Northern California Bicycle Racing Community
I have been working on my new cyclocross bike and it's starting to really come together. I changed the handlebars for 44cm wide Ritchey WCS Logic bars, adding 2 cm of width and losing a couple of ounces. I lost the double front chainrings and added a single 42 tooth Wolftooth narrow/wide ring. I added a short cage "type 2" rear deraileur and an 11-36 XX cassette. I have settled on a much lower handlebar position that allows me to get aero, ride in the hoods in a powerful position, and still hop barriers easily. A few rides during the week convinced me that this should be my first time to start the race on a cyclocross bike instead of a rigid mountain bike.
The weather was sunny but not too hot as I rolled into Candlestick for the second race of the Bay Area Super Prestige series. This was my first real race of the season a few weeks ago, where a flat tire had left me with a decent but disappointing result of 8th place. This series draws the areas fastest racers, so the Elite Men's field of 50-70 has at least 10 guys that will be challenging for podium spots. I am getting closer to my race fitness peak and starting to cut back on overall training hours each week. This leaves me fresh for racing on the weekend and I was ready to push it a little.
The course this time was pretty much a reverse of the last one. We would start on the paved stretch and make a right onto a gravel road that climbed slightly for a good distance. This road led to some sandy corners and then a short, loose, rocky climb. Some rolling off-camber cornering with a couple of straight sections took us to a slight drop and then a paved straight to a rideable run-up. After this we descended the run-up from the first race before actually riding through a very short (3 feet) section of mud (the tide was coming in). A 180 degree turn with barriers put us on more corners and straights, with two more barriers before a short climb, until we made a sharp turn to a climb with three stairs on it. This was pretty much a run-up, but I was able to ride it in practice. More bumpy pedaling and we were running up and over the wooden "overpass" bridge and finishing, after a few more corners, on the pavement. The very first section was a wide place to really pedal hard, but most of the rest was twisty and called for more acceleration and cornering skill.
It was a similar field to the last BASP race, minus a couple of guys. Ben Jacques-Maynes, Kieth Hillier, Walton Brush, Cody Kaiser, Cameron Falconer, and Derek Yarra were back and also getting fitter as the race season rolls on. During staging, a few of my friends made comments about my new 'cross rig. Many of them have never seen me on a cyclocross bike and they questioned whether I could actually ride one fast. I guess I figured today would be good practice for the real thing!
I was happy to get a front row callup, but when we blasted off I had 2 seconds of difficulty getting clipped in. This left me in about 12th place as we made the right turn onto the long straight gravel section. I dug hard and made up about 10 places just as we came to the right turn onto some sandy corners. I was coming in hot and preparing to slot into the corner just behind the two guys in first, but they took it a lot slower than I expected them to. I came to a stop and there was some bumping that jammed up the field behind me. I hustled after the leader and quickly made it up to Andy's wheel. He led the first lap at a pretty easy pace, controlling the race and not so anxious to go hard yet. Cody came by and got things started with some hard efforts, but it wasn't long before he flatted a tire. I found myself in 3rd and then 4th, but the top 8 or so were all within striking distance. Hillier came by me running as I climbed the stepped runup on the second lap. The close grouping made the racing pretty exciting. There was no room for error and any bobbles would cost you a place or two. I had fallen back to 6th as we started the last few laps and I put in a good effort on the fast sections at the start. It was nice to feel some power as I caught back up to 3-5th place and moved into 5th, then 4th as Walt had trouble jumping a barrier. I tried to make it stick, but Walt dug deep and came around me before the end of that lap. Cameron was about 12 seconds behind me and we stayed this way until the very end of the last lap. I ran up the "overpass" and hopped on my bike to ride down the other side, but my chain dropped. I quickly put it back on, but it took enough time that Cameron came around me and got a little gap. There was not enough course left to try to run him down and I finished just behind him in 6th.
I love the competition and look forward to mixing it up with this same crew next week at the Surf City race. I really enjoyed racing the cyclocross bike and hope to get faster on it.