The 2011 race campaign about to start. For the last three years I had been meeting up with the Kona crew down in SoCal in March, so in that respect there was nothing too novel about showing up in San Dimas, CA for the 2011 season opener at Bonelli Park. But in lots of other ways the weekend felt very fresh. Biggest of all, it was the first weekend ‘on the job’ with Kona. Demo Dave (new Kona mechanic) met me at the airport on Friday afternoon in the shiny new Kona truck and we drove out to the race venue for a dusk patrol lap on the course before it shut down.
I enjoy relishing in specific experiences before they become commonplace. For example…really, really noticing that I was pulling on the Kona Factory kit for a big race, rolling out the door on the same team as Barry Wicks and Kris Sneddon. Lining up for the first race of the season is always exciting. As the fresh meat on the team, I wanted to make a statement during the weekend, but didn’t let that distract from being calm, collected, and confident that I could ride a strong race. And that is approximately how Saturday’s cross country event was for me, save for a flat front tire with two laps to go during the seven lap race. I had been sitting in 11th with 10th place in my crosshairs when I noticed the squishy front end. After an attempt to re-inflate, the tire mysteriously continued to leak. I was close enough to the tech zone that I resolved to ride it in. It was a gamble, and I ended up dropping back to 16th or 17th, passed by Barry and Kris’s group. After getting a new wheel from Dave, I chased back to Barry and Kris’s group of 5. We rode as the Kona train of pain for the rest of the lap, until Barry launched a major effort going into the last lap to try and shoot me back into contention for 10th. It was a major compliment to have Barry put in that effort on my behalf. By that time, unfortunately, 10th was out of reach (nice race Stephen Ettinger!), and I bridged to within a few seconds of Troy Wells to finish 12th on the day. That night Barry edged me out by a second in the Super D, me 10th, him 9th.
Before Sunday’s short track event, I told myself I would spend time racing at the front of before returning to the office in Seattle. It’s amazing how a simple mental resolution can affect a race performance. Simply be confident in a strategy or goal, and it is much more likely to come to pass. And that it did. I had my first taste of leading the big race, off the front early after Sid Taberlay’s unfortunate wipe out. I may not have held the pace for the whole race, but while I was up there I felt good and in control. Apparently it was also my opportunity to get ALL the flat tires out of my system before summer hits, as a leaking rear tire made sure that I certainly did NOT maintain my position at the front. Thanks to my friends Liz and Erik who came out to cheer me on despite flatting myself out of the action. Overall, I finished 11th in the Triple Crown, and felt satisfied with a strong start to the season . Sea Otter is still 5 weeks away. The Europe World Cups still 10 weeks away. I’ve never started this strong, and I’m looking forward to moving up as the season goes on. There was a big sense of camaraderie with our Kona crew, and I’m already itching for Fontana in two weeks. For now, it’s back to work at Ridgeline and training in the rain.