Going into Grinduro I knew it would be another monumental moment in my riding career. I have never accomplished anywhere close to 8,000ft of climbing in a single ride. I signed up for Grinduro to use it as a way to prepare myself for the Counting Coup a few weeks later… and to have yet another epic journey on 2 wheels. I opted to take my mtb versus my cx bike because I heard about the shred-a-bility of their singletrack at the end. I was actually blown away by the amount of mountain bikes out there for a gravel grinder race. We were expecting hot temps out in Quincy, Ca. however I was completely thrown on the temperatures as we rose out of our tents. The race started at 8am and the temperature was right about 36 degrees. I did my best to find any amount of sun to get warmth as we all waited for the start. 

At the start we had about a 3 mile paved road start until we hit the dirt. My hands were burning, my feet were numb and I was shaking the whole way from the cold. Once we hit the dirt Grinduro had officially begun as we were met by an immediate fire road climb. I looked up at the long line of racers and noticed there was no end in sight to this climb so I settled into a comfortable climbing gear and put my head down. They called this first ascent The Grizzly Climb (4,200ft in 12 miles ranging from 5%-13% grades). Stage 1 was about 5 miles into this climb “Hough and Puff Hill Climb” a 1 mile timed hill climb with the steepest grades out of this whole ascent. I opted to keep my pace and not throw my legs as I was really struggling to warm up. Finally, we peaked our highest point at 7,300ft the views were stunning! At this point I was a little nervous as I realized I was not performing how I thought I would, I was tired from fighting the cold in my tent all night. I was struggling the whole time. At the top I pushed all the negative thoughts out of my head because we were finally met with a downhill… it was short, but it was down. So I dropped my seat and enjoyed the ride. When the fire road flattened out I went to raise my seat and realized it was not moving. A wave of panic crossed my mind as I was afraid it wouldn’t get working and that would be the end of my race. Monica and I did all we could to get it up and realized it may be malfunctioning because of the cold temperatures. So once we were able to get it up, I took offbut it was still bouncing as I rode. I had another 500ft ascent before we hit our first official downhill section.  So I climbed as hard as I could with my malfunctioning seat.  Once the fire road decent began I was in the clear. 

Segment 2 was called “Big Grizzly” it was a 5 mile fire road descent. This fire road was full of rocks and boulders and a lot of loose gravel. On my way down I couldn’t help but question how are the others doing this on cx bikes?! I was certainly amazed by a few brave souls that came barreling down and passed on my left. I did the best I could to fly down with my seat in an unfamiliar position. My legs and lungs were enjoying the break. We were met by an aid station and told we are about 16 miles out from our lunch stop. I pressed on for a very long 16 miles. Granted a lot of it was downhill, but it was chunky and had surprises around every corner. Once I reached the Taylorsville Valley I saw some friends and took the opportunity to get the fluid in my lines warm and moving so I could continue the race. When the seat finally set we were on our last 6 miles of paved road to our lunch stop. This was stage 3 called “Indian Creek”. The pavement hurt.. it was rolling but I felt how much bike I was dragging around and I was exhausted. Monica was a lifesaver and saw how tired I was so I hopped on her wheel to our rest stop. I had made it to lunch. I sat and had coke and a turkey wrap and discussed the next section with some other riders. I took the opportunity to have my chain lubed and tire pressure checked. I refilled my bottle of 333 and put more water in my camelback. After about 10 minutes, off we went. 

I was trying not to think about the fact that we had to do another 3,400ft of climbing. However,  I suddenly found myself flying on the next 3 miles of paved road to our next ascent.  I was on a mission to finish this race. We made a quick left and once again were met with our immediate climb of a dirt fire road. This whole next ascent is called “Emigrant and The China Grade.” We were greeted with grades between 8%-16% for the next 6 miles. I felt really good on the Emmigrant section and I was riding climbs that others were walking. I kept a sustainable pace so I wouldn’t have to walk. I was playing frogger with other riders that would press hard and then need to stop. I wanted to avoid walking as I feel being off the bike is worse at times. All the while I am fighting a pain in my right knee (I assume from riding in a different position because of my seat) every turn of the pedal was painful, but I did what I could to use more of my left to relieve that pressure. I reached a small flat before the start of The China Grade and took a minute to pull out my caffeine to boost me up the last climbs. It worked, I felt great climbing but had to walk 2 short sections to rest my knee and my back. We reached the top and saw the course tape leading off the fire road. All I could think was “is this singletrack???” It was! I was overwhelmed with joy, dropped my seat, got into a good gear and flew through the trees. The riders on cx bikes were very gracious and pulled over whenever they heard me coming. The trail was new and in amazing condition. This kept on for about 2 miles and was a transition into our final stage.

Stage 4 was “Mt. Hough” a 5 mile strictly downhill singletrack. This is what I have been dreaming of all day ;) It didn’t disappoint! We approached the start and I had to make a decision very quickly, either let the group of cx’s behind me go and descend after giving them room OR just take off and tear down the mountain. I decided to go, with Monica on my wheel this time, I knew she sacrificed her descent to warn me properly if any riders were coming so I could go with full confidence, and that she did. There were 2 brave riders that passed me in the beginning (which still amazes me on how they were doing it on cx bikes, REAL TALENT!) but then the trail was mine…  towards the end there were a few riders struggling but they promptly moved to the side as they heard me approaching. It was the most fun I have ever had on my bike… the trail was EPIC! So many types of terrain… perfect berms, quick drops and fast straight aways. I wish I could have taken in the views but I was having too much fun. After the singletrack we were dropped out on to some train tracks and we had about 3 miles of paved road to the finish. 

The end was in my sights and I rode hard and fast. I had made it! I defeated Grinduro ;) All in all it was one for the books. Next…. Counting Coup! 

Tim VanGilder

mission viejo