At the beginning of this year, as I was ramping up my training, I looked at my race schedule and identified the US Cup Series as my priority “A” races. I committed to racing all 7 races of the series in CAT2 (or sport division) so the goal I set was simple enough: challenge for podium places. I didn’t specifically target wins – rather I kept the goal ambiguous knowing that if I did well enough in each race I could place well for the series overall.
My goal was to compete at the “sharp end of the arrow”, where the races are made and decided. Heading into the first race of the series in March I knew my legs were ready after getting some great early season race conditioning in the San Diego based Racers & Chasers series.
Looking back at each race provides some perspective and while I wish I didn’t crash in the first race and bonk at the end, or decide against matching the acceleration of the eventual winner in the 2nd race, or throw my chain twice in the Riverside race, I’m quite delighted with my US Cup series performances. Two victories, two seconds, a third and two fourths – mission accomplished!
The final race in Big Bear went to script – work with my teammate Dan DiGiacomo to get through the majority of the climbs and from there let the best legs win! The Big Bear course is mentally challenging, perhaps more so than physically. Obviously, good legs are required but patience and resolve are critical to remain positive and finish well. Why? Altitude!
The start of the race is a 2.4 mile 5% climb from an elevation of 7,250 feet to the top of Snow Summit at 7,850 feet. From there you roll along the ridgeline on Forest Service road 2N10 and even these smaller climbs test your resolve. The reason is because for us flatlanders coming up to race in the mountains, we’re not able to produce the same amount of power at a given heart-rate. To simplify it, you feel like you don’t have juice on the climbs! This is where patience and intestinal fortitude comes into play. Go too hard and you will certainly blow up. But while you feel slower than normal, you can’t become mentally defeated. The mantra “spin, spin, spin” is the way to survive altitude.
Heading into this race all I needed to do was finish ahead of the guy in series lead and I would become the series winner (see my previous post). Knowing this, Dan and I kept a great pace that stung everyone except for another rider (Ryan Eltiste) so there were three of us at the front. At the last climb Dan accelerated away with Ryan in tow leaving me in 3rd place and ahead of the rider I needed to beat. I kept a tempo I was comfortable with knowing that once I got to the top of the climb it was all beautiful downhill singletrack from there and that I wasn’t going to be caught on that.
I was surprised when I caught Dan near the finish but he was riding slower, was dirty and taking corners without his normal confidence. He had just crashed but was ok. I passed him here and moments later we crossed the finish line in 2nd and 3rd. In hindsight he deserved to come in 2nd as he put the work in on the climbs but in the heat of racing we flipped the finishing order.
When all was said and done he finished 5th overall and I finished 1st in the series so it was a rewarding result for the two of us. What made the day better was sharing the top podium with my teammates as Kasel Cycling – Team Revo secured the top overall coed team championship! It was also great to see my wife finish first in the race and 2nd overall for the series in her category as well as other teammates get individual honors. For a first year team, we’ve made quite a showing!
As for next year, I’ll move up to the expert class (CAT1) where guys ride harder and faster over longer distances. I will savor my CAT2 series championship so much because the thrill of setting the pace, being a marked rider, and stepping onto the podium is such a sweet feeling. I won’t experience that next year (93.4% certainty). Next year will be spent climbing up to the next plateau of CAT1 fitness as pack filler – good enough to be in CAT1 but not at the front group. I’ll go to school, take my licks, and hopefully emerge from it stronger!
Next up . . . the 12 Hours of Temecula this coming Saturday as Samantha and I will form the dynamic coed duo of Team Adams! (Yes – we plan to ride for 12 hours!) More to follow on that . . .