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Epic MTB Ride with Lopes and The Kids

by Editor


by Sten Kramer

Coley Seely, Jessy Nelson, Brian Lopes, and Christian Craig

Brian Lopes, the most decorated male mountain bike racer in the history of the sport, is well known for his amazing versatility in bicycle racing. Whether you’re talking about flawless technique and flow on the downhill, super-efficient cornering and speed pumping in XC and cyclocross racing, or twelve cylinder turbo power sprint speed on the road bike, Lopes is legendary in his dominance. Lopes is also well recognized for his unparalleled fitness, so when longtime friend Troy Lee asked him to help out of couple of his young motocross racers with their training, Brian took on the challenge.

The guys at Troy Lee Designs, TLD, and Brian decided it was time to take the two young moto racers, Jessy Nelson, 18, and Christain Craig, 21, affectionately known as “the kids”, on an epic MTB ride to get them out of their comfort zone and give them some experience pacing their efforts, budgeting their food and water intake, and avoiding the bonk. Also along for the ride were TLD teammate Cole Seely, 23, and the very accomplished desert enduro motorcycle racer Quinn Cody, 35, who has raced the Baja 500, Baja 1000, Las Vegas-Reno, and the famous Dakar Rally, just to name a few accolades. Quinn had the additional distinction of being just four months out from a major crash in Baja and has a titanium rod in his femur to stabilize the recent mid-shaft fracture. I was invited by Lopes since I recently raced the Ultra Quest in the Santa Ana Mountains, and I know a lot of the trails up there. Not that Lopes doesn’t have a lot of experience in the Santa Anas too, but I had been there recently and had the fresh beta on trail conditions on Pinos Trail.

We met last Tuesday morning, March 26, one week before my 50th birthday, at the trailhead to the well-respected San Juan Trail. Lopes took the point position to set the pace for the climb. I was on his wheel followed inches behind by Cole and Christian, and a little back were Jessy and Quinn. We maintained a fairly brisk pace and made Cocktail Rock in under an hour with one brief technical stop. After regrouping, we got on the more technically demanding Viejo Tie trail. Lopes remained in front, but I got behind Cole and Christian so I could negotiate all the narrow, precarious rock gardens at my own speed, and also so I could enjoy watching the superb bike handling skills of these two young professional motocross racers. After Viejo Tie, we were back on the SJT, and we made our way up to Blue Jay campground where we got more water.

After climbing Falcon trail, where we were briefly delayed by a flat tire, we got on the County Divide road and immediately climbed the notorious “Wall” which took us to the hike-a-bike section up to Pinos trail. Pinos was in good condition as far as maintenance and bush trimming are concerned, but the moist, grippy trail conditions of just a few weeks ago had already changed to the dry, loose shale, poor traction conditions of summer. On the plus side, the guys were blown away by the views, as one can see Lake Elsinore, the Pacific Ocean, and The San Gabriel mountains from there. Also, we could see most of the San Juan trail on the opposite ridge, allowing us to revel in what we had accomplished that day.

Lopes was pleased to see that he had accomplished the goal of taking the kids out of their comfort zone as exhaustion and food/water deprivation started to take its toll when we still had the “Seven Bitches” to ascend, but all in all everyone rode really well and had a good day. Quinn had a few difficulties out there on a 29er hardtail and body surfed the trail right in front of us at one point. When we had all gotten down safely but for Quinn, Lopes went back up the lower part of Pinos looking for him and found that he had “tacoed” his front wheel and had to walk the bottom part.

So it was another epic MTB day in the Santa Anas. We did SJT to Pinos in less than five hours, which is not going to threaten anyone’s record time, but is respectable nonetheless. If you are interested in learning more about the characters in this story, or would like to see the Google map and Garmin data of our ride, click on the following links. See ya out on the trail!

Brian Lopes

Cole, Christain, and Jessy

Quinn Cody

Garmin data

That's it for now, until next time, good luck with your training and remember, if you have a question, log on to the Virtual Trainer Expert Forum and have your question answered by a panel of experts. In addition, be sure and check out the Racer X Virtual Trainer archive section. Your complete one-stop information zone for motocross fitness. VT Signature

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    Tim Jones April 04, 2013 at 2:36 pm

    If you're ever in the Tampa Bay area hit some great trails. Hit Balm Boyotte (Ridgeline) and you won't be disappointed. Great training for MX!

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