This last weekend was an unexpected race weekend of sorts for me. Going into this week I was expecting to work all weekend and put some time in on the bike whenever I could fit it in. Instead I got the call on Thursday saying work was slow and I could have the weekend off if I wanted. Didn't have to tell me twice! After a last-minute registration debacle (online registration had closed and there wasn't supposed to be on-site registration) I set my alarm for 4:30 am to drive up to Chico to race Stage 1 (Circuit Race) of the Chico Stage Race on the famous Thunderhill Raceway.
The next morning, I loaded up my road bike and my riding gear and made the 2 hour trek up to Chico to be there by 7 am for the 8 am start. Being a Cat 5 on the road, my main goal is to use these races as training, a way to gain experience, and a way to move up from Cat 5's. My plan for this race was to stay away from the crashes that can happen at the back and push the pace on the front.
The gun went off at 8 am sharp and it was COLD! I think my average temperature from my Garmin was 34-36, that's freezing when you're going 25-30 around a racetrack! Out of the gate the pace was mellow but that quickly changed a few laps in when some guys from Mike's Bikes Devo team worked together to increase the pace and go off the front. Seeing the opportunity to break I bridged the gap and worked with them a few laps and took my own pulls off the front to keep the pace lively. About half way in everyone had settled in behind me in my draft and didn't want to work. After a few failed attempts to get someone else to lead I decided to just go for it. I stood up and sprinted up the short climb on the track, shattering the field from follow into chase mode. I did this for the next two laps, attacking on every little riser and emptying the tank to really separate the field. In the end, I attacked one too many times in the last corner and didn't line myself up right for the sprint finish and ended up 8th. Not a bad result for a race I decided to go to less than 12 hours prior. After the race, I took advantage of the sun and headed into the hills of Willows and enjoyed a short recovery ride. Saturday came around and I loaded up my mountain bike and road bike and headed down with my family to Monterey to go watch the rest of the team at the first NorCal race as well as support my brother at his first ever real mountain bike race. I enjoyed a nice mountain ride from the hotel through the beautiful Sea Otter Classic course, doing some recon for that event in a few months, and eventually ended up at the high school race venue. After burning in some hot laps with some of my teammates who were racing the next day, I stuck around with some of my teammates and coaches and enjoyed a relaxing evening of race talk, cards, and stories of races past.
Since I was already down there I decided to enter another circuit race to try and earn some more upgrade points. I ended up racing the CCCX Circuit Race at, you guessed it, 8 am (gotta love Cat 5 starts). The course was an out and back on a straight one mile section of road with some rollers in it. I knew a break would be hard pressed to stick since you can see the whole course the entire time. After a few laps of a relatively mellow pace a local devo team lined up and started taking pulls off the front. After skirting around a few crashes in the turnaround points of the course, I ventured up to the front and took my turn laying down the hammer. The fast pace broke the group up into a lead group of 15 or so. With one lap to go I knew it would come down to the sprint so I prepared myself to go for it. After the last corner, the finish line was in sight and I started in my sprint. Unfortunately another rider blocked me in, forcing me to hit my brakes, but I worked around on the outside making up spots and ended to taking 4th in the field sprint.
Not having enough, I headed out for a 30-mile loop on the Monterey Peninsula, headed towards the ever-scenic Pebble Beach. It was very nice to have a change in pace with sun and ocean versus the rain and cold I've grown accustomed to around home recently. After the much-enjoyed road loop I rode over to the high school race course and watched and supported my team mates. With 2 wins and 6 top 10's it was a good day for all.
Ultimately the change in pace and last minute change of plans was just what I needed to reset my system and pick up some early season motivation. 2 Circuit races and 3 awesome rides didn't hurt either! Next up is some mountain racing if it ever dries out up here in NorCal in preparation for the 1st Pro XCT down in Fontana. Hopefully this good weather keeps up!