Ride Report: (Taint) Hammer of the Gods

Ride Reports Travel
Farm Road Rampage at the SuperPro Racing Taint Hammer

Behold a taste of the cookie crumb goodness the Taint Hammer had to offer racers.

Gravel Contagion

The gravel racing virus continues to spread through the competitive cycling world. Some race promoters have taken advantage of gravel fever by billing events with a disproportionate amount of paved miles and a few miles of dirt or gravel as gravel grinders. On the other end of the promoter spectrum you will find San Francisco’s Murphy Mack, proprietor of SuperPro Racing, who blessed the NorCal cycling scene with the Taint Hammer, as I would find, a truly sinister — and awesome — mixed surface event that had more than a smidgen of dirt.

Held February 9th on farm roads in California’s San Joaquin Valley over 128 miles of broken pavement, dirt and mud, the Taint Hammer’s name stems from the inclusion of sections of washboard dirt roads that have to be among the roughest cyclists have ever raced across. A short course option sent riders over similar terrain for 70 miles.

Blake and Jason relax in the #RAWSTEELTHUGS Holiday Inn Express command center the night before the race. Hours later, serious allegations of snoring would test our commitment to greatness before the race even started.


I rolled to the Taint Hammer to tackle the long course with two of my fellow #RAWSTEELTHUGS riding buddies, Jason and Blake — a pair of tough, seasoned cyclists who love a challenge. The day before, we loaded turn-by-turn directions for the route onto our Garmins, enjoyed delicious artificially-flavored milkshakes from a Del Taco inside a truck stop that tasted like styrofoam and marshmallows and caught a few winks in a Holiday Inn express a 15-minute drive from the race start.

Lighting up Starbucks with amber waves of spandex.

After a 6:30 a.m. Starbucks pit stop, we joined a field of more than 80 riders for the start in the parking lot of a Rotary club in Los Banos, a farm community two hours southeast of San Francisco. While California is in the midst of a once-in-a-century drought, it had poured rain for five days straight leading up to the Taint Hammer. When I’d checked the forecast the day before, it called for an 80-90 percent chance of rain throughout race day and I’d anticipated spending 8-10 hours racing in pouring rain. Anticipation is often worse than what ends up happening in life and luckily for the #RAWSTEETHUGS, we sat in the Rotary parking lot under clear skies.

There were a few road bikes with 25c tires in the parking lot at the start, but Mack, who had crafted the route to include what he called the worst roads in all of the Central Valley, let everyone know in advance that a cross bike with 700 x 32-34c file treads would be the ideal vehicle for the Hammer. I broke my cross bike during possibly the most idiotic wreck ever during cross season when my water bottle cage ripped a bottle bolt out of the aluminum frame and tore it, so I found myself bike-less leading into the Hammer. I asked around to try to locate a bike and Mack himself ended up lending me his personal rig, a near new Marin Cortina with SRAM Rival, Avid mechanical disc brakes and WTB wheels set up tubeless with Specialized Captain 2Bliss tires.

Continue reading for more on the Taint Hammer and full photo gallery.

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About the author: Andrew Vontz

Andrew Vontz is a writer, trainer, cycling coach and adventurer based in San Francisco. He writes about people, places and things at the limits of human experience. His work has appeared in Rolling StonePlayboyOutsideBicyclingMen’s Health, the Los Angeles Times Magazine, the UFC magazine and many other publications. Find him @vontz on twitter and instagram. Find more of his stories at www.andrewvontz.com.

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