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.