Gustine, CA. 130 miles of the amazingly worst California Central Valley roads we could find. Horrible pavement, compressed sand, gravel, washboard, potholes, headwinds and a whopping 350 feet of climbing, total. Tainthammer: it’s more than just a clever name.
Dat Tainthammer Course
Yeah, it was pretty much the worst roads ever. And that’s saying a lot for Northern California. Having never done this event before, I wasn’t sure what type of terrain to expect. It ended up being a solid mix of 40% smooth pavement, 30% rideable dirt, 25% very-hard-to-ride washboard dirt and 5% mud. My arms were more tired than my legs at the end from dealing with all the washboard bumps.
Equipment is Everything
At the Tainthammer, equipment is everything. I rode a Giant TCX Advanced Pro with a full SRAM 1×11 Hydro drivetrain. 42t on the front and 11-23 on the back. The course was so flat, I was rarely shifting. Correct tires and pressure were the keys to unlocking this race. I’ve never raced my CX bike more than an hour-plus-1-lap, so 130 miles was unfamiliar territory.
I ran tubeless 38c file treads on my Giant CX1 wheels, which were the perfect width and tread setup. However, since I assumed the course would be mostly pavement, I did what I would do for a smooth CX course, pressure up. Except I went waaaay too far up. Like 30+ PSI too far up. I was running 70 PSI having a grand-ole time on the pavement sections, but then getting wrecked on anything but polished dirt. Every little dirt washboard bump that was bothersome at the start, really started to add-up by mile 100.
Bendable metal cages were also clutch, to really keep them bottles from jumping around.
The Race, The Shit
World Tour pro Laurens Ten Dam (Giant-Alpecin) was the racer to watch-out for today. During the fairly casual first 30 miles, he kept asking “when do we start racing?” When we hit the shit, duh.
Today’s choice for roadshoes from @rideshimano and a @giantbicycles roadbike turned out to be a really risky one in today’s #tainthammer. I had to get of the bike to get some clearance back twice. But they did show their strength and brought me all to the end in one piece. Great event. I was so tired after 195 km hammering! That dirt sections were long! (Look at the @stravacycling file)
Then we hit the shit. Mud, mayhem and bodies were everywhere as Menso de Jong (Clif Bar), Vinnie Owens (Clif Bar) and Rob Evans (Team Facebook/Snapchat) were doing some damage up front. I was sitting-back wondering how I’m gonna survive 130 miles. Laurens Ten Dam was just about the only fool in the top-10 his Giant TCR road bike with 28c tires. Everytime we’d hit unavoidable mud, his brakes would lock-up from the lack of clearance. And yet he’d still chase back-on after every balls-to-the-wall dirt section.
About 80 miles-in we were strung-out single-file fighting for position out-of-the-wind along dirt roads that paralleled concrete canals. Scott Witthoff (Fusion Sport) was on my wheel as I fishtailed through some deeper gravel, and knocked him off his line. He had no choice but to ride straight into the canal. He had a soft landing in the water, and was OK aside from being soaked. I stopped with a few others as we tried to figure-out a way to extract him from the water. The canal walls were too steep to walk up, so we had to link arms and pull him out, using his bike as a rope.
So now we were off-the-back from the main group (of about 8 guys). Laurens Ten Dam had stopped in the middle of the road to fix his mud issues again, and I crashed right into him. Oops. Then I hammered as hard I could for the next 10 miles hoping to catch back up. But when we reached the next checkpoint, we were told they had at least 5 minutes on us. So my legs started crying, and I stopped racing, and just started riding to finish.
Then Ten Dam comes flying by again, promptly drops everyone and goes on to leapfrog the lead group (which had taken a wrong turn) and wins the event, on his mud-clogged TCR. The last 10 miles were through a bog, and had an unavoidable mud-hole every 100 feet. I have no idea where I finished, somewhere in the top-15 – I was just happy to see the finish and to get off the vibration train.
There were tacos at the finish. Unclear if I’ll be back next year, but maybe I’ll forget how wrecked I was by then. My taint is fine though.