In the photo: Theo Goguely
Written by Theo.
Oakland GP, the last crit of the year, last time pinning on a number this year for me, and last chance to squeeze was fitness was built into the legs during the season.
On the TMBDev-Cat3 squad we had Justin, Leo and myself representing, with the goal of sitting tight during the race, potentially sending someone up into a (doomed) break, and waiting for the sprint with Leo and/or Justin providing me with a short leadout to the last corner. At least that was the plan going in. During the pre-ride/warmup with Justin we identified the uphill/headwind drag into the tight right-hander as the critical selection for this race, as from there it's a super fast downhill that should get strung out, making it really hard to pass people afterwards. So sub-goal was to get to that corner in good position (top 5 at least).
The race got off to a quick start and the pace stayed pretty high with several breaks going up the road. Fortunately the nature of the course with it's turns and slight up/downhill sections made it pretty easy to surf wheels and move up the pack without too much work, so that technique was heavily employed to stay in the action. As it was hot I focused on alternating between ice-water and OSMO hydration to make sure my mouth didn't dry up and legs didn't cramp, which worked out well. Unfortunately the lack of "pop" in my legs that's been plaguing me for the past 6-8 weeks was still there, so I focused on keeping constant and steady power to make the most of it and save what little I had for the end.
At one point I semi-accidentally found myself in a solid 5-man break, but with fewer wheels to surf and places to hide I was quickly pulling less than weight, though not through any lack of effort! We eventually got brought back and Leo soon came up to check in on things to see if I needed anything or a pull back to the front. Knowing I wasn't feeling great I told him I'ld keep surfing around and stick to the plan of keeping something for the end. Great to have that team support during the race, although it comes with extra pressure to perform when others are sacrificing their race for yours!
Last lap I aggressively surfed my way to the front at the base of the uphill/headwind drag, but as everyone predictably surged and jockeyed strongly for position going into the tight turn, I wasn't able to follow as much as I would have liked. Came into the turn maybe 10th wheel cursing to myself, heard the sound of someone getting caught up in the storm strain on my outside, and just kept on the pedals to try and stay in contact with the front group. Just as I was starting the downhill I noticed the riders on the front of the pack had eased off a bit and were playing chicken, so I powered down and flew up the left side of the road (along with thinking "I don't know what you idiots are doing, but thank you very much for letting me back in the race!"). I knew it was unlikely I could hold anything to the line, but figured it was my best bet at placing well. Jess Lash apparently had the same thought as he flew down the right side at the same time, and pulled in front of me going into the left hander (and much faster). Got to the last corner in 2nd and just gave it everything I had on the final drag, only to be caught just on the line and end up with 3rd. About as good a result I could have hoped for given the state of my legs today, and really glad I had the presence of mind to race aggressively in the end and take a risk that paid off, so pretty stoked with my last race of the year.
So much to be thankful for after a strong year of racing for Mikes Bikes. Great sponsors kept me fed and happy on long training rides (ProBar), hydrated to deal with the hot summer weather (OSMO), made sure I kept all the skin on my hands (Specialized), and looking sexy out there (Capo). Special shoutout to Toyota, Financial Force, and Equator Coffee for supporting the team as well.
We started off with a great crew of 3s, shrunk a bit as upgrades trickled in, and then got replenished as the strong 4s made their way into the mix. Super excited for next year, it's gonna be fun!