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!