A comeback tale…Or what could have been a tale of stupidity had the outcome been different.

Before the action I’ve got to give everyone a little back story here so that you can fully appreciate the obsession that Downieville can create and also to know why I’m so happy right now. I mean what else could drive a normally sane person to give up alcohol (no weird vegetarian rules here–ALL ALCOHOL) refined sugar, coffee, and make about one meal a day cottage cheese for seven and a half months–thats 7 1/2 . My co-workers thought I was crazy, my Wife,…well she knows me. I’m doing interval work outs to my Downieville helmet cam footage all winter long. Hello obsession we’ve got to go to work now.

Then Lars, Phil, & I stop by Weir’s pump track on the way back from the Sea Otter this year and inspired by Lars’ truly Jedi ninja warrior pump track skills I go off & break my navicular scafoid (Wrist bone that is the slowest healing bone in the human body–no joke). Doc say’s elbow to knuckles cast 6-12 weeks. I think it’s going to be 6 but yeeha it basically takes the full 12. This whole time the the motivational hamster in my brain is going nutty for some real riding.

Now it’s Thursday before Friday before Downieville XC Saturday & DH Sunday and I finally get my cast off. 2 days before the race I finally get my cast off and look at my arm. Now my arms aren’t much bigger than a dogs legs anyway but the cast arm now looks like it belongs to an albino featherless chicken. Or Mr Burns on a good day “Smithers, squeeze that front brake for me” And inspires exactly that much confidence when I try to grip the bars.

Now it’s Friday and we’ve made it through all the smoke and arrived in D-ville, in all the smoke, and I hitch a ride up to the DH start to get a practice run in (something I will later realize was the stupidest thing I do all weekend unless you count the fact that I raced). At the start line I take a moment to reflect on my Doc’s parting words yesterday “It’s mostly better but if you crash on it you will re-break it…What?…Yes even with the brace”,& then I pedal off onto my first dirt in 3 months. I spend the next 46min in..well pain. Hand pain mostly. I’ve got my sweet CTi Carbon fiber wrist brace to help support my 15% range of motion in my wrist but I totally forgot about the fact that the skin on my hand has gone back to babies butt soft. I end up with a constellation of blisters on my palm and it soon eclipses the pain from my wrist itself.

Now it’s Saturday morning. I spray liquid skin on my palm, Moleskin over that, & athletic tape over that & make my way to the start of the XC race. I figure I can at least race the first uphill section and if I have to pull out somewhere on the DH section then so be it. There are 800 racers this year. New record attendance. After the start gun roughly half those racers blast past me on their way to eventual inevitable grim implosion. I’m pedaling along next to Miles Rockwell, Brian Lopes, & Greg Herbold and Brian says it best “See you guys later”. I smile because I know these people wizzing by in the first mile have no clue what they’re in for. I wait a polite moment & then head off on my own pace and steadily pick people off during the almost hour long climb. Then there’s the descent. All I’ll say about the descent is that it share’s a big part of the DH course and the part it doesn’t share is perhaps even more rough than the DH course itself. I whined like a six year old all the way down, But I didn’t see a single person the whole way down so maybe I didn’t make a sound after all. I caught & passed some more people on the flats & false flats leading back to the finish & eventually ended up in 10th in the XC All mtn Pro class. Stoked about that!! Everything from this point on was gravy or icing. Ross Schnell won the XC in a flat out killin’ it new course record kind of way. Jason Moeschler got 2nd, and Weir got 3rd. I think Lopes was somewhere in the top 20 and Rockwell somewhere in the top 30 but I’m not sure about those.

800racers.jpgOuchMore ouchI wonder if Chris King will bring me more pancakes?DH race start

Now It’s Sunday morning and I get real pro active about those blisters. 3 layers liquid skin, moleskin, duct tape, boot foam to try to space the blistered area off the bar a bit, then another layer of duct tape, followed by an Ibuprofen. Then it’s off to the races as they say. I had the honor of going 3rd off the line based on my 3rd place from last year. Let’s just say the Doc’s words went through my mind a few more times as I sat at the start line. I watched Weir take off, Jason, & then all too soon I was cued up & on the course.

I was a bit cautious…3 months prior it was my goal to win the DH…and lining up to the start I no longer had any expectations at all. I kept thinking I would see Jergen Beneke’s ghost catching me–#4 off the line. The slower technical turny bumpy stuff is what bothered my wrist/hand/pain-claw the most & the high speed open stuff was pretty OK. I started seeing dust near the bottom of Butcher & then turning off the bridge & starting the climb I saw someone in a WTB jersey just getting ready to turn the corner. Didn’t see Jason again until the finish. After the climb there’s a super fast section of wide open 40mph stuff with 25-30ft floaters–Fun stuff. And then you pedal, and pedal, little tiny downhill shred’n about here, and pedal, a lil’ bile here, and pedal, and then finally you’re done.

After I caught my breath at the finish line – things were looking pretty good indeed. There was a buzz going on. the gap between Jason Moeschler & myself was very small & no-one as yet knew in whose favor it was. We had both posted times about a minute and a half faster than last year’s times. Weir hadn’t come through yet and he was first off the line. Jergen was well off the pace–A bad mechanical like Weir–we later found out. Rockwell & Lopes came through with good times but not faster. A bunch of others but none closer. Then Ross Schnell…Damn him. Seat set at XC height..XTR Dual control shifters…little blood on him…had to pass 9 racers—–Killed us. about a minute faster. Psst…Let’s not tell him about Gravity Dropper Seatposts..MmmKay? I don’t care though..I am SO Stoked with 3rd! and damn happy with the chance to share the podium with legends like Rockwell & Lopes
When the dust settled the DH ended up;

1 Ross Schnell 44:35

2 Jason Moeschler 45:27

3 Nathan Riddle 45:38

4 Miles Rockwell 47:04

5 Brian Lopes 47:23

fast companyriddle_lopes_weir.jpgDo you think missing your rear derailleur slowed your time down a bit?Now what’s your secret tire pressure again?I jumped like 6 feet over this guy when I passed him…Braapp!

In the All mtn overall results I ended up 6th….

A huge thanks out to Simon & Fluidride for all the support to help make it happen. Big thanks also to all the Team Sponsors. Huge Huge thanks to my wife Wendy for carting me to and fro Downieville all weekend. Huge thanks to the people of Downieville for letting us overrun their territory for the better part of a week.

I figure in about another month I’ll start scheming & obsessing over next years Downieville.