Getting There is Half the Fun?

Dear All,
At 4 am on Saturday the Bennett’s were at Oakland Int’l airport anticipating their flight to Philly and on to Munich. At the last minute the flight was cancelled and they had to hustle to San Jose and just made a flight. Once at Philly they were waylaid due to storms and when I got a call Sunday at 8:30 am Pam was telling me that they were in Manchester England (Near London) and about to get on a flight to Munich. One problem: they had been separated fro their luggage and bikes. By bikes I mean that they were with 2 downhillers who were in the same boat. Pam asked me to follow-up on the luggage.
My persistence with US Airways was useless in the face of protocols, which call for filing a claim within 4 hours of arrival at the final destination with the last carrier, in this case, Lufthansa. At about noon as we were driving my son Miguel to the Invitational Camp in Tahoe I get a call from Pam that they have arrived in Munich but no luggage. We talk about ideas of resting, sending the boys ahead, and finally decide that talking to Mark Cunningham at USA Cycling in Val di Sol to appreciate their priorities and intentions would be best.
Today I talked to Keith Bennett, his dad, and he told me that they finally got their luggage and most importantly their bikes. Charlie Tondu at Solano Avenue Cyclery spoke with John before leaving about what do to if he lost his bike. Clearly John was better prepared by this discussion. The racers were on their way by shuttle for the 200 mile trip from Munich to Val di Sol though wearing clothing they had hand washed and dried by towel and hairdryer at the hotel. They anticipate arriving at Val di Sol around 4 pm Monday, 7 am our time, and, as the course will be closed, will try to get a ride in before dark.
John said he feels pretty good after a good nights’ rest and seems to be making the time adjustment. He said he plans to do a couple laps on the 6 km course tomorrow when the course is open for Pre-Ride from 9-Noon. His race on Tuesday, a relay comprised of the Top Man, Top Woman, Top 23 Under and John, the Top 18 Under, starts at 1pm, 4 am our time. The relay is a great event as it showcases some of the worlds’ top XC talent, from 18 countries, in one time. From what I can tell, and don’t place your bets just yet, it looks like 4 6 km laps or about 5 miles per athlete.
The course begins in the valley floor at 2700 ft and tops out at about 3100 ft. Is altitude going to be a concern? For reference this is like racing around the top of Mt. Tam. As near as I can tell there is about 500-650 ft of climbing per lap with ups and downs like the early part of Boggs. That is just over 150 ft per mile which is what we average around here. In the last 1/3 there is a 9-10% climb of 300 ft elevation in 2/3 of a mile, which is very similar to our Hill Climb Time Trial at Big Springs in Tilden. There was a bit of rain today, about ¼ inch, and reports call for clear weather Tuesday morning with a chance of rain in the afternoon.
For all of you MTB race fans and racers out there I know you can imagine crowding the yellow tape and craning your neck to see who is next to come around the bend. There will be cowbells! You can just see the gaps from the climbs, bodies humping past you with dirt on one side of their bodies, snapped chains, spinning loose on slick roots and rocks, athletes gaining and losing, private races with the racer next to you and digging deep. Can you imagine seeing John come around the bend with his poker face? For those of you who are NorCal High School League Racers and have raced with John (like Will), or seen him compete, that image is just a bit clearer.
It is fitting that the NorCal League is holding its Invitational Camp at Granibakken above Lake Tahoe, at over 6200 ft., during the UCI Championships. All of the NorCal racers who raced all season and tasted the Podium to qualify for this camp must certainly know that John rides for you, that you are in his thoughts, and has asked me to challenge you to work well this week. He asked for a special nod to all the coaches who work so hard to make the NorCal events so meaningful and to all who contributed their thoughts and made financial contributions to get him to Val di Sol.

More reports to come!

Michael Mejia
Director, El Cerrito Racing

For more info about the race go to:

http://www.mtbvaldisole2008.it/default.aspx?IDL=2