Success at Mt. Whitney Stage Race

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We were joined by Craig Spencer (left) and Matt Rhoads at the Mt. Whitney Stage Race this weekend. Both Matt and Craig are an integral part of our program and they ride and race in our team colors as well. Craig was kind enough to write about his experience racing for the first time since Boulevard Road Race in February. Thank you Matt and Craig for coming to the races!

“I generally don’t do races that are far enough away I have to get a hotel room, drive more than 4 hours, and only know one other person going. So why did I sign up for the Mt. Whitney Stage Race? My friend Matt (Rhoads) said he would book the hotel, get us a new Mazda 3 from work to drive there, and best of all our friends Brian and Joy McCulloch will be racing too. Clearly Matt was highly motivated for this race and he really wanted me to go also. The long drive on Highway 395 to Lone Pine gave us plenty of time to catch up.

Mt Whitney stage race is a two-day race. Saturday was 4 loops, 11 miles each, with approximately 1,100 feet of climbing per lap. Looking at the profile I didn’t think the climb would split the main group until the 3rd or final lap. Another factor to this race is the wind. The finishing 2 miles are directly into the wind. We put these two factors into our strategy. Our plan was to stay with the main group as long as possible in order to be paced up the hill and to hide from the wind.

On our first lap we rapidly instituted Plan C; don’t blow up on the climb and be unable to finish. Yep, right out the back of the group on the first climb on the first lap. I made it half way up with the group and Matt popped right at the top. Even with my super low Cyclocross cranks on, I couldn’t spin as easily as I had hoped to. We both managed to ride a couple of laps with other riders, sharing some of the work pacing and fighting the wind. The final time up the climb I started thinking I had to finish today’s stage in order to qualify for Sunday’s stage.

Placing 17th out of 19 ranks right up there with 43rd out of 47 at my first Cross race. At least there I could blame 2 flats for such a poor placing. No worries though, we’ll try again tomorrow when we climb 9 mile Canyon for Sunday’s stage. A deceptive name for a 15.7 mile race with 5,000 plus feet of climbing. After Saturday’s crushing defeat, I know how this day was going to roll out.

Sunday morning we were up at 5:00 am to pack up the bikes, load the car and drive an hour south to the days start. 8:15 am, 80 degrees, and not the slightest bit of a breeze with the sun on our backs, we immediately started climbing. Just as I expected, 10 minutes into the climb I slid off the back. Not a problem though, things were going as planned. Up the hill I chugged, thankful for my low gears. At 10.2 miles the climbing relented. The next 3.5 miles went quickly as the road was flat with several gentle small undulations. According to Steve Barnes, the race promoter, the last 2 kilometers (1.2 miles) were the hardest part of the climb. When the 2k to go cone appeared, I saw he wasn’t joking. By the time I reached the final kilometer I was doing the paper-boy back and forth across the street. One hour forty three minutes of pure endorphin high. I don’t know where I placed for the weekend and I really don’t care. I finished and am happy with that result. I would do it all over again just to spend the time with my friends and going for a little bike ride.”

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Brian and Joy won their respective road races on Saturday, putting KHS-Maxxis pb JAKROO and the McCulloch Family in the leaders jersey’s going into Sunday’s long hill climb. Joy won that stage as well, winning the overall. Brian rode to a solid 4th place finish for 3rd place overall. It was another great weekend of racing!

Thank you KHS, Maxxis, JAKROO Custom Apparel, Shimano, Serfas, Hammer Nutrition, Rudy Project, IRT Wheels, Xpedo, Velo Saddles, Praxis Works, Rennie & Associates, Q2, Bike Religion, Chamois Butter, WD-40 Bike, Bicycle Blue Book and the Management of IPA sports.

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