Racer Reports

We are very proud of our student athletes on the Tam High Mountain Bike Team. They make up a great group of young women and men with varied talents and interests who work hard and have fun. Here in their own words, are some of their NorCal League race experiences:

2016

Taiki (Sophomore 2016)

rider-taikiWe lined up at the start line, and I was nervous, but confident. I knew the course well, even with the new additions. The field was noticeably smaller, so I was moved up to third row for the start. Pearson gives me words of encouragement from the sideline, and before I know it the countdown begins. 3….. my chest tightens 2….. I take a deep breath 1….. I clip in, and we’re off! I charge up the hill, against the right side, separated from front pack as everyone funnels into the singletrack. It was a bad start, and I knew I had maybe 20 racers in front of me. As the singletrack widens, I spot Ian’s bright blue jersey and start to tail him. We make progress, dropping a clump of slower riders before we start the first descent. For the rest of the first lap I stay behind Ian, as we slowly whittle away at our competitors on the narrow singletrack.

As we come around on the beginning of our second lap, Ian motions me to pass. Hesitating slightly, I pass right after the beginning of my second lap. The majority of the second lap, I am alone, passing mostly D2’s. As I approach the gravel hill, I see a drake rider. I sprint up to him, and as I pass someone shouts; “You’re in 7th!”. Encouraged, I keep charging.

As I begin my third lap, a San Rafael rider who I passed earlier caught up to me and passed me. I started to fade, so I started to think about the fact that Spring Break was right around corner so I may as well give it everything. When I came around the final straight, I could hear the yelling and shouting from my coaches and teammates as I sailed through the finish. I knew I had a great race and I was proud of myself, and thankful for my parents, coaches, and teammates.

Josie (Freshman 2016)

rider-josieWe were racing in less than an hour and my stomach was filled with so many butterflies, I was almost flying. I jumped on a trainer and started pedaling. The familiar motion under my feet was calming. Before I knew it, it was time to line up for the start. There they were again – those pesky butterflies making me question whether or not I could do this.

When we rode the course the day before, it felt long. Each lap was only 6 miles, but I was worried I wouldn’t have the stamina to make it around the course twice. They lined us up and called up Clodagh and Kelsey to the front. I was in the 3rd row back. Then we were off. I was riding fast, trying to pass others to make it to the front but then we hit the sand pit and the mud, I slipped and almost fell. I regained my balance but was now at the back of the pack. I kept going and passed people one by one, ticking them off until we reached the point where the trail thinned into a single track.

Good, I wasn’t in the back anymore, but I wasn’t in the front either. The girl in front of me was going slow, so I tried to pass her. She wasn’t blocking me exactly but she wasn’t making it easy to pass. Every time I tried to go around she happened to be there. All of the sudden, a big mud puddle appeared, with two bridges. When I pre- rode the course the day before, I went to the left, so I chose that direction again. Right before the bridge my wheel caught in the thick, gooey mud and I started to fall. I jumped off in time to remain standing but I landed right in the middle of the thick, muddy puddle. Great. Now my shoes were wet. I was a little annoyed at this point because now more people had passed me and I had just lost quite a bit of time.

I rode on the trail with one thing on my mind: Catch the other riders. I was going fast and just as they came into view, I hit a rock and flipped over my bike and down the sandy hill. My bike was twisted, I was lying on a rock, and my scrapped knee burned. After losing more time, I started to freak out. Was I the last person? Had everyone passed me? How much time had I lost?

I jumped on my bike and pushed forward, powering up the first paved section. I passed people again and started to feel better, I could do this. I caught up to the girl I was riding with before, but still she blocked me at every turn. Whether she meant to or not, this rider was costing me a lot of time. I knew I could ride faster.

Finally, when we got to the second paved section, I blew by her and was almost done with the first lap. The sand pit was a challenge.  I only made it halfway through, dragging my bike through the sand until I hopped back on. As I started on the second lap, I was completely focused, driven to make up for lost time. I kept telling myself “Find the next group, pass the next person” over and over again. It helped push me forward when I was in between groups and pretty soon I passed a few people. Once I saw the finish, I sprinted towards it. I surprised myself and finished 11th. I thought I would be somewhere in the 20’s, after all the time I lost. The best part was, I loved it so much I wanted to go again.

Jamie (Freshman 2016)

rider-jamieWhen we got to the pre-ride I was already a little nervous because this was going to be my first ride with clips and a new hardtail. I started riding up and around the start where I hit the first “sand pit”. We were lucky enough that the major obstacle on this course had been flooded with water so now it was relatively hard packed. After that we got onto the single track, it was super flowy with only minor obstacles that I flew over on my new 29’ wheels. Then I hit the 2nd half and it turned into rock climbing. I thought I was pretty much screwed when I got to the second half of the course because of how technical the climbs were. There were lots of spots that I had to try several times. Finally, after lots of fairly long technical climbs it flattened out and I was able to power through the sandpit and finish

Race day. After a light breakfast, we arrived at the course. Then the wait began. It was excruciating, but they eventually started staging freshman boys. First sophomores D1, then sophomores D2, then finally us. We got the 30 second mark, I wasn’t really paying attention until I realized I was in the wrong gear. I quickly got off my bike and shifted. 5… 4… I got back on my bike, 3… shifted my foot into starting position, 2… focused 1… stood up, Go! Cowbells ringing like crazy, we were off. My start wasn’t terrible considering I was able to clip in rather quickly, but it wasn’t great because I got stuck behind a kid on an enduro who had a slow start. Coming around the second turn to the water pit, I was able to take an inside line allowing me to overtake a few riders that seemed to be struggling. The first major obstacle took out a lot of people. I got to it right as people were starting to pile up.

Looking back on this I feel a bit guilty. As I unclipped, someone crashed into me on my right, forcing me to put my foot on someone’s bike who had just fallen and at that moment was starting to get up. I used his bike like a step and pushed my way through the crowded, chaotic pile-up yelling my apology to the cursing kid I had left in the dust. The rest of the race went by as a blur. All I could remember was overtaking everyone I saw. All I remember was when I was at the feed zone and I let myself get passed by kid from Redwood and stuck behind some slow D2 sophomores. Going into the sandpit I had no momentum and I fell still clipped in. I struggled to get out, but by that time the damage had been done and I was destined for 8th. I pushed on all the way to the final stretch, still delighted by my top ten finish.

I was overjoyed when I looked behind me and saw that I would not have to fight for my place. I saw my parents and my coaches as I coasted through the finish line and I could not have been happier to get off my bike. It was such a fun race and I can’t wait for the next one. 

Zach (Sophomore 2016)

rider-zachComing to Granite Bay I knew that I had a good shot at the podium. It was the first race that I had ever had a call-up.

Behind me was a long year of recovery from a traumatic brain injury. I had crashed the day before Fort Ord, 2015. This was devastating for me and even more my family. I recognize Granite Bay as the point that I have almost fully overcome the effects of my crash last year. I finally got my first call-up in 6th place.

The race started very abruptly but I was focused and ready. Four of us Tam riders led the charge for the first 100 yards. We were coming up on the first big mud puddle and I ate dirt. I flew off my bike and into some mud. It took me a second to realize what was happening. I quickly gathered my bike and was off again. I was almost in the back of the pack and thought I had blown it.

I started passing riders taking them one by one not really having a plan. Then a bit more than half a lap later I saw the bold blue kit of Hobey. I was surprised. At that point I had started passing the top ten one by one. I counted the riders in front of me: I was in 6th. The first lap ended and Nick from Redwood led me to catch 4th place. This rider slipped up on one of the techy uphill sections and I took a pass. I was now in 4th.

I saw third place ahead, a rider from Drake, so I pushed to catch him. For the next lap and a half I drafted off of him saving my energy for an attack. I knew I had to pass him at the final road section to get third. When the time came I pushed past him and onto the final section, through the sand pit, and onto the final stretch. I pushed as hard as I could. He was right on my wheel. We came around the last turn and I gave it everything I had left. It was a sprint finish. I came about a wheel in front of him. Our times were exact down to the second. I did it! I finally made it on the podium after so many top ten’s, back-of-the-pack starts, and one hard hit to the head. It’s been a long road to recovery. It has taken some hard training, and a lot of great support from coaches Patrick, Sean, Den and Mom but I am happy and proud beyond words to have reached my goal of getting on that podium and I can’t wait for more!

Hiro (Freshman 2016)

rider-hiroI was really nervous, I had not imagined a bike race to be such a big production. I think one of the parts that freaked me out the most was that there was an announcer, who would call your name as you rode by. The fact that he would call my name made me internally flip out a little bit.

Seeing the community of people who had come to the race made me feel better though. Everyone was really positive and seemed like they actually wanted you to have fun! Of course I was still nervous about racing other bikers, but I put my anxiety behind me and biked over to the start line.

We were packed in super tight, and then all of a sudden we were off. I pedaled very hard and ended up passing a few kids before getting my mojo going and really enjoying the ride. It wasn’t nearly as bad as I thought it would be and the course almost easy.

From then the rest of the race just sort of felt like I was flying over the obstacles, except when I slid into puddles, but that was still fun!

It was a fantastic experience and I am looking forward to the next race!

Hobey (Sophomore 2016)

rider-hobeyI could barely see the front of the sophomore group. Names were called and I nervously fidgeted back and forth. I had no idea how I would do. My goal was to get top ten, using this first race as a stepping stone. When the count down started, I shifted into position. The front started sprinting up the hill. Slowly the whole crowd began to move, and I was able to snake my way over to my team mate Zach. My lungs already burning, we continued to sprint by our competitors. I knew I had some passing to do.

About halfway through the first lap, Zach was forced to step off his bike. I passed and made a strong effort to catch up to the lead group. When I rode by a course marshal he yelled, “Keep going your in fourth.” I thought I had misheard him.

Coming back around to the start, I was just as surprised as my parents who were shouting encouragement as loud as they could. I felt good and on my second lap I was able to make my way up to second.

On the last lap, a rider from Drake and I fought back and forth for the lead position. Before the finish, I made a rash move and fell trying to pass a freshmen rider. My competitor took the lead and won the race, myself taking second place.

I was overjoyed and could not believe that I did so well following my performance last year. It made all that extra effort worth it. It was a great way to start the season and it proved to me that if you put the work in, you can get the result you want.

Clodagh (Freshman 2016)

rider-clodaghThe first race of the season was just about to start, my heart was fluttering inside my chest, I was nervous but confident. I felt strong and excited to race the fast and flowy course which I had pre-rode the day before. As the freshman girls were called to line up Kelsey, Josie and I rushed to make sure we got good starting positions. I was in the second row. As the voice on the loudspeaker said GO, my nerves were gone, my entire body was pumping with adrenaline, I was up in front with one other girl. At the top of the first hill the trail started to become narrow, one of us was going to have to hold back while the other entered the narrow trail and the other would follow, I was positive that that person was not going to be me, so at the last minute I swerved around her, I clipped her handlebars, and the next thing I knew I was on the ground.

I got up as fast as I could and tried to get back on my bike but that wasn’t working, spectators  were yelling at me that my chain was off, so I jumped off my bike and tried to fix it. My body was moving as fast as I could, a man on the sideline told me that he could not help me fix it but that he could talk me through it. I kept trying to get my chain back on but it was not working, I was frustrated because I had done this so many times. Someone else was shouting to me that my clutch switch was on, I had no idea what that was! The man pointed at a little switch that was on my derailer that I had never noticed before. Once my chain was on, I tried to get back up onto my bike but I realised that when I had fallen my handlebars had become crooked, I got off my bike again and held the front wheel between my legs and straightened my handlebars, to the best of my ability.

By the time I was back on my bike everyone had passed me including the race sweeper!! My fall had cost me several minutes and I was freaking out, I thought that I was going to come in last, I had blown my first race of the season. I started to pick people off one by one, I kept picking up my speed. Adrenaline was still pumping through my body like crazy and I came around a sharp turn into a huge puddle of water and dirt, right in the middle of it someone was stopped, I tried to swerve around them but once again that didn’t work and before I knew it, I was on the ground again but this time, in a puddle. I got up as fast as I could, jumped on my bike and rode away.

During the middle of my second lap I spotted Kelsey’s bright orange bike and her white helmet looking strong as she climbed one of the few hills on this course, I powered up the hill after her and passed her on the downhill, I knew that she was pretty far up in the pack so I was feeling a little better about my placement. From there out, I just biked as fast as I could and as I approached the last 400 meters of the race I sprinted so hard I thought I might die!. When I crossed the finish line and the announcer yelled “and that was Clodagh Mellett coming in 3rd place for Tam” a huge smile spread across my face, I had done it, I went from falling and last place to making the podium!

When Kelsey came across the line in 5th place I was so excited that we had both made the podium on our first ever mountain bike race. I was covered in dirt and had a bloody knee but it was so much fun, I can’t wait to race again!

2015

Maggie (Sophmore, 2015 JV)

rider-maggieI had a great time racing Fort Ord! Since it was the first race of the year, I was especially nervous. Along with it being the first race, I knew I had to do an extra lap and race girls who were, for the most part, older than me. Coming off of a long season of club soccer and just beginning my high school soccer season, I didn’t feel as confident on the bike as I wanted to. I started the race being called up third which was relieving to know I wouldn’t have many people to pass before the single track.

I was so nervous before the race and I remember shaking at the starting line but the second I heard, “Go!”, all the nerves went away. My start wasn’t the best (they never really are) and I believe I was somewhere around 7th at the first hill but made it to 5th at the start of the single-track. I stayed in that position for about five minutes then made two jumps to put myself in second.

I trailed first place for a while and together we were able to pull away from the rest of the pack. I had the first place girl in my sights for the majority of the first lap but wasn’t able to hang on, which I’m not complaining about, I was psyched that I was even in second! I was able to hold on to second and extend my lead on third for the rest of the race. As I hit the third lap I still felt like I had the energy to put up a strong last lap although I was confident I had pretty much secured second.

I was able to pass a few varsity riders and it was so nice to see how encouraging everyone was! It was so nice to see a lot of the girls I met last year from racing them and to see how much everyone improved. Fort Ord is by far my favorite course and I’m disappointed we won’t go back this year, but I’m super excited about my first finish in JV!

Ethan F. (Junior, 2015 JV)

rider-ethanfThe first race of the 2015 season (Fort Ord) was approaching. I was nervous, but confident. The day before the race, a teammate and I drove down to the race venue and pre-rode the course. The five-mile lap was flowy and nearly all single track. There wouldn’t be much space for passing. We rode two laps and got off of the course right as the rain started to come down hard. The course would be great for the next afternoon: clear, blue skies and damp, packed, and fast trails.

The JV race didn’t start until 1:25, so I had plenty of time. Close to noon, we arrived at the packed parking lot and rode over to the team tent. After relaxing and cheering on my teammates for another hour, the JV riders warmed up on the road. We did a few intervals and after a half-hour, it was time to head to staging. Due to my placing in last year’s sophomore races, I got the last spot in staging. However, there were a number of people not at the line, so I ended up lining up in roughly 20thposition. “We will send them off in 30 seconds!” the announcer’s voice boomed across the venue.Before I knew it, “5, 4, 3, 2, 1, GO!” We were off. The cheers were deafening as the pack of 35 teenage racers charged up the starting hill. I had a teammate in front of me and stuck on his wheel, waiting to pass other racers. We were in about 25th or so position. I sat in for the rest of the two minute climb and we passed a couple of riders. The next descent was single track for a couple of minutes, but very fast and flowy. The two of us sped around the sharp turns and then down onto a flat, sandy section of the course. I was on his wheel, but decided to go ahead and see what I could do on my first lap. I accelerated past him as soon as there was a place to pass and immediately afterwards, the climb started.

There was only another 70 meters to the top, and it was too steep for me to get back on my bike and ride. I grabbed my handlebars and sprinted to the top as fast as I could. None of the other riders on their bikes passed me during my sprint. I hopped back on and pedaled away from the cheering spectators. It was flat for a little while, I had a quick sip of water, but then another hill emerged just a minute from the top of the previous one. I sprinted up it and caught three riders in the process. I was sitting about 15th at that point. Another few descents and another few climbs later, I came upon a group of three riders. I locked onto the last wheel in the group and sat in to recover from my hard, four-minute effort.

I stayed behind for a minute or two, but then two of the riders attacked. I went with them, but the other racer was left in our dust. We relaxed again, but I was anxious to catch a few more riders. I called out to the Redwood racer, who I had raced with before, “Get on my wheel, this is going to be fast.”The starting hill came quickly, and I took it a little easier as we still had three laps to go. I came to the top of the hill and let the Redwood racer take a pull. We raced easier than we had the previous lap, and took it a little slower on the hills. He pulled for a good ten minutes, as I had before, and a rider passed us. Later in the lap, I took a pull and we passed that rider then came up to the intersection of the road. I decided to go for it and try to catch a few more riders. I rushed up the hill, pushing almost as hard as I could. I quickly dropped the riders on my wheel, and passed another that was up ahead. Somewhere along the way, I heard someone shout out “You’re in 11th!” Well, I was now in tenth.

Now I was angry and anxious. I wasn’t able to hang on his wheel, and I was disappointed. I heard cheering a long ways ahead and I figured that must be first place coming in. I sped up, wanting the race to finish soon. I charged up the next hill and bombed down the next descents. I was more than halfway through the lap when I passed the JV rider that had passed me earlier. He was slowing down and I was able to easily drop him. I climbed again, descended again, time trialed on a flat part, and hit the side of a divot and nearly went down. However, I kept myself upright and got through the next descent, with one little slip at the bottom. I didn’t go down, but I did get another burst of adrenaline. I crossed the road and flew up the hill for the fourth and final time.

This was a great first race. I paced myself well and rode hard, but there are still the limits of racing that I still haven’t found. But I have improved a lot, and I owe that to my coaches and my parents, and of course my training. I look forward to the rest of the road and MTB season.

2013

Reid (Junior, 2013 Varsity)

rider-reidMy last race (Laguna Seca) went alright. I thought. I did everything the same as usual before the race, and I felt good on the preride.

At the start, there was this weird running thing for position, so I got put in a bad position. Then on the first climb someone up front fell and we all had to get off and run.

After that the race wore on without anything significant. The hill (hurl hill) became progressively harder, including the one right after the start.

No problems with the feed zone and I was able to draft on the open fire road section.

I almost got the guy in front of me at the end, but, oh well. it was a pretty good race.

Mae (Junior, 2013 JV)

rider-maeI had a great race at Laguna Seca! I was really happy with my start and finish. Since only 8 of the 10 call ups were at the start, Lauren and I were able to sneak up into the second row of racers, which really helped. It pays to get there early, especially if you don’t have a call up. Also, props to Lauren’s dad for being the most organized race official yet! He was really helpful at the start.

The start was a big power climb, and I’m glad I took a Gu before the race– I was able to keep up a great pace and power on the ups and downs for the whole race.

Another big plus was being so close to Lisa for almost the entire race – we kept pace and pushed each other, and ended up finishing 10th and 11th, which I think we were both very happy with.

Thanks to all the feedzone volunteers, I was really happy to be able to get another water bottle on my last lap, and thanks to everyone who brought food for before and after! 

Sam K (2013, Freshman)

rider-samkThe start was the first time in a race that I actually got a good start, so I was up ahead with some of the faster guys for the first time.

I think I was trying to stay with them on the first lap, which really burned me out. So I was quite tired by the second lap.

I also was drinking Osmo for the first time, and I don’t think my stomach really agreed with it.

But I got some water at the feed zone as I started my third lap, which really made me feel a lot better.

I think for the next races I’ll try to focus more on staying at my own pace, and not going too hard.

Garrett (2013, Sophomore)

rider-garrettLaguna Seca was positively the best race I have had this season. I had a little bit of trouble in the beginning as I typically do because I end up getting stuck with people falling/ getting off their bikes in the first hill. After that first bit though, I was doing quite well and was able to pass quite a few people on the multiple up hill parts on the course.

I was feeling really good about how I was doing the race, and I was even feeling pretty good after getting up hurl hill. On the second time up hurl hill, on the very top, my chain had fallen off and I had to spend some time putting it back on. I was very afraid of losing my position and losing time so I found the energy to push very hard and get right back to the position I was in.

During the race, I felt that the Gu’s really helped me and gave me little bits of energy. By the final lap, I was really wishing I did not have Osmo in my Camelbak, but instead just water, because with the heat and the Gu’s, I just wanted water and after the race I was almost feeling sick because of it. I felt like I definitely could have gone faster on the downhill, but I ended up taking the downhill very easy because I wanted to regain my breath and energy.

Overall, I was very happy with my race, and it was definitely my best race of the season so far.