Editor’s note: Last weekend Dirt Rag’s “sponsored” SoCal racer Lance Nicholls lined up for his first cross-country first race of the new year. While the rest of the vet pros (and open pros) were on geared bikes, Lance races only on a singlespeed. Here’s how his winning ride unfolded. Congratulations Lance and thanks for doing us here at Dirt Rag proud.
By Lance Nicholls. Photos by Chris Jones
It was the first round of the Southridge Winter Series in Fontana, California. Laps are approximately 5.5 miles with about 1,200 ft of climbing—Southridge is known for very rocky, technical singletrack and steep punchy climbs. It’s great early season racing to get back into competition mode.
I ride the Vet Pro class for the extra laps compared to the singlespeed class and to also just have more competition. There were eight guys on geared bikes and myself on an Ibis Tranny 29 singlespeed with a Gates belt drive. My game plan was to try and get out front early to put time on everybody since there is a long flat finish where “geared” riders can easily ride away from me while I’m spinning out. We started two minutes behind the open pros.
Since the start chute is fairly narrow I was on the second row. The horn sounded and we were off. I went way inside into the first turn, got to the front and tried to control the pace as well as my breathing. I was able to stay there for a mile or so through some rocky singletrack. Once we hit the initial climb one guy got around and I stayed on his wheel up that climb until we hit a long, steep asphalt ascent. I made my move around him as soon as we hit the pavement and went hard up the hill until it turned left onto singletrack. By then I had a good gap and continued to put my head down to increase it.
With the first lap down, I had about a 30-second gap and was catching younger riders in the Pro class ahead. I kept trying to control my breathing and heart rate so I could hit the climbs hard and keep opening the gap farther. By the end of the second lap I had caught two guys from the class ahead and had about a minute lead going into the final lap.
Maintaining my pace, I caught one more guy and then started to relax some knowing my lead was good enough to stick as long as I stayed upright and without any mechanical issues. I crossed the finish line with a time of 1 hour and 21 minutes, which was 1 minute and 12 seconds ahead of second place in the Vet Pro class. I also ended up third overall out of all the pros on the course. It was a good day for singlespeeding.