It was great to be out at Lake Sonoma again for SoNoMas and see the growth of the event from the previous year. The course is deemed as the hardest around, and I’d say it’s a hard one for sure. The constant undulating terrain around the lake is what makes it difficult, but the trails are really fun too. The trails are mainly hard packed with loose top soil so there is a fine line of both skill and your tire selection. Last year I rode the event on a very fast rolling file tread tire, but this year chose to go with a still fast tire, but with a little more knob. The WTB Nano’s are my go to tire for most races and for training, they are everything you need; fast, light, and keep you upright.
Since we had an 8 o’clock start time the day started early at 4:45 so I could eat, pick up my buddy, and make it there by just before 7. Races out at the lake are notorious for it being blazing hot and this day looked like it would be the same. Luckily, a breeze was coming in steadily from the west to keep things a bit cooler. After the typical race business of picking up your number and throwing on all your gear it was time get in a quick warm up. The line to pick up my number was running a little slow so it cut into the warm up a little. This race is pretty long (around 3 hours) so a little less time on the bike beforehand isn’t a terrible thing.
I pedaled up and down rockpile road for the next 35 minutes before we took off. On my last time down the hill I saw it was past time to line up, everyone was ready to go. I swung in the start area and squeezed into a spot on the front line. The race was supposed to roll out neutral up the road climb, but neutral starts rarely every are just that. As Bike Monkey founder Carlos Perez in the lead out truck sped up the road I did too. I didn’t feel like the pace I was going was unnatural for the start of a race, but when we began ascending the steeper parts of the road I looked over my shoulder and say the entire filed a ways back. At that point I knew how many miles lie ahead and figured it be best to slow up a bit and let someone else do the pace making until we hit dirt.
After maybe 10 minutes of climbing on the road it was time for the real race to begin. Aren Timmel blasted off the front to hit the single track first and I followed, just like last year. He and I raced up and down the trails with a small gap on the rest of the guys. The guys close behind were Jim Hewitt, Will Curtis, and Clint Classesn. As I started gapping them off just a little bit, I foolishly made a left turn instead of going right. Timmel being the good sportsman he is his yelled out to me and I quickly turned around and caught back on. At this point it was Aren, Clint, and I in a group on the front. We continued together for about a mile before one more was split off. Clint and I climbed back up to the road together where we then intersected with a few of the races doing the short course. As we were going a steep rutted descent right off the road I saw clint swerve a little hitting some rocks pretty hard and then move again quickly off the trail to avoid hitting another racer. I continued on, later to find out that he punctured his front tire but was able to get it to seal with a couple stops blasting it with co2.
Just like last year, on the front and charging alone. I continued on at a steady race tempo with words of encouragement from the seldom people out on course. It feels remote when you are out on the far side of the lake with no one around. Out on the furthest end of the course I grabbed a cold bottle in the feed zone, which was so refreshing in the heat. From there I was passing more and more races that were on the short course that omitted the first section of the long course. I figured this was how it would be the rest of the way back in. The race was well under way at this point and I was on the trail back around the last side of the lake. As I came out of a small creek bed spinning a high cadence I heard a loud pop and my cranks moving forward but were doing nothing. Instantly I jumped off my bike thinking I’d just dropped my chain. The problem was much worse, a stick wound through my derailleur, chain, cassette, spokes, and everything else in the gears causing my derailleur hanger to snap ending the race.
Upset with the situating I tried a couple things get back going to no avail. The race was no longer going my way and I started my hike back to the feed zone a mile back to see how I could get home. I ended up getting a ride back to the harbor on a boat from some super nice guys camping nearby. I made it back to the start finish shortly after some of the guys were rolling in. It was a heartbreaker of a race, but anything can happen and it’s time to let it go and focus on the races ahead.
Category: U.S. News