The racing returned to the “B”east Coast for the 2nd National Series Race; the Pro GRT at Mountain Creek Bike Park and Billy Goat Bikes Racing was back at it again! The weekend would start early Thursday morning for most of our riders. The long drives from NC, SC, VA and PA would start around 5 am for some of the guys. While others would come in later as they were still dealing with exams and school.
The course walk and pit setup was Thursday afternoon. I have to say the spot for our pits was awesome. Andrew Slowey of CaneCreek would share the pit space and brought the mac-daddy CaneCreek tent to share with our SRSuntour and GoalZero tents.
It was a sponsor’s showcase of canopy tops. The pits would serve more than one purpose this weekend. Rain was in the forecast but so was the heat. The race is known as the “Spring Classic” but it should have been called “Hotter than HELL” Classic this weekend.
Pits are set up and finishing the course you see the famous RedBull finish line here at Mountain Creek. This year, you come into the finish off the FLY Racing drop.
Friday, practice day one, would begin at 9 am and it had to be close to 90º already. Everyone knew that the track was going to get blown out if the dry conditions continued throughout the day. The Devinci Wilson’s would be put to the test throughout the weekend. Derek Maiden was back at the condo, sick as a dog. Michael Kane was still in South Carolina at school and wouldn’t be in NJ until 9:30 pm. Jimmy, Joshua, Kai, Zach, Nicholas, and their bikes would battle the elements throughout the dry dusty practice session.
At the end of practice on Friday, the course was winning and not in a good way. Tires exploding, rims coming apart and suspensions failing all over the mountain. Not sure if it was the course, the heat or both. I have to say the CaneCreek DBs were working great in combination with our Suntour Rux forks. You can’t go wrong when CaneCreek and SRSuntour are at the races providing support. After 3 preseason races, team camp, many practice weekends and Pro GRT we finally had our first major ding in the one of our Novatec Demon wheels. Its great to see so many companies coming out to provide racer support.
The Devinci Wilson’s were doing what they do best… going fast and running strong in the difficult conditions. Joshua and Zach wouldn’t be so lucky. Zach crashed hard hurting his hand (possible Boxer’s fracture) and Joshua took out a tree with his shoulder.
They came away a little battered but ice and ibuprofen would be enough to keep the sharp edge off. Other friends of BGB would not be as fortunate. On Friday, Kyle Grau would destroy his helmet, forks and he was fortunate to walk away with only a possible concussion, bruised neck muscles and scratched up face. Matt Henderson wouldn’t be so lucky, he would be in the hospital with a broken wrist, 4 broken ribs, collapsed lung and concussion. I’m sure more riders got knocked around on Friday but let’s send some prayers out for these guys.
We are fortunate that all the riders were going back to the condo to eat Diane’s cooking. She’s team Mom and prepares breakfast, lunch and dinner at selected races. Lucky ones get to sample the feasts she supplies to the BGB team/Family.
Saturday would come and Michael was in the pits ready to get in as many runs as he could…got some making up to do. It was another HOT day and practice would be short to make room for seeding/qualifying runs for the boys. Derek was trying to put in some runs in the heat and not pass out from dehydration and weakness. Joshua and Zach were icing injuries and it would be a day to overcome distractions.
With Saturday practice session two in the books, it was now time for Jr Expert seeding and Pro qualification runs. Of course, the first signs of rain would show up as the first riders headed up the lift. Then it happened…lightening in a 7 mile radius would shut the lift down and put a course hold in place.
Joshua would be the first rider down but the situation would not be mentally conducive for a seeding run. Joshua would sit in the starting gate for more than 10 minutes being told get ready to go after each minute passed.
Finally, it was time and rider on course was announced. When Joshua crossed the line it showed a solid time of 2:13.81 and he would take the “Hot Seat.” Not sure where his time would stack up against a strong Jr Elite field. While in the “Hot Seat” JR got a visit from SRAM/TLD Team rider & friend Walker Shaw giving out some congrats. We waited while another course hold was in place and Kai was sitting in the start gate waiting for the starter to say it’s really time to go now.
Kai is on course and as he pops out the woods you can see he’s pushing hard and crossing the line with a a time of 2:23.96. Michael “Didn’t get much practice” Kane follows Kai and crosses with a time of 2:28.76. Next up is our youngest Jr Expert rider, Zach Gareis, and he crossed the line with a time of 2:28.64. After all the Jr’s finish, BGB riders are sitting in good positions.
- Joshua Rogers (JR) – 4th
- Kai Nishino (SuferBru) – 17th
- Zach Gareis (Thor) – 22nd
- Michael Kane (Mr.Snapchat) – 24th
The BGB Pro Men would be next. Derek Maiden and Jimmy Leslie are up. Derek would have an uphill battle, pushing his body and mind down the hill. Being sick, not keeping anything down for 2 days, and only getting about 2 practice runs in before trying to qualify. Jimmy’s pace would allow him to lay down a smooth run without pushing the limits. When it was all done, Derek had missed the cut by 6 spots. It was a disappointment but he’s safe, starting to feel better and can look forward to next East GRT. Jimmy‘s run put him 24th with a time of 2:11.47… smooth and conservative.
Now it was time to pull the bikes apart and get them ready for Sunday…Race Day Boys. With all hands on deck; me, Matt, Scott, Bill, Nick and John with Suntour (working on our forks) we had a assembly line going. Bike wash to bolt check, to drive train, to suspension. The bikes were made ready for the beating the next day. Now it was time for another tasty meal from Chef Diane.
Sunday morning would be another scorcher of a day. Heat from the sun and heat from the riders would make Sunday the hottest yet. NO more conservative runs, it was race day and speed would be the name of the game. Pushing the limits to the edge and just past without going over. Limited practice would mean so many riders would be pushing practice runs to see where the limits were. Finding the limits of your tire grip on the dust covered rocks. This would cause more battering on riders and bikes. GSTAAD Scott Team rider & friend Neko Mulally would crash in a high speed section and ended up with a broken arm. Send healing vibes to Neko and all the other riders that went down hard. Jimmy crashed in one of his last practice runs…went out to try to get one more run before he crashed again. This time in the asylum rock garden hurting his wrist.
Now, Zach, Joshua and Jimmy were all battling some type of injury. The cooler not only kept our drinks cold but served as a place to put your hand, wrist and bag ice for your shoulder. No time too cry over spilt milk… it was race face time.
Michael would be our first Jr Elite rider on course. He knew he had time to make up and needed a super clean run. It didn’t go Michael’s way but he still managed to take just over 5 secs off his seeding run. This would move him up 10 spots giving him a top 15 finish with a time of 2:23.11. Not bad with a mistake filled run. Lots to build on moving to the next stop in Angel Fire.
Zach was our next rider on course and he was going to have to battle that hand injury. Zach also removed time from seeding. Exactly 5 secs with a race time of 2:23.64 placing him in the top 15 as well. A great start for the first year Jr Elite rider with heavy hitters in the field.
Kai would not have the run he wanted during this race. Getting stood up in a corner coming to a stop and having to pedal his arse off to get his momentum back. He still managed to remove 1.94 secs and move up 6 spots to place 11th with a solid time of 2:22.02. Kai has continued to move up the ladder with his aggressive style. His eyes are set on his first World Cup at MSA.
Matt and I thought most everyone would take 1 to 3 secs of Saturday’s runs and that’s what seemed to be happening. It would get more difficult for all the guys near the top seeds. Joshua would come down with the fastest time of 2:11.99 with 3 riders left on the course. He knew the Adam Robbins, Sean Bell and Steven Walton would leave nothing on course. Even though he dropped 1.85 secs from his seeding runs, would it be enough. When it was all said and done Sean Bell laid down a blistering time of 2:09.55 to take the top spot. Joshua grabbed his first Pro GRT podium for 2016 with a 2nd place finish.
The only rider we had left was Pro, Jimmy Leslie, and he would have to lay down a run that was clean and fast. With the wrist hurt and the his last 2 practice run crashes sitting in his head, he had more to push through than he would like. Not sure what Jimmy did to mentally get in the right frame of mind but whatever he did, it worked. Jimmy crushed his qualifying run by 5.87 secs putting him in the Hot Seat. Jimmy would stay until 18th seed Mitch Ropelato Santa Cruz/SRAM/TLD rider would take over the top spot. After the race, only 8 more riders had faster times than Jimmy leaving him in the 10th spot and scoring his first UCI points of the season. With names like Gwin, Shaw, Ropelato, MacKinnon, Neer, Morgan and others a top 10 is excellent company.
Billy Goat Bikes walks away with a 2nd in Jr Elite and 3 more top 15 in the same class and a top 10 in Pro. What a successful weekend of racing and team building. The heat was relenting, the dust was everywhere, the dirt was slick and the rocks were hard here at Mountain Creek. Now we have a few weekends off before heading out west again to Pro GRT #3 in Angel Fire, NM.
Marc Tremain and his crew at Mountain Creek were awesome. Everything was in place and they were very organized. Make sure you send a thank you to the venue.
As always none of this would be possible without a great line-up of sponsors…
Billy Goat Bike Shop • Novatec Wheels • BikeFettish • RJ Rockers Brewery
Mountain Khakis • Onza Tires • SR Suntour • GoalZero
HT Pedals • FLY Racing • CaneCreek • Deity • Devinci Bikes