This was my first time coming to Big Bear, let alone racing here, I had no idea what to expect. The riding turned out to be super fun, they seem to have a great cycling community in Big Bear and the trails reflected that. The start of the race was pretty quick but within my comfort zone, by the time we entered the first trail section I was at the front and made quick work of a super fun steep scary downhill, which is just how I like it. I pinned it all the way down and when I came out the bottom, I was by myself.
Having put about 2 minutes into my chasers I stayed steady, trying to conserve energy as they had to race to catch up. The group of 6 pulled me back a couple minutes before the next section of trail, Eric Bostrom jumped to the front to get into the single track first and I followed. This trail was called The River Trail and was again super fun with a bit of exposure. In fact, a couple of the guys in our group actually slipped off of the trail but thankfully were ok.
We exited this section and began a long climb back towards Big Bear, this is where eventual winner Nic Beechan made his move. I stopped for my aid and he motored right through. I tried to chase him down but his pace was too much and I had to back off. Eric and I continued together up the climb and to more great riding. The jewel of the race was the Skyline trail, really fun flowy up and down and with a couple of technical rocky bits to keep you on your toes. I was with Eric for a good portion of this trail but slowly started to gap him and after a while I was alone I felt good till the end and was able to push all the way finishing less than 3 minutes behind Nic in second place. The Big Bear Grizzly was a great race and I would do it again, it’s got what I love: great riding and great organization.
It had been a couple years sense I raced in Bend OR at the High Cascade 100. This year I decided to make a big trip of it and head down the coast to race the Big Bear Grizzly the following weekend. The High Cascade is one of the best 100 mile mountain bike races in the country, not only are the trails amazingly fun but the race promoter Mike Ripley is one of the best in the biz.
The start of the high cascade is right out of bend up the pavement for about 6 miles to a dirt double track for another couple to thin things out. Once we hit the trail, its game on, the rest of the race is on single track until the last section of pavement to the finish. By the time we reached the first aid at mile 20 Barry Wicks and myself were in the lead with a couple guys not far behind. All of the trails in this race are so fun and to have a guy like Barry to rally around with made it even better!
By about mile 45 we had just exited a super fun downhill and started a 25 minute climb I was feeling a little sluggish and Barry moved around me and started to build a gap.
When I hit the 56 mile aid station, the 3rd place guy came around me and I stopped and got my drop bag and chased him down. I quickly moved back into second as he stopped to get some aid from his crew. This was the start of the loop around Mt Bachelor and to this point the dirt was hero to say the least. This part of the trail has lots of lava rock and is much looser. I kept attacking the corners like I had been and bang I was on the ground in a pile of dirt. I quickly picked myself up, dusted off and got going again. The crash must of woke me up because I started to feel better and pushed through the aid at mile 79 and could smell the finish.
I was looking back to see if I could see 3rd and there he was about 40 seconds back and grinding away. I started to rally and I felt great and wanted to push all the way to the finish. Then there was Barry right in front of me I quickly passed him and we proceeded to bomb down the last decent, Tidily Winks, to the final pavement section. I tried to lose Barry in this section hitting the doubles and going at breakneck speed, but these are his home trails and he’s a great rider so he was on me the entire way. We did end up having a great time just sending it though. We hit the pavement together and I knew it would be a sprint at the end and it was… Barry got me at the finish, but what a great time rallying around for almost 8 hours and then you sprint for the line, super fun! I wouldn’t change a thing.