Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Race Report & Pics: FSC 2012 #9 Santos

Since early September, Florida mountain bike racers have been traveling across the state through ten (including a possible makeup race) tough events, each with their own goals from simple personal achievement, to the select few who battle it out for the class championships. Eric G here with our race report for FSC #9 in Santos, the FINALE of the 2012 season!!

The Santos trails in Ocala are home to the most extensive trail system in Florida. The trail crew from OMBA tirelessly maintains a system so large that one can ride for several days without repeating any trails, a rarity in Florida. The course consisted of blazing fast singletrack split up by two technical, rocky sections with punchy climbs. Large, precariously located rocks, troublesome roots and unnerving ledges called for 100% focus from riders through the technical sections. Any lapse in concentration and you were off line or off the bike. A final winding choppy flat section would give riders some reprieve from white knuckle riding, but still called for technical skills to be fast. To sum it up, a celebratory parade course this was not!

Ryan Woodall
Going to change things up a bit and start off with the Pro report as there were many storylines on race day. While Bob McCarty had the State Championship wrapped up, Ocala local, and the only rider to beat Bob this season, Ryan Woodall would be in attendance this weekend. While Woodlall was on a different program that didn't include the full FSC Series, the duo had faced off several times already this season. A friendly public challenge by Woodall at McCarty's home course generated the buzz that the race fans wanted and the result was McCarty besting Woodall who would then take a break from the series. Fans lobbied tirelessly on internet forums and Facebook for weeks to Woodall to return to the series for the Finale to complete the "Home and Home" showdown. When he finally confirmed his attendance a week to the race, the stage was set. Not to be forgotten the battle for 2nd overall was still up for grabs. It would come down to Shawn Smith and Alex Zambrana, who'd both raced consistently all season and were only separated a couple of points. Zambrana would need to beat Smith by a few places to grab 2nd overall.

Alex Zambrana
The start of the race had everyone watching on edge. When the whistle blew Zambrana would grab the holeshot followed by Woodall. Smith and teammate Martin Cox would follow with McCarty in 6th after trouble clipping in at the start. Arriving at the first technical section it was Woodall in the lead with a 5 second gap over a chasing Zambrana. McCarty would gain a spot taking a more technical line and was now in 5th. After the strong start, Zambrana would be felled with a brief mechanical issue and dropped back to 5th. McCarty would make his move and additionally pass Cox.

Shawn Smith & Martin Cox
After a brief stint behind Smith, McCarty would set off in chase of Woodall and the stage was set for an exciting fight to the end. Smith would keep the gap to McCarty close for much of the race, while Zambrana would have an off course after confusion at the finish line. By the time he recovered, he'd be about 20 seconds behind Cox and start his furious chase.

For four long laps, all eyes were on the battle for the lead and Woodall wouldn't give up his advantage. A 30 second gap would grow slightly lap after lap, but McCarty never let go of the chase though. Expecting the longest race of the season he kept the pressure on until the very end. Ultimately it wasn't enough for McCarty and despite coming into the race under the weather, Woodall would set the fastest lap on the day and take the win! Smith would ride a strong race and finish 3rd to take 2nd overall in the series. Zambrana would close a 20 second gap on the final lap down to 5 seconds to Cox, but would run out of time crossing in 5th behind Cox. Final points standings on the season would be crown McCarty the Florida State Champion, with Smith, Zambrana, Cox and Woodall following. The final pro race of the season didn't fail to live up to expectations!

Florida State Champion Bob McCarty
As for me I had a brutal day. After a decent start I arrived to the technical section in about 8th. Got caught up in an crash ahead of me and had to get off the bike. I'd dismount to get around the carnage but then jam my front wheel into another riders pedal. After apologizing what felt like a million times in 5 seconds, I had to let him and a few other riders by as I checked my wheel. I hopped back on and was simply redlining in the most difficult part of the course. Add the fact that I lost a bottle on BOTH laps and I was feeling pretty miserable. I really thought I was actually rolling in last place. When I crossed the finish in 13th I wasn't necessarily happy, but more relieved that I wasn't as terrible as I thought. Considering this was my first race in Santos I'll let this one go quickly and look forward to a break and prepare for the remaining Coconut Cup races that continue in late January.

We hope you've enjoyed our reports throughout the season. While it's not always easy out there, we try to paint a picture of what's going on for our readers to feel like they were on course with racers. We'd like to thank all our sponsors, especially Bike Tech who gave us great support and access to great bikes all series. We'll be back in action in 2013 finishing off the Coconut Cup and the US Cup opener before taking a Summer break.

Enjoy the pictures below and thanks for reading!!!

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Race Report & Pics: Coconut Cup 2012 #3

As December arrives the Holiday Season is in full swing. Thanksgiving has passed. Office holiday parties are in season and Christmas and New Years are quickly approaching. But what really matters is that it's still racing season in Florida!! Eric G here with our Coconut Cup #3 race report!

The series has doubled up with the FSC in the first two events so far, but this weekend at Amelia Earhart Park, the Coconut Cup had a chance to shine on it's own at quite possibly the FASTEST track in Florida. With berms on nearly every possible turn the use of brakes is only for the timid, as the flow of the trail and well thought out layout keeps the speeds unbelievably high through everything but a handful of tight, rooty sections sprinkled around the 7 mile loop. Throw in a pump track and this course is a smooth riders dream. The usual long, drag race start was switched up to a quick "chicane" about 50 yards from the start to spread riders out before entering the first trail. What this really created was some "rubbin' is racin'" moments as riders knocked each other around a bit before hitting the first trail. It was a BLAST!!

Eric N was up first in the XC3 19-29 class with 19 riders on the line. This weeks' "now that's not a way to prep for a race" moment was brought to Eric N with him arriving home once again the night before the event. Despite not being at his best form, he fought hard for a solid start heading 6th into the first trail and battled around for most of the first lap holding his position. Jeg lag eventually caught up with him and he had to back down the pace, however he was still able to finish 10th on the day for his second Top 10 finish in a row!

As I lined up with 37 racers in the XC3 30+ class I knew the start would be as important as ever. I didn't get quite the launch I wanted and settled in around the low teens. After passing a few racers early and settling in I soon realized I was in a three man battle that would last most of the race. We each took our turn in the lead and trying to shake the rest, but as we crossed lap one all together I knew it was going to be a fun finish. As my form improves I'm starting to find I'm learning tactics too. So instead of getting passed and left behind, I'm here battling with these guys trying to get away instead of just hanging on for dear life. After the chicane starting lap two I threw down an attack before hitting the first trail and tried to get away. Crap that didn't work. They caught me a few minutes later and it was time to play defense as now I was tired. I recovered and was sitting 3rd wheel when one guy went down on a slick root. Rider one pulled away while I navigated around our downed man and chased on. By the time we cleared Little Razorback and hit the Paintball Loop we were all back together. Knowing there wasn't much left in the race and feeling recovered I took a chance and threw down another attack as hard as I could on the flats of the loop. Here I am doing 23mph and these guys are chasing me. One tried to counter so I went again and kept the lead going back into the trail but now I'm hurting. I thought to myself, well if this hurts me then they must be hurting too right? Not so much...I had a bobble while still leading  and had to let them by and then struggled to keep up and saw them slowly ride away. I limited damages and wouldn't get caught by anyone else to finish and ended 13th on the day with one of the guys just in sights. I've said it before but now THIS was my most fun race ever. Fighting it out, trying to make a move and go. Just learning how to race and I had a blast. Top 10 is just in sight and I'll keep fighting for it. 

As usual the Pro class is a great show. With 5 riders on the line and a fast course it should have been great. These guys have kept it close for every race this season and with a fast, non-technical course, this should be no different. Boy I was wrong. Bob McCarty absolutely crushed the field on this day. 3/4 into the first lap he had about a 30 second lead that kept growing over Alex Zambrana, who himself was putting his local rider advantage over on the always strong Shawn Smith. No doubt they were all going as hard as the could but this was McCarty's day once again with a nearly four minute victory. 

The racing continues quickly this weekend with the FSC finale in Ocala. Will Ryan Woodall bring the fight to McCarty one more time, only this time in HIS home turf? Bob got the edge at Markham, will Ryan return the favor to end the season?? Whatever happens we'll be there with the report!! Thanks for reading and enjoy the pics below!

Friday, November 23, 2012

Race Report & Pics: FSC 2012 #8 Alva

Another great race weekend!
And we're back after missing FSC #7. Eric G here with our race report for FSC #8 in Alva. "Team Eric" would make it to this race with me arriving Saturday for the course recon, and NEW FATHER, Eric N, sneaking over early on race day morning.

The course at Caloosahatchee Regional Park was unfamiliar to both of us. Upon getting on the course, we found the reports to be true, this place is flat and fast! Packed down hard with a light layer of dust and barely any berms call for redline pedalling, controlled braking and delicate carving through the turns, then back on the gas for more. Then, for about 15 minutes you're in  the "Far East" in what feels like a completely different trail. Fast, repeating roller sections connected by rooty terrain, enclosed by a low canopy. Anyone over 6'1" was surely in danger of smacking their head on a low branch if not careful. upon exiting it's back on the gas to the finish. It was a long nearly 10 mile loop. XC3 racers would do a lap and a half with some of the sections cut out on the second lap.

Race day arrived and the weather was great by the white wave time. Temps were in the low 70s and the sun was starting to peek out. Eric N. lined up for his XC3 19-29 class with 14 racers in it. Not even 30 feet in there was a pileup that claimed 2 riders that Eric was able to avoid. He salvaged the start with a run back to the middle of the pack approaching the first trails. The pace here is always intense and he ultimately had to back his speed down. Balancing a new baby and training is tough so he wasn't in top form for this event. After a tough going in the "Far East", he found his second wind and finished off solo in 9th place on the day. A tough race was at least rewarded with his first Top 10 of the season!

The XC3 30+ class was back to form with 34 racers at the line! The starts for us are always nerve racking as with so many people, the start can make or break your race. Throw in two slow "Camel Humps" at the start of this race that always cause chaos, and I was praying that I wouldn't have any issues. The whistle blew and I had no drama clipping in. I sat in 5th wheel into the camel humps and continued there for the first 15 minutes or so. I've improved this season enough to see what it's like to start with the top guys in my class. I'm also fully aware that I still can't quite keep up with them the whole race. I knew I was in between the leaders and the 2nd place racer in the points standings. I didn't want to create a gap for him so I pushed to keep with the top guys. As soon as the trail opened a bit I backed off the pace to something more realistic and let him ad a few others by. I'd lose about 3 spots and sit there through most of the first lap. The Far East section got me good though and I hit it a bit too hard and lost some pace and a few more spots. I was able to recover starting the second lap and picked up the pace again and while I couldn't close on any racers in front of me, I minimized my damages and held on for 14th place. Not the Top 10 I'm still looking for, but at least I'm staying constant with my recent results.

The Pros were fighting hard
again this weekend
Earlier in the morning the Pro class would bring another great battle to the spectators. While only 4 riders lined up the class, a lead trio would quickly get away and battle it through 3 tough laps of the course. Current Pro Leader Bob McCarty, Shawn Smith and Alex Zambrana would fight it out the first two laps with Smith coming though as leader for the first and second (I think!!) laps. With McCarty and Zambrana in tow. On lap 3 though, Smith and McCarty would put some distance on Zambrana. McCarty would then make his move late and get a small gap on Smith and take the victory by about a 10 second margin! While each race has been closely contested, McCarty holds a commanding 12 point lead in the standings with one race left in the FSC. Anything but a DNF in FSC #9 in Santos will likely give McCarty the title as FSC Pro Champion at the next race. Pride will still likely be up for grabs as the only other Florida Pro to win a race this season, Ryan Woodall, might be back for the finale at his home course. While the title is all but wrapped up for Bob, fans will be hoping for a final epic battle from the Pros for the season!!

While the course was new to us, we are pleased with our results. Our next race brings us home for the 3rd round of the Coconut Cup series. While this is usually a smaller event than the FSC, the fact that it's a Makeup Event for the FSC might bring a few racers hoping to improve on a bad result from another race earlier in the season. After that we hope to be at FSC #9 for a final race report on the season!! Thanks for reading and hope you enjoy some of the pics below. Leave us a comment and let us know how your race went!!

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Coming Up: FSC 2012 #8 Alva

It's been a few weeks since our last report from FSC but we've been busy nonetheless with the Amelia 100, the Full Moon Finale and the new local Night Crit series. Eric N finished the Full Moon series in 2nd place XC3 19-29 Base, just narrowly losing out on the championship for the Night Series. We then used the Amelia 100 as a training race running a solid pace with the leaders for about 30 miles. Far from the 100, but that was never the plan. Finally the 2nd Night Crit series at Amelia Earhart part has started and after 2 events Eric G sits tied for 5th overall in Base.

But enough of the "fun" races. This weekend is time for a trip to Ft Myers for FSC #8 (Also doubling as a CC event!) at Caloosahatchee Regional Park in Alva. The trail promises to be one of the fastest of the series, with early reports of great conditions with hard packed singletrack in addition to the challenging technical sections. Bob McCarty will be out hoping to continue his dominance of the Pro class and should be looking to put on a great show as usual. Should be another exciting FSC event! Check back next week for our report and pictures!!

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Race Report & Pics: FSC 2012 #6 Markham Park

Eric G here with our race report for FSC #6 at Markham Park, our home race AND the start of the Coconut Cup Series as well! The Markham event is usually HUGE and had additional buzz going due to an excellent course designed by Richard Butler with the help of a few more guys from the excellent Markham Park Trail Crew, and some technical input from Bob McCarty. The continuation of the show between Pro Class leader McCarty, Ryan Woodall, and local strongman Alex Zambrana, who's recent form was sure to make this an amazing showdown! 

Trails were perfect for the event

Leading up to the event, the area was drenched by feeder bands of Hurricane Sandy, but minimal wind damage meant the trail was perfect for the weekend. By the time race day arrived conditions were perfect! As usual Markham brings an unrelenting course with short punch climbs, long flat windy fireroads, and not much downhill to recover on. Tight and twisting through the singletrack means racers are always on the gas. Throw in the technical Gun Range section and climbs from Jet Ski and Ted's Twisted Trail (and their tricky decents!) would have racers on edge all race. 

Eric N was in XC3 19-29 ready to go. 24 racers and a narrow start line meant a second row start for Eric. He didn't get a clean start and almost go dumped into the bushes lining up the start loop by another rider. Tried to gain some spots before the trail but it didn't work out too well and went in about mid teens. he managed to pick off a few riders through the first lap and was moving up but dropped his bottle in a moment of real need. He turned back to pickup losing a couple of spots and then continued, crossing the first lap in 16th. The hydration drama continued as confusion in the pits had him missing his bottle for the entire second lap! A bit dejected he pressed on but knew he needed to be safe with no water and a warm day. He was a little motivated passing a rider fixing a flat (Sorry Boyco!) and gave it a go again to catch another rider on the approach to Gun Range. He was back in full attack after this and tried to keep him away. Coming down the final stretch he had a decent gap, but a properly timed glance back gave him the view of a full on sprint by his chaser trying to close the gap. They hit the final turn with Eric holding a small gap and turning on a final sprint to cross the line in 14th. After missing the last 2 races with newborn baby duty, it was a tough race, but he ended up with the best result for him in the new class and held off someone for position. Good fun at the end of the day. 

XC3 30+ was back to it's normal PACKED self with 46 racers lined up to start. So busy that I got to the line 30 minutes early and front row was already locked out! I settled in to a spot and nervously protected my space as racers began crowding the start. The horn went off and I couldn't get a nice launch from row two so I patiently bided my time. It was a long flat start until the first trail so I got rolling at was sitting about 18th down the final stretch to the trail and hit it hard, weaving through riders and finally cut an inside line to roll in 7th into the trail! Good spot to be. I had to let a rider by early on and sat in 8th for rest of the lap. When I hit the exit fireroad I looked back and had about a 20 second gap! Problem was I was in no man's land. I had a long windy road by myself and a group of 6 guys from my class working together to catch me!! Coming through the finish line I still had a small gap on my chasers, but promptly butchered the warm up loop entrance (#$%&^@#$!) and lost it all. They were back on my wheel. Admittedly I felt a bit deflated and a few trails later wound up getting passed by 2 riders at once and just couldn't keep up the pace at that moment. I got myself going again though but out of the trail alone, AGAIN, I was caught by 2 more riders on the way to Gun Range. I wouldn't let them go without a fight this time and jumped on their wheel. I hung with them for a few more trails another bobble after the Jet Ski climb gave them a small gap that I just couldn't close. I hit the final fire road and I could see them just about 10 seconds away but couldn't close them down. I out sprinted someone from another class to the finish just for pride and crossed the line in 13th. Best result of the season and most competitive I've felt in awhile!

Woodall would lead early on
The Pro race was what everyone was eager to see. Of the 5 races in the series so far, McCarty & Woodall had taken 1st or 2nd place in all of them (not including one Woodall DNS) McCarty was points leader, but the "virtual" edge went to Woodall by 2 points factoring in the allowed race drop. Include Ben Talbot from 352 Racing, Super Cool Bike Shop racers Martin Cox & Shawn Smith and Alex Zambrana from Z's Bike Shop (another South Florida favorite) and there was some serious firepower at the start line! 

McCarty would grab the strong win
At the start it was a tight group, but mid way through the first lap it was clear that the trio of McCarty, Woodall and Zambrana were at another level. They came through lap one, wheel-to-wheel-to-wheel, with almost a 1 minute lead on everyone else. They would stay like this until lap 3 when McCarty would come through with a small gap over a hard charging Woodall and Zambrana a few seconds behind him. This was going to be an amazing finish! As everyone anxiously waited it was McCarty who would come out of the woods first with no sign of Woodall and Zambrana! He cruised through the finish with nearly a 90 second win over Woodall! Zambrana would be about 10 seconds back of that for a strong third place. It was truly an amazing show and sets the stage for the remaining three races of the series!

 Wanted to give a big thank you to Karina and Osmar from our sponsor Bike Tech who were out as a race sponsor for supporting us and anyone else, with food and drinks and mechanical support all day! Our next race takes us to Alva for FSC #8. Enjoy the pics below and leave a comment to let us know how your race went!!

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Race Report & Pics: La Rooota #7

Eric G here for a quick race report from this weekend's La Rooota event at Amelia Earhart park. With rainy weather in the area during the week, riders were itching to get on the course to see recent changes to South Florida's FASTEST trail. Conditions cleared up early enough on Saturday to leave the course in nearly perfect shape for the race. Take all the well groomed berms and combine them with perfectly damp terrain and speeds were going to be through the roof!

Down2Earth events usually begin with mass starts according to the rider category (Expert, Sport, Base) and this time would be no different. In his first race back Julio would tackle the Sport 30+ class while Eric G, Alex and Eric N would continue in Base as a prep for the upcoming FSC race.

Julio would start with Sport just before us and get a solid start and stick to his pace. His goal today was to find a steady pace he could maintain for the three laps. The plan worked out fairly well completing his first race in a few months and finishing in 5th. Not a bad return. The rest of us would start off with the Base class. With all age groups bunched together, there was about 45 people ready to race, so a clean start would be key to a good race. The horn went off and we had a decent start. I'd get into the trail 4th wheel and Eric and Alex would be close behind in the low teens, and quickly began picking of riders to move up as they could.

As the race continued I came through Lap 1 in 3rd place but 4th was chasing closely. He'd get by me and snuck a decent gap as I grabbed a water bottle. Seems I got caught snoozing here and just couldn't chase back. Midway through the second lap I'd lose another spot while recovering from the repetitive climbing sections. I gave one final chase after I recovered but took a wrong turn into a short trail that wasn't part of the race, costing me time and effectively any chance of catching them. I'd finish 5th on the day.

Eric and Alex meanwhile had a battle on their hands for most of the race. They both came through lap 1 in 3rd place in their respective classes, but each had a chaser less than 10 seconds away. Funny thing about racing against family, even though they're in different classes, bragging rights will probably push Alex (Uncle) and Eric N (Nephew) as hard as a spot on the podium. With Eric still holding a small lead over his 4th place and a little more over his uncle, he'd hammer down a faster second lap to hold on to 3rd place in class by just 8 seconds! Alex meanwhile didn't catch Eric, but also put down a faster second lap to pull away from his chaser and claim 3rd place in class as well.

Turned out to be a solid day for the team with two podiums and everyone in the top 5 of their class. Next stop for us MIGHT be a 12 Hour race this weekend back at Oleta, but if not we'll be back in action at our home FSC event at Markham at the end of the month.  If you were out at La Rooota #7 tell us how your day went in the comments section! Enjoy some of the pics below thanks to Dry Goods.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Race Report & Pics: FSC 2012 #4 - Alafia

Eric G here with race report for FSC #4! (It's a LONG ONE)

After a trip to Gainesville last weekend, the busy 2012 FSC Series continued this week in Alafia River State Park (east of Tampa, FL) Good thing about back to back race weekends is that there's not a lot of time to dwell on the bad stuff. After a tough race in Gainesville, we were looking forward to moving on and Alafia couldn't get here fast enough!.

Twinloc would be handy today

Alex and I would make the trip this time, (with our WONDERFUL WIVES joining us to assist!!). This weekend was straightforward with only the XC races on Sunday so we arrived early on Saturday morning. The Alafia race has usually landed on an unbearably hot weekend, this time would be no different. While rains were usually looming in the distance, the sun was in full effect until just minutes before any passing showers. In the recent past, the Alafia FSC event has consisted of longer than normal 10-11 mile, usually technical and GRUELING loops for the racers. For reasons that I'm not aware of, race promoter Gone Riding mercifully shortened up the laps, and while they were still tough and technical, it allowed racers to pass their pit area for a refresher bottle or energy snack every 30-40 minutes or so. Additionally, the beginning "North Loop" would be cutout from the first lap, thankfully as it it often a source of tremendous bottlenecks that unfairly can ruin a racers day in the first few minutes. The start would instead consist of a half mile fireroad start before hitting the first trail, which ultimately seemed to spread out the racers on the effort alone. We took some time to setup our pit area and after a few recon laps and some lunch, we were happy with the bikes (remember only three weeks into life riding 29ers, Scott Spark FTW) we packed up early for once, beating out the rains and heading back to our hotel for a bit of poolside relaxing.

Last minute pressure check
Race day came and I had the jitters for some reason. I wasn't particularly concerned about anything, just excited for this race. Don't know if it was the long, fast start or relentless nature of the course, but the race time couldn't arrive fast enough! Start time was 11:30, and while this was announced from the beginning of the season, I'm still not used to starting late, so that could have been part of it. To top it all off, the early wave ran a little longer than usual, so our start would be delayed by 15 minutes!

Race time FINALLY arrived and we were ready to go. My XC3 30+ class was as small as I'd remember with only 21 riders at the start. I set the Twinloc on the Spark to full lock and was ready for the whistle. The next 2 minutes were the most perfect start I think I've ever had. I pushed off at the whistle and at first attempt I clipped my second foot in. It was so fast I even hesitated for a second to double check. Feeling it was in I absolutely hammered the start. My first holeshot in AGES!! Shooting to the first corner and continuing to pull the group down the fireroad. Reality set in right about here and I knew I had to back off. It was fun while it lasted and I let a handful of faster riders by just as we entered the first trail. I stuck their wheel for a bit and then had to settle into my own pace. Eventually I'd settle in and be alone for most of the first and half of the second lap.

Alex on down a North Loop drop
Alex would start in the XC3 40+ class which was as big as ever with 32 racers. He set off with a decent mid pack start and was in the low teens entering the first trail. He stayed in a close 9 man train that came through the first lap all within 1 minute of each other. On the second lap he would have a fight on his hands after getting caught up with no room to pass behind a slower rider in a tight trail for a few minutes. When he managed to get around he'd lost sight of the tight group and chased furiously to catch back on. At the end he managed to get them within view but not close enough to gain any positions at the end. In the final trail he did pull away from a chaser so it didn't come down to a sprint. Crossed the line 16th on the day.

Eric winning the sprint for position
With about half of the lap to go, my racing buddy Kirk Ivy caught me. When this happens with Kirk it's usually lights out for me, or some kind of crazy finish. What ensued then was a 20 minute cat and mouse game through the rest of the race. He passed me and I managed to hang on. He got hung up and I got by and tried to get away, and he'd catch up. Back and forth a few more times and he was in front. I tried a late inside move on a tricky corner that he covered well. I knew it would then come to the final flat section to the finish. We exited the final trail to a flat left hander and both absolutely crushed the pedals. I either timed my jump perfectly or this Twinloc is amazing, but I snapped to a quick gap and knew that I just needed to hang on to the finish tape area as it would be hard for him to pass once in there. The 1/4 mile dash was as hard as I've ridden in a race in quite some time with my heart maxing at 201!!. I managed to hold him off at the final turn and crossed the finish line in 15th. Could be better overall, but it was the best result of the season so far, and an amazing way to finish. (And a fun story to describe!)

McCarty chasing the leaders
The Pro race was another exciting show. Series co-Leader Ryan Woodall would not be in attendance so Bob McCarty had a prime opportunity for another win. At the start whistle Bob the POPPED his chain before the first corner. As the rest of the pro's sped away, he calmly repaired his chain on the trail side within 2 minutes and was off and rolling again in chase of the leaders. At the start of lap 2 Shawn Smith was in the lead followed closely by Alex Zambrana. Soon after, I'd see Smith walking back,  ALSO with a broken chain, this one he could not repair though. McCarty would still have a 2 minute gap but was continuing to chase. Fast forward to the last lap and Zambrana was still in the lead. After finishing the North Loop he still had a narrow 20 second lead on McCarty. Bob was on a mission however and would pass Zambrana and take the win by just over a minute. Brent Hall would ride a steady race and round out the podium for 3rd.

We came out of this race feeling a little better. Still have plenty to work on, but results keep improving. No mechanicals, no crashes. Just racing. Next up is a La Rooota Series race then a break until our home race at Markham Park for FSC #6! Short of Eric N's incoming child being born on that day, the full team will finally be together at a race this year as Julio Rodriguez will be back in action. Hope you enjoyed the read and enjoy some pics from the weekend below. Let us know how your race weekend went in the comment section!!

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Race Report & Pics: FSC 2012 #3 - Gainesville

This weekend took FSC racers to everyone's favorite "climbers" course, Hailes Trail. Eric G here with our race report for FSC #3.

In addition to great riding, Hailes has some nice views
With approximately 350 feet of climbing per lap, Hailes Trails is one of the toughest race courses in the State. Long enough climbs to have to pace yourself, but not enough downhills to recover. Redline here and you're in trouble. Finish the lap off with the "Islands" and you're legs are burning the entire lap! The weekend would be a busy one. Saturday was the makeup Individual Time Trial after the rain out in Tallahassee and Sunday was the main event. The course was in perfect conditions but temperatures were HOT. Racers were either out riding or hiding in the shade the whole day Saturday. By the time the ITT came around everyone was sweating at the line as if they'd just completed a lap.

Eric G fighting one of the climbs
Sunday rolled around and once the morning clouds cleared the Sun was out in full force again. My Garmin had 93 degrees at the line before the start! XC3 30+ wasn't as large as usual with 26 riders at the line. I really wanted a good start, too bad it was terrible! Missed the pedal COMPLETELY while trying to click in after the whistle and was instantly behind half the racers. Sitting somewhere mid pack at the start of the race is never a good thing. Sure enough, into the next trail, someone took a dive in front of me. I had to come to a complete stop and watch the group ride away. Got rolling again. Chased hard to close the gap and was back with the group after bombing down the first downhill. Hit the first extended climb but the quick step up to the long climb is tricky as you land right onto a heavily rutted section as you're starting the climb. The rider just in front of me got hung up a bit there forcing me to take a risky line and I failed at it. I'd have to run up half the climb before remounting, meanwhile watching what felt like the rest of my class pass me by before I hopped on the bike again. All this, in the first 7 minutes of racing....The rest of the race I was playing catch up. Managed to pick off a handful of riders but at that point it was just for pride. I chased back to 20th before not being able to gain any more ground. I had 19th in my sights but was gassed before hitting the final climbing section and had to settle for just maintaining my position. The new Scott Spark 29er was great. No mechanicals and it will definitely be a fast machine once I learn to ride it. This was only the 4th time I'd ridden the bike so I know I can be faster on it. Just need to see where the edge of the envelope is and I'll be in good shape. Gotta get on it quick though!! Still have three races in the next four weeks. Not a good time to be learning a new bike!

Alex nearing the finish
Alex would roll off in XC3 40+ for the first time in the age group. I joked that he was a rookie again! He got off to a solid start and was near the Top 10 for most of the race. His new class buddy, Ivan De Rosa and he were riding hard together back and forth through the race picking off riders and trading places for most of the two laps. Nearing the end of the race a hangup at a tricky section cost Alex a few spots however. Chasing down on him was one more rider that he'd hold off, crossing the line in 16th. Ivan finished 12th so Alex could have finished with a more solid placing at the end of the day had things gone better.

The Pros brought a show for everyone as usual. The season's top two performers went at it again. Bob McCarty and Ryan Woodall each have a win and a second place so far this season, so naturally they TIED on Saturday during the TT, posting IDENTICAL times. How's THAT for competition? Sunday would be no  different. For FIVE laps they'd battle, coming though the finish line each time wheel to wheel. Even posting the same time AGAIN on the 4th lap! On the final lap Woodall, near the last climbing sections, would finally make an attack that would stick, and would cross the line with the win, just eeking out a 10 second gap on McCarty. Shawn Smith, Reagan Woodall and Alex Zambrana would round off the Top 5 in the Pro class. It really was a great race to watch!!

McCarty leading the Pro's at the first downhill
Not a complete disaster of a weekend for us, but a lot to improve on. I started in a hole and was fighting to get out the whole day. Never a good strategy. Alex came out fighting in his new class and with a little better luck can hit the Top 10 realistically. Won't need to simmer on it too long. FSC #4 is this weekend at Alafia!! Check out some pics from the weekend below. Chime in below and let us know how your race went!! Thanks for reading and come back next week for our next report!!

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Race Report & Pics: FSC #1 2012 - Tallahassee

Eric G here. Sometimes late is better then never, so here's our race report for FSC #1!! The first race of the season had arrived to Tallahassee's Tom Brown Park. Team Eric (Eric G & Eric N) would make the 7 hour trip this time. The weekend schedule called for an Individual Time Trial on Saturday and the main events on Sunday. This year it seems the weather gods were also interested in participating as well. Racers such as ourselves who arrived to Tom Brown Park on Saturday, were treated to passing showers in the morning, eventually developing in torrential downpours in the early afternoon. Conditions were deteriorating quickly to the point where there was FLOWING WATER in the trails and pit areas. Race promoter Dave Berger made the tough call and had to cancel Saturday's ITT due to the conditions. At about 3pm Eric and I decided we still needed to get a look at the trail no matter the conditions. We managed about 1/3rd of the race loop before the skies opened up again, this time with lightning, so we had to call it quits. While we were out, conditions were awful. Instead of finding puddles in a trail, you would find dry sections. That's how much water was out there. We wound up packing up our gear and meeting our great friends Steve Mace, Matt Donovan and so many others that I can't remember, for a few brews and the largest pizzas I'd ever seen. If you can't ride, you might as well talk about riding with friends!

Race day arrived and it was like Saturday's rains never happened. Short of a few puddles, the trail drained magnificently. We'd learn that morning that the Park had requested the two most unique sections of the trail be removed from the race loop as erosion would do too much damage during the race. A tough decision, but understood.

Eric N through the splash zone
Eric N would start the 19-29 class like a rocket. After the race I caught up with him and here's what he had to say. "Having never been on the trails at Tom Brown and thanks to mother nature, I was unable to see much of it before the race. So needless to say I was wiggin' out! Having trained with some of my competition this summer, it was clear in my mind who I wanted to pace and who I was going to let by. So the whistle blew and we're off. I got a pretty good jump, clipped in quickly, and found myself in 5th position going into the trails. My goal was to let someone lead me the entire first lap as I had no clue what to expect. That plan was working great, the first couple miles I was climbing strong and keeping a solid pace with 3rd and 4th in front of me. I even felt that I had more in my tank but was going to save it until I figured this place out. Apparently, it was way more of a pace than I was ready to hold. I blew up quickly and had no idea of where to recover. Just not my day! I lost pace and was on my own trying to figure out any flow. 2nd lap came around and I was feeling it! In a whole new way that is! A mile into my second lap I had this sensation as if I ran into a thorn bush or something alike because I was in some pain. I quickly realized that for whatever reason a swarm of yellow jackets were pissed and were taking it out on me. I had dozens flying around the rear of my saddle, a dozen attached to my pork loins and as am I trying to ride and swat them I'm getting stung on my arm and shooting these things down my leg! I was doing my best not to scream like a school girl instead tried to remain the cool, rugged, hardcore mountain biker I think I am. Ha! Definitely the highlight of my race and a good story for my grandchildren someday. Sorry to my fans for the let down, but next race I'll be better prepared! I'm marking this one off as a good day of training."

Eric G coming out of Cadillac
My story is short but felt like hours to me! I started the race nicely. The first section of the course involves mostly gradual climbing, not usually my strength, but I've been working on it all Summer. The gun went off and so did we. I managed to be just outside the Top 10 getting into the first climb and wouldn't you know it, I felt DECENT!! I was pacing myself with someone who usually climbs much faster than me and didn't feel like I was going to blow up. I was excited that when the going got flat or down and technical, I'd be at my strengths and was looking forward to the rest of the race. That is until we hit the first fast technical sections and my brake levers began closing closer and closer to my handlebars! Apparently the pre-ride in terrible conditions did a number on my brake pads, and about 15 minutes into my race I had about 20% stopping power. That's right about when I took my first OTB, of which unfortunately there would be several more. Racing without brakes is quite frustrating as you start building up confidence on how to manage the speed, until BAM...too fast and off the course you go. I finished the race anyways as I didn't drive 7 hours to not ride, but I was never able to do anything when the going got flat or down other than pedal just enough to get out of people's way. I actually wounded up treating it like training for climbing since it was the only time I could put a full effort in. I'd finish a sad 25th on the day...

Earlier in the morning Pro's put on a show between Ryan Woodall and Bob McCarty, staying together for the entire race, with Ryan ultimately holding off Bob in a sprint finish! A rare site for us!

Woodall takes the Pro win
Next race for us is this weekend for FSC #3 in Gainesville, a Series favorite with it's long climbs and downhills. Mechanical issues have been taken care of as we've acquired new team bikes!!! Scott Sparks & Scales will be our steeds from now on!! Stay tuned for some reviews on those as well. Thanks for reading and enjoy the pics below. Let us know in the comment section how your day went!!

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

FSC 2012 kickoff weekend is HERE!

There's been eight months of training, pain and suffering, injuries, recovery, losing weight, gaining weight, dropping body fat, gaining muscle for racers all across Florida. From the beginners looking to improve, to the Pro's trying to stay on top, the last 8 months of sacrifice and hard work (or lack of it) come down to this weekend and the next few months that follow. The best in the state know one thing...The FSC is here!

It all starts at Tallahassee this weekend. Fast and flowing with constant elevation changes. If you're not going up, you're going down. Nothing too steep in either direction, but a blast in EVERY direction. Throw in Kudzilla, an extended downhill run, brilliantly carved from the available terrain, and a killer finish on a BMX course to tear up the racers legs just before the finishing straight. If you have a weakness, this trail will expose it.

It's a long season. Gone Riding takes us to nine exciting races, all at unique trails. Alafia, Hailes, Markham, and many more. It all starts now. See everyone at the races!!!

Check out some Kudzilla action below!!

Thursday, August 9, 2012

2012 Olympics MTB Course Preview

Check out some of the highlights of the 2012 Olympic MTB course. Definitely a groomed course that should be fast and spectator friendly. What do you think?

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Race Report: Rumble in the Jungle 2012

When it's almost the end of Summer and the start of FSC is near it means it's time to RUMBLE in South Florida....Rumble in the Jungle that is! The popular South Florida fund raising race for the premier MTB trails at Markham Park took place this weekend with over 300 racers joining in the action. From Solo to Team racers would ride for 50 tough miles in what turned out to be decent conditions. While the threat of rain was looming most of the day, the showers never came, but clouds kept the racers covered from the hot August sun for much of the event. To make things easier for us our great sponsors at Bike Tech came out to support us with tents, food, drinks and mechanical help. HUGE thanks to Kelly and Paul for the help!! Here's our race report for the day. It's a long one!! (You can skip to the pics at the bottom if you like!!)

Leadout ATV getting the riders going 
While Markham is usually a challenging course to begin with, there is always a bit of home turf advantage for those that visit it more often. This time was completely different as the Trail Builders managed to turn Markham into what felt like a COMPLETELY new trail for all racers. Running sections backwards, and criss-crossing into other trails all but eliminated any advantages. At times I really had no idea what part of the park I was in. As Alex described perfectly, any "muscle memory" you had at Markham was pretty much useless on this day. 

At this event Eric N and myself (Eric G) would team up to conquer the 50 miles together in a 2-man team, alternating riders every lap. Our newly promoted "40+ Master" Alex S would show us young guys up and step up to the challenge solo! The huge rolling mass of racers was led out by an ATV along a nearly one mile stretch of fire road. Alex and Eric would start while I would wait for Eric to finish his lap. (took some of these pics while I waited)

Alex S and Eric N prepping for the start
In mass start races like this, getting around traffic is usually a challenge and this time would be no different. Despite the long fire road start, heading into the trails the guys would have to fight their way through slower riders as best they could. At one point midway through the first lap Alex would actually help Eric pass a group in an open section by giving him a good draft, even though it was at a higher pace than he should have been on considering he had seven more laps to go! It worked out though and Eric was clear to finish up lap one with a pretty decent time considering the traffic. We'd tag at the rider exchange zone and off I went. Alex wouldn't be to far behind at his own pace and set off on lap #2. My first lap was quite interesting to me. I knew I could go out hard since it was only one lap at a time, but also knew I had to do four laps and wanted to be consistent. This was my second race back after a back injury so I really wasn't sure how my body would respond but I was pretty satisfied a the end of the day.

Alex cheering as Eric G held on to a small gap at the finish
It's a long race so I'll skip to the end. After putting down what we thought were steady lap times, Eric came through on his last lap and tagged me, muttering something about we're ahead of Team "Fill in the blank" GO GO GO!!! So off I went as hard as I could!! I won't lie, I was tired and hoping that my back wouldn't give out. That last lap was as nervous as I'd been in awhile. My pace wasn't the same as the first lap, but not too far off either. I made it to the final trail without getting caught by any riders. But at what was like the LAST tricky obstacle I'd face, I took a dive on some sand. Completly stupid on my part, and making it worse was the handlebar swinging and hitting me right in the calf muscle, causing an excruciating cramp!! I screamed and flexed the muscle and thought to myself I wouldn't let this cause us much time so I managed to just get up and hop back on the bike just as other riders were approaching. As we exited the trail I looked back to see a rider with a "Team" number just behind me. Didn't know if he was in our class or not but I didn't want any regrets by letting him catch me. I'd hammer it as hard as I could in the fishing section to finish just ahead of him.

So how did we finish? That rider I held off turned out to be in our class. My one second margin over him gave us a 1 second margin over his team! When results were finally posted, we'd managed to finish 7th in class! A solid Top 10 result and we'll take it! Alex unfortunately would only muster 2 laps with a mechanical, but he played a great part in helping us during our breaks. Don't know much of what else happened in the event, but I do know that local pro Bob McCarty won the race despite starting a few MINUTES late!! Bob you're a beast!!

We hope you enjoyed our report. Take a look at the pics and if you see yourself feel free to grab the pic! Stay Tuned for our next report after the Oleta 100!

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Team News: New Sponsors and Schedule Set!

Eric Norris sporting the new Team Kit during a night race
Hi Everyone!! Haven't had a major update since March, but we're excited to announce our new and continued sponsors for this year. First we're most thrilled to announce our new Title Sponsor Bike Tech, one of Miami's most complete bicycle shops with two South Florida locations. Offering the best from Specialized, Cannondale, and Scott, the team will soon have it's choice of the best weapons for the racing season. Audioworks, a South Florida based Electronics installation company, also continues as one of our major supporters for the year!

Additionally we're always thankful for our continuing sponsors, Magura, Rudy Project & Cytosport, offering us the best in brakes, glasses, helmets, and nutrition for another year!

Since March we've been in our "offseason" and while there's racing year round in Florida, we've been laying low for a bit, participating in the occasional "training race", but following training schedule mostly. However the Fall season is quickly approaching and we've got our schedule set for the rest of the year. Beginning at the end of the July we'll be present at 17 events through the end of 2012. Participating in series races for the FSC, Coconut Cup, and La Rooota, as well as endurance events like the 12 Hours of Amelia and Markham. The season the team is splitting up into three classes! Newcomer Eric Norris will be in XC3 19-29, Eric Gonzalez and Julio Rodriguez in XC3 30-39, and the team's elder statesman, Alex Serrano, moves on to XC3 40-49. It's like he gets to be a rookie again!!!

We look forward to the upcoming season and hope to keep our friends, followers, fans, and cycling family entertained with our race reports, pictures and general cycling news. See everyone on the trails!!

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Full Moon #2 Amelia Earhart Park | By Eric Norris

“Charge lights! Charge Lights!” was all that ran through my head during the days leading up to Down to Earth’s Full Moon #2 night race @ Amelia Earhart State Park. Having had such a blast at the series opener, I was anxiously counting the days until we were back in the saddle with nothing but our lights and some help from the full moon to lead the way.
Not so fast! Different from the opener we had potato sacks waiting for us at the starting line and a 30-40 yard dash in them that kept us from jumping on our bikes and getting into the trails. I’ll take this moment to say that I could care less for this kind of start. So let this be my plea to let us start out on our bikes just as we did in the series opener!
The horn blows and we’re off! Taking part alongside me was team rider Alex Serrano. Unbeknownst to all of us, he is an expert in the sack.             ßThis space was left intentionally to allow your mind to go places with that one. No but really, he took off and was first to the bikes! I was about halfway there still trying to figure out what the heck I’m doing in a potato sack jumping up/down like a goon.

Alex continued his great start and was in the top three flowing well while apart of the lead pack. Unfortunately in the later part of his first lap he had mechanical issues and had to pull over. This had put him out of contention of making a move pass the top two, however wasn’t going to stop him from finishing the race.
I, on the other hand, went into the trails about mid-pack. Apparently I lack the DNA string in potato sack jumping. I immediately was stuck behind some slow traffic and fought it for the first couple miles. About halfway into my first lap I finally was able to get through and put the hammer down. I knew I had some major catch-up to play but I was determined and was feeling really strong. Apparently I was so determined I wasn’t paying much attention to arrows, just running with the throttle wide open, and ended up blowing by a bypass and went the wrong way. CRAP! After about 5 minutes of going the wrong way I determined no one else was around me and I soon realized what I had done. Almost just called it quits, but I figured what the heck, let’s ride. So I did some back tracking and got back on course. I ended up getting stuck behind the same traffic that I was fighting the first part of the race. No Fun! I felt like nothing was going my way, but continued to keep a positive attitude (at least I think I was) and finished the race not caring where I placed.
Fun isn’t over! With his first race in 40+ age group, Alex Serrano felt the wood on the podium! Bringing home a respectful 3rd place and some more motivation to keep training hard.
Back to training now for the next LaRoota #4 race at Oleta. I'm still looking for some revenge there so look out!