Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Playing Catch-up Part 2: Sea Otter (4/19/15)

Coming to Sea Otter, I was stoked. I couldn't wait to get to the venue and check out all the booths to see what was new in the cycling world, as well as go out on the cross country course and see all the great views this place has to offer. After my pre-ride, I couldn't wait to race. The 24-mile course was full of fast roads and amazing single track sections that kept the course exciting and fun.

On race day morning I woke up with the goal to make sure that I stayed on the leader's wheel and be in contention for the sprint finish. After my performance last weekend, I felt that if I was able to be up with the top guys, I would have the ability to make my way to the podium again.

Once I completed my warm up, I headed over to staging and waited for the start of my race. By the time the tandem and single speed classes had gone off, I was ready to go. When the announcer said, "Go!" I was off. During the start, there were multiple attacks for the first 200 yards, but once we reached the first climb on the road, it seemed that everybody just sat up and waited until we got off the road and onto the gravel roads, where even more attacks took place. During these sections I made my goal to stay in the top five and try to do as little work as possible.

Leaving the gravel for the paved road again, someone attacked again, making it difficult to stay up front and I got shuffled to the back 10, where I stayed going into the single track. We soon came up on the tandems, and I found it very difficult to pass. The top 3 guys got around and then got a good gap on myself and the rest of the pack I was with. For the rest of that single track climb, I spent my time hammering to catch the leaders, who always seemed only a few yards up ahead. I was still chasing the leaders when the 17-18 juniors caught me. So, I hopped on their wheels, thinking that I'd have a chance to catch the leaders in my group. By making this move, I dropped all but one other guy in my class, and found that I was slowly catching the leaders. Unfortunately for me, this strategy also proved to be my downfall in this race. I spent so much energy chasing that my body ended up shutting down, losing power and gaining extreme lower back pain.

The other racer I was riding with soon passed and dropped me, moving into 3rd place. For the rest of the race I did everything I could to maintain my position. At the end of the race I ended up finishing a disappointing 14th place. I didn't finish nearly where I wanted to at this race, but I think it was another great learning experience. Additionally, I had a great time hanging out with my team and getting to meet or become reacquainted with our team sponsors.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Playing Catch-up: Bonelli Park #2 ProXCT (4/11/15)

This was a really exciting race for me. Not only did I get to spend some more time in California with my team, but I also got to race in my third big race of the season. Also, I had no idea what to expect out of myself going into this race, so instead of shooting for a top 5, 3, or whatever, I decided I was going to just race how I saw fit.

During my preride laps, I found that I felt very strong on the climbs and really comfortable in the saddle. This gave me a ton of confidence in myself and hope for a great race.

On race day morning, I woke up feeling incredibly excited for my race. So excited even, that when I went to move the sawhorse that was saving the team's parking spot at the venue, I picked it up so fast that it sliced my index finger through the nail about 2 millimeters deep. Having already sliced part of that same finger off  a couple of years ago in an accident involving a bike rotor and a bike stand, the injury really didn't bother me. So, after getting the cut cleaned and bandaged, I went off to do my warm-up.

After completing my warm-up, I headed over to staging and waited for my class to be ready to start. Because of my two top five finishes at Bonelli #1 and Fontana, I got a call-up to the front row for the start. Instead of doing my usual "all out" start for the first 10 seconds, I decided to change things up a bit and not even try to be the first person to the first climb.

Off the line I still ended up being first, but allowed myself to get passed and hopped on the wheel of the second rider who passed me. On the road, I fell back to 8th trying to conserve energy for the first climb of the race. By the time we reached that climb, I felt amazing and shot up to 4th with ease, and settled onto third's wheel. For the rest of the first lap, and a quarter of the way through the second, I hung on to the back of the lead guys and did as little work as I could. An unfortunate slide-out on an off-camber turn threw me way back to 6th, well behind 5th and the rest of my competitors. For the rest of the second lap I spent my time hammering all out, trying to catch back up to the lead group. An unintended side effect was that I also ended up pulling one of my competitors who got dropped.

Coming across the start/finish line going into my last lap I knew I had used too much energy on the chase and had to slow down the pace for the first quarter of the lap. Unfortunately for me, this meant that the guy I had pulled was able to get a couple of good attacks on me and rode away before I could get the energy to chase him down. For the remainder of the race, I just gave it everything I had to catch back up to the top guys. When I came across the line for my finish, I had placed third.

Check out that big smile. I was so excited!
I have learned a lot about racing in cat 1 from these past couple of races in California, and I hope to learn even more in the upcoming races. I am stoked with my performance in this race and hope to continue to improve as the season continues. I can't wait to see how I do this next weekend at the Sea Otter Classic!