Boggs. Hardly a promising name given the chilling mud bath we experienced at Billy Cross last week. The Club, however, doesnít rattle very easily. As a matter of fact every qualified racer in the Club AND their families, dogs, cookies, and tostadas showed up ready to play. It was a charming drive in the cool dawn through the deciduous oak region; itís fields above Napa Valley bursting with lavender blue lupine amidst the lush Spanish Oats. And when we found Boggs Demonstration Forest it was another one of those patented early spring California days as clear as a bell. When we got to the end of the potholed dirt road and pulled into the ďparking lot,Ē (it was, rather, a clearing in the forest) waiting there for us was Dr. Link, under the Pines, with the absolute best spot.
We set up the tents and the new Banner Frame and all of a sudden everyone was there. Nicky and Don t, Michael and Kelly , Lauren and Jeff , Alvin with Christian and birthday girl Pei (29, thatís the story,) Karin and Bob , Chanel, Wanda and Salvadore , David and his brother, girlfriend, and cookies, Sam and Richard and Annie , Rex and Steve , David and Gina, Jack, and Tom (with his new bike no less,) and Jeffrey, Lynette and Bob . Iím guessing the Club has become well trained because everyone was just a bit earlier than our other Norcal families and ready to go. Maybe they just like to be here.
Our morning routine was flawless with Wanda setting up bagel bits & cream cheese, fruit slices and cookies and banana bread from Pei Evans and Linda Gribble. The shrine to the coffee god was completed and water dogs were set up. The warning invocations of Dr. Link were heard as he fretted over bikes he wasnít 100% sure were ready for his racers. This is all a prelude to his flurry of clinking and spritzing and muttering which transitions into mini-lectures on turning and adjusting and then to that purring drivetrain and that precise chink of smooth shifting. Christian bustled about with Bars and Shots and small adjustments as needed. As soon as it seemed safe and secure Don and Jack & Gina went out to help the League as Course Marshals. As our Club pump was resting lazily in some El Cerrito garage we gave all the tires that deft Vegetable Stand squeeze and the steeds were deemed ready. With a little illness showing up on the Club there were some nerves. Ready or not, though, it was time for warm-ups.
This was the Norcal Leagues first time at Boggs so we held meetings to describe the course. Jeremiah related intelligence about terrain and tactics shared with him from Mark Kintz the Calvary Chapel coach and Mike shared what he received from Berkeley Coach Austin McInerny. The 8.5-mile course was a modified form the traditional course length of 13.5 miles of this long venerated race venue. The course is a series of fire road climbs, with some singletrack climbs, and rolling singletrack downhills. It goes from 3000-3400 feet of altitude and totals about 1500-2000 ft of climbing per lap. Jeff got back from his spin with Bob in time to take out our 3 Girls. Jeremiah took out our 5 Freshmen Boys and we sort of let the 3 Varsity Guys go out on their own and sample the opening climb and get loose. Upon the return of our riders it was on to the starting line.
As we finished just off the Podium at Billy Cross we were pressed back into the throng at the Start in all Categories and, unfortunately this Starting area was narrow and rough. Our practice starts have stressed composure, as all Starts are hazardous. All the small category starts were clean but when you got to the large Boys Categories they were packed like sardines pressing into a funnel. With the clipping in and early acceleration collisions happen. The center of the Freshmen Boys group stalled and stacked up, without injury, but it threw David off and he ended up last off the line. When we saw him last, though, he had quite a head of steam going and was passing guys left and right.
Perhaps the one detraction from perfection at Boggs is that its convenient viewpoints for the race were limited. As such, spectators clustered near Start Finish. The advantage of that is, though, we get to meet people from the other parts of the League and chew the fat on a fine spring morning. Before you know it the Varsity guys are hammering through on the end of their first lap and the parade begins. From then on it is a constant stream of riders from all classifications.
The Frosh/Soph Girls race was one lap and they were the first to come in. Karin Eames was our top Girl finisher again placing 6th, only seconds out of 4th and 5th, in spite of some cramping. It turns out that Karin stopped to support a Varsity Girl rider who had a nasty crash, dislocating her shoulder. Chanel and Lauren came in not too far behind. Chanel was battling a weird stomach but managed herself nicely and put in yet another strong performance. Lauren was in a pitched battle at the finishing stretch with 3 other racers. This is a swooping off-camber downhill right peppered with fist sized rocks. We later saw a JV boy come down that same stretch at speed only to wash out and cartwheel (he was bruised but okay) and watching her going elbow to elbow at speed across this piece of ground was pretty exciting. She was smiling at the end. In fact they all were; our three Girls placed high enough to score us points.
The Freshmen Boys were the next to come in after 1 3/4 laps. The partial lap was deconstructed from the whole by removing the last climb and downhill and the racers, to a man, said they didnít miss it at all. Our top racers made it exciting again. Michael B. was the first seen cresting just uphill from the swooping finishing stretch and Nicky wasnít far behind. As they descended Nickyís eyes got wide and he drove hard for the line on Michaelís right. Michael, looking to cruise into the finish, got wind of the move and reached down for more and at the end of the sprint Michael held Nicky off by 1/2 a wheel to finish 17th and 18th respectively. Sam, in only his 3rd race came in a few minutes later picking up 5 places over his Monterey finish and looking strong, breaking into the top 20. David Gribble picked up 4 spots to 21st and his personal best finding his stride after a tough start and showing real mental toughness. David Miller riding a newly fitted steed, a product of Dr. Links hand, had his best finish ever at 26th and seemed very pleased with his race and his new ride. He was all smiles when Michael B. received his bike after his finish.
Our Varsity Boys were racing 3 laps for a total of almost 27 miles and 5000 ft of elevation. They all went off in a pack but after a lap were completely separated. It is a very competitive category of racers and once you lose site of your competitors you must maintain your own concentration and measure your efforts. Rex seemed to fall back a bit and Jeffrey, back after missing 2 races, was just 6 minutes back. Alvin was very conservative as he has a virus but looked quit even. In the second passing of the Finish Rex, though at about 7th, looked very composed and within himself. Jeffrey appeared to be falling of a bit and Alvin looked as even as ever pacing with a Drake rider. In the end Rex finished very strong and found 2 places in the 3rd lap to finish 5th. Alvin was our next Varsity rider over the crest and was followed closely by Berkeley racer Gabe . These two boys have been dicing it up all season and the sprint for the tape was on. Gabe put in a tremendous effort to bridge Alvin and was actually faster toward the bottom of the turn almost catching Alvinís rear axle. Captain Alvin is a focused athlete, though, and rose to the challenge finding something in the legs to match his speed and win that match-up by a wheel. Jeffrey followed Alvin as a Varsity finisher but he might say he ran himself hard early and paid dearly for it later. Jeffrey is one of the most powerful athletes in our stable and a hardened competitor. So, true to his fashion, Jeffrey finished the 27 miles successfully to the applause of his teammates and scored our 4th highest point total of the day.
Sunday at Boggs we scored the highest Club Point total of our season and finished all of our certified racers for the 15th consecutive event. That our top Varsity racer, Rex , finished on the podium again is a demonstration of his dedication to training and consistency. Several of our athletes performed in spite of being in top form but took the Starting Line and pressed the pedals to give their all, showing great courage and mental toughness. Each of our riders, at someplace in the course, had to deal with tough situations and face the limit of their own resources to finish their race. There is much to manage in a competition in the backwoods of a racecourse and our Club shines. We use our competition within the team to bolster each other, and our skills are shared. And that is not only within the team but our graciousness is well known throughout the League.
Clearly the spirit of our Club has itís own sense of values but they are values tested and measured on the proving ground of the racecourse. At the end of five races we have much to be proud of. As the season progresses our consistency and courage are adding up to some wonderful results. We show up consistently, ride hard, and finish what we start. Our small and young club is being lead by Varsity riders Rex and Alvin who are vying seriously for top honors in their class. Jeffrey continues to express his tenacity and power to the admiration of all. Our Girls, lead by Karin, have been remarkably consistent over some pretty nasty courses and stacking up major MTB Karma points along the way, too. They are solidly amongst the fine riders in their class. Chanel, who hasnít missed a race, has risen to 7th in her class. Without their conflicting schedules Karin and Lauren (our Girls ar SO in demand) would be right up there, too. Our Freshmen Boys have been pressing hard to move up in each race. Every advance comes slowly and with much work because the rest of the Boys in their class are working, too. The cool thing is, though, that their work has paid dividends in the League rankings. Michael has risen to 10th, Nicky to 13th, Gribble to 17th and Miller to 20th out of 43 riders. If the surf hadnít been so good our Sam would be in the thick of it, for sure. I know the Club is proud of each racers work and grace.
Time, always, to thank our Sponsors; D&H Construction, Solano Cyclery, Oceanworks, Gioia Pizza, Red Oak Realty, El Cerrito High, and The Rad. Thanks, as ever, for helping us get here. Smooches galore to Wanda (the Wonderful) for awesome tostadas and so many other tasty treats, which lured our league Pres., the Fitz, to our tent much to his delight. Thanks to Linda, not just for giving us David, but also for the delicious cookies and stuff. Thanks to Pei for the, jeez what are they called, they are like donut holes but way smaller and hard with sesame seeds and are probably good for you even though they are way yummy. What ever they are thanks for them. A special thanks for the parents who helped on the course and with the warm-ups and major thanks to those who stayed to help us peel up at days end.
We are very lucky to have this.
The Coaches and Staff of the El Cerrito High School Mountain Biking Club
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