Another weekend of awesome weather here in NorCal meant another weekend of bike racing for me! After the unusually wet winter we've been having any hint of sunshine and temperatures above 50 get the summer juices flowing! The race weekend started off for me with the William Land Park Criterium Saturday morning at 8am. The course was pretty tame with 2 turns towards the end, one 180 and one 90 degree turn to keep things interesting. The race started out pretty mellow with few riders making moves or attacking. Knowing that in the large field of 50 or so things were bound to get hectic in the back, I made it a point to stay in the front pack of about 10 or so to stay out of trouble and ready to respond to any unanticipated attacks. The race stayed pretty mellow until the last few laps when everyone got on edge and started ramping up the pace. Going into the last corner I knew it would come down to the sprint and started preparing to make my move. With 500 m to go I stood up and started my long sprint to the line. Luckily I was able to create a separation from the field and hold everyone else off until the line, finishing the day up in 1st place.
Sunday morning meant some fun in the dirt at the TBF Mountain Bike Showdown out at Granite Bay. The course was modified a little due to some trail damage from the recent storms so it included about half road to bypass the trail obstacles. Sitting at the start line I was a little more nervous than usual for this race, wondering how all my off season training and preparation had worked out and eager to see where I would stack up. This race was also especially cool because fellow U23 riders Tofor Lewis of Giant and Jerry Dufour of Bear Dev had made the trek out to race, as well as teammate David Duncan and other local pro racers.
When the whistle was blown, I sprinted to the front, anticipating early attacks, ready to respond. Fortunately for all of us the first lap was pretty mellow with all of us silently agreeing to take it easy and learn the course the first lap, as there were many unexpected turns, and more than one of us made a wrong turn or two... After the awesome first lap, (why can't all races start like this!) the pace inevitably picked up. Tofor made a move on the main climb, trying to thin the field and create a gap. Jerry and I jumped on and the three of us worked to hold the pace and keep a small gap off of the other racers. This held until the end of the second lap when the power train of Scott Williams and David Duncan caught up to us on the road section. Seeing we were all together again, it was Jerry this time who made the move up the climb and tried to create separation. With one click of my TwinLoc lever into climb, I jumped out of the saddle and responded to the attack, staying with the leaders. The pace was really moving at this point and lap traffic was causing problems for me as I had to get around them as the third rider, allowing Tofor and Jerry to gain some distance on me. As we hit the road, the gap they had worked up in the single track was just enough for them to hit the gas and pull away, causing me to dangle in no man's land just 15 seconds back, both of them still in sight. When we hit the start of the last lap, they pulled away in the trees and I lost visual contact with them, and really started to try and push myself to catch back on. At this point I was pretty gassed and started riding on the edge of control, my back tire coming dangerously close to washing out and my bars coming way too close to lapped riders. Knowing a crash and/or collision wouldn't help anything, I raced smart and let up just a tad so I could focus on racing my race. Knowing I still had a gap on the riders behind me I grabbed another gear and motored on, finishing the day in 3rd place, happy with me early season performance and knowing now what I needed to work on to improve. Next up is the Keyesville Classic this weekend for one last tune-up and then it's 'off to the races' as they say. Stay tuned!