Written and raced by Sam Hill of the Mike's Bikes Development Team

Cherry Pie has been one of the most iconic season starters in NorCal for a long time. However, this year there was a notable change to the race: riders only ride up a third of the hill. It was definitely a huge change to my personal tactics coming into the race, as I had to position early to make it up the hill in the right spot. My riding that week had been great and I had a good warm up that morning. I was ready to roll with 34 other riders, including teammate Jimmy Pham.

The race course is more of a technical crit course than a straightforward course. Two left handers, a right hander, a short not so steep hill, and a 180 degree turn made this course what it is. The finish line was placed almost at the 180 turn, so when we finished, we just kept going up the hill. Overall, this course was set for racing!

My race plan was to sit in for the sprint and maybe lead out Jimmy for a 1-2 finish. The whistle blew and I started mid pack, I tried to stay out of trouble and out of the wind, which was a headwind on the backside of the course. Coming in near the hill, people frequently hit potholes as the pack seemed to favorite the side of the road that the potholes were on. It made for a couple sketchy moments and a rider skidded ahead of me after recovering from hitting a pothole, then almost hitting an island.

Attacks were going every so often every lap, whether it be on the hill or the backside. I joined a couple of moves by just sitting on, just to help me stay out of issues in mid pack but didn’t really waste any energy. The race seemed to be going really well and I was starting to get up to the front with 3 to go. Coming into three to go, a rider crashed at the 180 turn, this slowed the majority of the pack down, including me. I eventually got back up to speed with everyone at the front. Attacks were coming pretty often at this point. I was slowly moving up to the front, when the bell rang I had to gun it from 10th spot to 6th on the back side. I was seeing if Jimmy would get on my wheel, but he had used energy trying to jump on some moves. I somehow maintained my top 6 position coming into the last turn. We come into the last turn and I start riding hard from 300mish to try and get Jimmy to jump on my wheel. I looked back and Jimmy wasn’t on my wheel, I was suddenly on the front. I started my jump just before the hill and didn’t look back. I even almost shifted because my cadence was getting lower as we got closer to the finish. The sprint had just felt so long, I was ecstatic to come across the line first, which I didn’t expect at all.

Special shoutout to my family and the team for their support. I also want to thank the teams sponsors, who support the team in great ways: Mike’s Bikes, Equator Coffees and Teas, Toyota, Specialized Bikes, Capo Cycling Apparel , Probar, Smith Optics, Osmo Nutrition, Sram, Violich Farms, and Bike Smart. Now, I can relax for a little bit, with some Cherry Pie, until racing returns soon.