Northern California Bicycle Racing Community
After a race fitness period, I was back in late base endurance training. I wasn't sure what to expect from my legs for the 3rd race of the California state series, but I knew I had to show up to get what points I could.
I placed second at this race last year, and knew what to expect from the course. The start was flowy and then straight and fast. There were some wide open slightly downhill fire roads that emptied into singletrack before a bit of climbing. Once we turned left, it was fast and flowy singletrack to the Hoot Trail, which was a proper bermed and pumpy trail for about 4 minutes. This spit us out onto a paved road, which we climbed to "The Zipper", an uphill section of switchbacks that gained most of the elevation for each lap. After The Zipper, it was fast downs and ups until a short fireroad climb and a short flat section of fire road to the finish. Laps were about 7.5 miles long and we would be doing 3.
I made the decision to install a dropper post on my Trek Top Fuel, and once again raced on Vittoria Mezcal tires.
The Pro class was small, but there were 2 other racers there in contention for the series win: David Duncan, the winner of round 2, and Nicolas Jimenez, who had placed the highest at Sea Otter and finished just behind me at round 2. There were also an unfamiliar Durango racer, Kell McKenzie, and my teammate, Danny Macnaughton.
The start funnels into singletrack pretty quickly. I went into this fourth wheel, and immediately found myself on the brakes but wanting to go faster. I had seen that Duncan and Jimenez could climb well, especially early in the race, but I knew that I had the edge on the descents. Here was a spot where I could have been using that edge to get ahead, but I was trapped in traffic. Not long after it opened up, I made a push and was surprised to move to the front without too much work. With no one in the way, I let it fly on the corners and used my 34x19 high gear to pull away. I ripped along and soon made it to the first slight climbing section. As I expected, Duncan and Jimenez reeled me in, but I was able to stay just ahead until we made the left turn into singletrack and the Hoot Trail section. Here was another chance to leverage my downhill speed and I dropped my seat and made it count. I was railing the berms and straightening the corners as best I could. Conditions were excellent in the tacky hardpacked dirt, and I had around a 20 second gap when I entered the pavement. I pushed to start the climb, but my legs didn't have a lot of power. I remember a time when I would have added substantially to my lead by dropping the hammer on these climbs, but the two of them caught me by the start of The Zipper.
"Here it goes again", I thought to myself, beginning to accept my slow decline of climbing strength. I asked Duncan if he wanted to come around me, but he said "this is okay, for now." I kept up my pace, and was surprised to lead all the way to the end of the first lap. We came through pretty much together, and headed out for #2. I was in the front for the flumey berms at the start of the lap this time, and once again I pulled away from them. Jimenez seemed content to draft behind Duncan for this superfast section. Either he was racing really smart, or just hanging on.
Once again they caught me at the first climb. I assumed Duncan would try to come around me before the Hoot Trail, and he attacked on the fireroad climb leading to it. I dug deep and made sure I got there first. "At least I will lead this race for another 4 minutes", I thought to myself. I covered the now familiar ground a little faster than before, and found myself with a decent gap as I started climbing again. My two chasers had almost caught me by The Zipper, but I maintained a small buffer. Eventually, Jimenez bridged up to me and Duncan faded. I kept on the gas, as Jimenez seemed content to ride my wheel to the end of lap 2. Here, I started to feel like I could pull off the win.
As in the other laps, I blasted the first quarter of lap 3. I did not want to give Jimenez a wheel to suck. By the entrance to the Hoot Trail, I had a 20 second lead on him and Duncan was nowhere in sight. I let it rip on the fun descent, doubling the features where it made sense and going brakeless through the high bermed corners. I reached the start of the climbing, and then The Zipper, with no one in sight behind me.
I was feeling the fatigue in my legs, but I pushed hard. I soon realized that I had grown my lead substantially, but I kept it up to make it stick. I came in alone for first place, claiming my first California Series win, and the series points lead so far.
Interesting fact: I think I am older than 2nd and 3rd place combined.