Tuesday, June 12, 2007
When we were making plans for our trip in California and Utah I was trying to figure out how we could spend enough time in California with eugie's family while still being able to be back in slc for the sugarhouse crit that I wanted to do. It just so happened that I came across another race in California the same day as the sugarhouse crit, that was the same price and it kept us in cali another 2 days. When I found the race it was full so I put my name on the waiting list and hoped for the best. So last Saturday I was able to race the coolest race I've ever done. It was held in Pescadero, CA which is between Santa Cruz and Half Moon Bay. It is a small town settled between the pacific ocean and the redwood forests of the Santa Cruz Mountains. The thing that attracted me to this race was the fact that it was a mountain top finish. The course was a 27 mile loop that we (Cat 5s) did 1.7 times. It had 3 major climbs, 2 one milers in a row, then a gradual climb up a canyon, then finished with a 2+ mile climb through the redwoods before a nice 8 mile descent back to pescadero.
Then we did the loop again but finishing at the top of the big climb. The scenery was incredible, we started off rolling through coastal grasslands and the big climb went through huge redwoods.
I was excited to race but I was also a tad nervous. People had told us that the Bay Area has one of the most competitive amateur cycling communities in the country and that a "Cat 5" in the bay area may be considered a "Cat 3" elsewhere in the country. In other words, people there are fast and fit. So I was curious to see how I would do. In reality I didn't come to the race completely rested (My relay team took 2nd in the Men's relay at the Vikingman 1/2 ironman the saturday previous, and I did a nice 50 mile climb with around 4k feet of climbing on Tuesday. But the legs were feeling ok. The race started out with a neutral start 5 miles of rollers before those first 2 one miler climbs. The pace wasn't too bad. The club hosting the race was Webcor and they had a around 5 or 6 guys riding in the cat 5s. Usually in the lower categories of racing you don't see too many team tactics being used, so it showed that everyone was a step higher because Webcor tried to control the group. You could tell they were setting on of their people up for the win. We went through the first lap without any significant breakaways. I rode away on the big climb with about 4 other guys but it wasn't too intense and we regrouped on the descent. When we came through pescadero the 2nd time the pace got shifted up a gear. We hit the 2 smaller climbs again going much faster and the group was beginning to dwindle to around 35 riders or so. When we started heading up the canyon we were flying (we had a nice tailwind coming in from the ocean so that helped with the pace). The Webcor riders put in some fast accelerations that shot some more people out the back. We came through the feedzone and started to approach the base of the finishing climb. I had told myself before the race that no matter what situation I was in that I would attack at the base of the climb. We took a nice right hand turn, the gradient kicked up to around 9% and we started climbing. I shifted down a few gears and unleashed an attack along the inside with full pirate fury. It was great, I gapped the group quickly and tried to settle into a pace that I could maintain. I didn't want to wait for Webcor to do something for their guy. As I was trying not to explode my pace dropped a little bit. 2 guys (one of them was a Webcor) bridged up to me and passed me, I tried to stay on their wheels but didn't have the kick in my legs to do so. I could see the "kilometers to go" marks on the sides of the road ticking down and was doing my best to keep myself in the top 3. A third guy bridged up and passed and I tried to maintain as much as I could handle. I could feel the previous week's efforts taking their toll. A 5th guy came up and rode on my wheel. He would come around me, then I would sit on his wheel and come around him. We switched off like this a few times till the climb leveled off a bit towards the top. I decided I didn't want 5th place so I kicked it up a bit and finished strong.
I ended up taking 4th in the cat 5 group. After the finish we had a nice 8 mile cool down descent back to our cars. It was nice to chat with the guys that finished around me. This race was by far the coolest race I've done so far. I wish I had the fire in my legs to hold them off, but ohh well. I'll take 4th in a group like this. I did get a nice alloy Ritchey handlebar for my place though.
If you want to read how Eugena did in her race you can look at her blog here.