“Okay, wait, if we were one of Europe’s greatest leaders, and we were stranded in San Dimas for one day, where would we go?” Bonelli Park! For the California MTB Series race. I’ve wanted to race here since it was on the USGP circuit. Now it’s a UCI-level race on Saturday. But I raced with the mortals on Sunday. I began my excellent adventure at 8:23am. 

There are fit dudes and there are California fit dudes. I thought I was a fit dude. I’ve had good winter training. I’m hitting my targets. Then I toed the line at Bonelli Park and found out I was not a California fit dude. 

The race started well enough. The announcer gave us 30, 15, and five-second warnings before sending us off. We raced up a little incline, across a parking lot and down a park path for about 1/4 mile before hitting the first hill. And what a hill it was. Long and steep, I went from the hole shot to an also-ran within the first 100 feet of climbing. I can do long climbs. And I can do steep climbs. But the long and steep climbs really took it out of me. At the top of the first hill, we got a little respite before we turned up again. The first descent was pretty gnarly—big rocks, little drops, and steeper than the way up. It was fun, but over way too soon. Before I knew it, I was heading back up the other peak of the first hill—all the way up before another descent. The second descent was loose and sandy. Down we went to the bottom. 

At the bottom of the hill, we took a sharp right-hander across a long parking lot to a false-flat fire road. It was important to keep the momentum up, as the trail got ever steeper as you continued on it. Before long, we turned up a single track climb called the Lake View trail. (MTB note: whenever a trail has the word “view” in it, get ready to climb. And up we went, winding our way up the second hill of the lap (did I mention I was still only on lap one?). After cresting this hill, it was pretty much a straight shot down a fast, nontechnical descent, back across the parking lot and up the first hill again. After a log over and a small rock garden, we climbed halfway up the face of the hill before circling back around to the starting line. I was pretty spent and had three laps to go. I was in danger of failing most heinously. But I partied on. 

Photo credit:  Wildglass Photo

Photo credit: Wildglass Photo

I settled in, going back and forth with one racer. I’d pass him on a climb. He’d pass me back on a long straightaway. So it went until the fourth lap, when he passed me and I never saw him again. In the end, I crossed the finish line happy and exhausted and in 14th place in my age group. Not a triumph, but not last. 

And if you ever find yourself in San Dimas, stop by Sweet Veggie for some hot pot. 

Be excellent to each other!