The cake that emerged from Judy's pack at the top of the hill managed to pull peoples' eyeballs from the depths of their skulls. The sugar seemed to stave off the general feelings of nausea. Packs were heavily packed, and the load began to lighten as eerie spring rains encircled the mountain we sat atop. It was warm and calm, atypical of this time of year, the familiar cold spring wind absent from our day. We decided on a course...new to this event...it would take us all the way to the lookout tower for the start. As you can see in the photos the course starts in a steep dirt road downhill that quickly turns uphill and then onto an extended section of trail known as the catwalk. We decided to race the catwalk to Sunset trail down to the meadow and intersection with Red Onion.
Typically the Baah is won and lost in the shotgun, and it has been those able to put this opening beer down, keep the burps down, and get down to riding that have won. The (theoretical) trophy bears only two names from four years past, thrice of Mr. Heinchez, once of myself. But...there has been a challenger on the rise, putting up a big money run for the last two years....Austin, AKA, ????....wait this dude certainly needs a cooler name for this blog than his real name. A close-up zoom of the above photo would reveal the positions for the hole-shot. I pulled off an early gap in the guzzle and turned downhill. It would not hold. By the time the road bottomed out Austin, Heinchez, and Reverend Sham-pain would throw an attack into the climb that I could not answer.
A close look into the faces of the riders at this point would reveal no smiles. A strange lull in speed of the lead group led Reverend Sham-Pain to capitalize on the hesitation as the others paused to hold back the heaves. The reverend took charge into the very rough singletrack downhill. It was his to lose, but none of the group had been up here this year, and the spring blow-down would inevitably turn the race in favor of the challenger as he followed the reverend down the catwalk. A downed tree looked deceptively impassible. The Reverend opted to go around but this was the deception, as it did not pass and left the Reverend hiking back to the route. Austin opted for the direct line, and though admittedly sloppy, the log was hopped with a clear passage, allowing him to put on a lead that would hold for the rest of the race even while crashing near the finish. In his third attempt at the Baah, we have a new champion!
The remaining riders, realizing that the race was over long before they arrived anywhere resembling halfway down the hill set back to enjoy the atypical spring day. Positions were jostled without care. Stoke for the day was exceptionally high. And a new bike saw her first ride down the challenging terrain on Mount Elden met with grand encouraging smiles by her rider.
There was talk of making it a stage race, all stages featuring the signature start. But by the time we had all finished the stage that talk had ceased and the remaining weight of the pack was whittled down stop by stop through the rest of the ride. We had quite a bit of downhill still ahead, but the difficult parts were now behind. It was a perfect day, and all there was left to do was ride. And tired though we were, none of us wanted to stop.