The beginning of every racing season, at least for me, signifies a fresh start. A chance to show that you have returned with a little more experience, a little more resilience, and a clean deck of cards. Last year, Echo proved to be one of the most difficult races, in terms of conditions, that I have every competed in. Period. I don’t have exact data, but the most recycled descriptions would always include the phrase..”forty mile gusts”. I have never experienced winds like that in any cycling event I have ever taken part . It was the first time, (and hopefully the last) that I was working to stay in the “draft” of the rider in front of me on the downhill sections. Incredible. I have been making plans all winter to do some more racing this year…but that experience last year just about made me want to skip this year’s season opener in Echo, Or. It wasn’t until the last minute that I decided to head up with some friends and get some redemption. Lucky for me, the stars aligned, and we had fantastic spring-like conditions on race day. The fields were swollen with a total of more than 530 registered racers taking part. My single speed field had a solid twenty-five guys including, multi-national champion D.J. Birch, Cross Crusade strongman Seth Patla, and Sappo Hill’s rider and all around great guy, Tom Keller. The field broke up early, and I found myself in a small group of five as we turned onto the dirt. The Echo course is almost all single track, so there is a ton of fun to be had when conditions are good like they were for us on race day. I knew I had to keep D.J. in sight if I wanted a chance to win. I really love courses that require horsepower and navigation skills at the same time, and as we came into the first technical river section,I jumped into the lead. I didn’t expect to hold that lead for the entire race but things just worked out that way. Later on I caught my buddy James Williams , who had started with the pro field and was dealing with some chain issues. We linked up and ended up riding wheel to wheel for all but 20 minutes of a 2+ hr race! I crossed the finish line with my first win of the season, and enjoyed a well deserved burrito and cold beer. One of the coolest details that I have thus far left out, is that I raced on my Kona Honzo! If last year someone had told me I was going to win a XC race on a 7lb STEEL frame, I would have slapped them across the face in hopes of bringing them back to reality. But the truth is, Kona knows what is important when it comes to designing bikes. They know it is not about fancy proprietary lingo, it is not about shiny graphics and hyped up advertisements, but it is about having FUN! From day one, Kona has designed all their bikes with an emphasis on making sure that the people riding them have a smile on their face. I know that one of the main reasons I had a great race was because I was having fun tearing up those trails. Every mountain biker knows that when you are on a totally dialed bike, the fun factor increases and the smiles never end. I had a fantastic time at this years season opener, and I can’t wait to unleash another dose of fast and fun Kona shredding here in Oregon. See you at the races.