Saturday, April 12, 2014

Sea Otter Classic, 35+ 4s Circuit Race by Matthew Sloan

This is a great course. Racing on a track used by Formula 1 cars, was awesome!

"The current racetrack is 2.238 miles (3.602 km) in length with a 180 feet (55 m) elevation change. It has eleven turns, including the famous "Corkscrew" at Turns 8 and 8A. A variety of racing, exhibition and entertainment events are held at the raceway, ranging from superkarts to sports car racing to music festivals." (Wikipedia)

The race started off at a decent pace. No hard attacks off the bat, everyone finding their legs. On lap three an Audi rider, who broke away in the 35+ 4s at the Santa Cruz crit, broke off the front but ended up pulling us all round for a really hard lap. My legs really felt it up the hill. I hoped we wouldn't be going that hard up the hill the whole race. On the next lap, after he was swallowed up, everyone virtually sat up on the hill, "thank the bike-gods for that!" 

I definitely felt I would not be "Profumo-ing" the race today. I woke up with a cold and was happy just to sit in and go for points. A few riders tried some attacks but nothing stuck. With no teams to block, riders readily bridge up. With the track being so wide there was plenty of room to maneuver but this didn't stop riders from riding thoughtlessly. A couple of times I had to use my loud, firm, ex-teacher's voice to straighten the peloton out.

The corkscrew was the most fun I have had in a race. It was thrilling to to take those turns at full speed. Also, it was so enjoyable to really power through some of the turns in the flatter section of the course. 

We continued round the course with the pace slowing into the wind on the back section, then speeding up and getting harder for the hill, and down the corkscrew. I made sure on the 2nd to last lap to be near the front. I pulled over the hill in first place. I let a few riders come past on the back section of the course, making sure I could draft on the last lap. The last time up the hill was a relief. (Due to the width of the track, I think the hill looks shorter than it is.) I kept in the top five to ten riders, powering through to keep my position on the left side of the pack. 

On the 2nd to last turn, with the peloton bunching and getting dangerous, Rich Gonsalves, (who I met on a Giro ride a couple of weeks back and who came 3rd 35+ today) cried out, "This is the last lap!" It broke the spell. The speed suddenly jumped. I was in a great position coming into the last turn, holding a good line. I got a little shocked when a rider launched his sprint and verily jumped into my line. I lost a little focus but got close to his wheel. I went as hard as I could and came 2nd in the 35+ and I think 4th or 5th overall. Even with the lapse in concentration and my form, with the rider launching into my line, I don't think I could have out sprinted Chris Down, the winning 35+ rider. He flew up the inside, muscles twitching faster than Mark Cavendish; okay, that's an exaggeration, this is just the 4s I'm talking about.

It was fun to get 2nd and podium at Sea Otter. I got a nice medal and some goodies. I would definitely do the circuit race again next year. 


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