As this was my first ever race as a cat 3 and it was a 3/2/1 open event I had a ton of nerves going in. I made sure to mitigate this as much as possible the days before by sleeping as much as possible and drinking tons of water. One of my main ways of taking my mind off of it was to think about going more as an event to see the pros race rather than my own race.
The morning of I woke up around 9 oclock and went through my normal morning routine. Because I had the luxury of being able to wake up late in my own house for a race day (this is my first ever late day crit) I made sure to take full advantage. My breakfast consisted of my normal race day meal, oatmeal with fruit and honey, the main difference today being that I could take the starbucks out of that. I made sure to load it up with flax seed and other healthy grains as I knew with the awkward start time of 2:30 I wouldn’t be able to eat a normal sized lunch.
After cleaning my bike my family and I took off for Sacramento around 10:30. We arrived around 1pm and promptly found a nice parking garage close to the event. I ran down to the athlete registration area where I picked up my first ever cloth racing number! After getting my kit on and bike situated I met the rest of my family in Starbucks where I picked up a butter croissant as my lunch. This ended up being the perfect call.
I proceeded to the course where I had to work my way through CSC security (you can never escape how bad they are) and into the main oval. As I had no head unit I was riding completely blind today so my warmup consisted of 30 minutes spin out the legs then a couple sprints followed by a 2 minute medium effort. I made sure to consult the advice of Jerome Nadel who simply told me to “be safe” which I took as a keep away from the front (luckily I am bad at listening to people with experience).
I had no idea how many people were signed up (no entry list released) so I wanted a good starting position. Unfortunately everyone lined up 15 minutes pre race start leaving me at the back of a 120 man field. As I waited I decided to identify the main threats: Thirsty Bear had brought a large squad including Jerome Nadel, Terun had a large squad as well with NCNCA BAR winner Matt M, and lastly one large team from LA had a big presence. There were also a whole host of solo riders that I wanted to keep an eye out for.
My goal was to split the race up into two parts. The first 30 minutes being an all out brawl at the front as the category 1 riders try to shed the weaker riders off the back, then a 20 minute crit with whoever was left. The course was four wide left handers which meant it wasn’t too technical and there was almost no sprinting out of corners. The 30 minute braul ended up dropping a good portion of riders but I was alert to splits and slowly worked my way up the field from my poor starting position. I found myself really enjoying the course and felt really confident in my ability to stay in this group.
After the 30 minute break up of the peloton I quickly maneuvered myself into the top 20 riders. At this point we already had 10 laps to go and I was on the lookout for breakaway moves. Basically I wanted to be in every break with a TB and Terun rider in it that looked threatening. Every move that got a small gap was chased back by the solo LA riders which allowed me an easy ride until 6 to go.
At this point I was ready to go for my move. I came up to the sweet spot of 10th wheel and waited as a breakaway started to form up the road. As soon as Matt broke for it I saw “Superdave” Koesol on my right follow, I decided this was the perfect wheel to follow and we took turns moving towards the break. Unfortunately both myself and the break got caught and I was forced to regroup.
I made sure I didn’t fall too far back and kept myself in the first 15 wheels as we began the next lap. Another Terun+TB break got a gap which forced the LA team to chase. I was able to sit in and recover for another break attempt with 5 to go. Once they were brought back the pace slowed for a second or two and I decided to slingshot through the front to get a gap. I instantly had about a 5-6 second gap with no one chasing which allowed me to get into a rhythm. A second group containing a rider from the LA team, TB, and Terun joined to make the group 5 strong. We were able to get a good gap of about 7-8 seconds before reality struck me.
As I pulled off and came towards the back of the group I cramped and couldn’t get back onto the wheel in front of me. I completely blew up and let the pack pass me as I tried to regather myself 4 laps from the finish. I decided to ride to the finish as it was my goal to finish on the lead lap in my first ever 1/2/3 race. As I came around with one lap to go I could feel the moto closing in behind me to alert me the sprint was happening but I barely made it across to complete the race.
Overall : ~67th/127
Lessons learned: I am plenty strong enough to compete with these dudes and just need to believe in myself more. If I had just followed wheels instead of breaking away solo I very much believe I could have top 10ed today. My cat 4 breakaway last minute technique wont work here
This was a super fun learning experience and day out. I enjoyed the pro races after and was able to spend some nice family time. Thanks to legion for putting on this awesome event and I cant wait to do it again next year!