For our latest Sunday team practice we took a brief 15 minute drive East on 80 to visit Crockett Hill Regional Park. What awaited us there was, as some students described, "a peak mountain biking experience."
Our route for the day took us on a 9 mile journey from the parking lot, up, up, up to the top of the trail network on a combination of wooded and wide open singletrack trails. The effort needed to get up the steep trail (450 ft in the first mile alone!) was real but the open views of the San Pablo Bay and the rolling green California winter hills was well worth it. Oh, and being at the top of the trail network also meant we got to go down!
While we enjoyed the climb up, hitting the flow trail called "Sugar City" was a real treat! (Get it? ;) It included rollers (like dirt speed bumps), tabletops, and sweeping bermed turns all the way from top to bottom. With an excited smile Emilio exclaimed, "It was super fun, but also kind of scary." when asked how he enjoyed the flow trail.
Toward the top of the trail we practiced skills together including the ready position and moving our bodies in response to the changing terrain of a roller or feature, watching each other go over an obstacle until we got the hang of it. Then we sailed down together as shown in the video below.
In mountain biking, what goes down, must go up so when we got to the bottom of the trail, we turned right up the most challenging climb our team has yet to face. With an average grade of 13% for 1/3 of a mile with sections over 20%, this climb is TOUGH! Another 1/3 of a mile and 150 feet of climbing and we're back at the top--Phew!
Just as what goes down, must go up, so must what goes up, go back down again. So, from our top perch we pointed our bikes down again, retracing our path back down to the parking lot on singletrack.
Riders today started to really show massive improvements on the bike after working on skills and fitness for the last month. It was amazing to see Donovan spinning with such efficiency, riders practicing "active recovery" on the mellower sections of the climb, Emilio hanging on the wheel of the ride leader throughout the day, Harrison trying clipless pedals for the first time and laughing every time he'd tumble onto his side forgetting he was clipped in when we stopped as a group, and Lucas pushing the side knobs on his tires as he dug into the corners of the tight switchbacks. Even coach Reed, who was on his 3rd mountain bike ride ever, showed so much improvement as the day went on, learning and practicing skills along with the team.
We soaked in the crisp blue skies and winter air, 60 degree weather and abundant signs of spring in the green explosions happening throughout the terrain all while pushing ourselves into better riders and friends.
In the parking lot, at the end of practice each person shared something that they were proud of about another rider. From determination to improved skill, inspiring spirit to all out effort, these riders not only are becoming better mountain bikers but are becoming an encouraging group of teammates. We look forward to coming back to Crockett Hills again soon!
Closing practice recognizing our teammates accomplishments for the day. We had a lot to share.