Stage I – Thunderhill Circuit Race:
This race started off pretty quick, as it was a short race (60 mins), with attacks going off right from the very beginning of the race. Our plan going into the race was relatively free form, as we had many people who could win by way of a breakaway or a strong sprint. I tried to stay up towards the front of the pack, as there was some pretty sketchy stuff going on in the pack. I was glad I was up near the front, because about halfway through the race there was a big crash a few wheels behind me and on the other side of the pack. It was very loud and I was glad to see all of our guys made it safely around the crash. I had a few attacks, as I was feeling pretty good, but every time I attacked, I ended up getting a gap very quickly, but no one would go with me, so I would just end up dangling out off the front, not feeling confident enough to commit to a 30+ minute solo breakaway. After doing this a few times, it looked like it would come down to a field sprint, so I just tried to sit in and conserve some energy for the sprint, while also trying to not lose positions. On the second to last lap, I was up near the front falling back into the pack when Holger attacked and Jason followed, yelling to me to jump on his wheel. I was a little confused, but I went for it anyway, since I still don’t feel that confident in my ability to read situations. If someone gives me instructions, I am very keen to follow them. I followed him as he sprinted for the finish line going into the last lap. I thought we were going to try to do a two-man breakaway for the last lap, but after we crossed the finish line with one lap to go, Jason sat up, because he thought the race was over and had been trying to lead me out into the sprint. I was a bit confused for a second, but then immediately directed my focus back to staying up near the front for the last lap. At around halfway through the last lap, Leo found me and told me to get on his wheel. I jumped on and he started accelerating hard. I stayed on his wheel as he gave me a really strong leadout (thanks Leo!!) up until the last corner into the long sprint straightaway. That corner was very sketchy as people were all taking different lines in an effort to move up going into the final sprint. I was able to take the turn tight and get an inside line, but then I was all alone up the inside for the long sprint. Then out of nowhere some guy came from the right side of the road all the way over to the left side and cut completely in front of me. Luckily, he didn’t take me out, but it was pretty close. I had to ease off mid sprint to avoid colliding with this guy, which forced me to try to regain my momentum once again. It was a long sprint in a headwind, but I was still able to move up through much of the front of the pack along the left side of the straightaway. I ended up coming third. I was a little frustrated that every time I would attack, no one would come with me, but I was happy that Leo was able to find me towards the end of the race and put me in a good position for the sprint.
Stage II – Paskenta Road Race:
After a enjoying the rest of a very relaxing day after we finished the circuit, I was feeling very rested and ready for the long road race. I was a bit paranoid about flatting or having a mechanical in the pothole/gravel sections of the course, but I was also very excited to do such a long race. This race was the longest bike race, or sporting event for that matter, that I have ever done. I wasn’t too sure what to do in terms of eating/drinking and pacing for a race this long, but I figured I would just “go with the flow” and see what happened. The first half lap of the race was pretty chill, even though one rider opened up a pretty big gap by going solo from the very start of the race. There was quite a bit of surging in the pack, but I just tried to stay up near the front, but not at the very front, since it seemed like there were lots of people motivated to chase that guy back. A little after halfway through the first lap, Holger and a few other guys went off the front to bridge up to the solo rider. When Holger was ahead of us, Justin and I were on the front, keeping the pace in control and blocking the two rows of riders. Then a rider from Pen Velo pulled up alongside us, to fully block all the way across the front, making it tough for people to come around us and chase. We stayed like this for a while, but then as we approached the pothole section, people really began fighting for position at the front of the pack. People were able to come around us, and the situation quickly turned into a race to see who could be on the front going into the potholes and gravel. I had to fight pretty hard to get to the front while in the pothole section, but I got up there around when Holger and the other riders who were ahead of us were pulled back. I felt like I was in a good position and decided it was time to do some work and make people hurt. I pushed the pace up a bit going through the pothole section, which wasn’t too difficult for me, since I was able to see the potholes and avoid them. I imagine this was a pretty difficult point in the race for many people behind me, because they didn’t have the same view that I had, but still had to keep pressing on to try to stay in my draft. As we got onto the gravel I attacked, but quickly saw that I had Sweet on my wheel. I knew he wouldn’t do any work and would just sit on, so I wasn’t going to pull him along. Even though we had a gap, I shut it down and dropped back into the pack a bit. I dropped back further than Sweet, so he was then in front of me, along with Holger and Matthias who were now taking turns attacking. After Holger attacked, the pack was strung out in two lines, with many of the faster riders in the first ten positions. I spotted a clear line up the very right side of the road and decided to attack there. I was able to accelerate fast and then come by all the guys at the front of the pack with enough speed so they weren’t able to sit on my wheel and draft off of me. I figured this would be a good time to attack since Holger had just attacked and been brought back, and he and Matthias were both sitting on the front. I yelled out to Matthias to move left and blew right by him and the rest of the pack. I left the gravel and saw the gap had grown a bit. I pushed pretty hard up the climb out of the gravel and noticed there was one loan rider trying to bridge up to me. I recognized it was the one Terun guy in our field, who had been riding aggressively the day before in the circuit. He caught up to me at the top of the climb, and then said, “work together?”. I responded “Of course”, and we were off. We quickly got into a rotation, taking one-minute pulls before switching. I was having some difficulty drafting off of my breakaway companion Yurii due to his smaller size, but we kept rotating. The group quickly vanished from sight and we committed to opening up a gap in the brutal crosswind section. We kept this rotation up through the feed zone. A few miles after the feed zone, while we were riding through the rollers, I noticed Yurii seemed to be hurting when we were climbing. I told him we needed to keep pushing on if we wanted to stay away, but he was clearly running out of steam. I began taking longer pulls, but after a few of those, he said he was really feeling tired and slowing down. I wished him good luck and we parted ways. I figured at this point, I would be better off just going solo to the finish and trying to stay away from the group. I also didn’t have a very good idea of what the gap was at this point, so I just focused on keeping the speed consistent. I was a pretty worried about being caught, since I was out there by myself and it was pretty windy. I also didn’t have any water left, since my only bottle slipped out of my hand a few miles after grabbing it in the feed zone. Regardless, I decided I needed to fully commit, which is what I did. After about five minutes solo, the moto pulled alongside me and said he thought the gap was about five minutes. He said the gap was too large to get an accurate time gap, but he assumed it was around five minutes. I was pretty surprised to hear this but felt a bit more confident in my chances. After hearing this from the moto, I knew I had to just ride as hard as I could for the last ten miles and pick safe lines through the potholes and gravel. I was still super paranoid about flatting and getting caught, but I was able to pick good lines and made it through the gravel safely. When I couldn’t see anyone chasing as I came out of the gravel, I knew I would be able to hold on for the win. I had also been passing a bunch of guys from the cat 2 and cat 1 races in the gravel and during the last climb, which helped keep me going towards the finish line. I kept pushing all the way through the finish line to get the biggest time gap possible. After crossing the finish line, I was completely spent and very dehydrated since I had only drunk about one and a half bottles during the ninety-mile road race. Luckily there was a very nice woman from the Clif Bar team at the finish who said she had water in the car. She brought me to her car and gave me a whole bottle of her cold water, which was so thoughtful. Thank you! I then went to the medical tent to get some other hydration. Although I was pretty worried about being caught for much of the race, I was very happy to be done with the race and to hear how big the time gap was when I finished. Hearing the reports from the other guys on the team about how they were able to control the main pack and slow things down, was really awesome. Definitely couldn’t have done it without everyone working together. Very solid teamwork and also very exciting to have Holger and Matthias join me on the podium.
Stage III – TT:
For the TT, I didn’t really have much of a plan. Luckily, I was able to borrow some clip-on aero bars and an aero helmet from my teammates which was very helpful. I was also able to get some last-minute aero tips from Ingmar which was awesome. So cool hearing him describe all the different ways one can be more aero while riding their bike. He gave me a few simple things to focus on, which were very helpful during the TT. For the TT itself, I was starting last, so my goal was just to keep my speed consistent and pass as many riders as possible. I passed many riders which was super fun and kept me motivated to keep pushing throughout the entire TT. My speed was somewhat consistent, but that is definitely something I need to work on. The TT actually reminded me a lot of rowing, because we did a lot of grueling tests that were about twenty minutes long. I was very happy to get 4th overall on my TT setup that was thrown together the night before. Wouldn’t have been possible without all the useful tips and information from all the aero experts on the team. Glad I was able to maintain my GC position.
Stage IV – Chico Downtown Crit:
Going into the crit, I had a 5:30 ish time gap in the GC, so the goal was to stay up near the front to stay out of harm’s way. We had an elaborate plan to get a few of the guys into a break so they could improve their GC standing, but that went out the window pretty early on since the pace was so fast for the whole race. A few attacks occurred, but none of them stayed out for more than a lap or so. With a few laps to go, I saw Yurii, the guy I had been in the break with during the road race, attack and get a gap. I bridged up to him and we worked together for about a lap. He took a pull on the back half of the course but then was tiring out, so I came around him. I rode through the start/finish at the front going into the last lap, winning a wheelset prime in the process! I tried to stay out off the front as long as possible, hopefully setting up a counter-attack when I got brought back, but the pace was so fast, counter-attacking was pretty much impossible. I was swallowed by the group going into the last turn and finished in the middle of the pack. Happy to have maintained my time gap, had so many teammates on the podium and in the top ten, and win a new set of wheels! Great weekend of racing with the team!