Going into this weekend, I knew it was going to be a little insane to do two big road races back to back. Having just upgraded to B’s/4’s two weeks earlier, the UCLA and Pine Flat road races were roughly twice as long as any D’s or C’s race I had done the year before. Still, I woke up at 3:30am on Saturday ready to go and made my way with Justin and Jim out to Palmdale.
The race began with Youssef and several other riders immediately separating from the pack during the first climb. Some of us in the front gave chase and closed the gap. We found ourselves alone very quickly. In fact, this first stretch managed to shred about half of the pack. With more than three laps remaining, the front group was composed of roughly 10 guys, most of whom I’d spent the entirety of the last two road races with. This brutal climb really drove home the fact that the B’s this year are at two very distinct fitness levels.
Anyways, long story short is that Youssef stays away starting near the last pitch of the first climb. I stayed with the pack as we took the screaming 106th street descent at speeds of up to 50+ MPH and we all regrouped and began an echelon on the flatter portion of the race on Fort Tejon Road. The next two laps were relatively uneventful. I managed to hang with the front guys, many of whom were much lighter and stronger climbers than me until the final pitch of the third lap. At that point, I cracked and fell back a bit. I knew that the seven of us who were leading had created a massive gap on the rest of the field, so I took the opportunity to dial down my effort on the climb on the fourth lap.
In the end, I took seventh place about four minutes behind the group with riders 2-6. For a race with 6000′ vertical, I’m very happy with the result. My new Shimano R-315 shoes, heat molded at Bike Effect, performed perfectly and kept my feet incredibly comfortable. PowerBar Double Latte Gels and Ironman Perform Drink Mix were awesome pre/mid race fuel and seeing Dan from Jessup Auto Plaza’s Cycling Team later during the next wave was a great touch. Thanks for your support guys!
Pine Flat, however, was an entirely different story.
I’d never raced a 4’s race before, and only done one USCF race – a cat 5 crit I didn’t end up finishing. I had no idea how much better collegiate is than the general categories – in that way this race was a great learning experience.
The start of the race was a very steep winding road with grades in excess of 10 percent. Luckily it was neutral, and by the top I was comfortably situated about 20th wheel in the pack of about 70 riders. For the first 5-6 miles where the road was generally flat or uphill I was able to maintain position. When the descent began, however, the sketchiness of the riders surrounding me really started to get to me. I ended up behind one rider who was descending on the hoods and wobbling around corners and couldn’t take it anymore. I dropped back behind the pack about 10m to avoid what seemed like certain death.
Incidentally, this positioning would actually work in my favor when a large pile-up occured in the middle of the pack. I was able to swerve around the pile of bodies and cracked carbon fiber, and rushed back to my original position at about 20th wheel. On the next descent, I again was terrified at the horrible technique of the riders around me and dropped back to get some more breathing room. Once at the bottom, I moved up to the front of the pack and started to have a hand in dictating the pace of the pack. Several of the front riders and I started an echelon and held it until I realized that working at all was stupid when there was no breakaway up the field and the pack would explode as soon as we got to the climb.
After almost 30 miles on the flats, we finally made a right turn onto the climb. On the first pitch, I was on the right side of the road, boxed in by racers who were being quickly dropped by the front group. By the time I was able to get around them, I had lost perhaps 45 seconds on the leaders. At that point, with the gap and UCLA still painfully apparent in my legs, I knew my race was done. It was satisfying, though, to shred a couple of struggling riders up the final 15 percent pitch before the finish line.
What a weekend.