Santa Cruz Crit Cat 3 - 9th Place - Words by Kyle Beikirch
Field was 23 with 10 of them being Mike’s Bikes and 4 from Sun Power. If any break were to go, it would have to include those teams. Since it was just Marcello and I, we just wanted to be defensive and not create any moves but just be on the lookout in case something dangerous went up the road.
The first turn on the course is a nice downhill switchback. They had done some patchwork on the turn which made it a little dicey. There was some loose gravel on the inside line. Twice Marcello had his back wheel slip, but didn’t crash, so I tried to avoid that. Pace was high throughout, but never felt like death until the very end. I did notice the first few laps that after the switchback a small gap would form, and I would have to waste a little bit of energy to catch back on. At first I thought it was because I was taking the turn to slow, but after paying attention the next few laps, figured out that I was waiting too long to start pedaling again which was creating the gap so quickly corrected that. Using a little trick I learned from Coach Ryan on the course is on the backside after the downhill, a lot of the riders end up coasting and drafting behind the riders in front of them. However, if you just use your momentum and go around the outside, you can gain some spots pretty easily. Yes, you use more energy than just sitting in the draft, but the positives of gaining all those spots for just a little bit more pedaling is well worth it. With all of those spots you gain, you can take the hill just before the finish just a little bit easier. There were a few crashes on the switchback that I was luckily able to avoid.
Luckily for Marcello and I, Sunpower made a bunch of attacks in the race that Mike’s Bikes would constantly miss out on, so they would constantly have to pull the field to catch the break which helped us out a lot. In the last third of the race with about 5 laps to go, a guy from Mike’s and Sun Power start getting a gap. I see this as a dangerous move and jump on it. The sunpower guys pulls us along and the Mike’s Bikes guy doesn’t pull through and we eventually get caught. Not soon after another sunpower guy goes and the same Mike’s Bikes guy follows. I’m still recovering but Marcello gives me a nice encouraging push on my back to bridge back up. Same thing happens again with the Mike’s bike guy not doing any work. I’m not really sure what their plan is. It seems pretty logical to me that both sunpower and MIke’s would want this type of break to stick and would put in an effort to make it work while their teammates block in the field, but oh well.
So we are all back together for the last few laps. My plan was to attack hard on the narrow road right before the hill, but in order for that to be effective I need to be at the front. However, I failed to do that. One thing I am learning in the Cat 3 races is that while I have the fitness, I need to be more aggressive and assertive.