After a very successful Sea Otter weekend along with a great weekend of training featuring me having some of my favorite workouts on the bike I’ve had all season, I was pumped for the last NorCal of the season. This season for me has been all about learning, racing as a Junior with the big shots in Varsity hasn’t been easy at all, but as the season has gone by, my confidence within these fast races and knowledge of how they go down has improved significantly.
Having a call up in this last race was honoring to say the least, as I’ve maintained and proven that I can race amongst the best in the league and have remained in that top 10 bracket, even with some races not going to plan. I woke up early and drove up to Clear Lake the day of the race, sleeping in the car as my dad drove then pre-riding the course before the Varsity Girls headed off. The course was a lot different to anything I’ve ridden for a race. Sharp switchbacks, tight single track with not a lot of room to pass, steep punchy climbs, and some creek crossings thrown in there just for the fun of it. One thing that the entire course had in common though, was bumps……lots of bumps. Now, being a 125 pound guy, Im pretty light so I tend to bump around a lot over rough courses. Overall though, with the fitness I knew I had, and a good warm up, I rode over into my start line at 12:20 under the blaring sun ready for whatever was coming.
As we all sprinted towards the single track, I got a little caught up in the pack and slipped into 8th hitting the trail, not ideal but we quickly formed a group as the lead group pulled away less than 3 minutes into the race. This was due to a rider pushing too hard then bonking at the very beginning of the race, forcing him to pull off and recover and leaving us with a gap not even 5 minutes into the race. I held with this group for the first lap before dropping back into a group of 3. We held this for the second lap. Going into the third lap, after fairly consistent laps, my lower back started to bug me a lot. Along with the intense heat, this actually caused me a great deal of discomfort. Fluids were a huge deal in this race, to make sure I wouldn’t cramp, I had to intake around 2 and a half bottles.
I would say the third lap of this race was probably one of the greatest mental challenges I’ve been dealt all season. I knew I was not in an ideal position for the race and that all parts of my body were being rattled around by this course. Coming around for the last lap, I took a bottle to dump over my back, reminded myself that bike racing is just fun, and just kept it together as I rounded the single track for the fourth time of the race. Rolling through the finish in 13th was not rewarding, but that’s racing. It wasn’t a great race for me and that’s just something I have to deal with, but as my coach told me after the race, you learn more from the tough races than from the ones you win. After battling with my back bugging me and the intense heat, I was proud of myself at least.
This first season in Varsity has taught me a lot, it takes everything you have to race amongst these guys. After months of blood, sweat, maybe some tears here and there, I’m happy with my NorCal season. With ups and downs, I’ve enjoyed the experience greatly and am excited to put in the work for next year after this season is over. States is the last challenge for my high school racing this year and I’m gearing up for a challenge as we take on the SoCal Varsity squad in one big race. This week though, I’m switching gears for some AP testing and some SAT work, while still training and building my fitness to ensure States will be a good one.