2018 marked the second year in a row that Dryve Wheels took the Men's CAT 1 19-44 Oregon Off Road Series Overall Title. To really sweeten this success, it was actually first AND second place that were claimed by Dryve this season!
Our very own Shane Johnson took the win with our athlete (and last year's champ) Andrew Loscutoff nipping at his heels to take second place. Here is a quick write-up from Shane about how the season went.
After taking a two year hiatus from racing, I once again found my passion and desire for training and racing late fall of 2017. After starting my training earlier than I had ever done and completing a solid winter of training, I was super excited to test out my fitness in the first race of the Series, Echo Red to Red. Normally, this event gives you a rude awakening, being the first or second time of the season of actually hitting that high intensity race pace.
Conditions were a bit breezy, come the start of the race, but thankfully, for the long road stretch, it was a crosswind, so I was able to hide in the group as we hammered out the gravel road. It's always key to get onto the singletrack near the front of the group after the road section, as passing is rather limited, early on. I was able to snag a great spot with the front group and we went to work hammering away on the fast, flowing trails. We pushed the pace and about a third of the way into the race, we had separated ourselves from the majority of the other riders. As the time progressed, there was a little bit of shuffling and I found myself very close to the front of the race. I worked hard with some of the Elite/Pro riders as we wrapped up the singletrack and popped back out onto the road for the speedy ride back into the great little town of Echo. Thankfully, that wind had shifted slightly, so we had a tailwind all the way back to Main St. Crossing the finish line in first for my category and 5th overall, was a super awesome result and nice confirmation that the training was paying off!
Next on the docket was the Mudslinger race in Blodgett, which is located in the Coast Range. With drizzly rain and snow, the race was definitely looking like it would live up to it's namesake. After a warm-up in full rain gear, I reluctantly shed the pants and jacket as we had our riders meeting. Before we knew it, the race was on and we were headed up the first of the day's big climbs. I was able to hang for a bit, but my legs just were not able to produce the power I wanted/needed to stay with the lead group. I settled into a solid pace I knew I could sustain and worked hard to keep it there. The course was a sloppy/greasy mess as we played slip-n-slide in the woods on the singletrack. To really make things tougher, the second climb thrust us above snow level and we found ourselves cutting through a good 8+ inches of fresh snow as we climbed to the top. This is when I was really thankful I chose to rock warmer clothes, but most importantly, shoe covers! As time went on, racers began to drop off from almost-frozen appendages and just the general gnarliness of the conditions. Being more efficient in warm weather, I found myself suffering from the cold as well, with my legs feeling seized up anytime I stopped pedaling (descents). Thankfully, they stayed at the uncomfortable level and I was able to push through for the remainder of the race. I will say, popping out of the last singletrack onto Tum Tum Road, that takes you to the finish, was quite possibly the highlight of the day, as I knew it was only 1.5 miles to being able to hover over the propane heater in my van and warm up. Despite the cold conditions and my legs not quite feeling up to par, I was able to snag 4th place.
After Mudslinger, I had a large gap between Oregon races (even missing a few), while I traveled to California for several races in the warm sunshine. With the possibility of being in the running for the Overall, I adjusted my focus a bit to the remaining two races of the Series, starting with Chainbreaker, held close-by in Bend. This was polar opposite to Mudslinger in that it was warm, dry and DUSTY. Starting with a long gravel road climb, the pace went out a bit on the mellow side, but the pain slowly got cranked up as we progressed up the fast climb. Soon, I was working in the lead group as we neared the top. A huge effort by my buddy Bruce cracked my legs and I lost touch with a few riders as we turned off the gravel into the double track dirt. Thankfully, I kept the pedal to the metal and slowly over the next few miles reeled back the riders that had pulled away and I was able to get myself gaps on them as well. Before I knew it, Bruce and I were back together, pushing each other through the dusty singletrack trying to close the gap on the one remaining rider in front of us, Josh. We came through the awesome stadium area, where the crowds were there cheering us on, together, but thankfully I was able to drop Bruce on a technical climb out of the stadium area, taking us to the final bit of bumpy, freshly cut singletrack. I began catching glimpses of Josh through the trees, but he had ridden a perfect race and was able to keep his solid lead all the way to the finish, putting me into second position for the CAT 1 category for the day.
The solid result at Chainbreaker put me into a two-way tie for first place in the Overall with my good buddy and fellow Dryve athlete, Andrew Loscutoff. The last race of the Series, Sisters Stampede, would be a 'winner (between the two of us) takes all' scenario. This definitely led to some fun smack talk between the two us leading up to the start of the race!
Race day arrived, with warm sunshine, which always makes me smile! The Stampede course is extremely fast with very mellow climbs, so getting to the front early, is key. I made the mistake of chatting a bit too much before the start, so I ended up way back in the start grid, ooops! Thankfully, the drag race from the starting area went smoothly for me and I soon found myself with the lead group. As the race progressed, things strung out and I found myself battling with Bruce once again, pushing each other along trying to get the other to crack. The out-and-back course gently climbs a ridgeline, so at the halfway point, you begin heading back downhill making for a wicked fast descent pedaling full gas through everything! This was when I hoped I could make a move to separate myself but it wasn't until with about 4 miles left I was able to form a gap. I was able to bridge up to Cody, where we worked together pulling through the crazy fast doubletrack. It couldn't have been more perfect timing, as this allowed my gap to grow and also made for an awesome sprint finish between the two of us! Everything came together so perfectly on the day and I was able to take the CAT 1 win, earning one of the coveted Sisters Stampede belt buckles!! The win, also gave me the points to win the Overall Series, which was an amazing feeling!!
It was really awesome to have everything come together so smoothly for this season: hard work, some good luck and incredible support from my friends, family and sponsors.