Words and Photos by WTB advocate and friend Herb Bool
The CA Grinduro @grinduro embodied everything wonderful about cycling and racing but more importantly it was about celebrating being alive in nature and sharing bikes with friends. I rolled up early to help mark the course on Thursday and Friday. We had a small crew of locals and a few dfL’rs who were volunteering with the non-profit organisation "Siskiyou Outdoor Recreation Alliance" SORA. https://siskiyououtdooralliance.org/ SORA is doing amazing work in Siskiyou county and has acquired the CA GRINDURO franchise for the next five years. The event was hyper organized and an absolute blast to attend.
Most of crew landed in the town of Mt Shasta early Friday afternoon just in time to register and ride the timed prologue. We were exhausted after nearly two days of marking some 60 plus miles of trails, obstacles and aid stations. At 4:30 group of 12-15 mostly SF/Marin riders headed out for the 12 mile/2000' prologue. We rolled up a smooth fire road and merged onto a loamy single track and eventually found our way to the start of the 2.8 mile prologue timed section. Not hesitating I rolled into the swooping, twisting, bermed, whooped out trail. It was ALL downhill and an absolute blast to ride and catch air. Bubbly laughter emerged deep from within my diagram. I managed a top ten finish for the effort and gave thanks to Mt. Shasta and the Lemurians residing deep within her massive flanks. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Legends_of_Mount_Shasta.
There were 15 of us camping at my friends home which was a mile from the start. Friday night was a hoot but the morning would come early so we headed to slumber after dinner. 7:30 came early and we made our way down to the start / finish line drawn in by the bellowing sounds of Taiko drummers. We opted out of the free breakfast and mingled amongst the diverse 800 riders field ready to share the sunny Shasta morning.
The two minutes of silence in remembrance of Moriah Wilson was an ethereal experience for all of us who knew her. I felt our combined communal love flowing into the cosmos to unite with MO. Many of us shed tears and we embraced each other on the trail.
The start was like most races. A police escort with sirens blazing led us out of town and within minutes there was the inevitable elevated tempo at the front as the fast kids disappeared up the road.
Stage 1: A Gravel Climb! 2.0 miles. This was a hard opening stage at altitude. Our crew regrouped after the stage and rolled down to the first aid station. The OG Marin Crew was the first to open the bourbon and begin pouring it liberally over crumbled biscuit and bacon bowls being served. Several riders from Bend posted up for a pour overs.
Moments later we pinning it into the woods on a loamy single track in search of Stage 2: A Singletrack Rolling! 2.1 miles. Oh man...this was an absolute ripping sector. I had clear daylight on the timed single track as Chris Schierholtz https://www.californiaradness.com/ pulled away from me hitting berms and whoops like a supercross rider. I was riding my full suspension 120/120 Trek top fuel. Near the top of the timed section I could hear a "hoot-hoot" so I moved right and, in a flash, Barry Wicks blew by me on his ridged gravel bike. Damn, so friggen fast! A moment later I was doing same dance as Caitlin Berstein passed me like an absolute boss. I tried to grab her wheel and mimic her lines but she vanished in a ribbon of duff and pine needles. Caitlin was riding a ridged three speed; here, there ….and gone ! At the end of the day Caitlin would stand on the top step of the woman’s OA Pro class. Another rider passed me, yeah… he was just a blur too. This sector was insane.
Another aid station greeted us at the finish of sector two. This aid station hosted by WTB and the one and only "Mark Weir” greeted us with banana/bacon pancakes and more savory and sweet treats and beverages than you could possibly choose. We rolled out of the aid station all smiles and made our way to the network of single track that lines the shores of lake Siskiyou.
Near the lake we slowed to a stop “for a not to be named rider” who was struggling with a slow leak. Upon investigation there was no sealant in his tubeless tires and "he" had only brought a road tube for his 40mm gravel tires and he did not have a pump. WTF? ....How has he made it this far as an adult ? was muttered somewhere in our restless posse. We fixed him up.
We began climbing, climbing and soon reached the beginning of Stage 3: Gravel Rolling! 3.8 miles. We were rolling easy as we approached the start of this segment. I shouted, “let's get after it !” and looked back to see my mates stopping to ready themselves. I could see a group of three "Ornot/WTB" riders building up speed as they neared the entrance to the timed sector. I shouted, "Can I join you ? " “YES”! A woman, (Leslie) was riding third and a small gap began to open between her and her fellow riders. I did not want to bump her off the paceline so I braked, slowed and pulled in behind her but the gap grew, and grew. shit. I pulled out in front of her and pushed hard but the two riders were gone. Ben Frederick would end up second OA in the Pro class. Leslie stayed on my wheel for a bit and then I was solo for another lung burning sector which would finish up at the lunch spot.
Lunch was a wonderful affair. Food and beverages were flowing as was the creek where many riders were soaking their feet and sipping craft brews. I knew a 1,400' hike-a-bike climb was looming after lunch. It was a true monster of a climb. Strava calls it the "impossible climb" The meaty section is 850’ - 1.24 miles long with a 13% average grade tipping up to 22% at times. I was happy to be on my MTB and WTB’s.
On the way to Stage 4 there were more aid stations, more killer food, craft beer, mixed drinks, and professional photography stops with Mt Shasta framing our group’s shenanigans. Stage 4: A Gravel Descent! 4.1. This sector was a 40+ MPH absolute mäch peddling, brakeless speed fright fest of a decent. Scary fast is an understatement. This sector was a smooth, rut free gravel decent with huge sight lines and no silly off camber turns. Absolutely trying to burn the treads off my WTB tires.
BOOM ! The race part of the Grinduro was over. We continued to descend down to lake Siskiyou where we could hear the revelry and deep base sounds of a disco party on the lake shore. We arrived to see loads of riders swimming, inflatable toys, dancing and... yea, ice cold beer. What else could you ask for?
We rolled back to the start finish for....more beer. lol. AND the famous post Grinduro photo booth. We returned to camp, showered and headed back to the podium ceremony and party. It was a magical t-shirt type evening with Mt. Shasta and the pleasant Lemurians looking over our tight knit band of dfL'rs, Zeitgeist'rs and Bay Area kooks. Several of us got on the podium and many of us stayed to dance to the final set of a Talking Heads cover band. I did not rally to the "Handsome John's" (Mayor of Mt. Shasta) after party. I had skewed my party to race ratio and it began to develop a wobble. I knew the dark side was not far. I made the lone hike back to camp and called it a full day. The Grinduro never ever disappoints. Playing bikes has never been more fun.