Karl Kaiser // Big Epic

So far racing was not my thing and this is only my second one. I mostly ride for fun and have no club or other racing background. What draws me to the Bay Area Epic is the amazing route Dave Cohen picked.

When I started at 8 AM the temperatures were perfect. There was still a marine layer and it was not as cool as after a clear-sky night. My ride for the course was a Specialized Epic hardtail with tri-bars. Those came in handy on the road part of the course and allowed me to keep pace with a few road riders that I encountered along the route to Almaden.

A quick Restroom and water stop at the park entrance and on to the gravel. I have ridden a few times in Almaden Quicksilver park and really like the trail there. However, I was not so familiar to know where the tunnel was and was unsure how to find it. Hence I wasted some time searching along the April trail only to give up. Eventually I found a tunnel and took the selfie. I sure hope it was the right one.

Once I reached Woods trail I knew the ascent to Mt. El Sombroso had some steep grades. In the close to 20% incline sections I hiked my bike, knowing that there were still plenty more feets to climb until the finish. Then the roller coaster of Kennedy trail started. I have always come up from the Kennedy road side so it was fun to ride it down. It was great to roll on 2.1” wide tires on this descent. Although it was a Sunday I did not encounter a lot of hikers along the route and the few were mostly on the lower part of Kennedy. Then the down-hill to Los Gatos, fun! A quick water stop before I continued on the Los Gatos Creek trail.

Black Road is steep! I have bombed down this road a few times and here I was trying to get my a.. up. To Make matters worse I was also fighting leg cramps. So I had to dial back my tempo a bit and ride in smaller gears. My goal for the day was to have some fun and finish the race. So I reminded myself, this was only the halfway point.

Once I reached JNT I knew I was in for a gravel treat. The mostly flat beginning allowed me to relax my legs a bit and after a brief refueling stop by the dam I started the climb up to Skyline.

Now I was in the rhythm that I like for such distances. I went on along Skyline and was planning to fill my water bottles by the fire station up there. However, as I was on the trail and not the road I missed it and had to ride a bit of a detour to fill up. With no water left and no refill opportunity until Pagemill, it was the right call but my morale was bruised. There is still a fair amount of climbing on the Bay Area Ridge Trail along Skyline until Alpine Rd. and then the ascent to Monte Bello. Anyway, I made it up there without major problems and grew confident that I could finish the race.

The Indian Creek road and Sevens Creek Canyon descent were next. This is my home turf and always fun to ride. The suspension fork and MTB brakes came in handy. On the tarmac section of the canyon the tri-bars were great.

A quick water refill stop and then Mt. Eden. I Did not break my PR but made it up there quite nicely and felt great. The rest of the route was mostly downhill or flat. I still had some energy left to push and finish in style. What a great day, perfect conditions!

What would I do differently? The choice of bike was spot-on (hey it is an Epic after all…) except that I had problems with my derailleur. USPS botched a parts delivery and I was unable to repair this before the race. Then I would consider a hydration pack to avoid the refilling detour or use a better plotted route to not miss this water stop. And note to myself, always carry four quarters, there is a soda vending machine by the fire station. What a treat this would have been!

What is great about this event? The format of the race is kind of unique and leaves flexibility when and how to race. The route selection is superb and the spring season in the Bay Area is spectacular with wildflowers decorating the sides of the trails like colorful spectators. I really enjoyed this day!