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Test to destruction: The Keith Bontrager diary 2008

Keith Bontrager is best known as the bike and component design guru behind his eponymous road and mountain bike components, but behind the scenes, the man universally known as KB is an enthusiastic and well-respected endurance mountain bike racer.

KB has taken part in a over 50 24-hour races in the last few years, and in his diary takes us inside the mental, physical, and technical challenges of long-distance mountain bike racing while juggling the demands of an active interest in the successful international business he began all those years ago.

Index to all entries

May 7, 2008

Warming up

Another tough training ride…
Photo ©: Keith Bontrager
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It's been a hectic winter and spring but I finally got on a bike with more than a test ride in mind a few weeks ago.

First things first my friend Bruce Muhlfeld got hurt last year, pretty badly. You might remember me talking about him he is 50 and still racing pro. He is on the way back now. Check it out and give him some encouragement

Second - thanks to everyone who straightened me out about the deer skull mystery. Antlers. Guess you can tell I am not a seasoned hunter, other than fungal prey of course.

Onward. A few weeks ago the Sea Otter came to town and my friend Dror came over from Israel to race. Dror showed me Israel last spring and we rode all over the place there, so this was a chance to return the favor.

He'd had a rough spring too with surgery in the middle of training, but he seemed to be in good shape and was very happy to be racing again. We rode together on the road for the week before the event. He was just recovering from the flight and tapering for the race or I would never have really been close to him on the road. And, of course, if he dropped me he didn't know the way back...

I cooked for him too, which was a challenge. His step mother is an amazing chef - she prepared one of the best meals I've ever had with his family when I was there. He's a pro, and pros eat carefully so they don't have to haul too much baggage up hills. And they eat a lot. I don't cook entirely with fueling athletic performance in mind though I am not that heavy handed with the butter and cream of course. Making sure he was happy pushed me a bit farther though and it worked out well. I've always wanted to see Chef Willi the chef who worked for the Postal and Disco teams in action to see how this is done. Maybe this year.

Unfortunately Dror got food poisoning the night before the XC event so he couldn't race. I can sympathize having it all go wrong after training so hard and then flying so far for a big event is not an easy one. He was bummed, but I am sure he will be going well soon.

Now, I know what you are thinking... And, frankly, I am shocked. He had moved on to room with the team down in Monterey well before the event and none of my food could possibly been at fault. No respect...

The Sunday the racing ended down there I rode down for some sushi with Matt and Mike from Mountain Bike magazine. Then I kept going south the next day. I've been showing up at a trail benefit Pasadena Cyclery puts on each year and have used that as an excuse to get in some solid road miles on the way down, and it was on again.

It's a long ride and really good when the weather is cooperative. It was, sort of. The first two days along the coast were sunny, windy and very cold. The arm and leg warmers stayed on the entire time, so I had no chance to work on my farmer's tan at all, which was a bummer. But south of Santa Barbara things improved so I got my stripes going pretty good. I finished up with a short ride into Santa Monica and a dinner at Chez Jay, a favorite of mine.

It was hot in LA.
Photo ©: Keith Bontrager
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The next day I was scheduled to ride with the folks in Pasadena and, of course, it got hot. The temperature was in the high 90s for the ride. Ouch. The route started with a 4000 foot climb and then a very good singletrack descent in the mountains behind JPL, so all I had to do was get to the top intact, and I did. Every MTB ride I've done in SoCal has the same sort of elevation profile. The ride is almost done when you are half way in it's all down from there.

After a very well attended barbeque back at Pasadena Cyclery we watched Klunkers. I had not seen it before. You should if you get a chance. It's a very cool flick and really spells out the details of what happened way back when in the early days of MTBs. Those folks were riding some pretty dodgey stuff down the hills and going fast too. Billy Savage was the guy who made the movie and he was there too, just to add to the fun. It was a fine night.

The Oakley man.
Photo ©: Keith Bontrager
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Also, dedicated follower of fashion that I am, I scored a new pair of square Oakleys, bright white. Hey, I am traveling around and have to look the part, right. So this guy shows up at the breakfast and totally humbles me. It's hard to be on the front when it comes to fashion I guess...

Right after the pancake breakfast the next day I hopped on a plane to Lyon, France. My first race of the year would be a three day stage race in Limousin Le Grand Traversee du Limousin. It's three days off road, medium long stages, with lots of short climbs and some singletrack. It looks like fun. I am not race fit yet, so I am not sure I should say that I will be racing, but I think I am fit enough to ride well and finish with something like a grin. It's been raining fairly constantly in that area to so my grin will probably be speckled with mud. That is a fine thing with me - way, way, way better than being chalk man again. Way better.

That should set me up for some 24 hour racing and my own 24 hour event in England in July. More on that and the race in France next.