"Everything is AWESOME!!!", a movie line and song from arguably one of the greatest movies of 2014, The Lego Movie...but let's be honest, experiencing a day in which everything IS truly awesome is as likely as having a sophisticated conversation with your dog. However, after reading what the organizers of The Santa Cruz Bicycles Mother Lode Epic said about their race, I figure they might try to change my perspective.

Roughly a month before the race, I had received a text message from Dryve teammate, Landon, encouraging me to register for the Mother Lode Epic. Landon had raced the event in 2018 and he had nothing but good things to say about it. Honestly, I was initially nervous and hesitant. The majority of my racing experience has been focused on short one hour efforts; this race would be 32 miles spread across 4 timed stages. Endurance would play a key role and personally, 'endurance' is not a word in my vocabulary. Nevertheless, after taking Landon's advice, I found myself on the start line, my stomach full of butterflies.

Stage 1: Again, 'endurance' is not a word in my vocabulary. Therefore, at just mile 4, I attacked and summited to the finish line of the stage in 1st place, I was so pumped! Thanks to the finishing climb my heartrate was high and my eyes slightly crossed, but I didn't fret over any of that. I had established a minute gap between myself and my main rival, Chaz Halbert, and I was feeling confident and possibly cocky…

Stage 2: The race officials would allow racers to pick their start positions for the rest of the stages, which were formatted like a time trial. I was feeling bold and wanted to send a message to everyone in the race that I was ready to dominate. I chose to start 30 seconds behind Chaz with the hopes of catching him on the 2nd stage and putting an end to this competition early. The first few miles of the stage traverse over open rolling hills and I could see Chaz as I reeled him in. Halfway through the stage I caught and proceeded to pass him, the final nail was seemingly going into the coffin and the race would be mine! On the final descent into the finish line of stage 2 though, the mountain bike gods had decided enough was enough, I would pay for my arrogance, and with a bang my rear tire went flat. Initially, I wouldn't acknowledge my situation, my cockiness was still in control and I continued to descend down the trail, smashing my rear rim into countless rocks. Eventually, I got off the bike, picked it up, and started running. A few feet from the finish line of the stage Chaz came sprinting past me. I technically won the stage by a few seconds but all my confidence was lost; I had rightfully been put-in my place.

Stage 3: Thanks to my stubbornness of riding on a flat tire during the previous stage, the rear tire was punctured in multiple places, beyond repair of sealant or plugs. The rear rim however was still perfect and true, so I put a tube in the rear wheel and the bike was back in action. The penultimate stage is a famous local trail, Salmon Falls, which helped introduce me to mountain biking over 10 years ago. It felt so good to race on a trail I have such fond memories of, almost like shaking an old friends hand. However, the trail came out swinging and held back no punches. The short punchy climbs proved to be real battles as my legs started to feel the previous high intensity efforts. I finished the stage with a slower than normal time and with my competition out of sight.

Stage 4 (the party stage): Mother Lode Epic is truly epic! Between each stage are fans, friends and families, photographers, food, drinks, and technical support. This was highlighted at the end of Stage 3 in which a group setup a party on a beach of Lake Folsom, complete with a DJ and margaritas. A few margaritas (virgin) later and a ski boat ride across the lake was the beginning of Stage 4. I raced my heart out, left nothing on the table, but my coffin had been nailed shut. Fighting off cramps and with eyes completely crossed now, I was happy to make it to the finish line.

Finish Line: Beer, a BBQ, and live music was all part of the post-race celebration! Chaz rightfully took 1st place and I was pumped to finish only a few minutes back in 2nd overall. The afternoon was full of post-race smiles and good times.

To be honest, the race organizers succeeded, the Mother Lode was an epicly awesome day! With the high level of coordination, an army of volunteers and support staff, the fun and amenities between stages, and the post-race celebration, I will, without a doubt, be at the start line next year. I will however, be armed with the lessons learned from this first go; more caution, a more endurance-minded strategy, and way more respect for this course. I can't wait!

 -Nic Jimenez


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