Dana – Women’s Category 4
Boulevard was probably the most excruciating endurance race of my life. I’ve done plenty of long distance running races in the past but nothing really compared to the physical taxation I’ve experienced while racing the 44 mile loop of near-death. After finishing Boulevard, a 5k run now just looks like a charity walk.
At the starting line, it felt rather calm. All the ladies were amicably chatting amongst one another, wishing each other good luck and being very friendly, which went against the dagger-eyeing, hissing intimidation ritual I was imagined would occur (unrealistically). The rules gentleman began reading off all the things we should, and shouldn’t do, and that’s when I started feeling a little less apathetic about doing well. My very grand plan was to not finish last, or at least, not get dropped too soon into the race. Hardly ambitious, but with Rules Gentleman reading to us in that authoritative before-I-pull-the-trigger voice, I started feeling that uncomfortable rush of nerves and adrenaline, and an unfamiliar surge to finish all 44 miles in a blaze of glory. With the beginning of the race so imminent, the tea party atmosphere shifted into an intense competitive buzz, and in no time, Rules Gentleman pulled his trigger (or was it a blowhorn?) and off we went!
Or more like, off we slowly rolled out. The very early stages of the race were an interesting challenge in itself. For the first few miles, it felt more like a bike handling test session than a test on speed and endurance. Too many women were constantly pressing their brakes (I was also a pretty bad offender myself), and a few times there were near front-to-rear wheel collisions. In addition to the brake-pressing mind games everyone was perpetuating, picking my way further up the Pelaton proved to be a nearly impossible task. Clearly everyone else had the same plan in mind, and with my inexperience and the unpredictability of the rest of the riders, I decided me ninja-ing my way around to the front would very likely lead to an apocalyptic crash, something which I’d rather not be responsible for. So I opted to just conserve my energy toward the back of the pack, where I was, and pray all my training from climbing Soledad and Torrey pays off once we hit the start of those rolling hills. Then maybe, just maybe, I can begin to pick off the riders one-by-one, slowly but surely.
The following series of events were so unfortunate, I’d almost call it comical. We barely hit the foot of the hills when I felt a sudden plummet in energy, and within mere seconds, there was no longer a Peloton in sight. So it became apparent that my previously not-so-ambitious goal of avoiding getting dropped too soon was actually a lofty one. However, my second-in-line goal to not be last place was still on the table, so using that as my crutch, I mentally steeled myself to ride it out solo and hope I can at least increase the pace enough to pick off the other stragglers who were dropped as well. Simple plan, yet I was already rapidly losing a lot of energy, and motivation. It wasn’t a very good start to a race at all.
And boy, did it get even worse. Past the cattle guard hills and onto the uphill highway, I was already filled with an unhealthy level of apathy to beat anyone, let alone even place. All I cared about, at that point, was to get the race over without passing out. While trudging my way up what felt like five Mt Everests, I made some rather interesting discoveries: one, sleepiness knows no bounds, even while peddling nonstop on a bipedal contraption at a steady pace of 5mph. Second, shooting mucus out of the nose can indeed be done with no hands.
Finishing loop # 1 was a considerable milestone that gave me a much needed boost in motivation, which allowed me to pick up the pace a little bit, despite feeling like a zombie on wheels. Feeling much more enlightened, I urged myself to keep a good pace while on flat land, and hopefully close the gap between me and the rider in front, who was at the time, a reachable distance. Just as I was about to go at it with my humble goal, that was when Talk Lady materialized out of nowhere from behind me, and thus marked the beginning of the end.
Initially, Talk Lady was a great motivator. She invited me to ride off her wheel, which I gladly accepted, and for a good number of miles we rode together, she doing most of the pulling, while I occasionally pulled in return, if energy permitted. However, Talk Lady was very talkative. Way too talkative. It was flabbergasting in itself to know that she had breath enough to have a full on soliloquy about her background, yet what confused me even more was the timing of her fraternization. Of all times she could be having this café type conversation, why now? Yet out of stupid simple courtesy, I chose to keep responding back to her conversation, despite it going against all my best interest. I was breathless. Dangerously breathless, yet I chose to keep fueling the conversation by talking back, which, at that point, was essentially me just digging my own grave. Yet Talk Lady kept going at it, broadcasting everything about her cycling passion to her job occupation. It was when she began talking about her deceased family member when I finally broke. My three word answers for her disintegrated into frantic gasps and wheezes, and throwing all manners aside, I straight-up abandoned her by dropping myself down to a snail’s pace before I succumb to asphyxiation. The entire race in itself was pushing me over the edge, and Talk Lady was the breaking point. To be honest, the sudden cut off of oxygen was due my windpipe constricting on itself, which is a common symptom for someone who is about ready to cry. It took me about a good 10 minutes to right my breathing again, and my feelings of despair were replaced by rage over everything that has happened. Using that to my advantage, I pretty much raged my way through the rest of the race. Crossing the finish line was probably ranks 105th in my list of happiest moments of my life. I was just glad it was finally over.
Aki – Men’s Category 4
There were about 80 riders in the field. No one tried to make a breakaway, and we are all together going down the hill at a relaxed pace. The pace went up slightly on the rollers but not enough to split the group. It was stretched a little bit on the climbs and after the corners, and it got back together soon. After we passed the right turn onto old hwy 80, the group started to get separated. I tried to keep up with the front pack, but gradually fall behind. There are still other riders around me, so I decided to go with them and try to catch the front group on the backstretch of the course. At the top of the climb there were about fifteen riders in front of us. We started to chase. It wasn’t very fast but we worked together consistently. A moto told us the time gap was about a minute. Next time,at the railroad crossing, the gap was 40 seconds. The gap was closing! It seemed like the lead group were not pushing hard and saving energy for the last climb. Finally, before the last climb, we caught them and there were about 30 riders when we started climbing. This time, it was even slower than the first lap. On the short flat section there were about 20 riders left and it was still slow and wide. Everyone was preparing for the last half mile. I was with the group, but at the end of the pack. I tried to move up during the flat part but the field was wide and I couldn’t find room. I should have gone to the right of the group and made use of the shoulder. At that time I was already a little tired and also distracted by the instinct to go to a bathroom, I just stayed there for a while. It was a mistake. Soon people started accelerating at the front and there was no way catching them from the back. I accelerated too but finished at the back of the pack. I was tired after the race but not terribly, so I think I could have done better. I need to feel more comfortable moving up in the pack, I had to be more aggressive and pushed harder on the last climb, and also I shouldn’t have drank too much before the race to avoid the instinct of urination. Anyway, I enjoyed the wonderful course and fortunately, the weather was perfect this year. Thank you for everyone and especially Ian for making this happen.
Chad – Men’s Category 5
I sat on the top-tube of my bike half-listening as the official listed off the rules for the day’s race. No crossing the center line; no joining another race already on the road. I sat there thinking of the race ahead, what my plan was and what my goals were. Having never raced before and never having ridden the course, my plan was a broad outline of the next two hours. I wanted to spend the first lap surveying the course and other riders to figure out what I should do on the second lap. This plan was all dependent on having the legs to perform at a moments notice to chase a breakaway, fill a gap or to have the patience to save myself and pick that good moment to go for it.
The official blew the whistle and we were off. We followed a lead motorcycle to take us out and to the actual racecourse. The least exciting moment of a bike race is the start. Everyone hops onto their bike and tries to get their other foot into the pedal. The pace is slow, the peloton disorganized. People are passing or gaining position but it is chaotic. The energy in the group grows like a pack of race-horses being held back from doing what they know best. No one is talking, just looking at the body in front and to the side of them. We turn onto the road.
As the road wound up and down leading to the first turn the peloton developed a bit more organization. It first swelled like the body of a snake after having eaten a rabbit then it lengthened out. For the first while this cycle happened a few times over before everyone seemed pretty content with their position and with the pace of the riding.
We made the first turn which had a steep run-up directly after the corner. The group made its way up everyone testing their legs on the first little test. I stayed near the front for this not wanting to be caught in the back because of the fluctuations in speed that happen in the later sections of the peloton. At the top of the small hill the decent began.
The first main descent was fast and everyone was a little excited. It was during this period where I got to really judge the quality of bike handling amongst my competitors. For the most part I found then lacking in general group descending ability. I yelled at one guy for cutting into a gap that didn’t exist in front of me, he apologized to my surprise and so I returned the gesture. At the next main corner the leader of the peloton slowed to an uncomfortably slow pace to make the corner and rightfully got yelled at, this time by other members of the group, and I felt more justified in my dissatisfaction with the quality of riders.
As we neared the end of the major descent – the middle of the first lap or quarter of the way through our race – I got the familiar feeling that I hate during a ride: hunger. I started thinking about the bowl of oatmeal followed by three eggs that I had eaten five hours earlier and shamed myself for not having eaten since. I knew better, I know better. I know better every time hunger happens to me on a short ride and it happens too often.
Thinking about my hunger we turn another 90 deg turn and immediately head up toward some parallel railroad tracks. I felt a touch on my back wheel and turn around just in time to see the inevitable scene of a bike in the air and a rider on his back. I turn back to see where I’m going and notice the group in front have continued at a greater pace than when before I turned around. I race to catch up and am back on by the railroad crossing.
The rollers to follow became a trial of energy saving. Knowing that the hunger I am feeling is only going to get worse I try to conserve what I can by sitting as close to the wheel in front of me as possible. By the time the final long climb to the finish began I had lost contact with the group and was chasing to keep within eyesight as the continued up the road. I had a sense of vertigo peering up the shoot and watching the last wheel disappear from sight almost as though I was traveling backward. I put my head down and focused on getting to the top.
By the time I reached the finish line I had caught a few people and a few had caught me and we joined forces to begin the second lap. I knew my race was over at this point but I held on hoping that somehow I could get a second wind and maybe that wind would include some calories to burn away. I ate half a Clif Bar but had a hard time breathing while chewing and so gave up on it.
For the next 22 miles I tried to participate with my diminished group but found myself struggling just to keep in contact and by the beginning of the final climb I was once again on my own. I put my hands on the cross section of my handlebars and took a deep breath – only a few miles to go. I spun my gear as hard as I could and sang quietly to myself under my breath.
If the start of a road race is the least exciting, finishing alone and in the middle of the rankings is likely the most anticlimactic. Within moments of crossing the line I found myself sitting on the top tube of my bike as I was before the race started but this time I was not thinking of race strategy or what place I would finish or the centerline rule. I was thinking I was glad to be done, I was glad to have done it and I was looking forward to the next one.
Kevin Chiao – Men’s D
Stanford was an incredible experience to be a part of. For starters, it was my first ever race in the world of cycling and boy is it addictive. I rolled into the start line of the circuit race with sweaty palms and jittery motions. The pre-workout drink that Sean handed to me, that we refer to as “science”, was starting to kick in. I started to feel nauseous and felt like I was going to pass out but this was a very familiar feeling to me. I knew that when I felt like this I was ready, just like in track when I was staged in the blocks. I closed my eyes and waited. Waited. Waited.
“BRRRR” went the sound of the whistle and I pushed off. I had an instant clip in and shot off the line, looking to position myself better as the field of 40 or so jockeyed for position. I looked for my teammates Masato and Vince, and once I found them, I sat behind them as the plan was for me to finish the circuit with an explosive sprint. After 2 laps of intense riding, with rocks, dirt, and rain slapping me in the race as I sat behind Vince, I was dropped, due to my lack of fitness. I knew the inevitable would happen, and I tried to stay behind him, but the hairpin turns took a toll on me as the funneling of the riders required too much from me to keep on hanging. I fell back into a second group and more funneling happened. Eventually, it was just me and 5 other guys. I did fulfill my desire for an explosive final sprint, as I sped past a couple guys on the final uphill.
The road race was an ever worse affair. I had to pee so badly and 5 minutes before the race started I was waiting in line at the porta-potties. Vince told me to go behind the tree and right as I was about to go, the race official shouted “PEE IN THE PORTA POTTIES”. Thank god that the people in front of me didn’t have large dumps to take. After that fiasco, we started the race, and I was dropped within halfway of the course, due to the damn rollers and the 12% climb. I sat there thinking “Why am I doing this? Why’d I give it all up?” But, a rush of motivation swept me and I told my body to deal with it as I’m going to keep pushing it. Eventually, I caught a small group of UCLA and Spartan riders, and worked with them to slowly catch up to the field. Our efforts were futile, as we were far too behind the other riders, but we still kept a grueling pace all the way to the finish
Man that was hard. I was inspired by watching the men’s Pro/1/2 race at Boulevard, and now I’m inspired by the competitiveness within me. I’m going to give it all I’ve got.
Esther Walker – Women’s B
After a long drive to Stanford the night before, hearing my alarm at 5:45am was the last thing I wanted to hear. That, and the sound of rain coming down outside. But, I dragged myself out of bed and Rachel and I began gathering our things to prepare for the first event of the day: the team time trial (TTT). As only two girls on our team managed to make it up to Stanford, we decided to field a TTT of two (which is allowed in the collegiate category we raced in). We watched each team take off on the hotdog-shaped course (complete with two nice and narrow 180 degree turns, which were made even more exciting by the rain mixed with the sand and dirt on the road). We were the last team to go. Rachel led us into the first corner, because I didn’t trust myself and wanted to follow her line. We then went up and down and all around, repeating the rolling circuit 3 times before finishing. It was a mud-fest, but a lot of fun – plus it gave us a chance to check out the course before the circuit race! In the end, we got 3rd – not bad for a team of 2! Thanks for being such a great TTT buddy, Rachel!
A few hours later, we returned to the course in dry kits and soggy shoes to do it again – this time with about 20 or so other women. We raced 4 laps this time, and each one brought its own adventure with it:
Lap 1: I took off to try to get to the 180 degree turn first, but the Stanford girls (it being their home course), were also vying for position and I got squished on the inside of the turn and unclipped (how embarrassing) before slamming my foot back in the pedal and chasing back up to the back. It happened again (complete with unclipping….) in the second turn.
Lap 2: A whole lot of the same. Shoved on inside, unclipped, chased pack, shoved on inside, unclipped, chased back. This was getting tiring.
Lap 3: More of the same except this time a girl seemed to have tipped over in slow motion next to me and I heard the undesirable sound of carbon scraping the ground. I kept going, and again, unclipped. It was getting really, really, really, embarrassing at this point.
Last lap: I made it my goal to stay in my pedals. The pack was still not small enough for my liking and I didn’t want unclipping to make me lose a good position for the sprint. So I went extra wide, finally stayed in my pedals (for both turns!) and sprinted as fast as I could up the hill to the finish, where I managed to squeeze into first place!
We then ate burgers and ice cream, gave our bikes some much needed showers and got ready for day 2 of racing.
The second day was the road race, which I strongly prefer to crits and circuit races (especially hot dog shaped ones). The raceconsisted of 3 hilly loops. After the first hill, about 6 of us broke off in a pack and started trying to break away. A few girls caught us, but the second hill really divided the field, leaving only Amy (from SDSU) a Stanford girl, and me in the lead pack. We worked together through the flats and descents, creating a nice rotating pace line. On the hills we rode together, each of us muttering a joke every now and then about how the hills never end. It was a really great (and fun!) pack to be riding with. On the last lap, it started raining and by the time we got to the last descent I started thinking way too much about whether I was going to crash in a turn. But I didn’t. But then, it was the final 2-3 mile stretch. I grabbed a drink of my water, looked up, and Stanford had taken off down the road. I stood up and started chasing, but it was too late. I kept her in my sights the entire stretch of the road, but she beat me to the finish. She definitely earned it though (plus, it’s always nice when someone wins on their home course!), and I was happy to take second!
Overall – it was a great weekend with great teammates, and it was fun to watch everyone lay it all out on the course (some people more literally than others….)! Thank you all for being such great cheerleaders!
Matea – Women’s B/4
UCLA RR Women’s B
I was standing at the start, completely dreading the race ahead of me with tremors flowing through my legs because of the chilly air. Memories of pain flooded back to me from the year before. Too late to turn back now, the race had started and my mind raced as I tried to figure out who I wanted to stay with: ride with the women or the men? I saw Amy from SDSU and another girl go off the front with the men so I decided I would try to stay with the front group. Of course I got dropped as people attacked on the climb, leaving me with two Men’s Ds to work with to lengthen the gap between us and those behind. I dropped both men on the descent and rode alone until Angela from UCSB caught me and told me to get on her wheel. Together, we worked with a few men until we reached the climb where we dropped the guys. Angela and I continued on for the next lap, commiserating about how awful the race was, complimenting each other on how strong we thought the other was. I knew I had to eat something on the second lap so I pulled out my Snickers that I had so excitedly packed in my jersey the night before. Like everything else I try to eat during races, the first Snickers bite was chewed furiously for a few minutes before I gave up on eating for the rest of the race. Eventually, the pain set in and Angela and I separated. I was alone for about half of the last lap, riding out of the saddle occasionally to relieve my back and neck pain that had presented itself after the long descent. I welcomed the climb with knowledge that I was almost finished. I tried to work with a Fullerton boy, but it seemed that he was cramping to the point of falling over so I gave him my water bottle and continued up the hill, alone again. Per usual, the finish was anticlimactic as I struggled to drag myself over the line with no energy to sprint. Somehow, I managed to place 4th in the Women’s B category, though! This was the first race that I was able to have someone to ride with and it made the experience exponentially more enjoyable and less awful.
CBR Crit Collegiate Women’s B
At the start, all I could think about was how awful it would be to get dropped off the pack and pulled from the race again (Red Trolley wasn’t a good race for me). The whistle was blown and we flew down the course. It was a little chaotic in the beginning as I tried to figure out where to place myself in the pack. Luckily, Kenny and Kevin offered some nice butts to stay behind. Primes began to be announced and I found myself racing for one of them until I realized that Amy was already considerably further ahead of me and that I was putting out way too much energy way too early. At that moment, I could feel my legs crying out at me to stop. Chad came to my rescue, offering me his wheel to rest on for a bit. I jumped back into the pack, calling Kenny to drop in so he could get out of the wind and so I could sit in his draft again. From there, I moved around from wheel to wheel, making sure that I was never out of a draft. I felt my legs getting more and more lethargic and tried to find Aileen so that I might be able to put her in a position to sprint for the finish before I exploded and so my effort wouldn’t be for null. Too late, I couldn’t seem to find her and it was the bell lap. I struggled to stay with the pack and just prayed for my legs to carry me to the finish. SPRINT was all I could think as I couldn’t see where the other Women’s B’s were or where I was placed in relation. My legs were toasted, but I guess that cold pizza for breakfast gave me the extra strength I needed because I somehow managed to get my first podium: 3rd in the Women’s Bs.
CBR Crit Category 4
I raced Cat 4’s later in the day and realized how important it is to have teammates racing with you. I was absolutely alone in this race and I didn’t know any of the other women racing. It seemed that nobody wanted to work with me so I ended up sitting in the front, rotating between first and second position the entire race until the final lap, where the pack behind me came to attack. I had pulled too much and was struggling to keep up with the ladies that flew by. There was a frightening moment where I found myself leaning on another rider around a corner, but I held my line and neither of us crashed. Up that teeny little evil hill we went, the speed picked up and I was dying. Finally, we hit the sprint and I looked to my right and my left as we headed for the finish and made it my goal to beat the women on either side of me. I dug deep, and smashed my pedals, moving me up two places right before the line. I ended up 10th in that race.
Ben Kurtz – Men’s D
The UCLA road race was one I was excited about. Climbing! I like climbing. I’m almost good at climbing (except when compared to people who are actually good at it). After flatting out at Boulevard a couple of weeks ago, I was hoping that maybe this would be my opportunity to do really well. I did manage a top-5 finish, but there were enough mistakes along the way that I can’t help feeling a little disappointed.
Race prep really starts the day before the race. Matea’s parents were awesome, and in addition to giving us a place to spend the night, made us a delicious dinner to get us ready for the race. Mistake #1: In my excitement over the race and being fed, I ate way too much dinner, and I ended up tossing and turning for a long time while my stomach duked it out with a giant spaghetti monster. That combined with getting up at 4am to drive to the race meant not nearly enough sleep. More sleep = more fast.
We arrived at the course just before sunrise, about 5 minutes after registration opened. Registration was a bit of a mess, and even with the resulting 15-minute delay in the race start, there wasn’t really time for a proper warmup. Of course, I’m not sure I know how to do a proper warmup that takes less than an hour anyway. Lining up for the start of the race was a bit chaotic, with everyone delayed by 15 minutes and three collegiate categories leaving at the same time. Even after squeezing through and pushing a bit to get nearer the front, I had a lot more people in front of me than I really wanted.
The first few hundred yards off the start line were quick, but as soon as we started climbing, people remembered that we had three full laps of this and 4500 ft of climbing still to go, and the pace slowed down again. This was a good opportunity to start making my way forward. With this many combined categories and this much climbing, there was no way the pack was going to stay together, and when somebody can’t keep up on the hill, you want to be in front of them, not behind. About half way to the first corner, the grade ticked up another notch and it got a lot easier to pass people as they got more worried about keeping up and less worried about filling in all the space. As we rounded the first corner (which I didn’t recognize at the time, because I was expecting a turn onto a new road, whereas it’s really much more like the same road makes a right hand turn) I was in a pretty comfortable spot.
Mistake #2: going out too hard. At that point in the race, of course everyone is feeling good, but it seemed like it would be interesting to see how everyone’s legs were feeling, so when I found myself at the front of the line, I pushed a little extra and let a bit of a gap open up. A guy from Irvine and someone else came with me, and we crested the hill with a few meters on the rest of the field. We toyed briefly with the idea of trying to really get away from the pack, but it quickly became clear that with the downhill coming up and three laps to go that it wasn’t really a good idea. I hung on a bit longer, since I knew I was going to lose ground going down the hill (I should really work on my descending a bit) and pretty soon the other guys were back with us and we were flying down the hill and I knew I must’ve missed corner 2 the same way I had corner 1.
As predicted, I lost quite a bit of ground on the way down the hill, despite going 45+ mph most of the way. By the bottom of the hill, I was trailing 20 or 30 seconds off back of what I guess was the lead group, since there was no one behind me for quite a ways. Fortunately, once the downhill ended, the pace slowed up a bit, and I was able to catch back on to the lead group fairly uneventfully by the time we started climbing again. At which point I repeated Mistake #2 (incidentally, I thought I learned my lesson about this two years ago at Boulevard, but apparently not yet). People seemed to be struggling a bit up the hill, or at least so I thought at the time. In reality, some of them were probably struggling, and the rest were remembering the next two laps and holding back a bit. But I thought I was feeling good, so after a couple of minutes when I knew we must be getting close to the KOM prize (silly: they gave a KOM prize for the first person to cross the finish line the on first lap), I decided to give it a go, and upped the pace again. This time I wasn’t able to open up a gap, though things did string out a bit. The Irvine guy was better with his strategy though, and beat me out across the line to claim the KOM prize for the Ds. But it wasn’t completely wasted, since Aki crossed right behind me to claim it for the Cs.
At that point though, my legs were pretty cooked, and as we headed up the hill toward corner 1 again, I was regretting having put quite so much into the first lap. Sure enough, by the time we rounded that corner, I’d lost touch with the group (which was being pulled along by a couple of strong Cs from Berkeley, who I’d noticed consistently not far behind when I was off the front doing stupid things), and after that I never really caught back up. The rest of that lap and most of the next were pretty uneventful. Fortunately I wasn’t the only one that had popped, and at some point around the bottom of the descent I found myself riding with Noah from SDSU. We worked together pretty well, and caught a couple of other guys (who ended up being from the Claremont Colleges team; apparently they don’t have kits yet, so I didn’t realize they were on the same team until after the race). We caught and then dropped a couple more guys, and then finally near the top of the hill, we caught up to Aki and a D from SDSU. We ended up keeping that group through pretty much the rest of the race, except that we dropped the other D at the bottom of the last climb, leaving me as the only D left in a group with a bunch of Cs. Mistake #3: I assumed the other D was going to stay dropped. My legs were feeling pretty done on the way up the climb, so I mostly tried to keep a steady pace. I knew I had a competitor a ways back but since we’d dropped him as soon as we started climbing, I figured I was pretty safe as long as I didn’t blow up completely. Silly me for not looking back. Just like my new friend from Irvine who’d edged me out of the KOM, the guy caught me just before the line. I didn’t even know he was coming until his tire was across the line before mine. Shucks. So fifth place when I could’ve had fourth.
On a whim, I decided it would be a good opportunity to get in some more riding in the San Gabriels, and that I wanted to ride back to Redlands. As Chad pulled up google cycling directions I wondered why on earth it recommended going on CA-138 (the way we drove in, with no shoulders and most cars going 70-80mph) instead of the back roads through Big Pines and Wrightwood. An hour later as my shaky legs longed for the climbing to end, I remembered that Google usually tries to avoid big hills in its biking directions…
Aki – Men’s C
The race morning stated nice in a cozy room in Matea’s parents’ house. The stay was so nice and I cannot thank them enough. We had breakfast and coffee, packed our bikes and drove to the race site. We got there around 6, stayed in line for a while to figure out there is another line to get a collegiate number, etc, we ended up having little time for warming up, but luckily they postponed the race for 15 mins and I could go for a short ride to feel warm enough to take knee warmers and gloves off before the race. I was still shivering a little at the start line, but I knew it was going to be hot soon.
There are three cat C riders with yellow jerseys up front making a steady pace up the hill. They didn’t try to break the field on the first climb, and we stayed pretty much together for the first lap. At the end of the first lap, there was a KOM point. I was leading the pack that time, and saw Ben went first, and another Cat D rider chased (and unfortunately caught) him. I picked up the pace to follow the move, and found no other riders were following! I was in the middle of two Cat D riders and a main group. I had two options: to sprint to beat them, or just to stay there. Will KOM be given to each category? I thought so but not 100% sure. Anyway, I didn’t want to ruin my race with sprinting at that time, I decided to stay there making sure no other Cat C riders were coming up. And I ended up getting a KOM prize (Powerbar drink mix) from Helen’s Cycles!
The field got stretched up a little on this second climb. There was a little gap before me at the top and I was left behind on the downhill. I hopped on a wheel and caught a group of 4-5 rider. The fast guy passed the group and went further, but I couldn’t catch up with him and ended up going with the group. Some riders have teammates going ahead, but they still participated in the rotation. We worked together and we are about to catch the leading pack right before the right turn onto Longview. I was just going back from the front, and after the turn everyone else accelerated and joined the group. I couldn’t. I tried not to push too hard during the chase, but maybe for the last pull I had stayed in the front too long. Anyhow I started going up by myself. The leading group was always in sight but the gap was gradually increasing. On the final stretch of the uphill, I realized a group of 5-6 riders are coming from behind, so I slowed down a little and joined them knowing I’m not fast on downhill.
We were anyway not fast on the downhill (on Strava it was 1 min slower than the first 2 laps), so there were very little chance of catching people in front. The only thing I could do was to prepare for the last climb. Approaching the right turn, there were four other Cat C riders and Ben were in the group. Ben kindly offered to do some help, but I cannot think of a strategy. A SDSU guy went up first, and I stayed with him for a while. Everyone else dropped. He was off the saddle, so right after he got back to the saddle I accelerated and tried to leave him behind, but he stayed with me. With a quarter mile left, I started to go off the saddle to push hard and soon he got dropped. I sat down again, looked back, no one was close, but soon accelerated again to make sure no one would catch me. Finally, I got 6th (9th overall) and KOM.