Unlike most crits, this one started really slow. It was probably due to the combination of it being most peoples first crit of the year coupled with the two crashes in the Ds. People just wanted to feel out the course first. Cal Poly tried to take advantage of the slow pace by sending a guy off the front and blocking with the remaining 3 teammates. The field collectively agreed that it was way too early and nobody bothered to come around Cal Poly to chase. A few laps later the guy had blown himself up and got caught during the prime lap. Cal Poly kept trying it with different guys but got the same result each time. With 3 laps to go I started making my way toward the front. The Davis rider I had worked with at the road race yesterday let me in, putting me in 4th position with 3 laps to go. However it meant nothing as the front slowed and the rest of the pack swarmed us. On the last lap, I found myself stuck on the inside. I wanted an outside line but it was crowded with riders. Before the final turn, Davis launched an early attack from the middle of the pack (good move, nobody at the front saw it coming). This got the rest of the moves going and I followed a move up the inside because it was the only place I could go. We didn’t get in front of the pack before the corner so we got pinched hard and I ended up losing most of my speed. I got 11th, which is really disappointing because I still had a huge sprint left in my legs. I should have worked harder to find a way to the outside line so that I could contest the sprint.
Matea – Women’s C
Nerves. Climbing is really not my thing, but at least I could feel my fingers and toes this time around. Thank God for the pleasant weather. As I edged up to the starting line, my anxiety was calmed as the girls joked about making this a coffee ride and my dad struggled to use the camera to shoot a photo of me before we took off. My goals this race were the same as the last race: finish and not crash.
Alright, let’s start this. We begin with a false climb and I am already in my lower gears and feeling it in my legs so I pull back and let five riders including Elisa and Gretchen (beasts!) ahead of me. I’m in sixth place, that isn’t too bad, I think. Aileen and I draft each other briefly, but I break away and fall into a steady pace. I see that Santa Barbara girl and Blue Girl are working together to draft each other just ahead of me so I plug forward and catch up. Blue Girl leaves and I commiserate with Santa Barbara about how much we hate climbs. The descent is approaching so I take this as my chance to play catch up to the front group. Descents don’t win races, but speeding through safely would help me out for sure. I get into my drops, my chin inches away from my bars, passing Blue Girl and two men’s riders before finishing the descent. I had to slow down significantly to make it through the right turn at the bottom. Note to self: practice cornering. I’m on a semi flat road now and Chris Campagnoni passes by, offering words of encouragement, so I pick up the pace and keep going.
I’ve ridden half of the climb and I’m finally back at the starting line and it seems I’ve made friends with a Men’s B from Santa Clara. He’s given me company and words of wisdom about climbing on the way up after hearing me yell at myself to keep going (oops, that’s embarassing). Cramps in both calves, ankle pain (I should’ve taped it), and a weird case of the chills: this second lap was all hell and all pain. The descent went the same as the first, I passed a few racers in other categories and enjoyed the wind whipping by. The final climb was back breaking and I had to refrain from getting off and walking. Finally, I see the finish line and I can hear the encouragement from everyone on the team. Time to get out of the saddle and “sprint” to the finish.
I was alone for most of this race so it felt more mental than strategic at most points but I guess that just means you need to train your mind as much as your body. This race was incredibly rewarding and it taught me a lot about my limits and how far I can push myself. Not to mention, fourth place felt pretty good.
Daniel – Men’s A
The UCLA road race is one of the hardest road races of the season with a challenging climbing course at elevation. I knew that I wouldn’t be able to hang in with the main group for long so I had to work early on before I got dropped. For the first half of the first lap, the pace was mellow and chatty with Ben S setting a moderate tempo on the front to make everybody happy. I decided to go to the front on the descent and flat section since I knew that was where I could ride in front and do a little bit of good for our main contenders. Just like last year, coming up the climb to the start finish there was a big attack and the group immediately strung out with a massive head wind going up the climb, and people started to go into the red very quickly. I knew my time with the group was short so I did everything I could to stay in contact. I wound up getting dropped near the crest of the finishing climb, but managed to claw my way back on during the slight lull before the next climb. After recovering for about 10 seconds on the back of the group, I immediately went to the front as Chris, Ben R, Drew and Sam had all made the split to the front group and I needed to do something useful before I was permanently dropped. I was able to sit on the front and set the tempo for several minutes and wound up bringing back a couple riders who were off the front before the climb started and the attacks flew by me. I knew my job was done so I finished the second lap with several other dropped riders before pulling off at the end of the lap. There wasn’t anything else I could really do to help and I wanted to save my lungs and legs for the next day in the criteriums, so I called it a day. We finished with 3 riders in the top 10, including Chris finishing 2nd, so overall, it went pretty well. I’m happy that I’ll never have to ride that course again.
The most obvious challenge of the SLO crit this year was the rain. It’s a very technical course already, but with so much crosswalk paint, the rain made it especially difficult and dangerous. In the D’s race, there was a crash almost during every lap, including our own Ryan Fanant, though he was able to recover and still place fourth. There were far fewer crashes when Chris Lee and I were riding in the C’s, though the course was slightly less wet and I was riding as carefully as possible.
I felt pretty good for the first half of the race. I kept near the front of the group and was able to maintain a fast pace despite slowing way down for the corners, but before long I three or four riders passed me and then the main field was in front of me and gradually pulling away and I just couldn’t keep up.
I’m already not as good at crits as I am at road races, but I wasn’t able to warm up enough before the race and I think I didn’t eat right the night before. We had gone to a Korean BBQ place in LA and had this all you can eat buffet that was basically meat and nothing else. Ryan and Chris didn’t seem to be too affected by it, maybe I’m too old to be fueled by meat before a race anymore.
During the second half of the race I just tried to keep up the fastest pace I could but I was riding by myself for most of it, the field ended up getting pretty spread out and I finished 9th. Definitely not nearly what I had been hoping for, but I think the most important thing is that I have to improve my knowledge of the right things to eat before a race and to spend enough time on the rollers or trainer before racing.
SLO is far, but thanks to the piloting abilities of Skinny Ben and generosity of Chris C (and family) it wasn’t too painful to get up there. Sarno made sure I didn’t get to sleep until 11:30 Friday night. My number one priority was to get the jersey and then wear said jersey in the race. Mission accomplished at the start line. It looked like rain for most of the day, but I think it stayed dry for our entire race. We rode it well, and as a team. Daniel Z put in some work early, and everyone scored points for UCSD. Towards the end, myself, Skinny Ben, and Chris Spy were left in a group of maybe 7 or 8. We took turns attacking and making the other teams chase us down. Right as Chris came back from a move, I laid down the power and jumped away. 3 people that appeared to be doing nothing but marking me the whole race followed.
Aileen – Women’s C
As my first race I did not know what to expect: waking up at 4:30am, numb toes and finger tips, and how physically and mentally unprepared I was. The race starts and my heart begins to beat uncontrollably. I’m such a nervous wreck. Surprisingly the race starts off really slow going down the descents. So slow that one of the girls on another team asked me what “Chucky Butt Bakery” was and we actually had a decent conversation. After that I decide that I need to be in the front. Matea is right next to me and thinks the same. We end up next to each other and we start a pace line with just the three of us to pick up the speed on the flat. As the pace line stops on the descent, I end up being the person in the front pulling the group which I was trying to avoid. The girls are keeping the pack tight so it is difficult to actually fall back and get behind someone. As we approach the short, steep hill before the train track I drop to my little ring thinking that gear would be enough. I was wrong. Although I’m first or second to get up the hill, I output too much power and by the time I’m descending again I’m out of breath – my first mistake.
Now for the so-call “flat” part of Boulevard. I hadn’t recovered completely so this is when I started to get dropped. Matea catches up from behind me and helps me with her draft. I ride on her draft for a little while but it’s not enough because my legs are burning out and I’m falling behind even more. I knew I shouldn’t have done Torrey Pine repeats couple days before Bouvelard. At last! I’m alone… Two things are motivating me now: teammates’ voices in my head telling me to spin, spin, spin and the thought of them pushing me. I still see the ladies in front of me which was a good sign. Finally, the descent right before the climb. Still out of breath I don’t dare to give myself a rest. I hear Rachel from behind me going fast down the descent and I hop on her back wheel. THANK GOD. I finally recover right before the climb and I take off. Not knowing my limit, I didn’t want to push myself too hard like I did before the train track so I decide to play it safe – my second mistake. I should have at least pushed myself harder even if it was a little bit more. I try to catch up to Matea but the distance between us never gets shorter or longer. As the race is coming to an end, I wasn’t sure where the finish line was and then not knowing, I cross it – third mistake. I didn’t even sprint. Sorry, Coach Pat.
Although this is my first race, I was quite disappointed in myself but I did finish 10th out of 15 and about 18 minutes faster than the first time I rode Boulevard.
Andrew – Men’s A
Micheal – Men’s C
I felt really good at the start of the race, despite the cold. I had warmed on the rollers and felt like the cold wasn’t going to bother me. I was wrong, but my fingers only hurt for the first half. Since most of the first half of the race is generally downhill, it’s fast and you don’t really work that hard, so it’s easy to get cold. I noticed I was braking a lot on the downhills since I was drafting off riders in front of me and kept drifting onto their wheel. I don’t want to brake during a race, but also didn’t want to pull out ahead on a downhill early in the race. One of my bad habits from last year I have been telling myself to avoid is getting in front of the field and pulling too much. I’m not very good at pacing myself when I feel good, so I have a tendency to burn myself out too fast.