Monday, July 13, 2009

Diablo Race #2 (Vernon, NJ)

The last trip to Diablo was without the bus. It was a more focused trip I suppose, with no distractions to worry about other than the race itself. It was a great change from the regular weekend expeditions in the bus, but I've been looking forward to returning in the bus ever since then. On this jaunt we had nine people - Rachel, Kaycie, Ashley, Jake, Jake #2, Sean, Nick, Chris, and myself. The ride up took its usual FOREVER, but this time we had plenty of room inside thanks to my recently built bike rack.

We showed up to the campsite around 3am on Friday night/Saturday morning, pitched some tents, and grabbed a mere three or four hours of sleep before our first day of fun. We rolled into the parking lot the next morning and split off in our two directions - some to the water park and the rest to the bike park.

The race course was tough to say the least. The upper section was only one week old and had little to no traction. The center of the course was new also - although the challenge this time was not limited to a lack of traction. Instead, this was the rock garden. A haphazardly spaced field of boulders, jaggedly pointing in every direction. Finding a line was a real task, and staying on that line was even more of an ordeal. Eventually I did come up with a strategy through the section, but I'm sure it looked like nothing more than a stubborn tear through the center of the garden. Once out of the woods, there was little left of the course. A large step-up followed by a steep left-hand turn that dropped about twenty feet simultaneously. This feature was appropriately named the "crap shoot" since it very often resulted in crashes. I came off the side of the turn once in practice and feel a bit lucky to have survived. After the "crap shoot" the course went through a few tight banks and then spit out into the bottom field. This was where most spectators could watch as riders took their last few turns and flew over a jump before mashing the pedals to the finish line.

After a day of practice we headed back to our campsite to build a fire, cook some burgers and hot dogs, and grab a decent night's sleep.

Sunday was race day! Sean had suffered a fall on our last run the previous day, so he decided to volunteer as a course marshal. Nick did the same in order to get two free day passes for our next trip. I took three practice runs while the rest of our group rode the rest of the park. Jake came back to the bus with a bruised leg and had to end his day of riding a bit early. Soon, however, the races began and I headed to the top of the gondola. My run down the hill was quick, but I decided to play it safe when possible since staying on the bike would be faster than a high-speed wreck. I rode about half of the rock garden with one foot on the pedals after barely saving myself from sliding off course. When I popped out of the garden I pushed the pedals as much as possible, sliding into the dry and dusty corners. My tires were slipping on the loose gravel and sand, but it was a feeling I'd become accustomed to in practice, so I just held on until they found some traction. When I passed the finish line the announcer reported my time and position - second place! There were still several riders to go, but my time held firm and I walked away with a great result.

We packed up the bus after the race, Ashley cooked the remainder of our hot dogs and burgers, and we were soon on the road. About an hour past midnight we pulled into the Rowlett's parking lot, tired and satisfied - looking forward to next weekend's adventure.