Race Report from the Inside

I do respect you! Even more now!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010 wasn’t just another Over the Hump for me…it was like my first, all over again. Kind of nostalgic, for me.   I remember reading Tonya Bray’s coverage in Mountain Bike Action online, and several of David Whiting’s race reports and news features from last summer.

Over the last year, waiting for the summer to start John and I got a little antsy waiting. The first two OTH’s last summer, had a “great community vibe, and grass roots feel”, as STR members and the reporters recounted their experiences.  OTH allowed racers like Sid Taberlay, Manny Prado, Johnny Omara and the like to race alongside 9 and 10 year old girls and boys.  What we remembered was the vibe, because neither of us had raced personally, in the series, it truly was the family fun and competitive nature of the event that brought us deep satisfaction being a part of this mountain bike phenomenon in Orange County; short course, midweek, all-level racing for everyone…no attitude (less for sure) and a ton of fun.  Summer 2009 has gone down in John and my books as one of the best summers in our history.  We’re honored to be part of your Over the Hump.

Matt's race bike, ready for some fallen tree clearing before the race

But, for me this week was different. I was preparing to race.  And when I get excited about something, I kind of fixate…A LITTLE.  Demo bike was my planned, rather than my 2.4″ tired 5.5″ suspensioned Specialized Stumpjumper, and I was super pumped. Short story, night before demo wasn’t returned so I took my very fast Stumpy into RockNRoad, put a 2″ tire on rear, rolled my 2.2″ Captain to the front tire, threw on an SDG Saddle (gotta roll with the sponsors….loved the saddle, stiff, light, perfect out of the box, won’t need any tweaks on angle or position, but that’s a different story)… and packed the spandex, shoes, helmet, and headed for the lake.

A typical Tuesday has me sitting at the microphone and working with the course marshals officiating, and Billy and John and a myriad of volunteers, doing the brainiac scoring, check-in etc. This week, I headed out on my bike to warm up a little and check the course for the last minute. Somewhere between the morning and the afternoon (course was already set up) 4 trees with 6 inch trunks had fallen accross the singletrack in the cottonwoods, so I got to work, a great pre-ride, into the cottonwoods with our little, handy dandy CHAINSAW.  It took the efforts of Matt from InCycle, Bill Stone, our Beginner 4 Points Leader and several other riders to move the 4 trees out of the course…all around 4:30pm…my heart was pounding, just from the adrenaline of the “what if we can’t get it cleaned up” option (all in the life of a glorious promotor’s world). After the tree was removed and the course clear, I rolled a couple sections of the course, and headed to the start.

The field was led out by our pros and experts, joined this week by Sid Taberlay (Sho-Air), along with expert Racers Ty Kady (Sho-Air) and our resident pro leaders Jason Siegle (Bike Religion) and Expert leader Jason Rusnak. Of course since they started, my wave was only two horn squawks away….my heart was pounding, like a 12 year old with the weight of the world on his shoulders at the 5th grade Jog-A-Thon.

Sid Taberlay (Sho-Air) charging with his H2OOverdrive socks and headed to a 3+ min. pro win (photo Jason Zindroski)

I’m not a race veteran, will kind of, my last race was Vision Quest, 2008, though mountain biking is a passion, I’m a trail rider, not a racer.  I started mountain biking for rehab and it stuck. (For those who love a back story,  you can pick a piece of it up here).   But to see everybody else race all season, made the contagious tingle be a little too much to bare so I decided to line up. Several riders had given me instructions. Get out fast, hold your line, get into the single track before it backs up.  One of my buddies actually offered to escort me through the course on his rear wheel…sounded like a good idea to me (at the time).

John started us off, and I literally headed out, top of my gears toward the single track and hit it in 5th or 6th position going in.  Rolled through the cottonwood section and down the drop out of the single track, along the fire road and into the S-Turns on the far side of the lake, then made the turn still with a large group of the S2’s who I was racing with in sight. (I wasn’t with them anymore, but they were in sight).  My glory, spent, and now the reality kicks in, since adrenaline was gone so was the rest of my group.

(photo Zindroski)

Making that left turn onto the flats on the back stretch of the course, my heart pounding, all I could think about was grabbing someone’s wheel. Actually, there were two thoughts, that gnarly steep/quick climb on the other side, which I’d have to climb 3 times over the course of the race. Uggh! I consider myself fit, usually can hang in the middle of a group ride, and love competition. But now 1/4 into my first lap, the competition was me versus me. I knew I had to finish or my ego would eat me for dinner. DNF not an option, I’d walk through the finish line if I had to.

Rolling through the staging area, I have to tell you the best thing I had going for my pained body was the smile from ear to ear I grew hearing my wife, and 2 and 3 year old saying “Go Daddy, Go!”, it gave me another little boost. (Good to be a hero in your kids eyes, even slipping to the back of my group). The back side of the course single track was my favorite section, super flowy and tight in sections, with the killer roll off the bridge into the left 30 foot climb section immediately off the bridge.  Interesting to me, was though there was a little congestion through the single track (read a few people in front and behind me) I never once was caught in a bottle neck.

From an organizers perspective I couldn’t be more proud of what happens out on the course. Kids were encouraged by almost every rider I heard and saw passing them (and me), riders who couldn’t make sections that could have clogged pulled their bikes out of the way to let people pass, and I had some great quick interchanges with people along the way.  Josh Baldwin (S2) and I rode down the backstretch on my third lap, and he told me, “I’ve raced 3 and I’m hooked; this is great for a dad with kids at home I love being able to race on Tuesdays, close to home and work. Thanks!”. (sorry Josh I know you didn’t know you were being interviewed. James Ackerman looked at me as I rode by him on the last climb and said, “hey, aren’t you supposed to be announcing?”

On lap 2 I found a rythym. It still hurt, but I was in my “no man’s slot” and riding solo, almost the entire two laps…good and bad I suppose.  The light changed all night long, so each time I hit a section into the sun it changed the ride…just another thing spectators miss watching the course. Easy to not notice some the technical aspects of racing in a group of people.  Several times I could see 50 feet in front of me, but not the single track below my tires, so I  pointed and shot…it worked out for me this time.

Back in the staging area, the festivities rocked on, like every night, pre-post race volunteers from Incycle and the Dream Bikes came out with Crankbrothers, to make it another great night at the Lake.

Lap three was my most eventful one, on the back flats I was pushing 19 miles an hour with my big ring, maxing out. Sid Taberlay, caught me (surprised I wasn’t), but he was all alone.  I think I saw him for 1 minute and he was around the corner up the hill, and onto finish more than 3 minutes ahead of the rest of the pro field.  As I climbed the last gnarly steep hill on the back side of the course I ran into one dad, running support for his Junior racer helping him up the back steep section with a turbo boost push, and he was a proud dad.

Then it got really interesting. At the top of the last fast descent I hung on the wheel of Pro Jason Siegle (my new claim to fame), for 10 seconds…and that’s essentially where my race ended.  I came up on our EMT with a rider in the right side of the road chucked my bike, waived riders through slowly, and waited for the paramedics to arrive.

Good news, Dan, the crashed rider is now out of the hospital and walking around, and still loves Over the Hump. However the bad news is Dan’s season is over.  He broke two ribs and suffered a concussion.  Fortunately that was the extent of the injuries for a serious fall. We wish you the best Dan.  Now enter some all-around good people. Candy, from Surf City Cyclery, who knew Dan was one of their own friends and customers,  suspected the injury might be him, rode a bike back to us at the injury.  Candy took care of all things personal that Dan had at the race…including calling family, taking his truck back to Huntington, and locking his bike up for safe keeping.  I was so impressed by each of the riders who rode by asking if they could do anything before continuing.  EMT’s, paramedics, and friends, thanks for all you did to help us during a less than perfect situation.

After sending Dan off to the hospital, I headed on in…knowing DNF was going to be a technical semantic , but heck, I rode the whole course to  get my 1:49:33.0 33rd place finish in the S3 category. That gives me 17 points for the season, and in strong competition for …my girls to keep cheering.

The more notable finishes of the night: movement happened in the S3 Series results with Derek Nye moving back into the #1 slot, and Craig Erion killing it in the S4 category and having worked himself into the #1 Series slot.

Pro finishes went: 1 Sid Taberlay , 2 Jason Siegle ,  3 Eric Bierman

Expert finishes went: 1 Johnny O’Mara , 2 Ty Kady Brea , 3 Jason Rusnak

The best battle of the night was faught between Women’s Sport class riders, and came down to a gnarly battle: 1 Wilhelmina Zuckerman (lost her chain and was down for 30 seconds in last lap, and keeps the Verizon Leader Jersey), two seconds behind her, 2 Amy Griffin , and two seconds behind her 3 Hilary Mann

There were plenty of other battles fought, won and lost out on the course, and you can find all the rest of the results on the RESULTS page.

"End of the race, everyone's smiling" STR (photo Zindroski)

So, from this Over the Hump “racer”, to the rest of our racers. Each of you who races each week, you’ve earned a huge congratulations and ton of respect from our Over the Hump Team.  I knew it was tough, and knew I’d suffer, and as my wife summed it up best at the end of my ride, looking at my dust goggled-tired face (Charity’s raced two beginner races herself), “I told you it was going to be tougher than you thought it would be, didn’t I”.  It was harder than I imagined, and much more fun, too.

Every rider out there rocks!

See you at the lake. We love this race, and all the people involved. Thanks for letting me be a 12 year old kid with you all for one week. Now I’ve got to get back to work and jump back on the microphone and exercise my gums for the rest of the season. If you’re a rider on the fence and been wondering what it’s like to race Over the Hump, like me, here’s how you can find out…CLICK HERE, JUST DO IT. $25 and an hour of your life, you’ll never have a regret.

Only 3 more races left…


  • By Craig Erion - on Reply

    Awesome job Matt. Good for you for stopping to assist Dan. What an ugly place to fall! I’m glad he’s okay and I’m glad you now feel our pain while we’re on course. Keep up the good stuff you do for all of us racers!

  • By JD - on Reply

    Loved your story. I had just discovered OTH and entered the last 2 races. First race finished respectfully (in my mind), 2nd was DNF due to flats. Not a problem, still had a blast! Your course supporters are awsome. Thanks to the support guy who helped w/ my 1st flat and gave me a roaring push start to get back in the race. Can’t wait to ride the whole season next year.

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