The Rock Cobbler in Bakersfield is quickly becoming one of my favorite events and is something I have looked forward to since last February. It’s more than a typical gravel grinder thanks to the big climbs, challenging downhills, and Bakersfield “scenery” along the side of the trail (ok, trash). There’s even a lot of single track thrown in for good measure. As if all that was not enough, the promoters do all they can to make the event unique and fun, and are known for throwing a few curve balls at the racers (like making you remove your socks for the last 10 miles for face a time penalty).
Things were not looking good on Friday night. A solid day of rain left the course covered in mud and the stream crossings deep (and cold). The promoters took to the course on Saturday to mark it and make any changes to avoid big mud spots. I don't think they ended up changing too much actually.
Sunday morning was sunny... but chilly. Ok Cold. My truck said 48 degrees when we left, but I decided to not wear too much because I knew it was going to get a lot warmer as the sun rose, and there was going to be a lot of hard efforts to warm me up. I just had to suffer through the hour long neutral roll out which was mostly in the shade.
This year I wanted to start up with the front group in hopes of avoiding the masses of people going backwards through the pack as others surged forward. Once the horn sounded we dumped out onto the road and made a big sweeping right to the first climb. I was where I wanted to be, and my legs felt great! About half way up I was moving up through the pack and realized I was catching the leaders.... "OK... Back it down. There's a long day ahead!"
After a downhill we made a right off the highway and into the dirt for the first time. We were immediately met with 4 long, steep climbs that tested the legs and the limits of my gearing (I'm running a 44 and 11X40 cassette). The group quickly got strung out and the lead group of 20 or so sped off in the distance. I dropped back quick as did a bunch of others and we all spread out. Oh, and I already had sweat dripping on my glasses and was glad I didn't over dress!
The first long downhill was a blast. It was rocky and rutty and if I looked at it first I probably would considered walking it on the cross bike. But, I had a few guys to pass and when they hesitated I bombed it and bunny hopped side to side on the trail to avoid some big ruts.
I spent the rest of the time to the next stop pretty much alone and in no mans land. I ended up running into a buddy at the first stop which was cool because we were able to push each other and keep us honest! No slacking.
Around mile 30 we turned onto a ranch and started the biggest climbs of the day. These climbs seemed to go on and on and on. And they were steep. I ended up blowing up, got wheel spin on something slick (wet grass or a cow pie) and had to walk a bit of it until I could remount. I wasn't too embarrassed until my buddy came climbing by heckling me.
Reaching the top of the hill I was anxious to see the pay off, but I was only greeted with a muddy, slippery goat trail not more than a foot wide that wound all the way down the canyon. Yep.... Time to walk.
The rest of the ride was more of the same: Climb, fun descent, water crossing, cow pies everywhere, some single track thrown in, a random washing machine in a field (Classic Bakersfield).
Oh wait... There was the 2 hike a bikes. Yeah. 2. The first one was probably the steepest hill I have ever climbed up without a bike, let along carrying/pushing/dragging my muddy mess of a bike with me. As an added bonus a local cycling club stood at the top, heckling you and throwing beach balls. I was not happy, but at the top someone handed me a water and grabbed my bike to go fill bottles for me. There was a DJ blaring music and they had coke, food etc for anyone that came through.
The second one was about 10 minutes later and was mostly rideable but had big rocks that made it almost impossible. At the top you were greeted with a cardboard cut out of the promoter and a chance to throw darts at the target. If you hit it: $50 cash! Have you ever tried to throw a dart with your HR close to max??? Its harder than you would think! An added bonus of $100 was given to anyone who rode all the way up. I don’t know if anyone was successful.
A few short easy climbs later were charged down a narrow single track canyon out to the highway (with ANOTHER hill) and back out the river trail to the finish line and then back to the brewery for the after party.
I can't say enough about this event. It is tough. Real tough. But the crew that puts it on makes everything so fun that you can't help but have a good time. The free food, beer and live music at the after party is just a bonus.
Cool video by: Covenant Community Services Inc.
As always, I want to give a special thank you to all the people and companies that make it possible for me to have fun at these races. I would not be able to make it without their help.
100 Percent Bike
Cut Fit OC