I’ve been lagging on posting my race recap from the first US Cup race which only happened almost 2 weeks ago. With race #2 tomorrow, I better get to the recap of #1!
Samantha and I got up early to make the 1 1/2 hour commute to Vail Lake, just east of Temecula, CA, site of the first US Cup series race. Race mornings are a divide and conquer affair in the Adams household in order to get out the door: I’m on coffee and car/bike loading duty while Samantha commands the breakfast burrito assembly line. A trained monkey can do my job… so props to Samantha for creating some mean-tasting-wheel-turning b-fast burritos!
As mentioned already, I’m quite familiar with the Vail Lake course which is mostly beneficial but did get me into some trouble. More on that in a bit. Making my step up to the CAT1 expert class means that I first get to step down and wait all day for the other races to take place which is a new wrinkle to get used to. Typically, I travel to the race venue, register, change, race. All the race jitters are concentrated to a few hours. Not so at this race with a 7:30 a.m. arrival and 1:30 p.m. race time.
With time to “kill” I set about helping my teammates setup the team camp and assist them in getting ready for their race which preceded mine. It also gave me the opportunity to pick up the camera and try my hand at documenting some of the action. This provided a nice distraction as I got caught up in their race and taking pictures before realizing that I needed to change and get ready for my race! There were nine teammates on course for me to cheer on, photograph, and provide bottles for and it was cool to act the fan prior to my race.
I’ve been experiencing lower back pain on recent hard efforts and races and I wanted to make sure I got a good warm-up in so I took off down some dirt roads and missed my teammates finish their race. I got about a half hour of riding in with a couple of hard efforts to get the heart up and the back ready. I pull into the starting grid and the familiar big race feeling comes over me – a sort of numbness to the world around me mixed with an acute focus on my body and the task at hand.
But something feels off – naked, in fact. My bike. I notice others around me and realize I forgot to attach my number plate to my handlebar! The announcement of 2 minutes to the start is made and I ask the racer to my right (Dan, the guy in yellow in the photo below) to hold my bike as I make a mad dash back to the team tent to retrieve my number plate. Had I known I would have to make a run for it in my Serfas Scandium cycling shoes I wouldn’t have warmed up so much on the bike!
There are twelve racers in my CAT1 35-39 starting wave and we all stick together in a group after the gun goes off as nobody wants to be the one to set the pace. I happily sit-in near the back and just follow the wheel in front of me. The pace is fast but doable. The first single-track approaches and some jockeying takes place as the inevitable bottleneck approaches. The pace at this point is still doable as everyone is waiting for the first torturous and sinuous single-track climb to sort out the contenders. Near the top, and definitely at the boiling point of my heart rate, there’s definitely a gap that’s formed but I was never going to be contending up there. It’s the race within the race for myself as my goal entering the race was to finish mid-pack.
Getting back to my familiarity of this course…. and the racers in my group. I know my strength on this course are the ridgeline descents which, if ridden aggressively, are like roller coasters and reward thrill seekers with time advantages. In my mid-pack race within the race, I know I’m better at descending than my competitors and have to maximize this advantage because they’re better at me at the continuous 5-8% fireroad climbs that come later in the course. Sure enough, feeling fresh and frisky on my first lap, I do a good job of gaining a gap after the first series of downhills. I know the lines and where time can be made. But I also didn’t pre-ride the course day-of. I’m flying down these ridges based on my memory and knowledge of the course.
Near the bottom of one of the last descents, there’s a turn that has two lines – the easy line goes to the right and is fairly smooth but doesn’t setup well for the turn so you have to slow down before the turn. The left line shoots you over a rock drop of a foot or two and allows you to keep your speed (~25 mph) and sets you up well for the turn if you hit it right. I always take the left line and do so this time. I take off and mid-drop realize the landing is a bit more rutted out after the recent rains. Not a huge rut at all, but enough that my front tire hits it and starts to wash out, putting me on a path to go off the trail and ridge. Not wanting to experience a long fall I notice a large sage brush and essentially launch bike and body into it at 20+mph in the hope it stops me. Success! And amazingly, I only have 1 small scratch. Totally lucky. But 3 riders do pass me as I get up and slowly start moving again.
Even though I crashed on my first lap, my second lap was the worst. I dropped my water bottle at the beginning of the 9 mile lap and that set me back. Mentally, I was quite bummed knowing that my hydration was going to suffer but what are you going to do? Then my rear hub starts to make a really loud sound so I stop to make sure all is good and that the wheel itself was structurally sound. Three other riders pass me as riders in the group that started behind me have caught up. The sound in the hub eventually went away. I persevered, knowing this wasn’t going to be a good race, position-wise, but I kept pushing because this is a race after all and I don’t want the remaining racers in my group to pass me.
On the third lap, my back started to flare up but with the end in sight I knew I could keep applying the power without aggravating it further. Near the very end my calves starting knotting up and I was doing all I could to not have them cramp up entirely. Note to self: don’t drop any more water bottles! (Thanks to our team sponsor, Serfas, for providing me with some new water bottle cages which I think will do a better job securing the bottle) In the end, I finished 7th so I suppose I accomplished my goal of mid-pack despite all the things that went wrong for me in this race. Staying positive, here’s hoping I got a lot of bad luck out in my first race!
All-in-all it was a good experience for myself and the team as many of my teammates picked up podium spots! Here’s hoping race #2 this weekend sees Kasel Cycling riders on the podium again and personally, I’m hoping I can eliminate some of the mistakes that plagued me in the first race.