Saturday, April 18, 2015

Sea Otter Classic 45+ 1/2/3s Crit & Circuit Race by Matthew Sloan

Thursday, April 16th Crit

The crit is on the lower section of the Laguna Secca race track. It uses the finishing straight in both directions having an uphill u-turn at both ends of the circuit. It was blustery conditions. I knew if a break went, it could stick.

About 15-20 riders lined up at the start. Only 12 finished which said something about how hard the conditions were. Local "fast man" Steve Heaton made several attacks from the start.  Each time he was brought back. There was a slight uphill from the start. It finished with a u-turn and the course went back down the hill into a strong headwind. On the third or fourth lap, after a few attacks, no one wanted to pull through. I did an easy push off the front and gained a little gap. I looked back and Steve Heaton jumped on my wheel--"game on!"

It was perfect timing. The peloton was tired of the attacks and Steve was a marked man. Steve had one teammate in the race who covered any attempts to bridge up. After a couple of laps our advantage was up to 30 seconds. It felt so good to finally be in a break that was working. Steve and I exchanged hard pulls and kept a strong tempo going. There was one point when you could see the peloton really starting to slack and sit up. That's when Steve really put the hammer down for a lap. We worked really hard and put the final nail in the coffin. At the race's end, we had three minutes on the group.

While we were working hard into the wind keeping up a good speed, the peloton were fighting not to be in the wind. No one wants to be the rider giving the group a break at that point. This is good to know when you are in the break. Just keep working at it in the wind. The group is more than likely going slower.

In the middle third of our break, I started to tire a bit. This was partly psychological with not knowing how far we had left. Steve gave a couple of pulls where I just sat in and recovered a bit. It was interesting how my legs and willpower came back as soon as I knew we had just seven laps left. Steve looked stronger so I said, "I don't care what happens on the last lap. I need some points, so let's just get to the last lap!"

On the second small hill on the back of the circuit, on the second to last lap, Steve put the jump on me. I wasn't expecting it and he got a bit of a gap. I held on hard, dug deep and kept him at the same distance. After the race he told me how impressed he was that I didn't just let him go. Well, in my mind I knew, "It ain't over 'til it's over! "Never, never, never give up!" He could have had a mechanical, he could have tied up, one never knows. When I realized going up the same section on the last lap that I wouldn't get him back, I eased up a touch and rolled in for 2nd.

It felt really good to be in the winning break. It also showed me what I need to work on.



Friday, April 17th Circuit Race

This is one of my favorite races on the calendar--racing on the Laguna Seca racetrack. It is absolutely awesome. A really hard climb followed by the best descent ever--the infamous "corkscrew!" It's more fun than a roller coaster!

My goal in this race was to hang in on the climb and see what was left at the end. Local rider, Chris Williams, broke away early. Everyone let him go. He did a yeoman's job and was only caught with about three laps to go. I did consider bridging up but with the effort made the day before I didn't want to risk blowing up.

This is a race of attrition. The climb is much harder than it looks. The width of the track makes the climb look less steep than it is. Believe me; however, that after a few laps of racing one's legs certainly know! We started the race with at least thirty riders; sixteen actually finished. The hill took them out in ones and twos.

A few of us worked on the front to bring back the loan breakaway rider. There were a few attacks up the hill, down the hill, and on the rollers after the descent but nothing stuck until the final lap. The final time up the main climb Rob McGee hit hard. I was right on his wheel, that was my complete focus. He was just edging ahead as we started to crest the hill onto the false flat with a headwind gusting into us. Robert Pasco and Cameron Perky attacked hard from our right. Rob was able to jump across, I got dropped. Eventual winner, Russell Shapley held their wheels. They probably got 40-50 meters on me by the descent. But did I give up? Of course not. I hit hard down the hill. I was edging up to them every moment. They started to play games for positioning. I went hard and eased up onto the last wheel. We were now five. I was the biggest amongst us and I really fancied my chances.

I may never give up but I still have to learn a thing or two about patience. There was a cross/headwind in the finishing straight. The straight going into the finishing turn had a tail wind. Instead of waiting in the perfect position for someone to jump, I went with the wind on my back. I charged and charged and charged but I could feel my legs tying up into the headwind before the line. Again, I got caught in the last 20-30m. "Ah!" so frustrating. Perhaps without all the hard climbing I had done my legs could have held on for such a long sprint but not on this day.

I came in a frustrating fifth knowing that with just a bit more patience and guile... Well, better luck next time! I am going to practice my finish on Sunday at the Redkite crit in the 35+ 1/2/3s and the 2/3s

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