I was pretty bummed out to learn that the state champ road race was not going to be at the Devil's Punchbowl course like originally announced earlier in the year. I really like that course and hope they don't can it all together. After looking at the course map I learned that we actually rode this route during our training camp. The Elite 3 race was going to be 54 miles with 6000ft of climbing.
Shackley, Addison, and I drove down the day before to re-con the roads and terrain. We were all a bit outspoken and concerned with the races being shortened by a lap for each category, but that quickly changed once we pre-rode the course. Basically, if you are not climbing up a hill, you are going down one. No flat sections. The course starts off with two climbs, a long-ish descent into a valley, a slight gradual incline to the turn around, and back again. The decisive climb was going to be coming back out of the valley, which then follows a 9% grade finish!
Having done a reconnaissance ride, we all felt more comfortable going into our races. Addi and I raced the Elite 3's. The race started with a very big field and from the gun a rider took off but doesn't get more than a minute gap on the field. I always do my best to stay on Addi's wheel, or near him, since he is always up front. This proved to be difficult later on. It's not until the incline inside the valley that the pace turns from tempo to race pace. We make the turnaround and make our way out of the valley. On this climb (which is about ~15min) we catch the lone rider and continue race-pace up the hill.
On our way to the finishing climb of the first lap, I drop back a few wheels, sit up, and clean my sunglasses. I then realize that I'm at the very back of the group and the field had been completely split in two! Whoa. The rest of the group realizes this after we turnaround at the top and see the gap. The pace continues...
Attacks take off but are brought back immediately. It became clear that no one was going to allow anyone to get away. The group was just going to have to tear people off on the climbs. Some Monster Media Jr riders get up front and set tempo and slowly peel riders off the group on the steady incline towards the turnaround. Oh, I forgot to mention that it was very windy and with the valley road twisting and turning, drafting was quite difficult.
The pace really ramps up on the long climb and I bounce from wheel to wheel trying not to get gapped off the back. I dug deep but detached from the group. Addison managed to stay with the front group but I wanted to be up there with him. On the small ascent in between the two climbs, three riders and myself form a chase group. The front group was not far but the climbs and the pace made catching them tough. Finally, after some tough pulls, we latch onto the front group just before the final climb.
The final climb starts and I wait. I watch a few riders make a move and then pull the plug immediately. The %9 grade is much harder this time. I drop into my small ring and try to launch behind a strong wheel. I dig for the line and cross in 13th place with the shredded group. I buried myself in the hills on Castaic...