A Night in the Dirt: Over the Hump LA at Castaic Lake

I raced this week.

I have to tell you, Over the Hump LA County is a super fun course, perfectly set next to Castaic Lake, and all the racers  and spectators are bringing what we call “Over the Hump Magic” to the LA race venue, for the past two weeks. Week One, May 23, was nostalgic to say the least.

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Jimmy Mac, Mountain Bike Action Magazine Editor put on his 3 laps for the night! (Photo: Scott McClain)

As John and I watched Over the Hump LA County launch at Castaic Lake, last week, we were beamingly proud. We could not believe that our little 10 minute phone call in the summer of 2009, had turned into THIS.  Not pride in the traditional sense of our own accomplishment and brilliance. But pride in the group of people that is YOU and US. Pride in the people that we have known in Orange County as the Over the Hump Community, and now have found out, that unlike anywhere else we’ve ever been, the Over the Hump Community extends at least as far North as Bakersfield, East as Palmdale, West as Santa Barbara, and south as San Diego. (Even with those tested barriers, we heard this week from Daryl from London, on a 6 week “holiday”, so there’s a quiet claim that OTH extends to London on the “East” Side).

Daryl bought a bike for $10 at a Thrift Store, swapped a bottom Bracket and tires for $40 and raced Over the Hump last week. He’s on a 6 week holiday….and says he was amazed how cool everyone was, and what a great event Over the Hump was.  All he had to go on was a flyer, and walked into the OTH Magic we are privileged to experience weekly, since the summer of2009.  From what we’ve seen, we think the boundaries of the OTH community are universal  I mean, who doesn’t like to experience the fun, family and community that bikes and good people make happen; really, it should be innate. After all it’s a kid’s toy we’re riding.

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Families racing together, and cheering each other on is the normal OTH experience.

So this week, I wanted to  sample the goods…after all the hard work of the LA Team, just like when you make a home brew, and have to sip the first bottle, before capping, or dip your finger in the chocolate chip cookie dough batter.  I wanted to taste the LA wares at Castaic Lake. And I have to say there’s nothing like racing Over the Hump.  I’m a veteran events guy, an enthusiastic cyclist, but saying I’m a veteran mountain bike racer would be pushing it.  May 30 at Over the Hump LA was my 4th bike Race ever.  I raced the Orange BMX track in sixth grade, I “raced” Vision Quest in 2008, after rehabbing from a life changing motorcycle crash, and I raced 1 Over the Hump at Irvine Lake in 2010.  So Yesterday’s race was my fourth, in a very short list of dirt races.

As you can imagine, with little experience in the “heat” of racing I was a little nervous, and excited to get going. As we lined up, everybody was chatty in the staging area, and lots of great people nervous, or excited, ready to go.  I put myself in the Sport 2 Class, because 1) I wanted to push myself and 2) I’ve been crying out against the inappropriate placement of experienced riders now for 5 seasons. It was a push for me to go 1 hour and 4 minutes at pretty good exertion, but I did it.

And wow, what a course.  Sensational, to say the least.  The course at Castaic Lake, has an amazing flow, with tons of transitions and rollers, to single tracks through the trees, 1 mellow climb right after the start and a little bit tougher extended climb two thirds of the way through. There’s plenty of room to pass, great little coasting tracks through the creek bed, and one really rewarding both hands in the air roller coaster of a semi-technical single track descent back to earth after the lung challenging climb (because you’re racing at full effort).

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Matt Wenger enjoying closing his 3rd lap lets his smile take over the calf cramp for a moment, before rolling to his 1:08 10th place finish at Over the Hump LA County (Photo Credit: Scott McClain)

When we pre-rode the course it was fun. But under race speed, with the added competitive traffic, the course became exhilarating. I was gasping for air into the first lap. It’s been a busy work season, and I’ve only been on my Trek Remedy 2 times earlier in May, so I knew I was hosed!  But around lap two, I hit my rhythm and the pain of pedaling turned into a bunch of super cheesy smiles by me, as I greeted the marshals and encouraged other racers. They even encouraged me (usually as they passed me). Riding through the exhibit area, loaded with 200+ spectators 3 times a lap is super cool, too. It’s really that type of course design that excited us about Irvine Lake, and Castaic’s Course rocks the same super spectator friendly vibe.

And talking about world class people, I got to race next to the legend Jimmy Mac of Mountain Bike Action, and hob nob with a dad of 4 who drove up, just to race from Pasadena, because he doesn’t have time to fit racing bikes into his weekend of his kids soccer and gymnastics commitments.

Jimmy and I shared a high five after the race, both pretty winded, and celebrated the fact that we had a world class time (meaning experience), but also celebrating that racing was not either of our profession; rather I will always celebrate the fact that as fun as the course gets, 75% of the Over the Hump Experience is really the party that happens midweek, centered around a race on 2 wheeled kids toys. And, though I didn’t get a pint glass for my 10th place, of 15 racers in Sport 2, I did take some great GoPro footage shot backwards of people overtaking me throughout the night (most of them smiling).

Over the Hump is alive and well in LA and off to a hole-shot sprint to run right alongside the Orange County Venue for the best midweek mountain bike race and community anywhere in the world. Good thing we are drafting off each other, because racing with others, blows the doors off racing by yourself.

Now we just need to get the South and North OTHer’s together for a Colossal Party!

I’m one happy racer this week, but I have to tell you, my tired legs won’t mind letting my mouth do the work on the microphone next week; but I have once again, just like when I raced Orange County’s course in 2010, gained a gargantuan amount of respect and humility as I awe over how fast and furious, or passionate and dedicated all of the OTH weekly racers are.  You guys are an off the hook bunch, and those of us who promote and produce the event, are just plain honored you let us share the experience and be a part of the community.

See you at the LAKES!

And to Amber, Kenny, Greg and LA Team, we couldn’t be more proud to be on your team; I’m already improving my personal race endeavor stories, that I’ll tell my someday grandchildren. They’ll all start “back when I raced The Hump”.  

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