It’s never a race weekend without me not being ready when Justin comes by to pick me up. Without avail, we departed at 1:30pm instead of the scheduled 1:00pm. After twenty minutes of sitting still on the linear parking lot known as 405 North, we made our way out to Carter’s gorgeous house near Santa Barbera.
Unlike most of the WCCC race weekends, SB’s crit is on Saturday – an arrangement I prefer. The B’s crit followed my usual pattern – spending too much time eating wind off the front, then not positioning myself well on the last few laps and ending up in the mid 20’s place-wise. Should probably work on that.
The 4’s crit was much more fun, though – I tried to avoid all the mistakes I made earlier. I spent significantly less time on the front, but stayed about 10th wheel for most of the race. I knew Mike Valdez was going to lead the Irvine guys out, so I positioned myself near them with two laps to go. After the last 90 degree turn, I was positioned about 18 inches left from the curb, ready to go for the field sprint and fourth wheel. About 500m from the line, right as I was about to sprint in earnest, a rider comes up to my right and tangles pedals with me momentarily. I nearly fell left and took out the pack (thankfully I was able to recover). Unfazed, he continued on to win. I sat up, shaking. This is why I don’t race E4. Winning twenty bucks is not worth crashing at 30mph to me.
Saturday night we chilled at Carter’s house and made pasta with italian sausage, sauteed vegetables and tomato sauce for dinner. After catching up on the week’s pro racing at Paris-Nice and watching a bit of Chappelle Show we headed off to bed.
With rain in the forecast, we skipped the team time trial and drove up to Santa Maria with a tentative outlook on racing at all. We finally pulled out the cold weather gear, and Jim, Sean and I registered for the race.
The Santa Barbara course is about 12 miles long, with one steep wall-type climb and one extended climb about 3/4 through the lap. These two hills plus two sharp turns means that breakaways usually do pretty well on this course – as such, I planned to ride most of the day in a breakaway.
Off the line, the pack stayed together for the first 15 minutes before David Luong from UCLA shot off the front. The group let him hang for a while, but after the first time around the climb, Kyle Ireton and I found ourselves near the front of the pack and as soon as Kyle jumped to bridge up with David, I was right on his wheel. John Herr from UCSB and a SCU rider bridged up as well, and we formed the breakaway that would end up sticking.
We quickly formed an effective pace line and took strong, short pulls for the entirety of two laps. The motor official told us at one point that we had two minutes on the field, so we turned down the pace on the climb on lap 3. At that point, a Davis rider bridged up and joined us. We also learned that the pack had closed the gap down to 30 seconds. We began to cook again through the start/finish area and miraculously held the break through to the finish.
With quite a bit of juice still left in my legs, I contemplated breaking off from the group on the last climb and soloing to the finish. The Davis rider suggested we keep the group together, so the jockeying for positioning didn’t really happen until about 800m from the finish. Screaming down the descent, I sat glued to the Davis rider’s wheel (whom I had correctly judged to be the rider with the most energy left in the break) and prepared to sprint. Coming to the line, the Davis rider and I were gunning it, and I pulled out into the wind just a moment too early. He beat me by about a bike length, and I finished with Second Place. Kyle and David finished just a moment later, taking Third and Fourth, respectively.
This road race was an incredible experience, and the work we all put into the break was epic. Everyone else who gritted their teeth for an hour and a half to make it survive deserves a medal. I look forward to racing again next week at Berkeley.