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Heading South to Santos Race report

6 Hours of Santos: Race Report – Bonnie Kleffman

This weekend several of my TotalCyclist MTB teammates and I trekked down to the Santos trail system in Ocala, FL for the 6 Hours of Santos. I had been there two years ago for the SERC opener in 2013, so I knew that the course was demanding, punchy and fast. Laura and I drove down on Friday and met the guys for a preride. Shafer already had his RV set up trailside next to Niner Mike and the BikeSource/Faster Moustache crew, so the combined pit world was already full of friendly faces. I was surprised to learn that the course was to run in the opposite direction from the last time I was there. Kevin, Shafer and Jim were ready to ride, so Laura and I got on our bikes quickly and followed them into the trail. I was glad to zoom along behind them and watch their lines. The beginning of the course featured two elevated bridges and plenty of punchy, twisty rock sections. The middle was all flow and power. It was flat and sandy with just enough dirt in the corners to create tiny berms. This rolled on for a few miles until a sharp left took us into the other side of the Vortex, where punchy rock sections and bermed wooden structures rounded out the 8 mile loop.  I remember thinking to myself that this course would require my full attention. Plenty of opportunity for carnage to bike and body.

Race morning brought warm temps with the promise of Florida sunshine, and we all told ourselves through our race jitters that it would be a fun day no matter what happened. (Always a comforting sentiment to hide the butterflies.) It is tradition for this race to begin with a LeMans start, and this year was no exception. Since running in bike shoes and a backpack is awkward at best, I adjusted my expectations and tried to stay calm at the start. I entered the singletrack somewhere in the middle of a long train of riders, most of whom were well behaved as we struggled to sort out the pecking order. By the end of the first lap I was feeling great, and was pushing darn close to my xc pace. Lap two brought more of the same. I was glad to have brought the Air9 as the predictability of the hardtail made me comfortable navigating jagged rocks on narrow trail. The hammer came down every time I hit the flat middle, time trialing it PainCave style with constant circles and pressure on the legs.

I heard someone say that the winning women from the previous year got 6 laps in, so I was loosely shooting for that, knowing that as an endurance newbie, I might have to adjust my expectations mid race. I caught up to my friend and competitor Kym Flynn on lap three, but lost her again when I had to get more fluids in the pit. After lap 4, my mind was going to the darker, tired place where brains go when the race is about 60% over. I remembered that (best pit crew ever) Niner Mike said he had some Dr. Pepper in the pit. He was ON IT and hooked me up! A few minutes later, what I thought was a calorie deficiency subsided and I was feeling human again. As I was approaching one of the ‘wall ride’ wooden structures toward the end of that lap, I came upon my friend Jana, who was riding strong as ever. She confirmed that in order for our final lap to count, we had to cross the finish line before the 6 hour clock ran out. I did some quick calculation and figured that if I hurried, I could finish my current (6th) lap and get another in if I pushed. Talk about adjusting expectations! I was now on a MISSION! With no time to stop for additional Dr. Pepper, I hammered through the pits at the end of lap six and heard Jordan shouting, “Get one more good one in!” After the mandatory dismount through the start/finish, I figured I had 48 minutes to get it done. I had this. One man passed me like his wheels were on fire, and I knew he was going for the same thing. Dang. Was my timing correct? I could not hold his pace, so I held my own, and kept pushing. Somewhere I found the energy in the fifth hour to spin through the final rocks, but in the end I managed with 4 minutes to spare. I buried myself on that last lap, and it was my third fastest of the day. This earned me third place, just a few minutes behind Kym Flynn with Amy Horstmeyer finishing first. I was proud to share the podium with these fast ladies, and was glad that my last lap was among my best. Endurance racing is as much about will and mental strength as it is about riding. This is confirmed for me at every race, and I have been surprised at what my legs can sustain when my mind wills it to be.

It was a great weekend for the TotalCyclist team overall, with plenty of podium finishes and strong riding by all who entered. Kelly and Kevin were 1 and 2 on the SS podium, Shafer was 2nd on the box in the 45+, with Jim not far behind in 10th. They had an enormous field of strong men! Last but certainly not least, my awesome coach Laura was 4th of the 17 women in our field. Sweet!!

I would like to thank my friend (Niner) Mike Stanley for helping me, the TC Team and all of the Charlotte crew in the pit. We couldn’t have done it without you!  Also, to my teammate Shafer for cooking dinner for the team on Friday night. Dude, you can cook! A fun weekend with friends and teammates is the best, and, well, so is Florida in February. We will be back next year!

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