike got harder and harder with some rocky and rooty sections that made it tough to roll the bike. Some flat and fun descending led to another even more brutal rocky hiking section that was a real scramble . Once the top was reached, the most rocky and dangerous descent was right around the corner with many cheering and heckling folks on either side, waiting for the inevitable wipeouts. after this dicey section there was some nice wooded rolling singletrack with a water stop before the final climb. The last Descent had some great switchbacks and a little creek crossing, a bridge, some nice slalom type turns and a final approach to the finish where a huge crowd was yelling and encouraging the riders. Some people elected to quit after the first lap but most went on to the shorter but still brutally hard second lap.If it wasn't for my wife handing me cold bottles I probably would have packed it in earlier. It was midway through the second lap that the leaders came past-it was humbling to know that these riders were in effect already a full hour ahead of me and still flying along as if they had just started. After riding the first lap non-stop I got the urge to stop at the water refill station and get a tiny bit of rest. I knew that the worst lay ahead and I would need to really be extra determined to start the third lap. After all of the riding in the first lap-and-a-half I was tired enough to walk some of the technical rocky sections I had cleaned on the first lap. I limped into the finish area just after 1 p.m. . the race announcer had said that anyone finishing the second lap later than 1;30 should probably quit at two laps. Knowing that i had a little time, I elected to weakly get rolling again for the third and most punishing lap. The first rideable climb led to the long hiking section and I passed a few riders that were having trouble just walking their bikes. I wasn't feeling all that great myself and slowly made my way along. By the time I got to the water stop I was really spent but figuring that I had only aobut another 1/2 hour of torture left I was confident that I could make it the rest of the way. Near the top of the last rocky climb I had to stop as I was almost dizzy with exhaustion and dehydration. I looked and saw I had one swig of coke left in my bottle-I gulped it down and it woke me up like a bucket of icewater in my face...I didn't feel good, I just felt awake again and made it to the descent.By this time the hecklers and crowds lining the trail were gone, I was alone in my painful clumsy journey down the hill. Now my arms and hands were pretty much toast so I didn't even try and ride the rocks and walked my bike to the safer part of the downhill. I pathetically limped up the last hill and saw the campground just a few hundered yards ahead and made a big push to get there as quickly as I could. I rode around the camp and to the finish where several hundered folks were congregated.When I stopped someone asked me if I wanted a beer.......I was too sick for anything other than water and stayed that way for an hour and a half. As it turned out, a large number of riders didn't start the last lap, pretty much getting wasted by the first two. It was one of the hardest things I have ever done on a bike but it was over and I was in pain but pretty satisfied that I was able to ride the distance. Here is my bike with the picnic plate number and a bit of Napa dust still on it. It served me well. I want to thank my wife Holly for the help and encouragement, my team for busting ass and Curtis of Retrotec for putting on the best SSWC ever.


@ 1 lap said...

You looked great out there Paul. I cheered for you every lap. mike

tash said...

Paul - congrats on finishing the whole race! Super fun to read about it. Natasha

swiggco world said...

Bet you didn't know I could hurt like that......I sure didn't !

heyjude said...

Hey Paul,

It's been a week already and my hands are still sore. I've been a rigid singlespeeder for about 8 years now, and that course was the first one that ever really hurt...bad. Guess I'll have to ride my sweet Rock Lobster road bike until my hands are better. Can't wait until Durango!!!