National Collegiate Road Championships Roundup

POSTED BY LIZ HENRY

The following is an account from racer Katherine Nadler on the Cycling team’s experience at Nationals:

Collegiate Road Nationals, aka #CollNats, is the pinnacle of collegiate road racing and for many of us, the toughest race with the largest field sizes of any to date. Building off of the spectacular performances of the UCSD women’s team from the last two years we aimed to send at least a team of four women for a complete TTT team, in addition to strong male riders who qualified. The location of CollNats changes each two years, bringing us from the smoky mountains of North Carolina in 2015 and 2016 to the desert mesas of Grand Junction, Colorado for 2017; dry air, high altitude, and gusty winds were predicted to ensue.  Nevertheless we loaded into two vehicles and drove the 12 hours loaded with bikes, helmets, food and water through the scenic views of California, Nevada, Arizona, Utah and Coloardo.

Our nationals race weekend can be broken down like this: Day 1—TTT,  Day 2 – Road Race, Day 3—Criterium, sandwiched between two 12 hour drives. As the only returning racer who participated in road nationals last year, I was excited to share my knowledge of the experience as it differed from our conference, student-organized collegiate races. Bigger crowds, larger fields, tougher competition, and professional organization awaited us. Many times during the weekend I reached back to memories of the previous year when I had been a nervous, scared, and inexperienced racer immersed in the excitement of a national-level race event. Whatever advice I could give paled in comparison to the actual experience. Several of us practiced racing at elevation just two weeks prior at UN Reno which helped prepare for the side effects, and for the most part our general preparation paid off; we remembered all equipment, ate plenty of breakfast, and familiarized ourselves with the race courses. However the altitude and nerves, mixed with a few instances of official-to-volunteer miscommunication kept us on our toes.

First up was the Team Time Trial which our women’s team has excelled in as a team over the past few years. Four riders carry out a 20-mile course in a tight paceline and the team’s time is calculated by the wheel of the third finishing rider. The event requires trust and communication between teammates in addition to the general anguish of a time trial. Equipped with carbon race wheels and aerodynamic helmets we braved the windy, rolling course and managed to finish 6th place overall despite two of four riders suffering from altitude-worsened asthma side effects. We were satisfied with our team’s effort and quickly began preparing for the next race. One down, two to go!

The road race was made up of a grueling 16.7 mile loop with the women racing for 50 miles and 4000 feet elevation gain, and the men for 67 miles and 5,400 feet elevation gain, all taking place at 6,200 feet above sea level.  We set off in a 60 rider pack – by far the largest field for ¾ of the women – and Sydnee learned the worst way that even collegiate A riders may have poor bike handling skills. Taken on in a seven-person pile up, Sydnee acquired road rash across her face but thankfully no other debilitating injuries. The other women continued the race which can be described as a mild ascent, into a long and technical descent, into steep switch back turns, into an intensely gusty descent, into a brutal cross-wind false flat, into the last hill, and finally a long and windy finishing straightaway.  At the switch backs of the first lap, the race fractured into a leading group and several chase packs. For the remainder Lilly laid down a ton of work in the largest of the chase groups and sprinted for 20th position, followed closely by me in 24th, and Lena in 44th. Upon finishing the girls began recovering with chocolate milk and hurried to the feed zone to help out teammate Justin who finished 72nd in the men’s field. The longest race was now behind us and the final preparations and strategies were organized. Two down, one to go!

The third and final race of the weekend was a flat, six-corner, L-shaped criterium. These types of races typically favor sprinters and time-trialists in contrast to climbers in road races. Our team has a particular advantage in that we specifically practice the technique of cornering and high speeds during a weekly team practice, aka #CritBangers. Going into this race I was designated the team leader and the other two as helpers or decoys. Early in the race two crashes caused the field to break into two groups but I stayed close to the front with my teammates also tucked in. Knowing I needed maintain a position among the top 10 to have any shot at the podium I maneuvered around and in between riders along strategic sections during the last five laps to keep from slipping too far back. With one lap to go I kept my eye on the wheel of the U of Arizona rider, a race favorite, and because the pace was kept high we were safely strung out as a line of about ten racers going into the final corner. Once out of the turn everyone in front of me rose out of the saddle and began sprinting the 100m to the finish line and in a split second I made the decision to cut from my inside line to the outside in an attempt to overtake the riders already beginning to fade. Finishing in 5th place close behind the top four was a huge accomplishment, although we did not stick around long enough for the podium celebration (to take place 3 hours later!) and took off on our 12-hour drive home. The weekend proved to be a surreal experience with top-notch race organization, exposure to professional-level competition, and another year of successful UCSD representation.

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Sea Otter Classic

POSTED BY LIZ HENRY

As we approached the final conference road race weekend, the Sea Otter classic, I could sense that our team was getting worn out from all the travel during the year. With most of the road races in the Bay Area or beyond, the typical race weekend required about 15 hours of driving to compete. While Sea Otter did not count toward nationals qualification, it was still important for us to do well as a team to try to move up in the conference standings.

Sea Otter is an unusual race weekend, as it is one of the biggest events on the US racing calendar, but more famous for the mountain biking and expos than for the road races. This year, it was also 1 week before nationals in Colorado, and so many of the top Category A riders skipped the race to rest up for the national championships. I had considered the same, but since I only had a few weeks of road training in me up to this point, I felt I needed one more good challenge before resting up for nationals. I had been competing in triathlon earlier in the year, but was determined to return to road nationals for my last year competing in collegiate cycling.

I spent most of the prior week thinking of how to approach the races, one was a circuit race with one steep hill each lap and one was a road race with a steep, punchy hill each lap and a long, slow climb at the end. I had been dropping some weight in preparation for the race, but once I arrived at Sea Otter, I quickly forgot about my own races, and instead got caught up in the excitement of watching the professional mountain bikers and cyclocross racers. The biggest names in MTB and CX were present, and my teammates and other WCCC friends were able to compete with or on the same course as these legends.

Unfortunately, as the weekend approached, I had to start thinking about my own races again, and getting nervous if I had gotten in enough training for the year to make the selection on each lap. The circuit race started off incredibly fast. Within the first lap (on the steep climb), we dropped several riders right away that never were able to bridge back up. Surprisingly, I was able to keep with the lead group pretty easily. We maintained a fast pace throughout the lap and pass every other group on the Laguna Seca raceway, who had started minutes before us. And since we had motorcycle referees all over the course, I was glad to know that they weren’t going to allow the dropped riders to join in with other groups to try to bridge to us. The sole goal for me was just to stay with the lead group, and hoped more riders got dropped each selection. Fortunately, this occurred a couple more times, and the lead group was whittled down to 4 riders along with myself. We let off the pace a bit, and 4 riders were able to rejoin who had been dropped on the penultimate climb. When we arrived at the last climb, it was a strong group of 8 riders and myself, and since I had been sucking wheels all day and doing little work, I decided to do the most political thing and not try to sprint against the people that helped me out all day. I knew the road race would be much more challenging, and I would need all the friends I could get as the only UCSD cyclist competing. I was happy to finish 9th place out of 19 in a race that did not seem to suit my strengths.

The road race seemed to have similar features to the circuit race, and I started the day pretty confident. I just barely made the selection on the first time over the steep hill while a few others got dropped, but knew I would be at risk for each of the remaining 5 laps. Sure enough, the 2nd time we climbed it, I got dropped along with a friend from Cal Poly and a new friend visiting from Arizona State University. We knew we had no chance to climb with the leaders, and decided to work together to finish the race as a group. We put in a nice steady effort and were somehow able to rejoin the leaders on lap 3, and found a way to stick with them each lapped by catching up on each of the windy and downhill sections, while they out climbed us on the hill. This maintained the whole race until the final 2.5 mile climb, where we had 11 of us that made it with the lead group. Once again I ended with 9th place after being able to stay ahead of the heavier guys from the group, but found out that I still have a lot of work left to be able to compete with the climbers. I was still very happy with this placing in an A race after so little training, and now look forward to nationals next week in Grand Junction, CO.

By Justin Runac

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Cycling takes on the UN Reno Race Weekend

POSTED BY LIZ HENRY

Criterium

The UNR Criterium proved to be difficult from the start. The course was a winding 0.7 miles with two full 180 degree turns and plenty of tight corners. I arrived at the course well before my start time to watch the other races and support my team mates. Within seconds of arriving at the course, I witnessed a UCLA racer crash into a corner and another rider pile up on top.

As I waited for my race to start, the crash toll went up. Even one of our own riders went down in one of the corners. I decided that I would have to be sharp to keep the rubber on the road. I also figured that gloves would be a good choice to protect my hands if I went down.

My race time came to fruition and myself and about 8 other riders lined up at the start. The official blew the whistle and we were off. We started off pretty slow. As I sat in behind two other riders I noticed that the other riders were slow through the corners riding the brakes all the way through. A few laps in the official rang the bell for a prime lap and I knew I could win it so I picked up the pace. I pulled ahead on the downhill and flew through the first two corners. On the third corner (the 180 degree U-turn) I took the corner too fast and washed out scraping my whole right side. I quickly slapped my chain back on and raced to the start line to get my free lap. I rolled back into the race and was swiftly back in the draft. A few laps in the bell rang again. This prime was mine. I sat back until the last 100 meters where I sprinted out front to win the lap.

The last few laps I sat out front pushing wind trying to move back to take a break. Before I knew it the final bell rang and a Stanford rider took off into a sprint. I struggled to keep up and remained 4th wheel until the finish.

By Roger O’Neill

Road Race  

The Men’s C road race was 44 miles with roughly 3000ft of elevation. The climbs start after about the first 5 miles, and that’s when Cal Poly made the first attack. The chase group caught him around 2/5 of the race, and at that point the leading group has roughly 10 riders. We have also passed Women’s A and Men’s B(while they were taking their pee break).

Wind was slightly stronger on the later half of the race. I felt the leading group was being very collaborative. Everyone put in some effort and got nice drafts. We ended up staying away successfully. Cal Poly and Santa Cruz launched another attack, and it was very difficult to bring them back this time. I was breathing really hard just to hold onto the chase group and wasn’t even sure if I could make it. I guess that was the altitude.

During the last quarter of the race, the finishing group has come down to 5 riders from Cal Poly, Santa Cruz, Long Beach, UCSD, and Stanford. And we all made it to the final sprint. Finally, Long Beach, Cal Poly, and I took the podium. Ben came in 6th soon after us.

Katherine and Lilly also took 3rd and 6th in Women’s A. Sadly Roger couldn’t race due to some injury from yesterday’s crash.

By Matthew Hung

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Stanford Race Weekend

POSTED BY LIZ HENRY

TTT and Circuit Race:

Since we only have one Men’s A rider this weekend, Justin, Willie, and I planned to participate in the Men’s A TTT as a warm up group ride. But the rain started and wind increased literally 5 minutes before the TTT started. It was brutally cold.

The circuit race was 2.7 miles each lap. This is my first time encountering U-turns in races. And it turned out most riders go pretty slow on those turns, which in my pinion, makes positioning extra important in the race. I made to the finishing final sprint and took 5th place. I heard the camera at the finishing line has died right when we passed it, but luckily that didn’t affect me.

The fields for higher categories are pretty small as usual, approximately 10 riders, which must have made the race harder for Willie and Lena, considering the strong winds we had on that day. But nevertheless, UC San Diego got 4th place in both Men’s B and Women’s A.

Road Race:

Each lap in the road race is about 6.7 miles with 620ft of elevation. For all of our races, the finishing groups all made the breakaway on first lap and maintained the gap throughout the race. I wasn’t able to keep up to them, and on top of that, since the second lap, my right leg started to hurt as if there was a cramp. But weirdly when I get out of my saddle to pedal even harder, the pain goes away. I still managed to finish the race. Willie took 9th in Men’s B, and Lena and Sydnee took 4th and 5th in Women’s A.

For Men’s C, the riders pretty much scattered all over the place instead of riding in packs, excepted for the finishing group. I think this somehow suggests the difficulty of the course, where the gaps very well reflect the differences between each rider’s strength.

Lastly, none of our team has crashed this weekend!

By Matthew Hung

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UC Santa Cruz Race Weekend

POSTED BY LIZ HENRY

Road Race:

It was a beautiful day for a race on the campus of UC Santa Cruz; the sun was out and it was the perfect temperature. The earliest races, men’s Cs and Ds, had some good finishes. Willie was top ten in men’s C and Aaron was 2nd in Ds. Unfortunately, Matthew had crashed in men’s Cs and had to turn in early.

In my race, women’s B/Cs, things had turned out better for me than I expected! This race is one that I wasn’t exactly looking forward to; it was set to be 10 laps around a 2 or 3 mile course with a decent amount of climbing. That didn’t sound so fun and a lot of the other women’s riders expressed the same feeling at the start. We began the race and for the first couple laps the group remained together for the most part at a good pace. I worked together with Angela and would make sure to stay on other racers’ wheels. Over the course of the race, I made moves to pass other women, usually on the steepest climb in the lap. With about three laps to go, Angela had gotten a flat and wasn’t able to finish. I ended up getting 4th and felt good about how I raced.

Criterium:

It was a much colder morning for the crit. Men’s Cs had a early start as usual. It was a good course and exciting to watch as Willie and Matthew made their way to the front in the last few laps. Willie came in 2nd and Matthew in 7th.
For the women’s B/C race, I started out feeling comfortable. I stayed in the back for conserving energy and being comfortable for cornering. It was Angela’s first criterium and she was nervous but doing well. With 3 laps to go, a Mills College racer attacked and I immediately jumped on her wheel and chased. This was an exciting change in the race. For the last two laps I was at the front of the few girls that chased burning a lot of energy. When it came to the final sprint I knew it would be tough to remain in front. I ended up in 3rd. There was a crash just before the sprint and Angela went down in it, first crash in her first race weekend!

By Liz Boystak

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UC Santa Barbara Race Weekend

POSTED BY LIZ HENRY

 

TTT/Road Race:

Following an abysmal 4 hours of restless sleep, Liz and I drove to the race in darkness. We met up with the others and begrudgingly started warming up for the TTT in the cold Santa Maria air. Katherine, Lilly, Lena, and I were racing in the A’s, and I was pretty sure I’d get dropped before the end of our lap. Katherine told me to take short pulls so I could hang on for as long as possible. As we lined up, I was a little nervous, as I didn’t want to let my teammates down. We rolled out and steadily increased the pace, my nerves calmed down and I focused on maintaining smooth exchanges in the paceline. Once I was able to calm down, I started having a blast working together with my awesome teammates, and before I knew it we were on the last few miles before the end. Coming around the last turn, I heard Katherine yelling for us to fan out and start our sprint to the finish. Lena shot around Lilly and me, with Katherine close behind. Lilly and I made our last push for the finish line, and we ended up taking 1st place against Stanford and UCLA! We also got to watch Liz and Tiffany finish strong in the C TTT and take 1st as well.

After some refueling (aka cookies) and a little rest, Lena and I warmed up with Liz and Tiffany for our B/C Road Race. I ended up getting distracted by some big turkey vultures on my warmup and almost missed the start time—oops. Luckily, Lena had my back and persuaded the race official to wait for me. I got to the start line, and Lena and I lead the pack on the rollout. We were going at a decent clip and it seemed like most of the group was staying together, but whenever we made someone else take a pull, the pace would slow to about 12 mph. We got bored with the coffee ride pace and decided to attack on the first climb. After hammering for about a minute, we looked back and saw a few girls trying to chase us. We buckled down and worked together to further our lead, and a few minutes later, a race official came by and told us the chase group was 50 seconds behind us. Not wanting to relax too soon, we kept pushing…and the chase group kept getting farther behind us. Lena and I took 1-2 with more than a 2 minute lead.

Criterium:

We were all anxious about what the weather had in store for us. Men’s C started off dry, but the rain started before their race finished. When it was time for the Women’s B/C race, the course was soaked and it was raining harder and harder. Lena and I strategized a bit. The goals were: 1) don’t crash, and 2) win. We wanted to sit in for a couple laps and attack after a prime when the other riders were tired. Then Liz and Tiffany would try to sit on the pace and prevent the pack from bridging with us.

Well, once we started, Lena flatly stated “I’m cold” and took off—so much for planning. I went with her, and one other girl from Berkeley followed. Lena and I took turns doing exchanges, and when we looked back we saw Tiff trying to catch up with us. She got on one of our wheels and said she was surprised no one else tried to chase, but she was feeling strong and wanted to stay up front with us. Lena and I convinced the Berkeley girl to take a pull, and that tired her out, so she dropped back. Both Lena and I kept switching off with Tiff taking 3rd wheel. We got all the primes and lapped the field. Coming around to the last lap, Tiff was still feeling strong, and we decided to do a lead out for the sprint. After the last turn, I ramped up the pace and pulled off, then Lena did the same, and Tiff got to sprint across the finish for her first win! UCSD got 1-2-3 overall for B/C, and Liz got her first podium finish as well, getting 3rd in the C’s.

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UCSD Cycling Year in Review

POSTED BY LAUREN SAWVELLE

Liz Henry - UCSB race weekend

Kicking off the year, UCSD made history by sending its first ever enduro mountain bike team up to Stage 1 of the California Enduro Series in Fontana, CA. The stages were challenging and the heat was intense, but that didn’t stop Sofia DeWolfe from placing 1st and getting “Queen of the Mountain” in the Beginner category.

After a tough but well fought road season, UCSD placed 6th out of 28 teams in the conference. We consistently placed top 5 in all races that we attended with 18 for Women’s A, 1 for Men’s A,  20 for Women’s B, 3 for Men’s B, 15 for Women’s C, 3 for Men’s C, and 5 for Men’s D. That’s a total of 66 top 5 finishes! Some notable individual overall performances include: Katherine Ellis (6th), Esther Walker (14th), Drew Ceccato (7th), and Lillian McCormick (20th).

Thanks to the support of numerous sponsors and community members, we were able to send four women’s A riders across the country to compete at USA Cycling Collegiate Road Nationals. For the second year in a row, it was located in the scenic and hilly mountains of North Carolina. Our four riders, PhD student in Cognitive Science Esther Walker, PhD student in Electrical and Computer Engineering Kat Ellis, PhD student in Chemistry Katherine Nadler, and graduating undergraduate in Ecology, Behavior, and Evolution Alex Reich competed in three grueling events: a 77 km road race, 50-minute criterium, and 30 km team time trial, as well as 3 of the 4 riders also putting down the 20 km individual time trial.

Competing at the national level is a unique opportunity that motivates and inspires the team throughout the collegiate season and really pushes our athletes to perform at their best. This year, our riders took home three top-25 finishes in the road race, two top-20 finishes in the criterium, BRONZE medal in the team time trial, and a 6th place in the individual time trial.

It’s also worth noting that the bronze medal in the Nationals team time trial pushed UCSD to 11th place in the overall national team omnium. This is significant because we are one of about 3 non-varsity teams to finish with such high rankings against much better funded varsity teams, and demonstrates how competitive we are on a national level.

After the road season ended the UCSD Cycling team once again hosted the 22nd annual Tour de Donuts in conjunction with the UCSD Triathlon team and the Campus Bike and Skate Shop. This year, the standing record of 18 donuts held by Ian MacNeill was smashed by Roger Ainslie, who devoured an incredible 21 donuts, and claimed the title of “Gluttonous Champion”.

Our future team goals are to make cycling more accessible, affordable, and fun for new members, and expand further into other cycling disciplines, specifically mountain and cyclocross. Our competition goal for each discipline this coming year is to qualify for nationals and ride hard, have fun, and eat cake.

We hope to carry our momentum over to track season, as well as next year’s road and mountain season, where we plan to further develop and grow the UCSD Cycling team into a nationally-recognized name.

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April 16 & 17 Cycling

POSTED BY MICHAEL ZHONG

Cal Poly/Sea Otter Race Weekend: April 16th and 17th

 

I am really happy that Cal Poly decided to combine their collegiate race with Sea Otter Classic. It was an amazing experience to spend a weekend with my teammates and coach surrounded by cyclists of all levels, ages, and varieties (road, cross, mountain), view the latest in technology and products, and also race on the famous Laguna Seca Raceway.

 

Day 1 was the circuit race held on the raceway. After driving for nine hours the night before and setting up camp at one in the morning, we had a slightly rushed morning (the fairgrounds are HUGE and parking was very crowded), but we made it through registration and to the start line. We were told the women’s fields would be combined, but scored separately, and after next-to-no warmup, the race started. This was my first weekend racing as a B, and racing with all categories combined changes the dynamics a lot. Not surprisingly, the race started off fast, and was a steep climb up followed by a fast descent down the corkscrew (fun, but mildly terrifying), several wide U-turns, another hill, and then crossing under the finish arch to do it again. The race started separating out almost immediately given the amount of climbing, and I stayed on with the A’s for a lap or two, but kept falling behind at the descent. I found Alex, and we started working together until the last lap, and they called us off the course early (only 30 min) and when we though we still had a lap left. Luckily a sprint finish wasn’t required, because I wouldn’t have known to do it and managed to finish first.

 

The morning of Day 2 went much smoother than the previous day, with time to pack up the campsite, stop for coffee, and WALK to the start of the road race. Women’s fields were combined again, and we all climbed up from the race track past the finish line and then descended neutralized behind an official car, where they then pulled off after a hard left turn and the race began at the start of the loop we would complete 5 times before climbing back to an uphill finish. The loop started off with a pretty decent climb but there was a large group that mostly stayed together through the first lap. Ascending the hill on the second lap separated out a chunk of the field, but I was determined to stay with the front group for as long as I could hang on. The pace picked up in the second lap, and towards the end, Kat came back and told me the hill to start the next loop was going to hurt, but I couldn’t let a gap form and should stay up to the front; I later found out some of the A’s were getting antsy to drop stragglers. Sure enough, the lead group charged up the hill to start the third lap, dropping everyone. I hung on for a long as I could, but started losing Kat and two Stanford riders towards the end of the climb and the gap increased to ~200m after the descent (not my strength). As I was riding solo and trying to catch up to them, a Stanford A that was trying to get to her teammates passed me and I hopped on her wheel. I lost her draft during an aggressive descent (again, not my strength), and was again solo, but now going into a headwind. I slowed a little to wait for my teammates, Alex and Katherine; they were upset they brought another B rider to me, but I was really happy to get a break and hop on a wheel. The four of us worked together for the remaining two loops, picking up a UC Davis A on the hill going into the fourth lap and a UCLA A mid-lap-4. Everyone was happy to work together, and it was really fun to get a good rhythm going. We were all very excited to pass the hill after our fifth lap, but then quickly realized we had quite a climb ahead of us. I knew there was one other B rider among us and that I had to play my cards wisely before the finish. I originally thought I could get her on the long climb to the end, but she was staying strong. Our group started breaking up, until it was me and the Stanford B, the Davis A, and the UCLA A. Davis attacked, the Stanford girl and I passed her not long after, and then it was just the two of us. I was waiting for a last-minute attack, but the finish was confusing and split in half with the finish on the left and the DNF on the right. Neither of us were paying attention at this point, and the Stanford rider started going right. I was caught on the right side of her wheel, and had to drop back and go around to start the sprint, but didn’t quite have enough and came in a close second. All of our women and men finished the beautiful, but brutal (aka “soul-crushing”) race successfully, and I will be happy to rest after a long, but very fun and exciting weekend.

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Collegiate Track National Championships

POSTED BY LAUREN SAWVELLE

UC San Diego returned this weekend from one of its strongest ever showings at USA Cycling’s Collegiate Track National Championships. The championships were held at the U.S. Olympic training center in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Twelve Tritons traveled to race: Esther Walker, Holly Resh, Lily McCormick, Aileen Tran, Eric Geier, Daniel Yang, Daniel Freilich, Sean Lee, Masato Yoshihara, Todd Woodlan, Chris Bonner and coach Pat Jak. Team members were lucky enough to stay in the Olympic training center and get the real athlete experience (and get to take home their own OTC ID badges!).

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Feb 27 & 28 Cycling

POSTED BY MICHAEL ZHONG

By Esther Walker

Boulevard

 

Boulevard is hard. Typically, we host this race at the end of January, and so it’s usually the season opener for many racers. This year, we held the race a month later. As a result, the weather was much more pleasant, but people were also in a lot better shape, making the race’s nickname “bully-vard” particularly appropriate this year. The race starts with a long descent, followed by some painful rollers, and topped off with a 4 mile or so climb to the finish. Most racers get the pleasure of doing this 22 mile loop multiple times. This year, as it was UC San Diego’s home race, I raced with the Collegiate As, rather than with SDBC. The collegiate A’s were put in the field as the P/1/2 women, and there were some heavy hitters on the pro roster (notably Katie Donovan and Gretchen Stumhofer of Colavita). Luckily, we only had to do 2 laps, while they did 3, but as a result, it made race tactics for the two fields interesting.

The first lap was mostly uneventful. We navigated the decent, worked through the rollers with no major attacks, and then hit THE HILL. The field suddenly split into two main packs, with Kat and two other collegiate girls in the front back, and me and some other P/1/2s in the chase pack. I don’t consider myself a particularly strong climber, so I was just happy to have company on the climb. After the first half of the climb, it leveled out a bit and the group I was with decided to start to chase hard. We eventually caught the lead pack at the beginning of the decent and the pace slowed down again. I sat in the pack and for the most part, it was really uneventful. At some points, it felt like we were going at a crawling pace.

This gave me a lot of time to think.  I started wondering what would happen if I attacked, since there were technically two completely different fields racing together. One possibility was that I’d immediately get swallowed pack up by the P/1/2 peloton. The other possibility was they’d let me get away because I was in a collegiate field and so wasn’t actually racing against them. Ideally, the other collegiate girls would chase me down and we’d start our race to the finish. Thankfully, the latter is exactly what happened. I attacked just before the turn to the rollers. At first, no one followed. I got further and further away. Then, I looked behind me and saw a red jersey flying towards me – it was Amy from CSU Channel Islands. Perfect. Then UC Davis came flying in. Finally, I saw Kat chasing Davis and I knew we were good to go. The P/1/2s continued at their mellow pace (after all, they had a whole other lap to complete after we were done) and we set our sights toward the finish. We rotated through the rollers, nothing eventful happened. We hit the hill and started rotating up it at a good pace, but nothing too fast.  After finishing my pull, I started to pull off and noticed a light green jersey fly past me – it was Katie the super-climbing-pro from Colavita.  Davis seized this moment to make an attack and jumped to catch Katie’s wheel. Amy and Kat followed suit. I was caught by surprise after my pull and was toast. I let them go, happy that Kat was in there, as she’s a strong climber and had a good chance of winning in that pack. A few more pro riders caught me, and I tried unsuccessfully to hold their wheels. My legs weren’t having it. Jo (my SDBC teammate) came by and I sat on her wheel for a bit, only to be shot back off soon after. Finally, a group of four other P/1/2 riders came by and yelled at me to hop on. I dug deep and worked with them to the finish. I made it to the line and was overjoyed with the thought that I didn’t have to do another lap. Kat got 2nd (yay!) and I rolled in for fourth. Not a bad day for the UC San Diego Women’s A team!

 

 

Rock’em Shock’em Crit

 

The collegiate women’s A’s raced in the same field as the women’s 3s, so, as at Boulevard, we had to be vigilant about paying attention to what riders were collegiate and what riders were in the 3s, as they were scored separately. To be honest, I really don’t have much of a memory of how most of this crit went down. We were tired from a long, full day of volunteering and racing at Boluevard, and had just finished a team time trial, followed by more volunteering that morning.

From what I remember, the start was pretty uneventful. Not many attacks. Not many surges. There were a couple of sprints for primes, but that’s about it. I tend to get antsy when the race is uneventful, so I eventually went for an attack. It was chased down, which I was happy with because it was still early in the race. Then Pat Murray (of SDBC) went off the front with a LaGrange rider. Since they were both in a different field (racing for the 3s) and since I race with Pat on my other team (SDBC), I had absolutely no desire to chase it down. Neither, it appeared, did anyone else. We let them go and I was excited for the opportunity for Pat to potentially win in a breakaway. However, Pat eventually trickled back into the field to rest up for what would be a great sprint finish for her! The LaGrange rider continued soloing at the front. From this point to the last lap or two I don’t really remember much. But with about two to go, I launched another attack to see if I could get any separation. I got nothing. Then, coming into the last lap, I went to the front, hoping Kat or someone from UC San Diego was on my wheel. I drilled it at the front for a bit, but was starting to get tired. Then, like an angel from nowhere, Holly accelerated right up next to me and I hopped on her wheel. She rode smooth and fast, and delivered me at a good speed to the third corner before pulling off (thanks Holly!). Then I saw Matea and was about to jump on her wheel when I noticed the field starting to accelerate. Building off of the momentum and rest Holly had just provided me, I did something I never do – I accelerated to full speed and dove into the final corner, just ahead of the field. I sprinted and sprinted (and probably once again forgot to stand up and sprint) until I hit the line. After crossing, I saw Kat (UC San Diego) and Amy (of CSU Channel Islands) right there with me and so I was unsure of the finishing order. We then heard someone say UC San Diego got the 1-2 punch, with Kat coming in just behind me, followed by Amy. Another good day for UC San Diego!
Big shout out to Fred for organizing an awesome and well-run race weekend and to the entire UC San Diego team for working dawn till dusk all weekend to make this possible! It was great to see many awesome UC San Diego results at our home races despite all of our volunteering hours!

 

By Ben Kurtz

Boulevard

As usual, getting to the start line on time was the most stressful part of the race.  Normally it’s because we drove a long way and were up late the night before and getting anywhere for a 7am race start is a pain.  This time I’d _arrived_ plenty early, but then spent the next hour driving the rented flatbed truck around to get the last few signs set out.  With only 35 minutes to go to my race, I parked the truck and warmed up by jogging back to reg.
In the C/D field, there’s not much by way of strategy to Boulevard: don’t crash on the descent, and then don’t get dropped once the climbing starts.  Part 1 (don’t crash) proceeded pretty much according to plan.  As we started into the rollers, I noticed that my rear tire felt a little squishy, but I told myself I must be imagining it and to keep on going.  Between the three hours of sleep and lively competition, I had to work hard to keep up, but as we started up the bottom of the big hill I was still solidly in the lead group.  However, by this point it was clear I wasn’t imagining my squishy tire; now the race was against physics as it was the other racers.  I made it about half way to the KOM point with the leaders, but the pace was just too much and after that I couldn’t keep up.  I yelled some words of encouragement to Jeff and Matt and Matthew as they passed me up, but it was clear I was done racing for the day.  By the time I made it to the top of the hill, my tire was down to probably 15 psi, and I didn’t even get to sprint for the line.  On the bright side, I still managed a top 10 finish!

Rock’em Shock’em Crit

Sunday’s Crit started off uneventfully enough.  There were some early attempts at a break (I pulled one back, and took a shot at going with another) but nothing stuck, and soon enough the cards were up and we had six laps to go.  Then five, and then I lost track for a little bit, and then two.  The next time I came around, the pack slowed up, and I found myself moving easily up to the front.  I didn’t really want to spend the last lap pulling the field, but it was clear no one else did either, so going into corner 2 I decided to just go for it and see if I could make it to the finish in front.  Somehow as we rounded the final corner I was still in the lead and I was going as hard as I could and no one was coming around me even though I don’t have a sprint and I’d been at the front the whole lap.  Then I was across the line and thinking “wow, my first victory; that seemed like they let me have it way too easy” when I heard the announcer: “2 laps to go.”  NOOOOOOO!  I must have miscounted the laps.  Needless to say, my race was pretty much over at that point, and I finished off the back of the pack a ways, though I did manage to edge out another rider at the last second.

As my consolation prize, the rest of the team did _really_ well all day: Katherine won the women’s Cs, while Alex and Rachel were first and third in the Bs and Esther and Kat took the top two slots in the As.  Jeff and the guys pulled off some awesome strategy for a win in the Men’s Ds, and Eric had a spectacular race in the As, bridging huge gaps multiple times to get with a breakaway that lapped the field, and then sprinting to take the win!  All in all an awesome weekend!

 

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Feb 20 Cycling

POSTED BY MICHAEL ZHONG

UC Santa Cruz Race Weekend

By Willie Chao

 

Road race:

After a long 8 hour drive arriving at Santa Cruz at 2AM and a sleepless night, Rachel volunteered to drive me to the road race early at 6AM. With the help of a friendly local officer, we made it to the register a little later than scheduled. It was just my second race, and I was poorly prepared, thinking that I just needed a couple laps around the parking lot to warm up. The front of group launched off into the starting climb, while the middle and back of the group either struggled to keep up or clip in. I made a novice decision, thinking that I would be okay to start in the back of a large group. The men D’s group was stretched out 300 meters from the start, which quickly became bigger as we entered the descent a couple minutes later. Being caught in the back, I played catch-up for the first half of the race.  After a couple of laps I finally caught up with the front of the D’s, but the C’s rolled up behind us, so I thought I would just sit up and wait for them to pass. I soon realized the D’s had gone with the C’s pace and I was alone. I continued to ride at my own pace, passing a couple of suffering riders, and made it to the finish.

 

Crit Race:

It was only an hour drive down from our host housing, and we arrived a good hour and half early. The races were delayed because there was a big crash in the men B’s and some poor soul had to get wheeled out by an ambulance. After getting a decent warm up and making sure I remember to start at the front of the group, I thought I was ready for the race. I was wrong. I could not clip in for the first two corners and I was quickly at the back of the group again. With two laps in, two riders in front of me touched wheels; one went under the other and dragged him down. I slammed my brakes but still front flipped over my bars. There was a blazing red hot crackling pain in my left shin and I thought I had broken it, but all I saw was some skin missing. I quickly fixed my chain and got back into the race. With a couple more laps to go, I heard a horrid tires screeching and carbon banging sound on a corner. I was on the inside of that corner when the second crash took out the entire group on the outside of me. I thought, “thank goodness I was on the inside.” Then there was a faint sound of a bell, but I didn’t realize it was the last lap until everyone started to ramp up the speed. I swung out to the outside on the last corner and went for the sprint on the straightaway finish, and got 3rd. Everyone got podium and we got in-n-out after the race, it was a great race weekend.

 

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Feb 13 & 14 Cycling

POSTED BY MICHAEL ZHONG

UCLA Road Race and Roger Millikan Memorial Criterium –Alex’s Race Report

 

Road race:

It was a cold morning out in the middle of nowhere. Lilly and I lined up towards the back of the small pack of racers. I was nervous, but I tried to rationalize my way out of it. I knew the race would start slow, so there was no real reason to stress out.

The race did start at a slow place, almost comically slow. Five or six UCLA girls were in the front and seemed reluctant to go any faster. One UCLA girl broke ahead as the gradient increased. I swerved around her teammates in hopes of picking up the pack’s pace and Lilly followed. They didn’t have any intention of going faster. That was the last we saw of the other racers until the finish line, twenty miles later.

Lilly and I followed the UCLA girl, Maddy, up the hill, and then rested behind her down the hill. When the road flattened out we all worked together in a pace line. The gradient steepened as we approached the second lap. I died a little bit every time Lilly took a pull. Maddy sprinted and got the KOM, which Lilly and I had completely forgotten about in the excitement of racing. I managed to hang on to Lilly and Maddy until almost to the top of the climb. I caught them again just before the downhill. Maddy flatted on the downhill and Lilly and I had to leave her behind. Working with her the whole time, it would have been nice to finish the race with her. Then it was just Lilly and me…and an uphill finish. She sped away from me on the climb and we went 1-2 for UC San Diego.

 

Criterium:

Going into the crit I had three goals: (1) clip in, (2) don’t crash, and (3) don’t crash on my right side (I had healing road rash from the last crash). Just as I was mentally celebrating completing the first goal, I failed the other two. The girl to my right lost control and fell into my bike, her handlebars going through my front wheel and the impact throwing me from my bike. I got my spare wheel and the wheel pit people launched me back in a lap later. Jumpy from the adrenaline and my shoulder and hip burning from contact with the asphalt, I stayed mid-pack and tried to calm down. I was cautious and focused on avoiding another crash. With five laps to go, I decided it’s time to start thinking about the sprint. I found my teammates and sat on their wheels near the front of the group. I didn’t like where I was going into the final lap, mid pack and on the inside, but at least I was near Kat. I yelled “go Kat!” and she accelerated on the backstretch, and then it was Kat, me, and then everyone else behind us. We took the second to last turn fast, and behind me I heard screams and bikes hitting the ground. I went around Kat at the final turn and sprinted to the finish unchallenged. I was 1st, Kat got 3rd, Matea 4th, Holly was down a lap due to a mechanical, and Katherine went down in the crash (she’s ok!). It was fun having so many UC San Diego girls around to work with during the race.

 

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Nov 14 Cycling

POSTED BY MICHAEL ZHONG

UC Santa Cruz Shreditation Retreat

Last weekend, November 14-15th, UC San Diego competed in its first collegiate mountain bike race, in Santa Cruz California. Having traditionally focused on road and track racing, we’ve been trying to get a mountain bike team at UC San Diego started for a couple years. It’s tricky because most other schools in our conference that compete in mountain bike are in northern California, so any race we compete in involves a 6+ hour drive. But we finally found a weekend that worked for us, rented a giant pickup truck, and made our way up to Santa Cruz for the weekend. The race was the conference championships hosted by UC Santa Cruz, consisting of four races: short track cross-country, super downhill, cross country, and downhill.

Short track cross country was the first race Saturday morning. As their first-ever mountain bike race, Holly, Dana and Kat competed in the Women’s B race. Short track cross-country is the criterium of mountain bike racing: 25 minutes on a 1-mile loop consisting of a climb up a fire road and a somewhat technical single-track descent. After a poor starting position due to an incorrectly advertised start time, Kat and Dana made up a lot of ground on the initial climb. At the first sign of technical feature, however, Kat lost control of her bike and did a face plant into the ground. After recovering, Kat and Dana rode the rest of the race together, placing 4th and 5th respectively. Holly finished 10th, and everyone was happy to have completed their first mountain bike race.

In the afternoon was the super downhill race: a 1.2 mile downhill course, slightly less fast and steep than a pure downhill. Riders are spaced by a minute and are scored by time. Eric and Zack competed in the super downhill, also as their first-ever mountain bike race. After a few practice runs of the course, they took off on the real deal. The course featured one intimidating feature: a 3-foot rock-drop near the top of the course. Apparently the drop was intimidating enough that in the lead-up to it, Eric’s wheel found a root and he went down. He got up and finished the rest of the course flawlessly, however, including the rock drop. Final results haven’t been posted yet, so we’ll have to assume for now that Eric and Zack had great performances.

The crew woke up Sunday morning to steady rain. Mountain biking on wet trails is not only more dangerous for the rider, but can cause a lot of damage to the trails. The race directors announced that the races were delayed 2 hours due to the rain, after which they would re-evaluate whether the race would be held. Thinking ahead to our 8 hour drive home to San Diego, we decided not to wait around. The forecast showed rain continuing into the afternoon, and we thought it was unlikely the race would go on. (Unfortunately, we wrong—the rain cleared up for a while and they did end up holding the race). That meant that Daniel, who was planning on only competing in the cross-country race, didn’t get a chance to race that weekend. Luckily he got some riding in on Saturday with his friends from home to make up for it.

Overall, it was a great weekend in beautiful Santa Cruz. Many thanks to the UCSC students who hosted the team in their apartment for the weekend. We’ll be back next season with more experience ready to race!

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Sept 17 Cycling

POSTED BY MICHAEL ZHONG

Collegiate Track National Championships

 

UC San Diego returned this weekend from one of its strongest ever showings at USA Cycling’s Collegiate Track National Championships. The championships were held at the U.S. Olympic training center in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Twelve Tritons traveled to race: Esther Walker, Holly Resh, Lily McCormick, Aileen Tran, Eric Geier, Daniel Yang, Daniel Freilich, Sean Lee, Masato Yoshihara, Todd Woodlan, Chris Bonner and coach Pat Jak. Team members were lucky enough to stay in the Olympic training center and get the real athlete experience (and get to take home their own OTC ID badges!).

 

Competition consisted of three days of races, which ranged in distance from 200m to 30km. For those unfamiliar with track cycling, racers ride around a 333m banked concrete track called a Velodrome. There are a variety of race formats, each of which might play to a different set of skills. Match sprints pit two racers against each other in short, fast races. Racers face each other one-on-one, tournament style, until a winner is found. The individual pursuit is similar but racers start on opposite sides of the track to “pursue” each other, with final results determined by time. In the time trial each racer has the track to themselves in a race against the clock. The scratch race is a traditional mass-start race of 4 to 6 km – the first rider across the finish line is the winner. The points race is longer and more tactical – placing 1st, 2nd or 3rd in certain laps earns the rider more points, and points are tallied after the race to determine the winner. There are team events as well – the team pursuit puts three to four teammates on the track to work together and earn the fastest time. The team sprint is similar, but each lap the team’s leading rider drops out to leave the final rider to sprint a solo lap as hard as they can.

UC San Diego put up some great results, earning top-ten spots in the women’s individual pursuit, men’s match sprint, men’s 1000m TT, women’s scratch race, men’s scratch race, women’s team pursuit, men’s team pursuit, and co-ed team sprint.

Both Esther Walker and Eric Geier earned 6th place in the overall individual omnium, and UC San Diego as a team placed 7th overall. UC San Diego showed they have what it takes to compete with the top schools in the country, and more importantly, have a ton of fun doing it.

UCSD Results:

 

Overall Omniums:

Overall Team Omnium: UCSD 7th place

Overall Individual Omnium, Women: Esther 6th, Holly 35th

Overall Individual Omnium, Men: Eric 6th, Yang 41st

 

Team Events:

Coed Team Sprint: 3rd place

Women’s Team Pursuit (Esther, Holly, Lilly) – 7th

Men’s Team Pursuit (Eric, Yang, Freilich, Lee) – 10th

 

Individual Events:

Women’s Individual Pursuit: Esther 3rd, Lilly 31st, Holly 42nd

Men’s Individual Pursuit: Eric 17th, Masato 47th, Yang 48th, Sean 51st

Women’s Points Race: Esther 7th, Holly 14th

Men’s Points Race: Eric 11th, Yang 27th

Women’s Sprint: Aileen 16th, Esther 18th, Holly 32nd

Men’s Sprint: Eric 5th, Todd 12th, Freilich 20th, Bonner 22nd, Yang 28th

Women’s 500m: Aileen 24th, Esther 28th, Holly 46th

Men’s 1000m: Eric 8th, Freilich 19th, Bonner 43rd, Todd 44th, Masato 60th

Women Scratch Race: Esther 7th, Holly 27th

Men’s Scratch Race: Eric 4th

 

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March 26 & 27 Cycling

POSTED BY MICHAEL ZHONG

Berkeley TTT

 

The team time trial was a 12-mile out and back along the course of the road race. Myself, Esther and Holly made up the Women’s A team, and Rachel and Lily made a Women’s B team. Unfortunately only two men (Justin and Ben) made the trip, which wasn’t enough to field a men’s TTT team. Esther, Holly and I talked about starting conservatively because we knew the course got hilly near the turn-around. But on the way out we had a nice tail wind and slight downhill, and found ourselves rolling along close to 30mph. We soon caught the Davis team, who had started a minute before us. As soon as the hills started it got tougher. Holly did a great job staying on our wheels and we made it through the hilly part, only to hit a big headwind on the way back. It was tough but we kept our efforts high. We were happy to learn after we finished that not only had we won the women’s A race, but Rachel and Lily had won their B race (and would have placed second if they had been an A team).

 

Road Race

 

Only 9 women started the 63 mile road race for the women’s A field: four from Stanford, one Cal, one Davis, and three of us from UC San Diego. The course was three laps, with an approximately 1.5 mile stretch of gravel mid-lap and a few short but steep hills scattered throughout. The first lap was uneventful until we hit the gravel section, where Grace from Stanford picked up the pace. Looking back when we exited the gravel I saw that we had dropped Holly. The lap continued at a steadier pace, although Grace would ramp up the pace a bit every time we hit a hill.

 

By the start of the second lap people were getting antsy, and a few attacks were made. Esther and I knew Grace was the one to watch, so we let the others chase them down. At one point a Stanford girl attacked and got away for a while. No one seemed to want to chase her immediately, until for some reason another Stanford girl decided to attack as well and chase her down. The second time through the gravel Grace again went to the front and pushed the pace. When we got back to pavement I saw that we had dropped the Cal and Davis girls and a Stanford girl. So now it was three Sanford versus two UC San Diego. On our way back to the start/finish we dropped one more Stanford girl.

 

As we began the third and final lap we settled into even rotations between the four of us. Esther and I could tell the second Stanford girl was hurting, so we tried to push the pace – as we hit the hills again she dropped off. Coming into the gravel for the final time it was just the three of us – Grace, Esther and me, and I started focusing on saving my energy for a final sprint. Then, two thirds of the way through the gravel, Grace flatted. As she stopped to wait for a new wheel, Esther and I asked each other what the proper etiquette was – should we wait and soft pedal, or take advantage of the opportunity to push the pace and stay away from her? We were both thinking it wouldn’t feel right if we ended up winning this way, and we kept the pace easy for a while. Sure enough, Grace caught back on just before the hilly section. She seemed happy to take the lead for the final few miles. Finally we hit the final climb to the finish. Esther and Grace stood up to sprint. I tried to split the gap between them but there wasn’t enough room and I bumped Grace a little. As the road flattened out I tried to put down some final power, but it wasn’t quite enough to pass Grace – I finished second by about a wheel length, and Esther was third behind me.

 

Crit

 

The Crit course was very short (less than half a mile), with a noticeable hill in the finish stretch. Today there was a new Stanford girl, Liz, who hadn’t been in the road race, who Esther and I knew to watch out for. The pace started quickly, and much like the road race, Grace was on the front pushing the pace right away. I was in second position on her wheel for the first few laps. After a while a looked around and noticed there were only four of us left in the front pack – me and Esther from UC San Diego, and Grace and Liz from Stanford. As the pace slowed down, coach pat yelled that if we weren’t careful another Stanford girl might catch back up. So Esther and I put in a few attacks, hoping to keep the pace up, catch the other two off guard and tire them out. Grace and Liz threw in a few counter attacks, but nobody really got away. Finally it was the final lap, and Liz attacked again. Esther and I followed, and were on her wheel by the bottom turn. As we approached the final turn, some lapped riders forced us to take an outside line, but we made our way through them. We all sprinted up the final hill to the finish, Esther and Liz neck and neck with me on their wheels. After we crossed the line the spectators congratulated Esther on her win – even the Stanford coach. But the race official made the call in favor of Liz. We were pretty disappointed, especially because the finish line camera had been set up so not all of Esther’s bike was in view. But it was a fun and exciting race overall.

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Mar 19 Cycling

POSTED BY MICHAEL ZHONG

UC Merced Race Weekend

By Dana Song

 

Merced RR:

The field was quite small. About 13 girls, give or take a couple, were racing in the Women’s B/C. Katherine, Tiffany, and I formed UC San Diego’s team, and the rest were the usual competing schools: Stanford, UCSB, UCD, UCLA, the works. Stern Referee Dude walks up, gives us the usual pre-race information dump, then after a minute of waiting, he blows the whistle, and we were off. As expected, the peloton rolls off slowly, and we maintain that no-drop pace for about 10 minutes, until we hit our first little climb (the entire road race had no major hills, just short rolling ones. Very reasonable for non-climbers). Katherine decided to launch an attack at that moment, and I quickly sucked onto her wheel, along with a UCSB chick and a Stanford Chick. And thus we formed our breakaway that was maintained until the end of the race.

 

A UCLA chick eventually caught up to us, and for the rest of the road race, all five of us formed a paceline. It was very amicable. No one tried to pull any fast ones on one or another. Also, since we were a breakaway of five, that meant we were all guaranteed to podium. I think we were all pretty happy about that. In the last few miles of the race, the road started to get a lot uglier and less maintained. I best describe riding on that portion of the course like sitting on a mobile vibrating massage chair that’s trying to buck you off. Fortunately, no one ended up flatting. It was only when we were approaching the finish line when we all fell out of line, and made a mad dash. Katherine had a clear lead, and then it was UCSB chick, then me. I ended up passing the UCSB chick few seconds before the finish line, and snagged that second place.

 

So all in all, great race, pretty easy course, and very nice farm scenery, with plenty of cows and sheep. 10/10 would recommend everyone to race it in the future.

 

Merced Crit:

The Crit was quite fun. It’s a mile long square that circled around most of the UC Merced campus (which gives a sense of how small the newly fledged UC campus is). There were two tricky corners, one which was a narrow left hand, and another which immediately was followed by a downhill, which made for a quick left hand corner. Approaching the finish line, there is a gradual climb, which added some additional difficulty. The Womens B/C field was small, with only about 10 people racing. Upon starting, I pulled for a bit before I got tired of breaking wind and slowed down enough for someone to become impatient and ride ahead of me. There were three primes, two of which I won. Upon the 2nd prime, I realized I put enough distance between myself and the pack where a solo breakaway might’ve been sustainable. However, I doubted my endurance, chickened out, and let myself get sucked back into the pack (better safe than sorry, I suppose).

 

At the very last lap before the finish, the same breakaway group from the previous road race formed again, and we all made a sprint for the finish. Overall, Katherine ended up first again, UCSB girl got second, and I snagged a third, earning me first place in the C’s. Tiffany ended up finishing 6th, which meant she placed a third place podium in the C’s (way to go, Tiff!) And of course, Katherine ended up first place in the B’s. 10/10 would recommend everyone to race this course in the future.

 

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Jan 30 Cycling

POSTED BY MICHAEL ZHONG

Tucson, Arizona through the Eyes of William and Matt

William Wright

Racing in Arizona was awesome. This trip to Tucson was my first chance to race with the UC San Diego team and it was an amazing experience. The weekend started out with the long drive to Tucson with us (Matt, Alex, Matea and myself) arriving late the night before the first Crit.

When we got to the course the next morning, it was freezing and still dark. Being my first race, I didn’t really know how to prepare and looking back, I wish I had warmed up a good half hour more before starting. There were four of us racing in the Men’s Collegiate C category and none of us knew what to expect. To be honest, I was nervous, but ended up doing better than I had expected. I had a rough time clipping in, and took a few turns wider than I should’ve and got pulled with 4 laps to go as a result. In the end, even though I got pulled, it was a good experience and I learned a lot.

My second race that day was the Open Category 4/5. It was the largest field of the day, and the start was even more hectic than my previous race. It was much faster than the first race and there were several instances where I almost crashed due to my inexperience as well as the size of the field. I ended up getting pulled with 15 minutes left in the race, after having to unclip to avoid a crash, but even with that, it was a great experience and I learned a lot that I hope to use in our next race.

The following day was the 40 Mile road race. Again, it was our first time racing together and I personally didn’t know what to expect. We were racing with the Men’s 35+ Category 4/5, along with the Men’s Collegiate C in a very large field. I ended up getting separated from the main group at the end of the first lap, and had to chase for the last lap. Ended up finishing 15th in the field, so I was happy with that, but look forward to improving in the next race.

All in all, it was a great weekend with the team, and I was excited to get the experience that I did, meet people from different teams, and learn a lot about cycling!

 

Matt Clemens

As the motor pace pulls away from the front of the peloton and waives us through I am unsure of what to expect of the next 40 miles of racing. Almost immediately, someone goes off the front of the group, reminding me that this is in fact a race.  Not only that, but it is my first race.  The early jumper is quickly caught back up by the peloton, after all the first six miles of the race are a blistering descent that averages around 47 mph.

While it is fun bombing down a hill for six miles it isn’t very productive towards keeping warm and when we make the right turn at the bottom of the descent I am cold.  The pack is still together and we go into the rollers.  I quickly warm back up as the riders pulling at the front set a pretty high pace up the rollers.  On the flats people are talking to each other, murmuring about their race plans whilst dodging the chunks of rock in the bike lane.  Then we turned right onto the climbing portion of the first lap and all hell breaks loose.  Right away there is an attack by some UofA riders off of the front.  I assume that since it is early on in the race they won’t be able to stay out in front.  I soon realize that I am sorely mistaken, and that this climb was much different than I had anticipated.  It was a very pitchy climb and some people could not handle the pace that was set up some of the steeper parts and were quickly dropped off of the peloton.

At the top of the climb I found myself in a group with about 7 riders from different teams as the rest of the peloton had been left behind us.  We quickly decided that in order to catch up to the breakaway we would need to work together.  As we crossed the finish line and initiated our second and final lap, we also initiated a rotating pace line that kept the speed on the downhill section very high.  We did manage to get the break away in sight again, but on the climb things changed up.  Some of the riders in my group were energy zapped from their efforts in the pace line and didn’t have any watts left to help pull up the climb and into the headwind.  I decided that I had enough energy to do a little extra work for the group, as they had been helpful to me and allowed me to work in with them even though I wasn’t on their team.  At the top of the climb I hung on to some wheels until the final three turns and even though I didn’t manage to catch the breakaway I did manage to edge out a rider from a different category in the uphill sprint and snagged 6th place.  Not to bad for my first road race.

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