So the long FSC season came down to the Finale last weekend in Ocala at the legendary Santos trails, and I decided to switch things up again. After breaking my singlespeed wheel at Amelia the week before, I wasn’t able to get that bike back together in time to race it at Santos. Since I was out of the points by switching from XC3 to SS halfway through the season, and I was already gearing up for the upcoming Endurance Season I figured I should just treat the weekend like a big training camp. Get some good volume in, make sure the new Top Fuel RSL frame is dialed, and just go out there and have fun.
So I decided to cat-up and race in XC2 with a bunch of insanely fast guys. Getting to ride an extra lap fit with my plan to get extra miles in, plus I’d get to see up close and personal how fast those guys are (hint: real fast). Saturday before the race I got up early and put a good 5 laps in on the course to remind the legs what Endurance season was going to bring. That let me see the course the folks at Gone Riding had setup, and man was it a great course! The first half was fast, flowing through the woods at insane speeds with some rocks and roots sprinkled in for good measure. Then about halfway through you took a fire road into the 2nd half of the course, and the technical features got dialed up to 11. Big rocks with skinny spaces between, sharp climbs, trees that I wasn’t sure you could even fit between, and plenty of good tacky dirt that Santos is famous for. After a few hours out there I had my fill and went home to rest up and get ready for race day.
When we woke up Sunday morning and loaded up in the car, we were greeted by an unfamiliar sight: a frozen windshield. Coming from South Florida, it’s been a long time since I’ve had to scrape ice off a windshield, but it was that kind of day. By the time we were warming up at the trailhead it was just above freezing, and 35 degrees at the start line. I looked around and saw guys and girls geared up for some serious snow riding, with long sleeves, jackets, balaclavas, and all sorts of things to stay warm on the bike. My theory was pretty simple: I’m going to be chasing some stupid fast guys (for a little bit), so they’re going to have me boiling over pretty quick. No need for extra layers, I rolled up to the start line in my regular kit.
Lining up in a new class with no expectations about how you’ll do is a pretty low stress situation as far as racing goes. The top 3 in XC2 were separated by just a couple points, so I knew the battle in that class was going to be awesome and I had a front row seat. At the blow of the whistle we all took off and I went into the woods somewhere in the top 10. I saw Matt, Ryan, and Carlos start to pull away so I passed a few folks to try and hang on. Ripping through that first half of the course I was able to stay with those guys for 10 minutes but I was starting to feel those miles I’d done the day before. I just wanted to say I hung with them for a little bit, so I pulled the cord and dialed it back to endurance pace. The rest of the group came around me and I wished them luck as I settled into DFL.
I sat back and thought about how much fun I’d had this season, my first time racing XC in the state series, all the cool trails I got to ride and awesome people I got to meet. I couldn’t daydream too much with this tough course, but I started to get in a groove by the 3rd lap and pushed onto the finish. At the end of the last lap I saw a racer in the distance. I dialed it up and tried to reel him in not knowing what class he was in. As we approached the last section of the course I figured out he was in my class, so entering the field where the finish line was I knew it was on. Shifting a couple gears and sprinting it out we both gave it our last push and I came out on top. Finished 2nd to last, but I had a great time, got faster each lap, and found out my friend Matt had gotten enough points to win the Series Championship. It was a real championship course, and those that won the day and the series at Santos definitely earned it. The season didn’t go how I envisioned it for sure, having raced 3 different classes, had 3 mechanical failures in 3 different races, missed races due to hurricanes, and so many other things, but man was it fun! I learned alot about XC racing and met some awesome people, so it’s hard to complain in the end.
Now I’m looking forward to the Endurance Season just around the corner, and the Club Scrub Endurance race is a preseason warmup for that this weekend. Bikeminded has helped organize and promote the event, so if you want to check out a cool trail you might not have been to before and give back to the local trail maintenance crew by buying them more supplies to build with, you should come out!
Lots of great photos this round guys. We’ll see you at FLE but we’ll likely miss the Coconut Cup, so please be sure to do both so we can hang again soon! We really hope you enjoy them, check out the full FSC #8 gallery and sneak peek below!