The first Grasshopper of the series, Old Caz is always a mighty wake-up call that the season of bikes has officially begun. This wake-up call isn't of the gentle iPhone alarm variety though. No, for me it's usually more like a punch in the gut or a bucket of cold water straight to the face. "AMY, it's time to get serious," it yells. "Pfft," I scoff, "notice my lack of fitness, these knobby tires I'm riding and this goofy grin on my face. Clearly serious isn't my plan. Plus, JANUARY."

This year Jennifer, Sara and I joined 680 of our closest friends for the 20th anniversary of this "race," which always attracts some serious hitters on the men's and women's side. Sara was rocking her FS MTB, and asked about a Camelbak (her chill factor was sky high). Jen has a Stigmata that matches mine, but she probably rides it as much as I do. At least we all looked really good!

Climb, descend (keep your mouth closed), group up with some others, climb, descend, shove in some food, climb, refill bottles, descend, slosh across the creek, climb, roll for a bit, climb, DONE. See, wasn't that easy? Well yes and no. I couldn't help but be awed by the gorgeous day we got to enjoy. The area around Occidental is just insanely beautiful and every time I'm up there I'm thankful we get to ride around like kids in such a great area. The race itself forces you to go into the red from the gun, right up the Coleman climb, so nothing about it is particularly easy. This was my first year riding my Santa Cruz Stigmata CC, though, and it definitely made a difference. Plus I've been riding dirt a little bit more than usual, so I was a *wee bit* faster downhill this year (don't laugh). 

For me, Old Caz is all about the experience: seeing a bunch of friends at reg and on the start line, riding a stunning course, laughing at my own misadventures and those of others, getting really dirty, embracing the punch to the gut. The season of bikes is officially here my friends, and I couldn't be happier! See you at Chileno...