It’s hard to believe it’s only mid-April.
The 2018 season blasted off with an intensity I’m all too familiar with but a lot earlier than usual this year. Usually in over reading week in February, we are in sunny California riding road bikes or in rainy Victoria, BC riding mountain bikes. This year, however, we shipped off to Spain to awaken our early racing legs before heading to South Africa for a World Cup #1. Overall, these races went well and I’m happy with my early season performance and the opportunity to get some early miles in the legs.
Fast-forward two weeks, during which I more or less finished off my semester at school. This time was hectic to say the least, as I had 8 days on campus to finish up about 6 weeks of material I’d missed post-reading week and prepare for final exams.
Next up, Victoria, British Columbia hosted the Canada Cup season-opener with some glorious weather and fierce competition. After already being on the road for 3 weeks it’s hard to believe that this was just the beginning of the summer season ahead. Needless to say (but I’ll say it anyways), Vic was a blast. The trails were incredible, the weather was unreal and the legs were better than expected.
Race day brought some good fights and mild disappointment. I had good sensations and was really able to take the race to the guys. With some early attacks and hefty digs I forced a selection. Just past the mid-point in the race I made a bold move and wasn’t entirely sure if it would pay-off. After the course’s long, dragging main climb there was a traverse before a long single-track downhill, both of which I launched an attack. I actually managed to get clear and had a few seconds to play with, and by the time I managed to come around to the start/finish, the gap had grown to 20 seconds.
…And then it happened. A nice sharp rock wanted to say hello to my rim, and it wasn’t going to let my tire get in the way. I’ll be the the first to admit that this was rider error, but moral of the story – don’t lock your elbows.
I managed to fight back on by the end of that lap with great difficulty. By this point, with the group all together we set out on the final lap and there wasn’t much left in the tank for me. Leandre and Andrew were riding really well and showing great potential for the upcoming sprint. I decided I would need to ‘peacock’ it up a bit and show them I wasn’t hurting. So, naturally, I attacked. Positioning wasn’t looking good as I lead coming out of the final single track, unable to shake the guys with the attack. Unfortunately, fatigue and poor judgment got the better of me as I locked my elbows again. Flat tire number 2!
I rolled in gently for 3rd.
My apologies, I got a little carried away with that ‘short’ race recap. It was a spicy one and somewhat upsetting. It’s all in the past now, what if results are nothing but speculation.
From Vic we jumped back on the Dash 8’s and flew to Vancouver to catch our flights to LA baby! I had an apple, but US Customs wasn’t too stoked that I’d already removed the sticker from it, thus, I no longer had an apple.
I should mention that this day, Wednesday April 4th, was the day before my group’s final design report was due for our Watershed Systems Design course. So, at 5:30 in the morning you could find me formatting a 16900-word document with 47 figures, 21 tables, 3 appendices and 83 pages in the airport. Contact me if you want a copy, it’s a great read about the installation of a hydroelectric turbine at Moon Lake Resort in Utah.
Anyways, made it to Los Angeles for a few weeks of US Cup fun!
Fontana was the first start line we would see through our sweat stained glasses. It was hot. Like hot, hot. For Fontana, Forward Racing and Norco Factory Team would be joining forces as a band of ruthless Canadian privateers. With no management to control us, it was cake, burritos, and ice cream every night.
The course at South ridge Park in Fontana actually gets me pretty fired up for a few reasons. First off, most of the climbing is at a reasonable grade, nothing as steep as Vancouver’s Housing Market. Secondly I can ride my hardtail which is a highlight mostly because all of the World Cup courses are becoming so gnarly that I don’t really ever get to race my hardtail, and I get excited when the opportunity presents itself. Another reason for loving it is all of the wonderful creatures. For example, I almost ran over a massive rattlesnake while pre-riding. To add to the excitement of the race, while leading I spooked a snake and it fell from the rock where it was sun bathing and on onto the trail, accounting for Lespy’s screaming from behind me. Anywho, you get the gist, there are a bunch of reasons I like Fontana.
The Race (short form):
- Good start, got out front
- Selection of 4 riders
- Fast paced, missed some feed bottles due to some miscommunication, making the heat of the day more intense
- Spicy attack by Blevins on the final lap
- Rolled in for 3rd.
First US Cup podium! Wooo!
I attribute this to the fact that this time around, these aren’t the first races of the year. In years past the California US Cups had always been my first races – sometimes even my first time on my MTB after a lovely winter on the trainer. Therefore, South Africa was good prep work.
The short-track unfortunately was crap, and I just didn’t have the legs.
Good old Frank G. Bonelli Park. Frank was a supervisor for the 1st District in Los Angeles County of what I assume to be parks and rec. This is what I gathered from a very quick Google search. Frank’s park would host the US Cup, exposing the riders to heaps of heat and sun on the open climbs as well as dust and loose rocks on the semi-technical descents. For the week between Fontana and Bonelli the weather was lovely, even a little cool, but on race day the sun was out to get us. I truly do enjoy racing in the heat. It makes everything feel a little worse. If you don’t have a great start in a really hot race it could even be for the best as riders blow up and come backwards towards you. Just so many positives to mention, especially the last lap daze, you know, when you’ve got tunnel vision and probably should stop but keep pushing because there are lots of UCI points on the line.
Sarcasm aside, this race hurts and if you don’t have good or at least decent legs on the day it can be a miserable time.
I managed to be caught somewhere between miserable and good. Although when you look at the number, 6th, you think: ‘aw man Pete, just missed the podium’. But! If you felt what I felt for the opening two laps, 6th seems really ok. I really wanted to pull chute (parachute) because the sensations were miserable for the first 30 minutes – maybe something I ate? Eventually I rode those feelings out of my body until there was just the dull ache and fiery burning sensations throughout the rest of my entire body. Weird? Yes.
In a very short synopsis:
- I had a good start,
- Missed the lead group,
- Dangled off the chasers,
- Couldn’t snatch a spot on the podium on the last lap.
The short-track was civilized though. I sniped the hole shot on that one and went for the 1st lap prime of $100 only to run out of steam 100m to go. I had to recover a bit after that but rode well to stay at the front for most of the race only to get boxed in a bit but on the final laps. I was pretty spent by the end and slipped up on any podium potential, finishing feeling pleased that it went better than Fontana’s short-track did.
A lot has happened so far and we still have The Sea Otter Classic to go!
Almost forgot to chat about my exams. For those cyclists considering University, my advice would be to go for a program where you don’t have to be present during winter semesters, as the beginning of the race season always poses a problem for final exams. This year I was lucky that 2 out of my 3 professors were kind enough to bend the rules and allow me to write my exams while in California. The 3rd professor was also on board for this invigilator-supervised exam writing abroad program right up until three days before. I guess I’ll be revisiting that course in June during the deferred exam period*. Writing these exams made my mental preparation for Bonelli more difficult and I recall showing up race day feeling very unprepared. I had been cramming for the last couple days before regurgitating a bunch of knowledge about Statistical Risk Assessment and Groundwater on a few dozen sheets of paper and now was expected to flip the switch and go into full savage race mode. I was acutely stressed but all was good in the end as I would much rather go through this now than in June during the deferred dates. Yay School! Only 1 more semester until I get that Iron Ring (Canadian Engineers thing, look it up)**.
*Dependent on that design report mark, if it’s good then I probably won’t write the exam since I did phenomenal on the midterms and already passed the course.
**Assuming I pass everything. All is looking good so far.