California Vacation

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When we visit a beautiful place, it’s always hard to come home, no matter how good it does feel to be safely home. The long lines at the airport and the inconsiderate person who jams their seat back into your knees on the airplane is all worth it when given the opportunity to visit California.

We stayed in the Sonoma area for four days, followed by three days in San Francisco. This was my second trip to California, having been to San Diego about two years ago. I really enjoyed California on my first visit; this trip would also prove to be rewarding. However, I much prefer San Diego weather. I didn’t realize how chilly northern California was in late May to early June!

We landed in San Francisco and drove a rental car to a beautiful home rented through Airbnb. It turned out to be a really nice area with a spectacular view of the valley below. Although not technically in Sonoma or Napa, it was within reach after a drive equivalent to the distance across Houston—minus the chemical plants and smog of course.

I was looking forward to the next few days in which we would tour the area, and of course drink some wine! I didn’t bring my bike on this trip, but I did bring my gear so that a bike rental was possible.

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Delicious and oh so bad pastry from Bouchon Bakery.

Yountville is a quaint little town nestled between Napa and St. Helena where we enjoyed fine dining and delicious pastries at Bouchon Bakery. I can highly recommend the cream cheese blueberry jam pastry which I had already begun to devour as the picture here shows. North of Yountville, we toured several wineries, including Beringer and Inglenook. I personally love a red zinfandel, so it was quite pleasant to relax outside with a glass of wine on these beautiful vineyards.

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Obligatory picture of grapes!

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It was hard to contain my excitement about the chance to ride in California again. I had mapped out a challenging route that included a lot of climbing. The ride was a blast, but some of the climbs were extremely hard and very steep, which caught me by surprise when I struggled to get over them. I rented the bike in Yountville and rode to our house in Novato. It ended up being 60 miles with about 4,800 feet of climbing. You can view my ride data here and watch a video of my ride below. The following picture gives you an idea of the elevation and gradient profile over the route, with the hardest and steepest sections at the beginning.

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On Monday morning, we packed up and drove into San Francisco. This was quite an experience to see such steep hills in the middle of an urban environment. After settling into a new house, also rented through AirBnB, we headed out to explore the city. Of course I couldn’t miss the opportunity to get a panoramic picture of the Bay Bridge.

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IMG_3260We walked 4 miles observing the diverse cultures throughout the city, though admittedly I was more excited to reach the bike shop! I finally reached my destination after what seemed like 20 miles of walking to rent another bike, this frame fitting me much better than the first. I planned to ride 100 miles down to La Honda the following day. While riding the bike to the house that evening, I found Filbert Street, one of the steepest in the city at 31.5% gradient.

lombard6This seemed like such a cool challenge to climb. I was pedaling in the smallest gear I had while standing up and leaning as far forward as I could, yet the front wheel was STILL lifting off of the ground as the bike rocked from side to side! It was a unique and scary experience. I couldn’t have stopped if I wanted to or else I would have crashed right there, and then likely slid to the bottom of the hill. You know it’s steep when the side walk has stairs in it!

Although it was great seeing San Francisco that first day, I knew the entire second day would be spent on the bike as the ride out to La Honda is quite a haul with a lot of climbing. It was definitely worth it though, with stunning scenery and challenging mountain climbs and descents. I rode 105 miles and climbed just over 9,000 feet. You can see the route and data here and the elevation profile below.

Screenshot 2015-06-05 10.56.40I tried to stop and take pictures and video often, but I also had to navigate with my phone. I felt good for the first half of the ride and over the mountains, but I was really struggling on the trek home. The wind kicked up adding insult to injury as I attempted to finish the ride. I was determined to do it, even though I haven’t actually gone 100 miles in quite a while…not to mention with all of that climbing too. At the end of the day, I was tired and my legs hurt bad, but it was totally the good kind of hurt.

Reflecting back, you could say that I missed out on some of the touristy things to do in San Francisco, but I’m having a hard time believing that I truly missed anything. I look forward to seeing more of the state in the future, but for now I can say that once again California has been good to us and provided a wonderful vacation experience.

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Change in Direction

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First I must apologize for the long delay in posts. While there’s not a million people who actually enjoy reading my blog, I realize there are a handful of faithful followers who mean a lot to me. Thanks for taking the time to follow my fitness accomplishments and life journeys.

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This has been a very special year for me. While I haven’t raced much this year, I have certainly been through some exciting changes in my personal life. Most importantly being my marriage in June to the most beautiful and perfect woman for me. My best friend and partner for life. I feel extremely thankful for the events which lead to us finding each other, especially when I consider her journey from Vietnam as a young girl, to the Houston area for a career, to being a part of the cycling club which brought us together on a weekend bike ride.

My career for the past 13 years has been working as a commercial diver, mostly on yachts in our area. I’ve owned and operated the business and enjoyed doing it. After some conversations with Kristine, I was considering where I might like to be in the future. After a lot of consideration, I decided that I would really like to move in the direction of civil service as a police officer. I was a volunteer fire fighter when I was younger and really enjoyed the opportunity to help others and the community. I feel that I have unfinished business there, so becoming a police officer feels like the right direction.

You may ask, why!? Well, I suppose the only way to answer that question is that it just ‘feels’ right. You either want it or you don’t. However, there’s a long ways for me to go before I can start applying for the job. Even though it feels right, wanting to be a police officer and actually being good at it or really liking the work are totally different things. The first step on this change in direction is with school. I don’t have any college degrees, so I am enrolled in college next semester. I plan to work toward an associates degree in Psychology with some additional hours in law enforcement. Also on the to-do list will be ride alongs with local police departments. This should give me a more realistic idea of what it’s like to be a police officer. We all know they do a hard job, but actually seeing it first hand will be an important step along the way. Finally, I will need to complete the police academy, which on its own requires about 6 months to finish. This will be the final process to ensure that I’m ready for the job and that I really want it.

I’m really excited to pursue this new career and all of the challenges along the way. Police work will bring unique challenges everyday, some good and some not so good, but at the end of the day I believe it will be more rewarding than anything else I could ever do. With all of the negative feelings toward our hard working police officers these days, however small it may be, I hope that I can give back to the community in a positive way.

While I would love to race next year, realistically it’s not practical for me to do so. I certainly don’t make it out to as many bike rides as I’d like to either, but I will not give up on cycling! I’m starting to run more to prepare for the police academy, however I’m always excited to get on the bike. I’m confident once things settle down that I will have some desire to do more racing. Right now I have to get focused on returning to school after 16 years! So much to do, and so much to remember. Very exciting times indeed!

Houston Grand Criterium

After racing at Coldspring the day before, my legs felt better than expected for another race the following day. Once again I did the straight cat 4 race and fully expected it to be fast and furious—and it was, with a 25.1 mph average speed.

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This year I focused on riding smarter to ensure a better position each time through the hairpin turn. While I didn’t manage to get near the front through that turn on every lap, I did so the majority of the time. It made a difference in the end as I didn’t have to sprint as much to catch back on to the peleton.2014HGC-002

On the first lap I did a little work with Scott Cryan on the front, but for the most part I just tried to stay hidden from the wind. On the first prime lap I thought I’d gauge the sprinting strength of the field. I was near the front through the final turn as we accelerated for the prime sprint. A moment later I found myself on the very front. This was bad. I felt that I could have sprinted hard for the line and possibly taken the prime, but I knew that would require digging deep into my reserves which I was not prepared to do. I wisely saved that for the end of race.

On one of the following primes a small group of riders got a decent gap which I decided to chase down, pictured below. They ended up going no where of course. My thinking at the time was that someone had to chase them before it developed into a race winning break. In hindsight, that was a waste of energy because the nature of this course does not favor a break, particularly in the lower categories.

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Chasing a gap.

Just over half-way though the race, I was approaching the hairpin again on the front. So far there were no crashes in the race that I’m aware of. However, that thought happened too soon when I suddenly heard carbon hitting the ground behind me. Thankfully no one was hurt when one rider slid out in the turn.

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Smile for the camera!

There were some close calls during the race, but nothing that stands out which I remember. The usual jockeying for position in a cat 4 race. It was on the final lap when I knew I was standing good. I felt better at that point in the race than I did last year. As we approached the last two corners in downtown, I hear someone to my right scream FLAT! I relay the message and move ahead to avoid any problems there.

Going through the final corner I’m about 10 wheels off the front and I feel like I’m positioned pretty well. As the sprinters began hammering for the line, I made it a point to stay in the saddle and pedal as hard as I could trying to stay on their wheels. The fastest of them slipped away, but I did very well keeping pace with most of the pack. I managed to finish 14th, which is my best result at this race.

Pack finish in 14th.
Pack finish in 14th.

The Houston Grand is a sprinters delight, which I don’t consider myself, but I can definitely feel and see improvement in that area so far this year. I need to continue working on my accelerations while staying in the saddle as it seems standing up only hurts me more.

I’ve now made it 3 straight years to this race, with 2012 being my first ever bike race. Kristine had a great time as this is really a great race for spectators too. Of course a special thanks to her for capturing all of these pictures!

Medical Colleagues of Texas Road Race

Men’s 4/5 Race Report

The Coldspring road race is my favorite one close to home. It’s about an hour drive outside of Houston, so it’s not too far for a day trip. The course has some pretty good climbs which make it a nice challenge. Last year I had a slight gear mishap on the finishing climb and didn’t finish as well as I hoped, so this year I wanted to redeem myself.

Unfortunately, I was not able to ride much in the weeks leading up to this race. I was in Boston with Kristine for her marathon one week, although I did take my bike and at least got a couple of rides in there. As soon as I returned, I came down sick with a late season cold. After that I worked in the yard and managed to get covered in poison ivy rashes from head to toe. Clearly this was not my week! Regardless, there was no way I wanted to miss our local favorite races. IMG_1473b

Kristine and I drove out in the morning, but since my race wasn’t scheduled to start until 12:25, we didn’t have to leave at a crazy early hour in the morning. She didn’t make it to this race with me last year, so it would be the first time she has ever been to the town Coldspring. We got my number pinned on and I met up with David where we went for a nice warm-up ride together. This would be his first race of the season and I think the only race he’s ever done besides the Bear Creek crits.

At 12:25, we were staged at the high school and ready to race! It starts out neutralized until we reach the start of the race loop on the south end of the course.

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Once the ref cleared us, we were off. Nothing crazy happened in the first 10 minutes. After things started out slowly, Bayou City Racing got on the front and put down a quick acceleration. Next thing I know we’re hammering 45 mph downhill. At times it was getting tight in the peleton. I was on the right side going down a hill, and due to some unnecessary braking in the peleton, I found myself forced along side another rider on the very edge of the road. There happened to be a crack there which my wheels naturally found, but thankfully I was able to keep it under control. At another point I moved to the left side and found a sketchy rider over there, nearly getting into guys on both sides of him, so I backed off and found a different spot to sit in.

I wasn’t really sure what I could expect from my legs given that I wasn’t able to train as much as I normally would leading up to this race. We were only doing 2 laps, so I used the finishing climb at the end of the first lap to gauge my legs and climbing pace for the last lap effort. Surprisingly my legs felt good and I found myself just off the front at the top of the climb where I heard Kristine yelling, “GO BLAKE”!

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Pushing myself over the finishing climb on that first lap was a mistake that nearly got me dropped though. The pace picked up over the next few climbs, which are actually steeper than the finishing climb. The hard efforts began taking a toll on the peleton as things spread out with a group of riders dangling just off the back. I was one of those riders and eventually it was down to myself and one other rider just barely in touch with the lead group. The remainder of the riders dropped were grouping together behind us and far down the road now.

I got lucky shortly after that when the pace lifted enough that I could recover. I started looking around taking note of who was left when I noticed David wasn’t with the lead group anymore. As we made it over the last climb before the right turn which leads onto the back side of the loop, I knew that I would be there at the end. The back side is relatively flat compared to the east side, and today it was with a tailwind.

The next right turn we made leads onto a hill straight away as we head south. It’s always hammer time up that hill which strings the peleton out through the turn. I just stayed in the peleton the entire time and had no plans to attack early. If I had been training more, perhaps I would have tried an early attack before the finish, but the key today was to suck wheels as long as possible and hope I got a good wheel to lead me out. With the finishing hill just up the road now, and the lead peleton all together still, I began to feel good about my chances. My heart rate was good and my legs felt ready for a hard effort.

As expected, the accelerations began at the bottom of the hill. It’s a long climb to the top, so some of the guys who accelerated early would pay for it later before reaching the top. Some of them however were strong enough to hold the pace all the way up. I moved to the right side of the road which appeared to be moving better than the left and at a pace that was good for me. I followed wheels halfway up the climb until they started slowing. That’s when I stood up and put everything I had left in my legs through the pedals, powering my way to the top. I managed to pass quite a few riders along the way which motivated me to push even harder. I could see the finishing line ahead with one more rider that I was determined to pass. I just barely made it passed that rider and crossed the line in 11th place out of 71 starters.

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Overall I’m quite pleased with my result in one of the largest fields I’ve raced in, and especially considering my lack of training leading up to the race. Tomorrow is the Houston Grand Criterium!

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Boston Marathon and Vacation

While boarding the plane, I have to admit to the excitement of taking my first trip to the east coast. We flew into Boston with plans to pick up a rental car, then drive to New Hampshire where we would stay with some close friends for a couple of days. boston-landing

One thing to consider if you go to Boston and get a rental car: as soon as you leave the airport, you’re ejected right onto a tollway that goes through a long tunnel. GPS signals typically don’t work underground—go figure, so don’t make the mistake we did! Be sure you know what exit you’re taking before going into the tunnel.

We stopped at a bike shop before leaving the city to pick up some CO2 cartridges since I was able to bring my bike on this trip, but naturally compressed gas is not allowed on the plane. After the quick detour, we made it up to New Hampshire without any major problems; except for the the fact that it was still WINTER up there! Bear in mind that I am a native (south) Texan who can wear flip-flops year round. The next morning dropped down to 25F; nevertheless, I was determined to ride. I put the bike together and headed out on a 60 mile ride through New Hampshire, just crossing the state line into Vermont before turning back. Because it was still so cold, the trees didn’t have leaves on them yet, and in fact there was snow on the ground in some places!

There was a good amount of elevation with some decent climbs along the way which was a nice treat for me. Overall it was a great day on the bike exploring a different part of the country. Below are pictures from my adventure.

 

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Picturesque!

 

 

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Just to prove it was cold, obligatory snow picture.

 

 

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Nice climb here with a flowing creek on the left side.

 

 

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Love historic covered bridges.

 

 

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Bienvenue to New Hampshire. On my way back from Vermont.

 

 

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Fitzwilliam: The quaint small town we visited with friends.

After a couple of days, we drove back to Boston and moved into our hotel room for the remainder of our stay. Kristine was getting really excited about the marathon. We used the subway to get around the city, but we mostly just took it easy until race day. We spent some time at the running expo, which was big and exciting as you might expect for such a big event. Kristine got all taped up with KT tape hoping her hip would hold out through the race which was still causing some pain. We also did the pasta dinner the night before the race. I wouldn’t recommend it. The food was bland—basically noodles and spaghetti sauce. Although it was included for runners, family members had to pay to join the dinner. Topping that off, we stood in a line that wrapped around 3 blocks for nearly an hour just to get our food. Next time we’ll make reservations for sushi.

 

The day before her race I was lucky enough to get a ride in around Boston in the morning. I just wanted to explore the city, so I went easy and took lots of pictures. The route traversed through downtown, MIT, Harvard, and back to the hotel. Here’s some pictures from that ride.

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Race day!

RacedayAfter all the training and hard work, the big day had finally arrived! The morning air was crisp and cold, but the afternoon forecast was expected to be warm and sunny. Kristine had to wear some old warm clothes over her running outfit which could be discarded at the start of the race. The classic ‘California Raisins’ sweater was the choice of the day. Sad to see that one go!

Unlike Houston, the runners are transported on school buses from Boston Common out of town to the starting point in Hopkinton. They run a direct route back into the city, so it wasn’t practical for me to see her during the race. Although I had my bike with me, we opted not to try that this year. As they were loading the buses, I gave her one last kiss and wished her the best of luck. I told her she had this, and this was her time to shine. Just enjoy the moment.984056_10152065093421631_8095361839667973647_n

All I could think about as I watched her leave was how proud of her I was. I said to myself, “my sweetie is running in Boston!!”

After seeing her off, I met up with our friends from New Hampshire who had come in to the city to watch Kristine race. We made our way near the finish line where we must have stood there for over 3 hours waiting to see Kristine finish. It was simply incredible to see how many people get involved in this event. It’s like nothing else. The streets were jam packed with people!

We finally got a spot right on the fence where we could practically touch the runners finishing. It was shortly after when we saw Kristine coming across the finish line. What a sight! She made it, and faster than we expected! She’s now a Boston marathon finisher!! How cool is that!?

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That night we enjoyed a nice sushi dinner with some sweet treats from Mike’s Pastry. We relaxed and planned to explore the city together the following day.

After nearly a week away from home, we were looking forward to getting back. It was really a positive trip and already we’re thinking about returning to visit our friends in New Hampshire this fall to see the changing colors. What a sight that must be!

My thoughts about the MS150

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Next weekend, up to 13,000 cyclists will take to the road from Houston to Austin over two days. This popular ride known as the MS150 is a fundraising effort supporting research for a cure of multiple sclerosis and for those who suffer from this terrible disease. Riders will travel 180 miles and encounter numerous challenging hills along the way. Depending on the weather patterns, they might have a tailwind blowing them there or a really strong headwind the entire way! Some will be prepared for the challenge, while others will suffer, but for a good cause.

For many people, this is the biggest cycling event of the year. I think it’s a really great cause and is something I’m glad to see is so popular, both for the support raised for MS and for the increased popularity of cycling.

Several times I’ve been asked by friends who don’t cycle if I have done the MS150 “race”. Obviously it’s gotten so popular now that everyone has heard of it, but I just have to politely correct them and mention that it’s not a race. While some riders undoubtedly take pride in finishing ahead of as many people as possible—realizing it is not a race, nor the purpose of the ride—I don’t see any harm in a little competitive fun to push each other to be stronger riders, as long as it’s done safely.

Although I haven’t had the opportunity to participate in this ride yet, it is definitely one I would like to do. My plans might be more ambitious than most people however. I would like to complete the entire ride in one day. A huge effort no doubt, but every year there’s a handful of cyclists who accomplish this feat.

Until then, I would just like to wish all of my friends and every other cyclist riding next weekend the best of luck and thank them for supporting a great cause! Let’s hope the weather is nice for you guys making it a great weekend on two wheels. Stay safe and keep the rubber side down!

Dallas Racing Spring Omnium

Saturday Crit (Cat 4/5)

IMG_0980My legs were a bit stiff from sitting in the car all morning after making the long drive up from Houston. Fortunately we arrived with ample time to loosen up, get my race number, and prepare everything so that I could get a nice warm-up in before the start.

My race was the last one scheduled for the day at 3:30 pm. The weather was beautiful with clear skies, temps in the low 70’s, and light winds around 10 mph. It was out of the North, which meant we’d have a tailwind on the finishing straight and a headwind on the back side of the course.

The course itself is just over half a mile in length and consists of four left turns. With the exception of one turn, they’re all wide and easy to take at high speed. In fact, you can pedal through all of them. The most technical is turn 2 which comes from a very wide section on the north side to a narrow section down the back straight. There’s also a man hole cover in the middle of the apex, but it’s not an issue when the road is dry. The front straight is a bit higher in elevation than the back, so there’s a slight incline between turn 3 and the finish line. It’s barely noticeable on the elevation graph, but it still makes it the tougher section of the course.

It was good to see John Jordan, racing with McKinney Velo Club, before the race started. We raced together last year at this event, so we had a quick chat as we did our recon lap.

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John Jordan far right side of the group on the front. Blake in the middle on the front.

I lined up on the front with about 25 other people. I made it a point to look around at all of the different riders, teams, and kits. Park Place was well represented with several riders in the field. I made a note of it, but I didn’t expect much team tactics being a 4/5 race.

Having done a handful of crits, I expected this one would start off like all of them—fast. Initially the pace wasn’t too bad. There was of course some accelerations, so efforts had to be made to chase down early attacks. I was mainly focusing on staying near the front during the first half of the race. I hoped to stay about 5-10 wheels off the front, but that proved hard to sustain with the surges and the resulting movement of riders in the peleton. I didn’t really have any worries about most of the early attacks because they just weren’t going anywhere. Roberto Rodriguez, with Park Place, was constantly attacking early on, but he’d never stay away for an entire lap before we caught him again.

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About halfway through the race on the front straight, Joseph DeCosta attacked looking really strong! He put down a huge acceleration which resulted in a big gap. The attack was timed perfectly when the peleton was slowing after some hard efforts chasing down earlier attacks. I told the guys in front of me, “we’re gonna have to chase him down”. Tyler Yamamoto, with OU Cycling, picked up the pace and I was second wheel just behind him through turn 1 and 2. It was now my turn on the front as I worked to bring DeCosta back. I caught him just after the next turn when I realized the peleton was not with me. He asked if I wanted to work and I said it seemed a bit early, but lets see what happens.

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Blake and Joseph DeCosta working to break away.

On the next lap, we looked back after turn 2 and saw we had a slightly larger gap on the peleton with about four riders trying to bridge the gap (pictured above). We slowed a bit hoping to pick up the riders bridging, but once they caught us there was just no organization. Rodriguez accelerated on the break up the left side, then things just fell apart.

At this point I kept going hoping the break might come back together if I could get on the front and ride a steady pace. I looked back through turn 1 to see everyone in the break was back in the peleton, but the gap was large enough that I had to give it a try on my own. The gap continued to grow over the next lap, and before long I was out of sight of the peleton! Kristine was standing just past turn 1 taking pictures and encouraging me to push. It was great to have her support and encouragement during this time. The pictures below show me in my solo break, but they do not show how deep in the pain cave I was.

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Unfortunately the pace was not sustainable after several laps off the front alone. The decision to give up on my solo attempt was when I realized the peleton had started a chase effort and was closing down the gap.

I got back in the peleton with little effort and focused on recovering for the finish. Approaching 2 laps to go, John Jordan attacked on the back straight, so I went with him to see what might happen. In retrospect, I should have stayed in the peleton considering the mid-race effort I had already invested so much energy into. Nevertheless, we tried to get away, but it didn’t pan out.

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Blake and John Jordan working on a late race break.

As the last lap came around, I stayed near the front so I could cover any attacks to the finish. I had already decided that I would attack just after turn 3 if no one else had gone by then. As we came around turn 2, I was second wheel. I took the turn faster than the leader and ended up slightly rubbing my front wheel into his rear wheel. A close call, but I stayed calm and kept the bike up right. Shortly after that, Robert Plaskota, with Velo Gold Racing, attacked fast and hard along my right side.

The chase was now on to the finish. Alex Joseph got passed me just before turn 3. I was right on his wheel through turn 3 as we worked to bridge the gap to Plaskota. I put everything I had in it, but after all of my efforts during the race, I just didn’t have enough matches left to bridge the gap. Patrick Moneymaker, with Park Place, and DeCosta easily left me in their wake before the last turn. I managed to find enough in my legs to put forth a pitiful sprint to the line holding onto 5th place. Patrick Moneymaker out sprinted everyone taking the win, with Joseph DeCosta in 2nd, Alex Joseph 3rd, and Robert Plaskota 4th—who was notably upset after the race by the fact that no one worked together in the mid-race break.

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While I still have much to learn about riding smart—mostly with being patient—I felt good about my result and had a great time racing again for the first time this season. I feel I’m stronger than ever, but more importantly, I’m getting more confidence with my abilities to read the race. I find this aspect harder than any other.

Enjoy the race video below:

Sunday Crit (Cat 4)

I was only planning to do one race this weekend on Saturday, but Kristine talked me into considering another race Sunday morning. The cat 4 race started at 8:10 am, so it was easy to ensure we could head back home at a decent hour that afternoon. The earlier race time meant chillier temps, but it wasn’t all that bad. Arm warmers, a vest, and a cap under my helmet was enough to stay warm. Clear skies and very little wind made for great racing.

I lined up after a nice warm-up with a couple of minutes to spare. Apparently today, not as many cat 4’s wanted to get out of bed. There was only 6 of us standing there waiting to race. I wasn’t planning to recon the course since I just raced it yesterday. It turned out however, the course layout had changed! Due to the sprinklers running that morning, there was quite a bit of water in a few of the corners as well. Some of them were still running, so it looked like a river of water in the corners! The officials called it “localized rain”, saying that “we race rain or shine”. The course change included more turns. Instead of four left turns, we now had two right turns as well. There was also a steeper hill on the back side just after the two right turns. The officials asked us to do a neutral lap on the first lap of the race for safety. IMG_1281

With that, the race was off. It must be the smallest field I’ve raced in. A few of the guys also raced the 4/5 with me yesterday. Roberto Rodriguez, with Park Place, must not have understood that we were supposed to do a neutral lap first. He didn’t really attack, but he just rode off at a faster than neutral pace. We yelled trying to get his attention, but he just kept going. After the first lap he had a small gap on the field, but we knew he wasn’t going anywhere. By the end of the next lap, we were all back together.

The race was uneventful for the first 20 minutes. It was on lap 8, just after turn 1 when I made my move from fourth wheel back. I saw Steve Chisholm, with Park Place, who had been on the front for most of the time casually grab his water bottle for a drink. Everyone looked too relaxed like a Sunday donut ride, so I grabbed a bigger gear and attacked hard up the right side. I wanted to get a gap and carry as much speed through the wet corners as I could figuring some of the others wouldn’t be able to do the same. The tactic worked and ended up dropping two riders. They were off the back for the rest of the race. It took 3 turns for anyone to even catch me. Initially it was only Hugo Scala Jr, with Matrix Cycling Club, and Geremy Hamlett, with Mad Duck Racing. Roberto Rodriguez was not far behind trying to bridge the gap still.

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Making them work for those donuts!

As I approached the first of the two consecutive right turns, Hugo passed me, then I passed him again after the next right turn which leads onto the small hill. I attacked again on that hill and drilled it all the way around to the front straight leaving them to bridge the gap (pictured above).

As I crossed the line, the bell was rung for the first prime lap. I looked back through turn 1 and saw I had a bit of a gap, but they were closing it down. I decided to slow a bit to recover before the end of the prime lap. With the three riders remaining behind me, I attacked on the same hill and made it stick to the line taking the first prime.

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On the next lap I lifted for a much needed recovery. That was when Hugo put down an excellent counter attack which forced me to dig deep to keep from getting dropped. He had Geremy on his wheel with Roberto just behind. It was a great attempt by him to get rid of me, but I wasn’t going away that easily.

No one wanted to work over the next few laps. On lap 11, the last prime bell was rung. I was third wheel just behind Roberto and Geremy up the hill which proved to be a good place to attack. Geremy jumped at the top of the hill and bombed down it. Roberto had a gear slip and wasn’t able to counter. I hopped on Geremy’s wheel and stayed there through the last turn. I took a bad line through the turn, which opened up a small gap. I was still able to out sprint him right at the line taking another prime lap.

IMG_1341This whole time, Hugo was riding smart, saving his sprint for the end. Hind sight is always 20/20. What if I had done the same? For the rest of the race, it was like a track stand off. No one wanted to do any work and we were barely moving. It was comical to see the change in pace. On the last lap, I was on the very front. Not ideal, but the pace was so slow it didn’t require much effort. I was carefully listening for anyone to attack. I decided the hill was the best place to go if no one went before that. IMG_1347

I jumped hard again just before the right turn leading onto the hill. I drilled it up and down the hill taking the next turn at 31 mph. I pedaled for everything I was worth through the last turn and sprinted for the line. That’s where Hugo’s smart riding and patience paid off. He was able to sprint past me before the line. The race wasn’t over though! I had Roberto and Geremy right behind me itching to take 2nd place. It was extremely close on the line as I threw my bike across it! I held out though and got my best result to date.

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At the end of the day, I feel like I probably could have beaten Hugo if I hadn’t gone for the primes. It took a lot out of me going for those, and in fact my sprints for the prime laps were faster than my finish sprint. I’m still happy with my result—plus I got lots of cash and prizes for those primes! So, this weekend was not to be my first race win, but I know my day will come. Honestly, I’d like my win to come with more competitors. Patience and tactics are the things I strive to improve. My sprints are definitely better, so I will also continue to improve there as it’s never been my strength.

Thank you especially to my wonderful fiancée for supporting my racing. She was there to cheer me on all weekend and took all of these great pictures I’ve shared on the blog. Thanks also to all of my family and friends for your support and for following my progress.

Sunday race video: