For mountain bike racing, Frank G. Bonelli Park, the site of the opening round of the Pro XCT, can best be described as an ugly duckling. I first raced there in 2001/2002, and over the years the race course has matured into a swan. Bonelli was once one of my least favorite places to race. Now, it’s as good as it gets for an urban venue. Sure, you’re still about 20 minutes from downtown Los Angeles, and from some parts of the new race course, if you listen you’ll hear the 10, 210, and 57 freeways, but who has time for that when you’re racing bikes. The voices in my head telling me to suffer more or to quit being such a Nancy Boy overpower the sounds of L.A. traffic and the powerboats from nearby Puddingstone Lake.
The Sho-Air and Team Big Bear crews have done an awesome job of transforming the Bonelli race course into one that could be of World Cup consideration. It’s near Ontario and LAX airports, there are a host of hotels in the area, parking is a-plenty, and the Elite/Pro race course is tough. There’s nowhere to rest unless you’re lucky enough to tack on to the back of a group in the short road portion of the loop. This year, the Elite race was UCI-sanctioned, so you don’t have to take my word for it to know that they must be doing something right down here in Southern California.
For me, the UCI sanctioning was a mixed bag. I’ve been so busy at work, at home, and training that I haven’t been online for any extended amount of time in weeks; plus I fear spam emails like the bubonic plague so I never list an email address on anything unless I absolutely have to. What I missed out on by living in the stone age was that the UCI required all Elite XC racers to check in by 10am on Saturday morning even though the race didn’t start until 1:15pm. I arrived at 10:30am, heard the bad news, pleaded with the German UCI official, and then promptly struck-out. Lesson learned the hard way. The good news is I stuck around for Super-D and came back the next day for the Singlespeed XC race so all was not lost.
As Sid Taberlay was making short work of the Super-D race, the voices in my head tried their best to convince me that I wasn’t at that much of a disadvantage without a full-suspension bike. A few inches of suspension in the rear would have been ideal, but there were a few other rigid rear-ends that turned in really fast times, so I shouldn’t complain. I’ll be pedaling a Trek HiFi at a Super-D soon enough. I felt a personal victory in that I kept my trusty Superfly hardtail upright, and got a nice 7 minute and 35 second anaerobic workout in the process - a great way to open up the lungs and legs for the singlespeed suffer-fest the next morning.
And a suffer-fest it was. I finished third. The voices told me I could have, at the very least, finished second, but sometimes even the voices loose out to the Nancy Boy in me.