This past weekend I drove down to Pleasanton to meet up with an old teammate of mine when I was a junior and then head down in the Specialized Juniors Team Van to the 1st Stage of the Madera County Stage Race. This van off the hook when we first got it, and still is but it's nothing like the new Mike's Bikes Team Van that just popped into frame for the team this past week! The first day of racing was a 10-mile hill climb to the top of Ben Hur Road. It climbs up 1500 feet and has a 3 or so miles rough pavement section. I started off at 12:18 and started out fine, but as the climbing and the bumpy roads hit, I started to fall backwards. I ended up finishing with a time of about 36 minutes, 7 minutes behind on GC. I knew already that my GC chances were already over because there were some strong pro teams there (Kelly Benefits, Bissel, and Kenda 5 hour Energy).

The next day was another 10 miles TT but this time is was perfectly flat. This was the TT I was looking forward to. I went out there and road a good TT, but fell 24 seconds short of my goal time (23 minutes). I still improved from last year, and this year I had just 404's, where last year I had a disc. Later in the day was the criterium. Evan Huffman (California Giant/ Strawberry) took the overall lead over Nate English (Kenda) in the flat TT and Cal Giant was looking to maintain that overall lead. Multiple guys flew off the front trying to make breaks stick (including myself) but nothing would work. By the time 7 laps to go came, a break of 4 (2 Kelly, Bissell, and Cal Giant) were off the front and looked dangerous to stay away. Luckily, for some reason, Cal Giant brought the break back and it came down to a field sprint. As we came in to what was supposed to be 2 laps to go, the officials quickly flipped the lap card and rang the bell saying "1 lap to go!". This completely raised chaos for everyone, including myself. I was sitting in okay position leading into this, sitting behind Sam Bassetti (Cal Giant) whom was sitting behind the Kelly train. There was a swarm coming into turn 1 and I lost about 10 spots. I moved up on the outside in the wind in the back stretch and got back to where I was. As we went over the railroad track (800 meters before the line), Bassetti hit a Kelly rider and as he went over the track, it took him straight into the air, turn sideways, and took his feel out of his pedals but somehow managed to stay upright and not crash. I was right behind all of this. Bassetti's race is over by this time. I hop behind Kelly, but right as I think I'm in perfect position, Dave McCook and Andy Jacques- Maynes comes on the inside and I'm stuck to sprint for 6th. It wasn't too bad given all of the craziness that happened.

The last stage was an 85 miles Road Race and Cal Giant still had the GC lead, but by only 9 seconds. The attacks went right away from the gun and there was cross and headwinds the entire time except a short 4 mile stretch going through the finish line. I eventually got popped 2 laps in, but by then there were only about 25 riders left in the race. Only 20 people finished out of 60. Kelly went on to win the stage, going 1-2-3 and leaving an over 2 minute gap to Nate English (Kenda). Evan also lost the GC, but still finish 4th I believe.

Overall, I didn't feel my best this weekend but it looks like I'm ready for the crits. Looking forward to San Dimas next weekend with the guys and hopefully get revenge as a team and get some good results! Thank you again to all of the sponsors this year! This couldn't have been possible without any of your help and amazing dedication to the sport that we love!

-James