In the photo: Peter Smith
Written by Peter.
Despite being fairly new to the NorCal race scene, I have found San Rafael Sunset Crit to be one of the biggest and best run races throughout the year and after lasting a total of fifteen minutes last year, I was determined to not let that happen again. With the red circle around the date in my calendar, I shaped a good part of the summer racing and training for the race to put myself in the best position possible to go for a good result, putting a huge emphasis on pack riding and reading a race.
The sun was out and the heat was blazing for the 3:30 pm start time, but with the large amount of people racing, it was important to sacrifice some warm up and shade to ensure I had a spot on the front of the line. I fortunately was close to a truck full of ice of which I stuffed as much as I could into my pockets just to keep me as cool as possible. As predicted, everyone wanted to be on the front of therace and the pack of riders was condensed to the point I could easily see a start line crash happening. Once the whistle blew and I was able to get clipped in all feelings of nervousness washed away and I was locked in with what I needed to do, which was stay near the front and conserve as much energy as possible. I knew the pace would be high early especially with the large turnout of riders and previous experience. I also knew this is a race that everyone is trying to stay on front and keep the pace high, allowing me to sit in for the inevitable field sprint at the end.
During the race I never let myself drift further back than fifth wheel or so and made sure to hop on the wheel of any riders going by in order to stay out of the swarm. This allowed me to conserve a lot of energy by rarely having to tap the brakes and giving me the ability to always take my own line into the corners. Attacks came and went in the race and the amazing primes that were being offered really drew out some end of race type sprinting to the line. I knew I had my eye on the end prize, so I would let those wanting the primes blow past while making sure to be on the wheel on anyone wanting to bring the back after they crossed the line. Both Travis and Theo made appearances on the front of the race and helped keep the pace high, extending my pass to stay off the front as Mike’s Bikes took their turns pulling.
Around 7 laps to go, one of the riders from SoCal took a huge flier and put close to a ten second gap into the field with one of his teammates coming to the front to block. They had tried to get away a few times earlier in the race and had been brought back so the alarm bells weren’t ringing right away, but as the lap cards came down to 4 or 5 and the gap was still at 8 seconds, the disorganization of the field caused me to take my only pull of the day, returning the impetus of the chase to the field.
With two to go the Sunpower train came to the front, putting four guys at the front of the race, allowing me to slot in behind them and not be put in a position where I lead out the rest of the field. My goal at the end of the race was to stay off the front until at least near turn three and if I did end up taking the front before then to make an early jump to get a gap and make people chase in a quick section that is hard to pass on. Sunpower was down to their final guy going into turn one of the last lap who tried to attack just past the turn on the hill, leaving me second wheel behind him and a nice strung out field. As he faded towards the end of the straight away, I could see a TB143 guy making a move and knew this was the wheel I had to follow. I was right on his wheel going into corner three, when he was able to get a 2 bike length gap with a small push of power through the corner and down the backside. Despite this little setback, I knew the slightly uphill long straightaway really played into my favor and it would take more than a few bike length gap to stay away. Once I made it safely out of turn four I hit the gas and started closing very quickly before making the pass a lot closer to the line than I would have liked, but making sure to ride through the line and executing a well timed bike throw to ensure I was the front wheel paid off with a half bike length victory.
A huge sense of elation and relief washed over me immediately following the race, knowing that I had achieved what I came to the race to do, was able to get the W for the TMB Dev squad, and had the little bit of luck that you need in bike racing on my side. I can’t thank all my teammates enough for all the support throughout the race and leading up to it, the support and trust that was given to me by everyone makes a huge difference. I would also like to thank Achieve PTC and Scott Cox for the great coaching that put me in the position to compete for the win, and the support of all our great sponsors, Mike’s Bikes, Capo Cycling, Specialized, Pro Bar, Toyota, Financial Force, and Equator Coffee. One last shout out to Mike’s Bikes for putting on such an amazing event and the great crowds of San Rafael.
For video highlights of the race, check out the following links: