A quick update on the end of a long ???road to Cat 4??? before getting in to my much shorter ???road to Cat 3???: After being denied early upgrade to Cat 4, I doubled up on my last races with a ???mentored??? crit in Redlands (which I won!) followed by CBR #2 (I was third and won a few primes). The Redlands race was a little far to drive for a ~25 minute race, but ???Citrus Criteriums??? put on a great little event that I felt would be very helpful to anyone a little anxious about getting into crit racing or even bike racing in general. After those races, I applied for my upgrade and was granted a Cat 4 license. Woohoo!
For my first Cat 4 race and first road race of the year, I headed a bit north to Cantua Creek in Coalinga. I think for most Californians,??they only know of Coalinga for its smell. It’s that place off I-5, in the middle of nowhere, with a huge cattle feed lot. Fortunately, the race started and finished up and over a hill a couple miles away from the feed lot, which is apparently too far for the stench to travel. Cantua Creek is a three lap out-and-back course that is mostly flat with a bit of climbing to end each lap. After an excruciatingly slow start to the race, I attacked up the first climb and got away. On the descent two riders bridged up to me. One was a junior that did very little in the break except to annoy the two of us, though kudos to him for getting in the break. He hung in for another lap, while the two of us did all the work. We put in another hard climb, and then it was just the two of us — Eric Sasse and I. We shared the workload well, and sort of had a silent agreement to wait for the hills at the end to decide the finish order.
I felt like I climbed much better than him earlier in the day, and still had pretty good legs, so I thought I could just ride hard up the climbs and that would be enough. It wasn’t, and Eric got the better of me right at the finish. I was happy to see my teammate Gilbert Marquez win the bunch sprint for 3rd place! Strava file
I raced the next day in the foothills of Fresno at a place called Pine Flat. Both of these races were about 70 miles from my brother’s home, so I stayed with him two nights and got to spend some time with him and my niece and nephew!
Pine Flat is a beautiful place, and I regret not taking more pictures while I was out there. Eric and Gilbert were both in this race as well. This race starts off pretty rolly with some tough, short climbs followed by a long descent, some flats, and then two big climbs. After another slower start, Eric started some attacks for a break. The group chased him down the first couple times. I actually rolled off the front on a shorter descent, and then I saw Eric chasing with that junior from the day before in tow. Just as we were getting the break established, I looked back and saw Gilbert trying to bridge up solo. I immediately stopped working and things slowed down just enough for Gilbert to get on. It pretty much worked out perfectly and I was pumped!
For the next 30 miles or so the three of us worked together with the junior taking every 10th pull, maybe. He fell off without too much pressure as we made our way towards the final climbs. I was in a position to sit on Eric’s wheel this time, thanks to the presence of Gilbert. With a few minutes left in the penultimate climb, I went hard, got a gap at the top, and then went full gas to the next climb. I enjoyed the final few minutes up the last climb as I came to the finish line. Gilbert hung on for third, giving Team Simple Green four Cat 4 podiums in two days.??Strava file
With those two races, I had a total of 12 upgrade points. I need 20 points minimum to upgrade to Cat 3, which I want to do before the San Dimas Stage Race at the end of March. In order to avoid racing too much, I needed to win?? my next race, and that race needed a minimum of 21 starters (the more starters = the more points). The UCLA Road Race this past weekend fit the bill.
The race was out in Pearblossom and it was pretty cold, windy and rain threatening. The course is a big rectangle with ascent and descent on either long side. The race was 4 laps, totaling 50 miles and about 6,000 feet of elevation gain. Like a good roadie, I sat in (on the first lap) and didn’t spend too much time at the front. As we came to the end of the first lap, there was a prime at the end of the first lap. One guy jumped and I went with him. I wasn’t able to get around him before the finish (so he won the prime), but once we crossed the line, he was content to sit up and roll back into the group. I, however, said “yolo” and pressed on. My thinking was the wind on the uphill was strong enough that no one was going to want to lead the chase, and on the descent the tailwind was strong enough that I wouldn’t be at a disadvantage going solo. I was right. A moto was giving me splits, which were 1:30 at the top of lap two, 2:00 at the bottom, 4:00 at the top of lap 3. The splits continued to go out and by the end I won by over ten minutes. Job done! (Shout out to Hudson and Spencer for making the trip out to the race with me, even if they were napping in the car the whole time I was racing!)
This week I received my upgrade to Cat 3! This little climb up the ranks has been fun, but I’m excited to be in some races where everyone doesn’t??expect me to win or be on the podium. I think I will be at a level now where I will be able to learn a lot from my fellow competitors and, hopefully, go??earn a few victories.