Archive for February, 2012

12 Hours of Santos 2012: An Unpopular Dick for the Second Straight Year

Sunday, February 19th, 2012

by Sean Hess of Strackacobra / St. Augustine Team.

The 12 Hours of Santos 2012

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The Bergers

First off, a big thanks to Dave and Terri Berger of Goneriding.com for putting on this race year after year.

Gravity riders aside, American riders don’t want ski resort racing. They want singletrack. Twisty, gnarly, buff, and sometimes harrowing singletrack.

This is the lesson the old NMBS and NORBA circuits never got.

But the Bergers get it, and the sport is growing like a proverbial weed here in the Southeast with great events on great courses hosted by Goneriding.

Long may they ride!

Buckeye Leaf or 4:20 at Santos

“Hey hippie, what’s that leaf on the back of your bike?” the dude asked with a smile. “Do you get that a lot?”

“No, this is the first time,” I said.

I’m an Ohio State fan, and I have stickers of a Buckeye leaf on the back of the seat tube of both my bikes, the same type the football players wear on their helmets. To the uninitiated it can look lke a ganja leaf. Just so you know: the Buckeye has five leaves, ganja has seven.

Turns out this guy was a huge Ohio State fan and had Buckeyes on his bikes too.

“I live in Gainesville and I get sh*t about it all the time,” the dude said. “Since we stole Urban from them it’s kind of weird living there.”

Coming to Grips with The Killer Instinct

Talking strategy with my coach, Tristan Cowie of CTS, before the race was an eye opener. The subject was passing.

“You know,” he said, “when you come up on another rider the best thing you can do is sit up and take a drink. Don’t necessarily look to pass.”

Everybody knows that cycling is essentially about using someone else’s energy to further your own goals. Nowhere is this more obvious than in professional road racing where the peleton conserves it’s own energy for hours before it attacks and crushes a breakaway.

But in mountain biking, where it’s hell-bent-for-leather from the opening whistle, where it seemed to me that every other rider on the course was just an object to get around, Tristan’s words made me stop and think.

“It’s always better to be second wheel,” he said, “let the other guy do all the work and freak out about holding his position.”

Now, it being a six hour race, and one I was doing more for training purposes…and not even one I was planning to finish (see below)…I wasn’t going to go all out each lap. But the tactic where you relax and actually rest a bit and drink instead of look-to-pass, look-to-pass, attack! attack! attack! Man, that was new to me.

So I’m somewhere in the race on the Vortex’s west side and I come up on a really young rider, maybe 13 or 14 years old. I can blow right past him if I want to. But you know what? Slow down and take a drink.

FYI, I used a camelback for the first time for this race and it was a HUGE difference. No worrying about metering out a bottle in a slower lap. It was super easy to stay hydrated and focus on the race. And I only pitted once instead of having to every go-round to switch bottles.

Anyway, I’m behind this kid and we run a section I run all the time, and he takes a different line than I would. And it was a much better line. I learned something by slowing down and backing off the pass-pass-pass mentality.

Hmmm, ride wheel, conserve your energy then pass when circumstances and conditions warrant…well, that’s why I like Tristan.

I Am An Unpopular Dick.

I would assume that the teams racing 12 Hours of Santos need riders. But no one ever asks me to join. I don’t even get the chance to beg off because I don’t want to race at night. It’s. Just. Nobody. Asks.

So for this year, and for the second straight year, and the third time overall, I am officially an Unpopular Dick. Unpopular Dicks end up in the 6 Hour Solo category because they don’t have a team.

There are guys that race the full 12 Hours alone: those guys are Weird Unpopular Dicks. Who the hell would want to race 12 Hours, on a bike, by themselves? Weird Unpopular Dicks, that’s who.

A Weird Unpopular Dick goes into a bike shop bragging that he just raced 12 Hours solo. And then, after said dude leaves, the guys in bike shop tell each other, “Don’t invite him to the team next year, anyone that would go 12 solo has a screw loose. You, like, don’t want him around your chick while you’re out on the course.”

There Are Even More Unpopular Dicks Than Me

Still even more unpopular than myself or even the 12 Hour Solos are the Toolbags.

12 Hours of Santos has one consistant feature: bottlenecks in the opening prologue lap. Because when you put that many riders on the course in the same place all at once, at some point things are going to back up.

Well we were maybe 15 minutes into the prologue lap and things were backing up on the technical sections on east side of the Vortex, past the BMX tricks area and the second ladder. You drop down this fast, straight hill, and in seconds you come to a tight left turn with rocks and roots. Well, things were backing up there.

I ride Vortex all the time, so I know where the line is through the roots. So I slowed just a bit earlier to let one of the walkers clear so I could ride it instead of dismounting.

Well, Mr. Toolbag is right behind me. “Hurry up! Hurry up! Ride or get off and walk!”

So, I’m thinking, “WTF?” I gap him here and there but he keeps doing this, bumping my rear tire. And seriously I don’t care because I know this guy is a Tool. But it’s still p*ssing me off.

Plus, there are literally hundreds of riders on the course. It’s the prologue: even if you pass, the riders haven’t spaced out enough yet to warrant a forced pass. While this dude is bumping my tire there are literally four riders directly ahead of me, wheel to wheel. And you know, if you want around just ask!

So I make sure I keep it tight to the line for another 10 minutes so, just to let Tim The Toolman get frustrated. Finally somewhere in the Twister section he just cuts a buttonhook and passes me and another guy, forcing himself back into the line.

The competitor in me wants to destroy this guy. I know I can do it. I want to pass him and force him to look at my the back of my kit again, just to p*ss him off.

But this is a 6 hour race. The idea is to set a steady pace, not run it like the cat-2 at Haile’s Trails. And what Tristan said also came to mind. Sit up and take a drink.

As we ride along I see Toolman cutting the buttonhooks, bumping wheels, until a rider in front of me crashes and we stop to see if she’s alright. When I get going again the dude has disappeared.

As I come back through the same place on the next lap I think about how smart it was to back off. This guy was white knuckling his bike, hunched over it and driving the pedals with totally poor form. If I would have rode that way I would have been out, completely blown after one full lap…and a bigger Tool for having done it.

Wasn’t it Obi-Wan Kenobi who said, “Who’s the bigger Tool? The Tool, or the Tool who follows him?”

Trail Hotties

There are always lots of beautiful young women at mountain bike races.

Fresh faced and earnest, always just a bit pinched with worry, they surround the starting line watching their boyfriends and husbands getting ready to race. It’s cool to have your man in a race.

Well, by hour two those fresh, earnest young women are slumped in camp chairs in the pit areas beside the race course, bored out of their minds and wondering what in the hell they were thinking when they agreed to come out and watch.

Sweaty riders laboring past one after another. Then the husband or boyfriend will roll by about once every hour, grab a gel or bottle and then disappear again. About hour four the rider gets the, “Hon, I got to go…give me a call when you finish.”

This is kind of a running joke among us older riders: “Your wife here today?”

“Ah, no. She doesn’t usually come to races.”

Mr. Z’s Birthday

My race was actually The 3 Hours of Santos.

A day earlier it was my son’s 2nd birthday. We were going to have his birthday party on Sunday, but circumstances changed things and instead we moved it to Saturday, the same day as the race (which I’d already signed up for). So I had a hard deadline of being back in St. Augustine (where I live) by 5 pm. That meant I absolutely had to be off the course by 2 pm.

The race was scheduled for 10 am, but actually started about 10:20. I finished the prologue lap plus three full laps by 1:20. Not enough time for another spin round the course.

Had the race started at 10, I probably would have been able to squeek in that fourth full lap. But finishing early was nice, too, because I didn’t have to rush getting the bike and gear packed, and changing clothes.

I averaged about 10 miles an hour, which is what I was shooting for…a steady, even pace that I could do for hours.

Mr. Z, my son, was born 2 years earlier while this race was going on. And I was on the Santos trails, just starting out on Pine Tree actually, when my wife called to tell me that she was pregnant. So I think about Mr. Z a lot when I’m riding out there, and racing.

A final shout out to OMBA.

The Ocala Mountain Bike Association (OMBA) lovingly maintains the Santos trail system, all 80 miles of it.

I went out 2 weeks prior to volunteer on a trail maintenance workday, always the first Saturday of the month. It was a bit self serving, because I got to personally walk and clean the Vortex sections that I would be racing.

But it was also good for building karma, and making sure that these trails that I ride so much are still here to ride in years to come.

Live in the area? Ride the trails at Santos? Get out and do trail maintenance!

Buckeye fan or 4:20 at Santos

Buckeye fan or 4:20 at Santos?

Trail Work Ahead of the 12 Hours of Santos

Thursday, February 9th, 2012

by Sean Hess (Sean@Strackacobra.com), Rider for Strackacobra powered by St. Augustine Team.

The warning at the Santos Vortex ramps section.

The warning at the Vortex ramps section.


The wonderful thing about trail work is that it gives you good karma going into a race.

The trail in question is the Santos Vortex, and the race is the mega-popular 12 Hours of Santos, scheduled this year for February 18.

I walked the Vortex last week as part of the Ocala Mountain Bike Association’s (OMBA) monthly trail maintenance. I spent my time clearing death cookies, fallen branches, and checking the general condition of the trail.

I can report that the trail is in excellent shape, smooth and pretty buff. Unless we get some pretty weird weather over the next week-and-a-half it should remain that way.

Trash pickup was also part of the deal.

The strangest thing I found? A pair of men’s underwear in the rock garden section at the end of the Vortex.

Best I can figure is that some enthusiast riding Vortex for the first time came into the rock garden, freaked out on that first rocky chute and sh*t himself. At this point he dropped trou, removed the offending (and now stinky) underwear, and beat it back to the trailhead as fast as he could.

How do I know he was an enthusiast? He was wearing underwear underneath his riding shorts. Which turned out to be lucky for him in this case, I think.

Just an FYI, most of the rock garden is bypassed during the 12 hour race, as is the ramps section. So, you don’t need to bring extra underwear if you don’t want.