I had been looking forward to Sea Otter for a couple years now: two years ago when I was a 5 and almost did well, and last year when I had to skip out due to a head injury.
Sea Otter Road Race
I'm no hill climber anymore, up about 15 pounds since the beginning of last year, and I was a little nervous when I refreshed myself on the course profile. Fortunately, up the first short climb, I could feel the magic legs. Thanks, Shawn! I hung out for most of the race, watching attacks to and get brought back. However, something pretty cool and very unexpected happened to me midway through the race: my descending balls dropped again! I had been trickling down hills ever since my lame crash at team camp, but all of a sudden, without following wheels or anything, I could carve a super tight line down a hill and open up gaps behind me. Sweetness!
On the first climb with two laps to go, some tall skinny guy went for it. The whittled pack let him ride; I had no idea the dude had won the crit with a solo move the day prior, but most of the field did. Before I knew it, he had a one minute gap. By the start of the second lap, he had two minutes. Yikes. We had been chasing since the first time gap was relayed to us, but apparently our efforts weren't working. I held up and sat in, figuring it was now a race for second.
For those who haven't done this race before: you're lead out neutral down a two mile descent from the race track to the course...a nervous foreshadowing, as that descent is the finishing climb. We hit the bottom, and, despite my cramping legs (it was hawt out) I felt solid. I'm a diesel up a hill, so I decided that I'd be better of setting my own pace. Channelling past suffering up Old la Honda, I went into robot mode and ended up shedding all but a few. With about 500k to go, I saw the lone leader wobbling back and forth! With 200k to go, someone opened it up, we all hit it, and I managed to hold on to third. Enough upgrade points in the bag, I was set to become a 3. Sweet!
This course rules. After almost getting taken out twice on the first descent of the corkscrew, I flew the coop and ended up all by myself coming into the second lap. Pretty foolish, but I thought I might as well go for the glory given I had my upgrade already. I stayed away until the penultimate lap, where the counterattack went and I just barely missed it. I recovered and won the field sprint handily for 5th.
Santa Cruz Criterium
Another sweet, sweet, technical course that wasn't flat. Awesome. I planned to work for Daniel Velasco and help him get some points, and we found ourselves off the front soon after the race began. Unfortunately, our group grew to 5 and that was the end of it. Tough to work with a big group on that course. Bell lap came around and I told Daniel that I'd give him a monster leadout from the downhill. Things almost went to plan, I strung it out and Daniel and he went a touch to early but still managed 2nd.