For Memorial Day weekend, we had a split squad, with our crit specialists Judy and Melanie tackling the Off the Front Omnium, while Diane and I targeted the Folsom Classic Criterium, followed by the Mount Hamilton road race.
Conditions for the race were a cozy 93 degrees. While I sat in traffic on the way to Folsom, Diane jumped in the men’s 2/3 race, where (to absolutely nobody’s surprise) she attacked at the back end of the race, initiating the winning move and finished 13/44.
For the WP1/2/3 race, we decided to play defense in the beginning since JL Velo had numbers and it was insanely hot. But if nothing was sticking when lap cards came out, we would start attacking and counter attacking. With our two sprinters away at other races, our best chance for a W would come out of a break, so that was our goal.
Diane patrolled the front on the first lap or two. I saw Emily (JL Velo) move up on the 2nd or 3rd lap and I followed her to move to the front. When she attacked, I went with it and quickly we had a nice gap. Fannie (Rio Strada) came with us, and we worked together to build an even bigger gap. Tired from her previous race, Fannie eventually faded back to the peloton, while Emily and I worked really well together to increase our lead. Unfortunately, we had about 45 minutes out of a 50 minute race to try and stay away in 93 degrees so it wasn’t going to be easy. To make a long story short, Emily and I were able to build a lead up over a minute towards the latter half of the race and when lap cards came out at 8 to go, it became apparent that we would stay away.
I was starting to feel the onset of cramping and heat stroke, but I thought I might have a chance to win so long as I didn’t leave it to the sprint. I made a deal with myself to attack at 1 to go and go all in, and if it failed, at least I tried. As we entered the finish straight with one lap to go, I was on Emily’s wheel and I dug deep on the right side to open a gap and gave it everything I had for the final lap. Thankfully it was just enough and I was able to finish solo for the W.
Back in the field, Diane was patient, letting others tire themselves out on primes. She launched a mega attack near the end and stayed away for the 3rd spot on the podium. Pretty good day for our backup crit squad! Major props to Emily who was an awesome breakaway companion.
The Memorial Day weekend has gone the same way for me the last two years: race Folsom Crit on Saturday, wake up very early on Sunday to exhaust myself at Mount Hamilton, and this year was no different. Sara and I met up at Mount Ham very early, and the first thing she said to me was “did you see who is registered”? I had seen, the former Japanese national champion Eri Yonamine would be racing with us. This changed our game plan to just try and stay with her as long as possible.
At this point I should make a side note: our house was recently gifted a very large geologic fault map of California which has informed this race report.
Any hope we had that the race would be a little relaxed before Eri started attacking us quickly dissipated as we rolled across the Crossley Fault, which which is a less recently active extension of the very important Hayward Fault, and where the race organizers placed the start line. Eri went to the front and pedalled at what I’m sure was a relaxed pace for her. I think I might have stayed on her wheel for 8 minutes; every time I gave a desperate look back there were fewer girls until it was just me and Joanie Celso. At some point I lost concentration and looked up to see a fork in the road, instead of following Eri’s wheel like I should have, I went the direction that made sense to my already tired mind. It was the wrong direction and all my fault (not the type of fault I like), the three of us paused a second and Joanie and I turned around, but by the time we got going again Eri was not waiting. Joanie and I worked together up the rest of the climb which included crossing the inactive Mission Fault, I was going on the small chance that we might catch her after the climb in the valley. But, by the time Joanie and I crossed the Calaveras Fault (also known to Mt Ham racers as the QOM) the time gap was 10 freaking minutes! That would be a big feat to catch her.
The descent down the back side is fun and fast, when I finished and looked behind me Joanie was no where in sight behind me, it turned out that Sara’s group caught her part way down the descent. The last two years in the race, I had done very poorly at the finish, so I figured my best chance for second (and a small chance for catching Eri) was to go it alone through the valley, and that was what I did for the next 40 miles. If I had known at the time that the valley road follows the Greenville Fault, I would have appreciated the distraction. I did get a little distraction at the second feed zone where they told me the leader was 4 minutes ahead. Whether or not that was true, it was enough to keep me going on the small chance I could catch Eri. Finally, after many generous cold feed zone bottle (thank you!) and countless Gu gels, I intersected the Las Positas fault and finished the race. The pack behind was led in by Sara who let the other ladies contest the sprint where Clarice took third.
After the exhausting race, Sara, Clarice, Sara Enders and I got to roll back through Livermore and cross the Calaveras fault and Hayward fault again over 40 miles back to the car to make it a very long and fun day.
I admit that this report is a little late – but Berkeley Hills is one of those classic races that deserves a report, especially since the weather made 2016 particularly memorable. I took 5th in this race in 2015 after being in the winning break, so I was excited to improve upon my performance.
Despite ominous weather reports, the women’s field was well-represented with Aliyah, Judy and I from Folsom Bike, Joanna, Molly and several others from JL Velo, and a few strong single riders including Clarice Sayle (Jakroo) and Grace Chuchla (Stanford). The race started fairly easy, with the group riding tempo through the hills. There were a couple moments where I could hear the labored breathing of people around me, so I attacked to try and split the group, but usually they were able to make their way back on the long descents. Mid-way through the race JL Velo starting to send riders up the road. I’m used to chasing rabbits and did so a couple of times (probably not the best decision), until Judy caught my elbow and told me to sit in and she would give me the “rockstar treatment.” While I cruised mid-pack, Judy speedily brought back attacks and launched a few of her own on the flat sections, keeping the pace high. While there had only been light sprinkles all morning, on the start of lap 3 the heavens opened up and it started to rain making a challenging course even more challenging.
On the final lap Joanna, Clarice, Grace and I were at the front descending together when Molly came from behind and zoomed past us on the downhill. There were a few moments of indecision – Do we chase? Will she stay away? – but ultimately Clarice, Grace and I were beginning to tire and couldn’t cross the gap. As a time trial champion, I knew Molly would make good time on us once she hit the middle, flat section. We continued onward and when we hit “Mama Bear” for the last time only Grace, Joanna, Clarice and I were left (with Molly still up the road). Coming up to the base of “Papa Bear” Grace dropped off, and Clarice put in an attack that left Joanna and I struggling. My legs were burning and I was putting every last bit of energy I had to hang on to Joanna’s wheel. In the final 200m I put in one final push and came around Joanna to sprint for 3rd. Clarice took 2nd and Molly stayed away for the top step. We all rolled back to the start slowly, soaked to the bone.
I’m incredibly grateful to my teammates for sticking it out in the rain and helping me finally reach the podium at this epic race. I’m already looking forward to next year and hope the weather-gods will be a bit kinder.
Fresh off Cat’s Hill late in the afternoon the day before, Melanie and I woke up early to fire up the legs again in Livermore at the good ol’ Red Kite. The JL Velo team was well represented with 4 riders, as well as Razzle Dazzle. Hannah Muegge was also there, the rider to beat, having just won at Cat’s hill a mere 16 hours earlier. We were determined to make it a fun, hard race, and do our best to be sure Melanie was there to challenge Hannah if it came down to a sprint finish.
The race started off very tame; I can’t speak for everyone but I could feel the Cat’s Hill lactic acid aching through my legs so was happy to sit in for a bit. After a lap or two, Jeanette Haggas (Razzle Dazzle) launched an attack which quickly lead to a nice breakaway with Mel, Joanna (JL Velo) and Hannah. Even though it was in the opening minutes of the race, that was a good move with the strongest players. Their lead never got too far away and at some point, I could see Hannah broke away from Joanna and Mel. Knowing we couldn’t let her get too far away, I bridged and caught up to Hannah with Christina (JL Velo), but we were reabsorbed quickly thereafter. The rest of the race was pretty mellow. We marked and launched a few attacks to keep the pace high. With two to go, I found Melanie and brought her up to the front. In the last two corners, she followed the attacks and kept perfect position up to the final corner, following Hannah’s wheel. Hannah had the quicker sprint, but Mel still crushed it for 2nd place. That top step of the podium is coming for Mel very soon, I can feel it. Joanna, Sara, and Christina rounded out the podium. Also we got a wine prime, yay Red Kite! Another fun race with the great talent in the NCNCA.