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  1. #1
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    High School Mtb - State Championship race

    If you're in the Bay Area and want to get a taste of high school mtn bike racing ala the NorCal vs. SoCal high school leagues, come on out to Stafford Lake Park in West Novato this Sunday. Racing starts at 10:00 am and goes into the early afternoon with podium awards typically around 3:30. Definitely a family and spectator friendly environment. Expect 500+ high school racers and a couple thousand supporters!

    High School Mtb - State Championship race-stafford-lake-map.jpg

  2. #2
    bicycle rider
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    I'll be there, along with four racers from the Oakland Composite team.

    Coach Morgan

  3. #3
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    Race hard, race smart, race well, have fun, make memories.
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  4. #4
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    That's not a championship level course. Two way traffic on any race course, especially one involving High School Athletes, is unacceptable, just cut that section out, head on collisions are a serious liability. 500 feet of climbing per lap? Weak. This should have been the opener. Boggs or Santa Inez, or even Lagun Seca are worthy courses. MTBing involves CLIMBING, this course has none. Way to go NICA. Oh, I forgot, mountain biking is the "t-ball of cycling". (quote from NICA's web site, is that not insulting?).

  5. #5
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    I don't think there's any two-way traffic on this course.

    Morgan

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by Silent_G View Post
    That's not a championship level course. Two way traffic on any race course, especially one involving High School Athletes, is unacceptable, just cut that section out, head on collisions are a serious liability. 500 feet of climbing per lap? Weak. This should have been the opener. Boggs or Santa Inez, or even Lagun Seca are worthy courses. MTBing involves CLIMBING, this course has none. Way to go NICA. Oh, I forgot, mountain biking is the "t-ball of cycling". (quote from NICA's web site, is that not insulting?).
    In the days of the development of NorCal it was considered the Little League of mtb racing. The point if the statement was best proven by a quote from the greatest High School champion this area has ever seen, El Cerrito Racing's John Bennett, as he went on to have his road victories around the country and in Europe.

    When asked by a reporter about his days in NorCal he said, "they got me on a bike." Folks like you might have found this insultling. As the coach who started him I was never so proud of an athlete. What he said takes all of the over-amped racer-head adults who are all about victories and podiums, big fish in small ponds, and places them exactly where this kind of racing stands in the overall scheme of things.

    What longtime coaches and supporters of this NorCal/NICA experience (absent professional coaching systems like Whole Athlete) come to realize is that it is only the beginning of what ends up being a long love affair with mountain biking and much less about racing.

    Very few of these riders go on to race after they graduate and, frankly, it can take years to undo the burden of racing habits and the over-focus on discipline to get back to a basic love of the overall sport. Racing as a task can be haunting and even the simple invitation of a ride reverberates the echos of performance questions.

    At the other end these atheltes will always be a cut above most riders. Their bikes are better kept, their gear is in better trim, they are better prepared, and are much more durable and flexible than most. Somehow they never lose that respect for the sport.

    One must realize that over 85% of the participants in these leagues never get to a podium. If that is the case then what miust their experience be? How do you support them? You support them by understanding, educating, showing them respect, joy, appreciation, and training them within their facility to embrace it.

    Even after all of that, these t-ballers will leave you in the dust, come back and get you, and bring you to the trailhead.

    The course is another thing; it wants development. Yet 400 of the leagues atheletes live in Marin, Contra Costa, and Alameda counties so it works for at least 1000-1500 participants, supporters , family, and friends who are coming to what is a very exciting piano recital.
    I don't rattle.

  7. #7
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    very nice article in Santa Rosa Press Democrat the other day:
    A new generation of racers: Empire schools embracing mountain biking - PD Preps
    I bet you'd do the same if they was you!

  8. #8
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    Very nice. Great spirit. Take them seriously, build, keep it fun.
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  9. #9
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    Got back form the race a few hours ago. Course is terrible. I mean it is made up of hiking trails and mowed cow pasture. Boggs is my favorite course of the series and that would be a PERFECT course for states. Just my input.

    As far as my race went, I unofficially got around 20th in Sophomore boys D2. I got a good start position and felt good throughout the whole 15 miles. Time to get the summer training cranking, and hopefully have a successful season next year in JV

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    20 is awesome. Congratulations.

    The course always has the same complaints but it is still a matter of crossing the finish line.

    Great job.
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  11. #11
    J-Flo
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    Quote Originally Posted by Silent_G View Post
    That's not a championship level course. Two way traffic on any race course, especially one involving High School Athletes, is unacceptable, just cut that section out, head on collisions are a serious liability. 500 feet of climbing per lap? Weak. This should have been the opener. Boggs or Santa Inez, or even Lagun Seca are worthy courses. MTBing involves CLIMBING, this course has none. Way to go NICA. Oh, I forgot, mountain biking is the "t-ball of cycling". (quote from NICA's web site, is that not insulting?).
    I'm afraid you are mistaken. There was no T-Ball here. The course is deceptively difficult. It is extremely bumpy, mostly because Stafford Park is closed to bikes except for this race (and many of the trails were built for this race), so more than half the course is lumpy, severely gopher-ridden cow pasture converted into trails. The comment from one rider above is common, but many kids enjoyed it and even the kids who don't like the course had a good time. Hot and dusty conditions made it still more difficult. Although there was not much overall elevation gain, the gain was mostly a series of short, brutally steep climbs, a few of them technical, that required top fitness to ride up. And there was no two way traffic on any trail -- the map shows what is an out-and-back loop separated by tape in the middle.

    I am no expert, but I rode every race course in the Norcal series this year during pre-race practice, including this one, and this was the only one where I felt beat and pounded after one lap. My kid, who earned a podium spot in his division, had a very sore back from the rough trail afterwards. For sure, this course is much more torture and less fun than Boggs, Laguna Seca, Fort Ord, or Granite Bay (the sites of earlier Norcal League races this season), but that doesn't make it unsuitable as a championship course. The challenges of the course affect everyone equally -- and this was definitely no walk in the park. Someday there will be a first class mountain biking area and skills park in Stafford Lake, if Marin County can figure out how to allow it to be built, and it is a very good thing to bring this event into Marin County.

    I also agree 100% with Berkeley Mike's comments above. The high school racing scene is all about getting kids on bikes and building healthy bodies and attitudes. The league is very competitive and there are some incredible atheletes here who will be riding pro in a few years, but the great mass of kids will simply become happy, fit, mountain-bike-riding adults. And that is not just OK; it is great.
    Last edited by J-Flo; 05-20-2013 at 11:20 AM. Reason: typo fix

  12. #12
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    I agree 100% with Jfloren

  13. #13
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    I think it fair to support some of the criticism of the Stafford Lake course. A course that challenges you with the traditional features of climbs, twists, single track limiting passing, water, and such, is very different from one that just beats you up. Both challenge everyone but simple difficulty in a broad sense is not necessarily a cogent criteria of quality.

    In the first year of Championships which included the SoCal league (2009 I believe) the kids from LA just marveled at Boggs; sub-alpine, narrow tracks, all the green. In comparison to the dry rolling brown they raced in this was heaven; a championship course to be proud of.

    I heard similar complaints about the Stafford Lake course last year (and of the Infineon course in 2008, too). A lot of the kids just hated it. Did they develop it any over last year's conditions?

    And....this must all be considered in light of the fact that good courses are very rare around here. A race can bring 1500-2000 people, a logistical challenge to any location; access, parking, sanitation, water, food, shade.....

    Lake Sonoma (Billy Cross) was fun but it ended up that it could not manage the League's size after a few years. When my El Cerrito team joined the League in 2002 we brought the League's rider total to 76. Both of the Angels Camps courses were great but are not used anymore; I think there were political/production problems. Sea Otter doesn't work too well, either; confusing production challenges, scattering League attendees, lack of support from the SO folk; just a thrash. Grant's Ranch turned out to be too fast and injuries had to be choppered out. Walker Creek in West Marin was very cool but also very expensive. The Nevada City Champs was a muddy hell-hole in May of 2003 but the Champs at Grass Valley in 2010 were heaven.

    Ft.Ord/CCCX/East Garrison is wonderful but many think it is a too-often used default course. Same with the Granite Bay course. Even if you change directions many teams and riders are tired of them. Most all of these courses suffer from the size of the attendance and consequent stresses. One of the most interesting courses was in the BLM/Ft.Ord lands called Pilarcitos; huge fun, tough climbs, interesting sections, beautiful views. It's just that there was no way to manage all the people.

    Stafford Lake was a new option which excited many. It may answer certain critical needs as a venue but as a mountain bike race course it makes China Camp look like Skeggs.
    Last edited by Berkeley Mike; 05-20-2013 at 10:36 AM.
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  14. #14
    J-Flo
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    At last year's race (the first ever at Stafford Lake Park), the course was quite a bit easier and very widely disliked. The bumpiness was, if anything, slightly worse. The second half of the course had only one really hard climb. (The course was used last year for the Norcal Championships; the State Championships were in Los Olivos and will be in SoCal again next year.)

    This year the second half of the course was re-routed by the Norcal league hosts and volunteer squads to be a bit more interesting/diabolical and challenging from a fitness point of view, with the inclusion of many more turns and sudden sharp climbs. It looked more or less the same on the map but was a lot different on the ground. But I doubt anyone (except maybe the race winners) would accuse this of being a "great" course in the class of Boggs or Ft. Ord/Laguna Seca.

    The real trouble, as Mike explains, is the lack of venues that can accommodate the now very-large group of people (there were 600 riders and easily 2,000 people total yesterday), will permit closure of the trails to non-racers during the race, has good safety access for EMTs, and is reasonably accessible to as many people as possible. Virtually all of the great riding areas within 3 hours' drive of the Bay Area lack one or more of these requirements. (Remember, these are all 14-18 year old kids, and safety and EMT accessibility are paramount concerns. Someone had a bad crash yesterday and he was out of there in an ambulance in 30 minutes flat -- very impressive; I heard he was "going to be fine" but don't know any details.) We could have gone back to Ft. Ord or Laguna Seca, I suppose, but we already had three races there this year!

  15. #15
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    It wasn't a great course but it was a great event.

    I wonder if Wilder could ever be an option? Seems like it hits most or all of the criteria.

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    Wilder does have potential to be a venue but the fire roads are the main issue. These races are usually made up of ~5 mile laps. In order to have a race at wilder, there would be no way to avoid going downhill on fire roads at very high speeds. The league does not want this. It would be no problem for a rider like me who regularly rides there, but it is still do big of a safety concern. My dad("manager" of the Santa Cruz Mountains team) is going to work on getting a race at roaring camp/ Henry cowell within the next few years.

    Speaking of the kid who crashed, I believe he crashed at the bottom of a short little downhill where at the bottom is a little 6 inch gulley. There was a natural mound of dirt to the side so the fastest way was to double it. I think I was the last person to take this line just before I saw someone taping it off.

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    Im new here to mtbr forums, I was scrolling through norcal and saw this. I race in the D1 Sophomore group and I heard that there might be an Annadel State park race next year, sounds super fun since ive ridden there before and would make an awesome race course, very challenging and fast paced with a lot of hills. Can't wait until next season as this was my first season racing, and i loved it.

  18. #18
    J-Flo
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    Quote Originally Posted by Grahamlynn1 View Post
    Im new here to mtbr forums, I was scrolling through norcal and saw this. I race in the D1 Sophomore group and I heard that there might be an Annadel State park race next year, sounds super fun since ive ridden there before and would make an awesome race course, very challenging and fast paced with a lot of hills. Can't wait until next season as this was my first season racing, and i loved it.
    Annadel is, of course, fantastic. But it is much more technical (and thus potentially dangerous) than any Norcal race site, and thus could be too difficult for the beginners who the NICA leagues encourage to race. I suspect that factor, plus the need for large parking and staging areas that really are not available at Annadel or Spring Lake, means we won't see Norcal-sponsored high school races at Annadel.

    You can still race at Annadel on August 17, although you will have to contend with several hundred adult racers. Check it out at Annadel | Bike Monkey. This race begins in downtown Santa Rosa. The "short course" is still quite long and definitely not for beginners, particularly if it is hot (as it probably will be). Last year they had a "Junior" category (14-17) that raced a 22-mile loop and included many Norcal riders among the 15 boys who raced. I assume there will be a junior category again this year, but this is not clear and registration is not yet open.

  19. #19
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    Nice work, Ryan!
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  20. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jfloren View Post

    You can still race at Annadel on August 17, although you will have to contend with several hundred adult racers.
    Not too much of a problem; most of these NorCal kids will blow the old farts out of the water. And...they'll be courteous about it, too.
    I don't rattle.

  21. #21
    J-Flo
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    Quote Originally Posted by Berkeley Mike View Post
    Not too much of a problem; most of these NorCal kids will blow the old farts out of the water. And...they'll be courteous about it, too.
    That's for sure. And if you need proof, check out the results for Cat 1 and Cat 2 "Junior" racers at Sea Otter this year. Most of these were NorCal kids, and their divisions were among the most competitive. For example, if all Cat 2 racers of all ages had raced together, the "Juniors" would have dominated the top 20 spots.

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