Felt engineering staffer Nick Ducharme has been a familiar face at the SoCal MTB races the past couple months, mixing it up in just about every discipline there is. Downhill, XC, Super D, Short-track. He’s even been known to throw down on the lunchtime road rides.
For the 2010 season, Nick is heading up a West Coast arm of the Felt-sponsored, Colorado-based Mafia Racing Team, so he’s extra motivated. One of the big spring events in Southern California is the Keyesville Classic, so Nick and fellow Feltie Greg Hammond packed up the van and headed up to take in the event last week. Oh, and Nick just happened to take the Expert Men All-Mountain category. Sweet! Here’s a little recap straight from the source:
The Keyesville Classic is always a good time! Based in a quaint little area along the Kern River, about an hour drive inland from Bakersfield along the 178 freeway, at the Keyesville Recreation area. The BLM owned and operated land offers a ton of amazing riding (the race courses only scratch the surface of the areas ride potential) in some very challenging and fun terrain. Add to that the free (very) basic camping and you have a recipe for an amazing weekend of mountain biking and fat tire festival-type activities!
I’ve been to the event several times in the past, but I missed out last year. Disappointed about that fact and feeling like I had a legit shot at doing well (and possibly beating up on some of my old riding buddies that I haven’t seen in a while) I was determined to go this year. I was fortunate enough to get a day off on Friday so I could fully enjoy the entire experience. Greg Hammond (Felt Event Specialist in charge of Felt’s brand new 2nd Dodge Sprinter Van) and I left on Friday (late) morning for the race. We were both signed up for the All Mountain event, in the Expert (Cat 1 ) Category. The 2 day “All Mountain” stage race included a 25 mile XC race on Saturday morning a Short Track race on Sunday Morning and 2 DH runs on Sunday, right around lunch time. The rules state that for the All Mountain overall classification the racer must race the same bike for all 3 events. There is a weigh in before each race to ensure that no one has made any changes to their bike, to keep things fair. My weapon of choice… The Felt Virtue. I raced a slightly modified Virtue 1, weighing in at just 24.3 pounds and capable of rocking XC courses and tackling the DH course without failure! Let me tell you, the bike is XC race fast, but with 5” of travel and it’s just right geometry, has a lot more confidence than any twitchy race bike on the descents. It is the absolute perfect bike for this race!!!
Even the drive out to the Keyesville Rec area is epic. Driving through the canyon with the Kern River flowing off the cliff on one side and the jagged rocks along the cliff walls trying to grab your truck mirrors on the other side. If you drive out at night, you’re missing out on some impressive (if not scary) scenery.
The rocky cliff whizzing by the mirrors of the Felt Sprinter van (top). The Kern River flowing through the rocky terrain alongside the 178 highway to the Keyesville Recreation area (bottom).
Registration and Race Packet pick up happened at the Kern River Brewing Company. This fun establishment houses a ton of personality paired with a bunch of great beers. I owe a fair amount of my successes this past weekend to the “Chicken Ciabatta” sandwich and their “Just Outstanding IPA”. Certainly a worthwhile stop if you’re in the area.
I also raced the Vintage Class (one of the classes this is event is best known for) Cross Country on an old ProFlex 855. It was a bunch of fun to roll up on the start line to, what seemed to be, a time capsule. Lots of old steel hardtails and full rigid rigs, a few elevated chain stay bikes, and oh the old suspension forks. I was the only one on a Fully Suspended rig. The race was only 1 lap of the 8.5 mile course, and my legs and bike were good enough for 3rd overall in the Vintage class. Not bad considering it was my 3rd ride on that bike ,and that I knew I had another 25 mile race to do in just a couple hours. It was really funny to see all the old bikes battling it out, just like they would have 15+ years ago!
The Expert XC race was something I was really looking forward to. I’ve been feeling good lately and a bunch of my old riding buddies from the Central Valley had come down to race as well. These were guys who always beat me so I was extremely motivated to do well. I was able to roll across the line in 2 hours and 5 minutes, good enough to beat all my old riding buddies and walk away with 2nd in my age group, and 3rd in the All Mountain competition.
With 2 races done on Saturday morning it was time to chill. So, like any Mafia Racing member I cracked an ice cold Pabst Blue Ribbon, and enjoyed the rest of the day with my friends and my dad who had come to watch the races.Sunday Morning came, entirely too soon, and I was once again chamois-ing up to race. The short track was shortened to a mere 12 minutes. That doesn’t mean it’s any easier than the scheduled 20 or 25, just that the same amount of pain is condensed into a shorter period. I almost missed the start whilst warming up, so I had to start at the back of the pack. I quickly worked my way forward and was battling for the lead in my age group the whole time. Eventually my legs and brain told me to slow down a bit, and save some for the DH, where I knew I would do well. I settled in and took another 2nd in my age group, and another 3rd in the All Mountain standings.
The downhill was the final event of the weekend, and I knew that of all the contenders in the all mountain category, I had the best bike for the challenging DH event. The Keyesville DH race combines your times from 2 different courses. After the first run, I was 2 seconds behind the leader in my age group, but he wasn’t entered in the All Mountain competition, so I was firmly planted in the 1st of all of the AM contestants. After run 2, I ran an almost identical time (.08 seconds slower) than the winner of my age group but still well ahead of anyone else in the AM overall standings. So I took yet another 2nd in my age group, but this time that was still good enough to get a win in the All Mountain points!!
At the end of it all, when all the points were tallied, I came out on top of the Expert Category All Mountain Classification! My nearest competitor was ahead of me going into the DH events, he had finished 2nd in the XC, 1nd 1st in the ST events, so I knew I had to do something big in the DH. Unfortunately for him, he had raced on a lightweight carbon hard tail, so he could only manage 6th place in the DH. That was more than enough to hand me the overall. My 3-3-1 beat his 2-1-6. It was a surprise to me for sure, and I was extremely excited! I had collected a similar award a few years ago, but there were only 2 of us in the contest that year. This year, with 12 guys fighting for the overall, and a lot more people racing in total, I feel this is a much greater achievement. I owe a lot to my Felt Virtue. As I said it was the perfect bike for this type of event, and it didn’t disappoint! I also need to thank my team, Mafia Racing, and all of the teams supporters/sponsors. Special thanks to my dad, as well, for being my bottle hander, photographer, manager, motivator and biggest fan out there!
Expert AM podium! Yes that’s a PBR in my hand!! Throughout the entire weekend, if I wasn’t hanging on to the bars, I was probably holding an ice cold Pabst Blue Ribbon (top). The coolest award on the planet, the Keyesville AM award, as it sits on my desk at the Felt Office. Awards created by John M. Stallone (bottom)
Photo credits – Mike Ducharme, Stephanie DuBurg, Greg Hammond, Chris DuBurg, self