Racing is back! Below, Lucas Rowton recaps his recent WIN at the CA MTB Series Big Bear Cat 1 (19-29)

Leading up to my first CA MTB Series race of the year I was confident in my ability to put out a consistent high intensity race effort. The entire course was at an altitude above 7000’, I hadn’t raced (or even ridden) at this altitude in well over a year and could feel some of the physiological impacts of the thinner air as soon as I got on my bike to warm up. I knew pacing myself was going to be a critical aspect to a strong race performance and I decided I wouldn’t let my heart rate drift above zone 4 until late in the race. Maintaining an intensity at or below lactate threshold was the key to me staying strong throughout the race.

I had raced at this venue several times over the last few years and always liked the course. Off the start the pace was fast but manageable. After the first few miles a lead group of 4 or 5 riders formed and we stayed mostly together for the remainder of the race. About one third of the way through the one lap mountain bike race one rider started to gap the rest of our group going up a climb; it was tempting to try to go with him, but I knew I needed to stay within my limits at that point of the race. Pretty soon our chase group was down to myself and one other rider, Adin, who had placed second at the opening two rounds of the Quick N Dirty series in sprint finishes. We were riding at a fast pace that I felt was right on my limit of what I could maintain.

The traffic from riders in other classes was way worse than any other races in recent memory. Most riders could tell we were going significantly faster and let us by, but it seemed there was a larger number of riders than normal who wouldn’t give an inch. At this point Adin and I were working pretty well together and calling out “two riders” every time we approached riders from other classes on the singletrack in front of us. Adin made a small mistake on one of the more technical sections of trail and I opened up a gap on him. I could now see the leader, and it was clear we were going to all have to deal with a lot more traffic from riders in other classes on the singletrack.

Going into the last descent it was the three of us all together, but it was unclear what the finish was like. I was leading and Adin and myself opened up a gap on the other rider who had been off the front most of the race. I think we were both expecting a similar finish to races at this venue in the past with a road section leading to a sprint, but the race ended on the singletrack. We finished within one second of each other and I was leading on the descent so I ended up with the win. I was thrilled to have completely closed the gap on my competition with the addition of structured and specific high intensity interval training over a very short period of time. With mountain bike national championships being at over 9000’ this year in Colorado I was happy to feel strong above 7000’. Overall I was very happy with the way I raced.