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In the photo: Jack McCarthy

Written by Jack. 

Land park is one of the few courses on the race calendar that I would consider myself truly familiar with. It’s home to a couple of different races which I have had some success at, including the Cal Aggie Crit earlier in the season. The course is a fairly short loop whose main highlight is a technical left-to-right chicane about two thirds of the way through the lap. The rest of the course is fast with a slight downhill leading into the chicane, which is where I attacked in the past for 2nd place. Having no interest in fighting for position through the chicane on the final lap, I made the decision to do the exact same thing this time, and this race serves as a rare example of when things went almost exactly according to plan.

This particular day drew a field of about 25-30, which is plenty to make things hairy through the windy bits of the course, but my plan was to simply sit in the back out of trouble for the entire race until the last lap where I would make my move. I was sitting about 10th wheel on one of the early laps and did witness a minor crash where a rider seemed to clip a pedal coming out of the chicane’s left-hander. Thankfully, he was alright and did not take anyone else with him, but this did not help my nerves which seemed to be particularly prevalent today since I knew I had a good shot at winning this race.

Interestingly, the race organizers offered “Primes” at multiple points during the race, which made a significant impact of the race’s dynamic. I had my sights set on the overall win, but every few laps there were guys sprinting for wine and olive oil graciously supplied by the race’s sponsor. While this is definitely a noble pursuit, my decision was not to go for the primes and spend matches that I knew I would need towards the tail end of the race.

As it happened, the primes really made an impact on how my race unfolded. There was a prime on the second to last lap, so three or four guys went for it and opened up a little bit of a gap to the rest of the group. With maybe 80% of the final lap left to go, I rode one of the first few wheels as we caught the small leading group. After hearing the final bell I was antsy to go and decided to take a flyer right as we caught the leaders using a bit of a slingshot effect. I made my move maybe 30 yards from where I attacked last time so I knew I was in the right position but the question was whether or not I had the legs to hold off the pack.

The great thing about jumping early in this race is that you get to choose your own line through the chicane and carry far more speed than is possible in the bunch. As I looked back after the chicane I saw I had opened a gap of maybe 10 seconds with one third of a lap to go. I dug deep to hold off the bunch and could see the shadow of a rider behind me as I got out of the saddle with 100 meters to go and squeezed out the very last bit for the win.