For us europeans it was the perfect occasion to see the exciting sights along the highways (not!), rolling around in huge vans that guzzle fuel like it was beer at the Oktoberfest, parties in hotel rooms and a whole new range of interesting adult beverages (best served chilled!).
And of course Ray's: we all had heard and read lots about this place, and our US colleagues had warned us it would be a mindblowing experience, but yet I (and we) wasn't quite well-prepared.
From the outside it looks like yet another industrial building, but inside is everything a mountain biker could dream of in the cold winter months - and then more. Jumps, XC course, pump track, skate parks, you name it and Ray's has it. All this coupled with a super mellow atmosphere, friendly people, constant flow of delivery pizza and burritos, and the recipe is close to perfection. I've never been to any kind of riding spot were 6 year olds on 16" bikes, BMX kids, dirt jumpers and XC types on 29ers all ride together in such harmony, all having LOADS of fun. Magic, if you ask me. Nothing less than magic.
Mr. Keineke sends it on the jump box
Tyler trains for the XC race by getting upside down in the foampit
Chris Hilton show some commitment on his carbon XC bike
Elmar again, so fast not even the camera could catch him
We rode our guts out all day, taking breaks in the super-nice SRAM lounge, and at 5 p.m. we even got to watch our man Tyler compete in an invitational pro-only XC event...on a dirt jump bike, in jeans, t-shirt and 5.10 shoes! Considering his competitors (shaved legs, clipless pedals and so on) he did remarkably well, ending up with a fourth place and a nice roll of cash!
Tyler's pre-race rituals: putting on his gloves and hoping not to vomit the burrito he just had for lunch.
Tyler post-race, with his lunch still in his belly and 200$ more in his pocket (and a funny - if slightly creepy - trophy)
I was glad we were able to give Ray's and its riders a bit of "love" back as our US crew had stacked the van with products to give away after the race, which were assigned as prizes for a very funny SRAM-related trivia. It was an amazing trip and I now have another dream riding destination added on my personal world map...downtown Cleveland, in winter of course!
Ray, the man with the vision (middle) and our very own Eric Schutt.