Everything about my first road race weekend of 2017 was what I wanted it to be: relaxed, crash free, and fueled on a diet of almost exclusively Mexican food.
Did I win either race? Ha. No.
Did I get a top-ten in either race? Nuh-uh.
Did I get a top-twenty in either race? As it turns out, I placed 19th in the road race on Saturday, so woohoo!
Perhaps team directors would be frowning at coming back empt-handed from opening weekend, but results were at the back of my mind as I pinned up my numbers for the first time in 2017. After five months out of any kind of organized peloton, four months of which spent completely by myself, all I wanted was to be able to finish the race upright and intact.
I awoke Saturday morning in circumstances I’m not usually used to on race weekends: in the comfort of my own home. I was able to make my own breakfast in my own kitchen and not out of the dirty microwave of some dingy Motel-6 near the course.
With the Men’s Pro-1/2 race slated to start at 1:00pm and it being only a two hour drive away in Santa Maria, I had plenty of time to wrap my head around the fact that race season was officially starting today without any distractions.
When it came time to depart, I, along with my bags, food, Herbalife product, and various other UCLA teammates, squeezed ourselves into a tiny Volkswagen Rabbit and motored on up Highway 1 to approximately the middle of nowhere to enjoy what was turning out to be one of the most beautiful days weather-wise we had seen in some time.
I went through the entire my usual pre-race ritual:
- Go back to the car and pin numbers
- Change into kit and drink some Prepare
- Warm up for about 10 minutes
- Warm up another 20 minutes
- Locate teammates and head to the line.
When all was said and done, I was confident I was about 2-2.5 kilos lighter than I was when I woke up in the morning and was indeed ready to rip in it on the road!
Our race had been delayed 30 minutes and had to be cut a lap due to a spectacular crash in the Men’s category-3 race, footage of which that has since gone viral. Don’t believe me? Just google “cyclist bridge” and you’ll see what I’m talking about.
But before I knew it, they had scraped up the rest of the people involved off the pavement and we were off!
The Santa Barbara County Road Race Course usually lends itself to some pretty interesting racing due to crosswinds, but today we had no such luck. Within the first lap of the 14.7-mile long course, a break of three went up the road. The peloton dawdled for two laps, taking its sweet time reeling it in, but eventually we did, without me knowing it!
Apparently I was so focused on just accustoming myself once against to being a pack that I didn’t even notice we had caught the lead group, so in the fourth and final lap, when a group of three went up the rode followed by a bridge move with about half a lap to go, I conceded that we were all about to sprint for 8th place.
In reality, I don’t believe that the break should have stuck, but as luck (or history) would have it, the peloton was preoccupied. A Silber rider had ended up missing the move and was patrolling the front, seemingly waiting to pounce, and accordingly everyone was marking him like they were paid to.
If anyone had seen how this race had played out last year, in which a Silber rider one in a solo break by over three minutes, followed by his teammates in 2nd and 4th, they knew this guy was a threat. So instead of chasing down the move, they stayed glued to his wheel, and that’s how the race was won.
The finish is a sketchy one in that the centerline rule is still enforced and there is always an absolutely ripping tailwind leading into it. Having just heard that a man nearly plummeted thirty feet off a bridge in the 3s, I wasn’t about to take any chances with risky moves in my first race after having gotten swarmed and boxed out fairly early.
I ended up finishing anonymously in the pack, but left with the exact same amount of skin on me as I had started with. And the consolation prize I was able to come away with was that the race had been notably easy for me. I wanted it to be longer. I wanted there to be more attacking or decisive terrain, or anything really that would have made it “harder.”
Though I had wanted more, I decided to file this as a success. It was now time to head back to the hotel to recovery with some Marc-Pro action and then get to bed.
The crit ended up being a very similar experience to the road race. It started fast, with the Surf City Cyclery masters team dictating the action for most of it. Attacks came left and right and at no point was there really a lull in the race.
Fellow Herbalife24 teammate, Blake Anton (also new to the team this year), had made it down to the race and was mixing it up at the front trying to force a move to go with as many teams as he could coerce.
I hovered within the top-twenty of the race the entire time, hoping that a move would form that was both well-represented and strong, but as the course’s race history would have it, yet again, I had no such luck.
The pancake flat, D-shaped course would inevitably come down to a sprint, one I would have a snowball’s chance in Hell of winning against the likes of Justin and Cory Williams, Charon Smith, and Kayle Leogrande, so I decided to just throw it all out there going into the last lap.
Sweeping up the inside in the straightaway leading into the penultimate turn, I emptied what I had left into an effort that would distance me from the front by the slightest of margin, but would end up getting me bogged down in lactic and eventually caught leading into the final straight.
I decided to just stay out of trouble and just pull for as long as I could to stay safe from the inevitable stampede of sketchiness screaming up behind me. Fifty meters to go, I was surrounded and once again finished anonymously, having had barely enough energy in my legs to sprint out of the saddle.
If I was a good enough writer to find the words to accurately describe the emotions of the shruggy-shouldered smiley-face emoticon, I would use those, because that’s exactly how I feel.
Of course I wanted more, but at least I now have that “first race of the year” monkey off my back.
That, plus all my pre-race poops, we’re now looking at a good 20 kilos lighter. Now it’s time to punch above my weight.