Monday, March 21, 2016

Keyesville Classic All Mountain Stage Race

Singletrack AND beautiful views :)
If you've never been to Keyesville (just outside of Bakersfield, CA in Sequoia National Forest) this is an event you NEED to add to the bike riding/racing bucket list. Similar to Downieville in the destination style multi day mountain bike race feel, this event is super close for us SoCal people, and includes way more cheering/bonding/hanging out and meeting cool new people than any race I've ever been to. All of which is to say, I was pretty shocked the free camping style venue wasn't packed to the gills with racers! Although maybe the more intimate feel of the race adds to it's charm :)

Anyway, to top off the free camping, bluegrass, filet mignon dinner, 3 races in one weekend, and river to swim in perks of this race, the trails in the area are crazy good, and the XC race is 75% singletrack!

Here's a recap of the weekend's' races/events!
The Keyesville Classic is an all mountain stage race complete with short track, downhill and cross country stages over the course of two days. Riders can compete in and single event, or do all three to qualify for the all mountain title, but for the latter you must use the same bike in all three stages. I took the Nine (my Felt 29er hard tail) with a dropper post as it would be the most fun for short track and XC.

The first race of the weekend was a 30 minute short track, which hurt something awesome, and was crazy good for cheering/spectating because each lap was around 2 minutes. The best part of short track was being called 'motorboat' again during the race, that's what happens when you try to give the announcer advice on what to sat during a race... and almost crashing on pretty much every lap because cornering, it's tough :)
I was able to win short track, and got to do some epic cheering for the pro/open men's race before heading up the hill to practice the DH.

Hanging out before the DH.
The DH stage takes place on Saturday afternoon. Pretty much everyone rides up the hill to the start, hangs out for a while and then you charge the 3 minute course with everything you have. I was so pinned at the end that I had to lay down on the ground and catch my breath. To minimize chamois time for the day (it was a 6 hour chamois time kind of day already) I snuck in a quick lap of the XC course while all the DH runs finished, pre-podium. I ended up 2nd in the DH and tied for 1st in all mountain at the end of the day.

Then there was some serious Saturday afternoon snacking, river ice bathing, more snacking, map reading and hanging out, which ended with a campfire and a bluegrass duo. I brought leftovers from Friday's dinner to eat, so I didn't indulge in the steak meal for purchase, but I hear it was really really good. I got to meet a TON of cool new people on Saturday, there was some awesomely bad joke telling and singing along to the music, pretty much the only thing missing was roasting marshmallows and Brendan Connors :)

And Sunday we got to crush a 24 mile cross country race (after a nice relaxing morning or coffee and reading) which consisted of 3 laps of a crazy fun, swoopy, smooth, and fast single track course. There was some heckling of the men I passed, some riding by myself freaked out about getting caught, and some giggling with joy over the pumpy fast descents that were WAY less scary than last year. Oh, also I crashed INTO a rock on the last descent before a really steep little climb and had to run, haha. Thankfully no one was watching :) 
In the end I took the All Mountain title back (I lost it last year to Christina Turner) but feel like the winning was more along the lines of spending every minute of the weekend in the most beautiful place hanging out with cool people and racing bikes. 
Women's XC podium.
 The promoters of this race work their butts off to make the event fun, full of entertainment, accessible to everyone and a really really good time. From getting to know all the participants, and hosting an awesome raffle post race, to providing incredible on site food and joining in with the heckling during races SamBarn knows how to put on a good time. Thanks guys for the fun weekend. I cannot wait till next year's race :)

Post XC there was one final adventure to be had, but I need a nap, and the to do list is really long right now... a blessing and a curse, but I'm not done reminiscing about the weekend, OR Kernville/Lake Isabella area.

A sneak peak...

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