Big Bear Lake Altitude Camp and Fontana US Cup Report

Photo: Chris Vezina

We arrived at Big Bear Lake in the dark after a delicious dinner stop at the Artist Pizzeria in Covina and mandatory Trader Joe’s run, so I didn’t see where we were until the next day when the sun nearly blinded me as I stepped outside. The sun just feels that much closer and more glaring at altitude, and Big Bear Lake is situated at around 2,050 metres. I didn’t really notice the thin air on my rest day, which consisted of drinking coffee, reading, grocery shopping, and doing laundry – generally activities with low oxygen requirements. There were a few times I had to take some deliberately deep breaths, but that was the extent of it.

Welcome to Big Bear Lake!

I’d never been up high in southern California and was surprised to still see shreds of snow in town and white ski slopes. Despite the bright sun, there was definitely still a nip in the air. The landscape up there is drier than alpine here in B.C., with lots of manzanita shrubs, pines, sagebrush, and pale sandstone. It’s much more high desert than the lush mountainsides we see here.

View over Big Beark Lake – Still snow on the slopes.

On Tuesday, Dan drove us down to Fontana, site of US Cup #2, so we could check out the upcoming weekend’s course and do some intervals with normal oxygen levels. The heat compared to the chilly mountain air at Big Bear was quite a shock and my intensity workout was, well, INTENSE.

Pain au chocolat from the bakery next to our hotel.

The rest of the week at Big Bear Lake was pretty chill and I enjoyed a long road ride that started with a loop of the lake, followed by a tempo climbing effort up to Onyx Pass at 2,573m (8,443 ft.), which happens to be the highest highway pass in SoCal, according to Wikipedia.

Fontana Race Report
Race day came quicker than expected, as it always does, but luckily we were able to enjoy a bit of cloud cover, a breeze, and temperatures a few degrees lower than at Bonelli Park the previous weekend. I was excited to get out there and race again, as the Fontana course seems to suit me better and I find it much more fun and interesting, with its unique rocky landscape.

Racing in Fontana. Photo credit: Chris Vezina

Racing in Fontana. Photo credit: Chris Vezina

I had a fast start, going for the hole shot, because I was lined up on the far left and I didn’t want to get pinched out in the first hard left-hander. After I navigated that successfully, I allowed a charging Erin Huck (Scott 3Rox) to take the lead and was content to sit on her wheel… until she ran over a snake on the course, that is! I let out a little girl shriek as the snake recoiled, but luckily I don’t think it was a biter… and it was gone on the next lap, so hopefully it survived the rude interruption to its sunbathing. I was able to maintain contact with the front group for much of the race, getting slightly gapped on the main climb, only to chase back on the open section after the start/finish area. One lap, I had just clawed by way back to the leaders and was looking forward to a draft up the pavement climb when I saw Catharine on the front drop some gears, stand up, and absolutely drill it in an all-out attack. I groaned inwardly (gasping outwardly), and forced my tapped legs to respond. I hung onto the wheel in front of me for as long as possible, but a small gapped formed between me and the leaders as I entered the singletrack on Lea Davison’s (Specialized) wheel. It was a good wheel to be on, and I was confident that we could get back up there, when all of a sudden I found myself on the ground and Lea’s wheel disappearing up the trail. I had crashed out of the blue on a corner. I realized afterwards that my fork had been locked out, so that may have played a role in the mishap. It was extremely untimely, and after that, I never did return to the leading group. Instead, I rode on my own, trying to make up the ground I had lost.

California rolling... in Fontana. Photo credit: Chris Vezina

California rolling… in Fontana. Photo credit: Chris Vezina

I managed to make up one position, finally getting past Larissa Connors (Ridebike Alliance) on a short, but wide open gravel downhill between sections of singletrack. I’d been caught behind her for a while, as she was slower on the singletrack, but a strong climber. This being the last lap and my final opportunity, I knew I had to make it count. I sprinted out of the singletrack and down the gravel road, aware that the sharp left-hander back into the narrow, loose trail was rapidly approaching. I also felt Larissa trying to hold me off, so I just gave it everything and managed to make it into the trail first. I dropped her quite quickly after that on the fast twisty singletrack, and powered to the finish line into eighth place.

Givin'er in the short track. Photo credit: Chris Vezina

Givin’er in the short track. Photo credit: Chris Vezina

I’m happy with another top-10 and I felt stronger and peppier than I did in Bonelli. The short track also seemed to go better. I had better positioning and felt I had more speed. My result wasn’t super, but I felt fast and had a good time. It was a good weekend of prep for the upcoming Pan Am Championships in Colombia!

My Obsess enjoying the view from one of the many fun MTB trails (Skyline, I believe) in Big Bear Lake.

My Obsess enjoying the view from one of the many fun MTB trails (Skyline, I believe) in Big Bear Lake.

Thanks to Mike and Tara from Cycling BC for the feed zone support, as well as the Giant Co-Factory Team for helping me out. Thanks also to my awesome sponsors for their continued support this season: Liv Cycling Canada, Shimano Canada, Catlike, Cycles Lambert, Giant Vancouver, Kicking Horse Coffee, Golden Ears Physio, Q Energy Drink, and Katana Sports.

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