That was tough! All of it. And I loved it! The picture below highlights how beautiful it was to race in Santa Ynez surrounded by mustard, oaks, vineyards, and rolling hills.
My teammate and I took off at 6am this past weekend from Irvine armed with coffee to make the commute up to Santa Ynez. Dropping over the 154 from Santa Barbara and into the fog hovering over Cachuma Lake was a thrill and added to the pre-race excitement. We wondered how hot it might get when the fog burned off. Answer: hot enough! (race temps were in the mid 80’s).
There were three of us who made the commute from Orange County to represent Kasel Cycling – Team Revo so we knew the pressure was on to collect points in the US CUP team competition to keep our lead. We decided to take a spin to see the 1st half of the course and I realized my GPS wasn’t working . . . arrrrggggh. This was going to be the 2nd race in a row where I didn’t have the benefit of knowing my times, heart rate, or speed. Oh well. In hindsight, perhaps it’s good I couldn’t see my heart rate spike into the “ludicrous speed” zone at the end of the race!
At staging, I rolled into a larger group of racers than I’m used to since my 30-34 age class was paired with as the younger age classes. All morning I promised myself to temper my start speeds and stay with the group for the first lap in order to preserve energy. Halfway through the first lap (11 mile laps) and I realized I was in the lead in my class and feeling good so I decided to maintain the pace and keep hammering. To hell with pre-race strategy!
Trail karma being what it is, just as I began to think about how well this race was developing for me I hear a snap and feel a sudden jolt in my hands. It feels like something under tension has released. At first thought it’s got to be the front wheel spokes and my heart sinks because that means my race is over. I slow down enough to look at my front wheel and it’s ok. But I feel this slop in the bars and notice that as I hit bumps in the trail my front fork suspension simply isn’t doing it’s job – namely absorbing said bumps. So halfway into the first lap and I no longer have suspension. Ok – I’ll live… I just have to scrub more speed on the downhills and hope my lead doesn’t dwindle too much.
I start lap two and pick up a new cold water bottle from our strategically placed tent and get a great view of my nearest racers as the trail snakes back on itself. Crap… my lead is coming down. I am going to have to hammer the hills to make up for my slower downhill speeds. This is great in theory, but at this point in the race my legs balk at the demands my mind is making.
With about 3 miles left the 2nd place rider joins me and passes so I respond by hopping onto his wheel. It’s the same rider and wheel from the US CUP race in Fontana I won who overtook me near the end so I tell myself I can do it again. Problem is the racer in 3rd place joins up. This is going to be a lovely game of cat and mouse as we all size each other up to see who’s going to make the move.
Third place sprints out and I am first to react being in 2nd place and I latch onto his wheel and cover his acceleration. I’m still in 2nd as a small chicane and downhill section through and over a creek nears. 1st place sprints again and I go to cover but have to scrub speed to make it down the hill without rattling my teeth out (remember I have no suspension anymore!) so the 3rd place rider passes me covering the sprint. 50 yards later and the finishing order didn’t change so I finished in 3rd place. A nice result, but I feel I could have taken the win had I not suffered the mechanical . . . but that’s racing!
So up next is this weekend’s Enduro Stuff OC Parks Tour which is going to be held in the park I do most of my training (Aliso Woods) so I’m pumped up! I’m also going to step up and race in the Expert class so this race is going to put me through the ringer . . . no worries though as I’ll have plenty to do while I recover on Cinco de Mayo at our sponsor’s (REVO Cycles) parking lot sale. Beverage in hand, man!