Round #3 of the Sierra Cup Series was met with bea-u-ti-ful weather and a stacked field at Skyline Park in Napa.
The start. Well, before the start even started the promoter fessed up to a "computer glitch" wherein he was missing some riders from same day registration. Yes folks it pays to pre-reg. This was resolved pretty quick and it was back to "get nervous time".
Chaotic start. Riders swerving, dodging, bobbing, weaving and everything else that can ruin your day (ain't that right Fowler). Two minutes into the race and I sat in 3rd position with Weir and Cruz setting the pace. I was feeling comfortable and figured I'd have no problem holding that pace for quite a while. Just then about 15 dudes came rocketing by and I found myself buried in the pack with my heart rate monitor displaying a number I was hoping wasn't right. All of the sudden I had a ton of work to do.
15 minutes into the first (of three) laps we reached a clearing and I did my best to count back in an attempt at learning my position and it seemed as though I was 12th.
On and on. I'd pass a guy here. A guy there. Somebody flatted. Another dude crashed. By the end of a hard earned 1st lap I figured I was in 7th... give or take.
I started lap two with one of the Whole Athlete riders. These friggin' guys were everywhere. We swapped back and forth a few times until I finally reached a section tailor made for me... a technical traversing singletrack followed by a rocky downhill. Poor kid never had a chance. I'm now 6th.... give or take.
I'd catch two guys riding together next and get around both on a climb putting me in 4th. At this point we were starting to get into lapped traffic which always seems to have its own set of challenges. "On your left" to a lapped rider can mean anything from "you should move to your left" to "you shouldn't move left" to my personal favorite "you should move left... then right... then left again before swerving off into the weeds and taking yourself out". Ahh bike racing. I love it.
I was setting a pretty descent pace for the remainder of lap two but wasn't catching anyone else in my class. It was starting to look a little grim. I wasn't even in a podium position.
Starting the final lap I was told by a spectator that I was indeed in 4th position. Shit. I got down to business and set a pace that I thought I could endure without a visit from the cramp monster and just tried to ride mistake free. On the first climb I got a glimpse of Clint Claussen (round #1 winner) near the top of some switchbacks. I chased hard and did indeed bridge the gap but it took almost the entire lap to git 'er done. I formulated a plan of hanging with him so I could draft him through the flats leading into the finish and let it come down to a sprint. Then I realized that Clint is a 6'-2" powerhouse and I'd probably have my hands full just hanging on through the last mile of fire road that lead into the finish. So I made my jump and swung around his left side towards the top of a technical climb. I only had about 7 minutes of single track to put some distance between us before the fireroad section started so I made the most of it. I let lapped traffic know from WAAAY back that I was coming through and, fortunately, had good luck getting by without incident. The single track came to an end and there was just 1 mile of fireroad between me and a podium position. I took a quick look back and saw nobody. I topped out on the first small climb looked back and saw nobody. Through the chicanes, looked back... nobody. Now I'm within a half mile. I put the hammer down and entered the grassy finish shoot. Less that 150 meters to go. I looked back... and there he was. Clint. Out of the saddle. Hammering. Bike rocking back and forth. Sheeeit!! I clicked down a couple of gears and pedaled in earnest. I reached the hairpin turn at the oak tree and kept pedaling. I could hear the grass being uprooted as I pushed the limits of traction through the turn. I exited the turn wide... and hot brushing up against the course marking tape as I went. Clint was close, but it was too late. We entered the finish chute and I crossed the line with a three second advantage. Damn. I'm shattered.
I spun around to cool down. Thought about my day and smiled. Racing in and around the Bay Area is hard. The fields are always stacked and if you let your guard down, even for a second, you'll get passed. It's friggin' relentless... and I like it.
I'd later learn that I was indeed the third guy to cross the line. Thing was though that the fastest man of the day turned out to be Anthony Smith, an 18 year young up and comer, who wasn't racing my class. The second fastest rider of the day was Dario Fredrick. How could you possibly be slow with a name like "Dario". Dario really needs to quit sandbagging and start racing the pro class.
So after some quick math I deduced that I had indeed won!! This makes the series interesting as Clint and I are tied with points for the lead.
membership has its privileges
the race has been over for hours and I'm still sweatin'!
Clint and I weren't done racing yet. This is me chasing him down the highway on the way home.