Author Archives: dougdiego

Six Sigma Championship – 05/21/2022 – Edda Grondahl

At the last Six Sigma race, I went into the weekend with low expectations for my performance, given that I hadn’t ridden much in the previous four weeks due to a concussion, but excited to be back on a bike with the team. I left school early to make it in time for the team pre-ride, which left me less than happy about the course, as there were some technical corners, a sketchy cattle gate, three deep puddles, and a steep, loose 180 switchback featured in it, and I had nearly crashed on all four obstacles. In my mind, this confirmed my expectation that the next day would probably not be a good race for me and that the racers I had been close competitors with in the past races would be far out of my reach. Discussing the course with the team helped, though.

At previous races, I had had severe pre-race anxiety that kept me from sleeping or eating enough before a race, but something about having attended the previous Six Sigma race as a non-racer had shifted my perspective on racing, and helped me see it more lightheartedly and find more joy in racing.

I had a sixth place call-up, which put me in the second row, and this was only made better by the fact that one of the top 5 girls hadn’t come to the race, which moved me to the front row! I ended up being passed by a few riders on the initial climb, but I kept track of the numbers and was eventually able to work my way back up to the top 5 on the course and made it through the obstacles I had been worried about without incident. I completed most of the first lap by myself, not pushing super hard until I started passing sophomore girls. It was great to see everyone on the course being courteous and encouraging whenever passing or being passed. In the second lap, the heat and dust started to trigger breathing issues, but the downhills provided enough of a break that I could up my pace, which led me to catch up to Annika by the time we reached the puddles again, about halfway through the lap. I stayed on her tail for a while, knowing that if I tried to pass her, she would speed up, as she could outpace me in a long, sustained effort, and that I only had so much energy left. We stuck together, passing sophomores and JV riders occasionally. Both of us had breathing issues at different points in the race, giving each other opportunities to take off ahead, but I had decided I would rather have Annika take fourth place than pass her when she was struggling. We crossed the finish line holding hands, tied to the hundredth of the second. It was so amazing to cross the finish line with one of my oldest friends and my closest competitor, having been neck and neck all season, and it provided a sense of closure, even though we ended up with different spots on the podium. This season has been so incredible to see everyone on the team improving at impressive rates and the camaraderie built at races and rides, both on and off bikes, and I’m really looking forward to next season!

Six Sigma Championship – 05/21/2022

On Saturday, May 21st, 18 members of the ECHS MTB team were among 585 racers from 77 NorCal teams who competed at the Championship race at Six Sigma Ranch in Lake County. At the end of the day, El Cerrito High–under the guidance of Head Coach Doug Diego–took home the 3rd place trophy for team achievement, just 18 points behind the 2nd place team. The race was hot and dusty and our riders prevailed, with some of our upperclassmen rushing back after their tough competition to make it home in time for prom.

The course took place at a repeat venue, but on all new trails that featured great climbs, technical bits, tight turns, water crossings, and more. Each lap of the course was 6.2 miles and had 733′ of vertical gain, so freshmen and sophomores raced 2 laps/12.4 miles, JV boys 3 laps/ 18.5 miles, and Varsity boys 4 laps/ almost 25 miles. 

Here’s how our individual racers stacked up:

Varsity Boys: Chris Hill, 4th (podium); Finn Kaste, 17th; Will Diego, 18th; Tristan Schönfeldt-Aultman, 19th

JV Boys: Joaquin Chun, 9th; Theo Borys, 10th; Tobin Power, 11th; Odin Simms, 22nd; Miles Hansen, 58th; DJ Kang

Freshman Girls: Annika Borys, 4th (podium); Edda Grondahl, 5th (podium); Gabrielle Walmsley, 30th

Freshman Boys: Yoann Perrodin, 2nd (podium); Jack O’Neal, 3rd (podium); Daniel Gansmiller, 17th; Jaq Chin, 23rd; Gabriel Sabatini, 63rd

Please congratulate our team on a fantastic season!

Six Sigma Championship – 05/21/2022 – Finn Kaste

Going into this weekend was probably the least anxious I´ve ever been for a race. I came to the realization that it would be my last ever NICA race so I decided to make the most of it by having a good time instead of stressing. I was really looking forward to racing at Boggs since that´s a place I´ve always been curious about. Furthermore, Peter´s descriptions were really intriguing so I was a bit disappointed when the race got moved to Six Sigma. Pre-riding the course, I realized that I practically knew it by heart. It was a bit disappointing that it wasn´t someplace new but I was excited to be racing on such a familiar course. It brought back lots of racing memories throughout high school making it the perfect way to cap off my NICA career.

On Saturday, I woke up naturally around 6:30 feeling well rested and calm. After a quick warmup, Tristan and I lined up at the start. Neither of us had a callup so we got there early and ended up a reasonable four or five rows from the front. During call ups, the reality of the impending 2+ hours of intense physical strain sunk in giving me the perfect dose of nerves and adrenaline. 

Soon enough the Stoke Captain was counting down and we took off. Immediately we were shrouded in an impenetrable cloud of dust. I couldn’t see ten feet ahead of me. I was being passed right and left as people frantically scrambled to reach the front of the pack. Somehow Will had fallen behind and I saw him pass me as well. As the climb steepened the dust started to settle revealing a big bunch up that was probably inevitable. I should have just gotten off and run it but charged with adrenaline, I was determined to stay on my bike. I got cornered and I was forced to dismount. Unfortunately everyone else was already running and I got passed by Tristan and another 5 or so racers. I smoothly remounted and I got around most of them in an attempt to catch Tristan but I got caught behind Joshua Falcon from Oakland Composite. 

Tristan sprinted ahead to catch a pack ahead of him. Joshua was going at a reasonable speed so I decided to pace off him and to forget about Tristan. I wanted to have some energy left for the fourth lap, something I have repeatedly failed at. On one of the climbs Joshua seemed to be losing steam so I got around him. 

I was alone for a while though I started to catch glimpses of Tristan who was in the back of a pack of four. I slowly reeled them in but as soon as I caught them Tristan sprinted past them all through the grass on a short straightaway. After that, there weren’t many good passing opportunities and I was stuck behind them for a while. By the time I got around them Tristan was beyond eye shot and I didn’t see him again for a while.

During the second half of the first lap I caught and passed a couple more racers but other than that it was pretty uneventful. On the climb starting the second lap, my drive train already sounded dreadful. It was a bit concerning given I still had three more laps. Near the top of the climb I was surprised to see Tristan going down the hill in the opposite direction. This meant I was only about twenty seconds behind him. This gave me some more motivation and throughout the rest of the lap I very gradually reeled him in. 

On the climb after the road crossing I caught a glimpse of Will. He was in a group of three. By the serpentine Tristan was only a couple curves below me and I decided to catch him before the straightaway because he´s notoriously fast at flat straightaways. I caught him on the very last windy downhill and I drafted off of him on the straightaway. We were going lightning fast and I noticed we were rapidly catching Will and his group. By the climb starting the third lap they were just out of reach. I decided to catch them and I passed Tristan telling him to pace off me. Unfortunately he didn’t quite have it in him and I dropped him. 

I caught Will´s group at the top of the climb and realized Axel from Berkeley was pulling, and Ulysses, also from Berkeley, was sweeping. Ulysses has been a rival of Tristan and mine for a while and I yelled back at Tristan getting him to catch up. He was about ten seconds back and he tried to catch us but we dropped him on the descent. For a while he just hovered about ten seconds behind us. Eventually Ulysses seemed to be falling from the pack and I got around him on Mr Squiggles climb catching up to Will and Axel. On the hairpin climb with the two tight switchbacks, Axel slid out and had some trouble remounting so Will and I got around him. 

I used Will as a pacer for the rest of the third lap. We caught and passed a Redwood kid. Tristan remained about ten seconds behind us. I thought he would catch us on the straightaway and we would have another glorious El Cerrito photo finish going into the fourth lap but he didn’t quite make it. I pulled up alongside Will and we awkwardly fist bumped as we crossed the finish. Somewhat unintentionally I ended up in front. I wanted to keep pacing off of Will but at the top of the climb I realized I had dropped him. I thought Will would catch me on the descent but he didn’t and I realized I had a shot at finally beating him. 

I still had a good reserve of energy and I realized it was time to give it my all. For the rest of the lap I tried to widen the gap between me and Will and Tristan. I started to reel in an Annadel composite kid. I caught him right after the puddles and I paced off of him for a while. On the climb after the serpentine I decided to make a move and I passed him. He was right on my tail which gave me the adrenaline to push my hardest. On the straightaway I felt a bit gassed and I couldn´t quite hold him and he got around me. I tried to stay on him but he was screaming along and he dropped me. I mustered my best sprint going into the finish. 

Even though I didn’t beat the Annadel kid I was elated that not only had I beat Will, Tristan, Ulysses, and Axel, but I had paced myself perfectly and optimally used my energy. I knew I had done great, probably my strongest race yet. I was greeted by the whole team and Jack very kindly had brought a bag of chocolate milk, something I was incredibly grateful for. I watched as Will and Tristan finished congratulating them.

We finished 17th, 18th, and 19th. A train of El Cerrito racers, all within the top 20 fastest varsity racers in Norcal. In a heat of 36, Will and I both placed in the top half, something I never would have dreamed of happening at the start of the season. It may have taken the whole season but I´ve finally figured out how to properly race. I´ve learned that races don´t have to be scary and stressful, in fact, keeping a calm attitude is the best way to succeed. I also learned how to perfectly pace myself, saving the right amount of energy for the fourth lap. All my splits were basically within one minute of each other. This was a perfect race to end a memorable era racing with NICA.

Six Sigma Championship – 05/21/2022 – Daniel Gansmiller

My mom and I arrived at Six Sigma at around 1:10 on Friday, we were the first ones there and I had a lot of free time but the prerides of the course weren’t open until around 2:00 so I sort of rode around explored the area. It was pretty warm and I had heard that it was gonna be even hotter on the race day, so I wasnt exactly looking forward to it as I rode around or sat in the car. Finally more people started arriving, Doug got there with Will and Finn arrived shortly after. I decided to go on a early pre-ride with Doug instead of waiting for the rest of the team to get there.

The course seemed pretty fun, with a lot of downhill and some interesting features like the series of puddles or the snake-y burms, but finishing the preride I felt tired, and very unconfident about the race the next day. The last race we had was at Six Sigma and I ended up falling and losing my bottle at the beginning of the first lap, so the rest of the race sucked with me suffering from dehydration  and finishing exhausted and disappointed in my self so I was looking even less forward to a repeat of that. I spent some time with my teammates and they prerode the course, we set up camp and then me and my mom left for the hotel.

We decided to get dinner first and eventually found a super good Japanese sushi restaurant, I had the best ramen I’ve ever tasted there. We then went back to the hotel and decided to go to bed early, I set my alarm for 8:45 as a precaution, confident that I would wake up earlier than that and that I could make it to the Varsity race. I slept in past the alarm and woke up at 9. I was disappointed that I woke up so late but at least I got a good nights sleep.

We got back to the camp and I said good morning to my friends there, it was as hot as they said it was gonna be and me and my freshman teammates tried to spend as much time as possible under the tent to keep cool before our race, except for meeting and congratulating the Varsity and JV boys for finishing.

Eventually it came time for our race and I was feeling as unconfident as ever but we got ready. The timer counted down, 30 seconds, 20 second, 10 second, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1, GO!  The start to this race was an uphill that ramped up until it got pretty steep and dusty, I was in group A so I hoped that I wouldn’t have to step off because of people in front of me, but when I got to that part I inevitably had to get off my bike and run, but for some reason my legs werent complying, I just couldn’t force myself to run up the hill, so I walked up it as fast as I could while other people ran past me. When I finally got to the flat and then downhill section I was already far behind the position I wanted to be in. But I kept riding and managed to pass a decent amount of riders. I forgot to mention that this race had a huge amount of riders in it, from Northern California and our section of Norcal, there were around 80 riders in it. Anyway my slowdown at the start put me behind a bunch of riders that were a lot slower than me, so I managed to pass a good amount, until I slid out at a sharp turn and got left behind again, I was panicking and rushing to get back up that I almost forgot to grab my bottle that was lying on the ground next to my bike, luckily I remembered last second and got it. Then I had the job of passing a ton of riders again. Things continued and eventually I saw that Jaq Chin was up ahead of me, by maybe 10 to 15 riders. That gave a lot more inspiration to push and pass people, one of my goals for the race was to beat Jaq, he beat me at two of the races in the past and I beat him in two of them, he was a great downhill rider and I really didn’t want to lose to him this race. The race wore on and I discovered something that made me feel really happy, I wasn’t feeling sick or fatigued like I did at the other races. The race continued and I was actually having fun instead of focusing on having to beat everyone. I got to the second lap, grabbed a new bottle of water, and forged onward. Hilariously enough, I slid out and fell at the exact same spot on the second lap as I did on the first, but I felt fine so I kept going. later on in the middle of the second lap I finally managed to pass Jaq and get ahead, I kept going, full of energy, I was close to the end of the race when I caught up to Sammy, a Freshman racer from Berkeley who was really fast and who I wanted to beat. It felt great to have managed to catch up to him but I wanted to win, we reached the long flat grassy part of the course right before the finish, I started going as hard as I could as soon as I reached the flats, managing to get a lead, but it was longer than I thought, and I started running out of energy. Sammy started catching up right before the finish and the race ended with us both rushing neck and neck, our bikes perfectly even, until Sammy pushed his bike ahead by a few inches more than mine right as we crossed the finish. I rode over to my friends who were waiting for me. I felt great, like I could’ve done a third lap, I was a bit disappointed about the start of the race, and how I couldn’t beat Sammy, but it was a really fun experience riding and hanging out with my friends and I feel really excited to see how much I’ll improve next year!

Six Sigma Showdown – 05/01/2022 – Felix Bloemraad

When I entered Six Sigma on the day of the race pre-ride, the first thing I noticed was how busy it was. Due to the other region that raced there that day, the large field that served as a parking lot was full of cars, tents, trailers, and more. Arriving at the El Cerrito tent, I saw that a number of people were already there and setting up tents to camp over at the venue the night before the race. I was staying at a nearby hotel, so I just hung out and talked to people until the pre-ride.

The ride started out fine, with a fast start into a few small turns, but we soon were stopped because of a long line waiting to cross a creek and make it up a short but steep climb. It took a couple of minutes for us to make it to the front of the line, but by the time I did, I noticed that my bike was making strange noises. After meeting up with the rest of the team on the other side of the creek, I decided to head back to the tent early because I was really concerned by the noise coming from my back tire.

Back at the tent, I learned that the sound was probably just the plastic disk between my gears and the spokes, so I headed over to the Mike’s Bikes van to get it removed. It was removed with no problems, and the concerning sound stopped, but I found an even bigger problem: my bike’s frame was cracked. Unfortunately, this probably meant that I couldn’t race on it the next day, so I decided to talk to Coach Doug about it.

Thankfully, it turned out that we had a team bike available that I could use, but I would have to finish the race quickly the next day in order to get it to another rider for her race. With the problem (partially) solved, I headed out on a full pre-ride and ate dinner with the team before heading to my hotel for the night.

The next day, I was feeling pretty nervous about the race. I was biking on a bike I had never ridden before, on a course that had a lot of sharp and loose turns. Additionally, there was a section of the course which ran through a creek under a bridge, and I was not looking forward to getting splashed with muddy water in the morning.

My race started pretty well, I was able to get ahead of a lot of people during the initial sprint. I also managed to cross the creek that so many people struggled at the previous day. Most of my first lap was pretty hard, because I was constantly trying to stay ahead of the others and I had to pass D2 riders. Fortunately, by the second half of the first lap and the whole second lap, I was mostly on my own. At this point, I wasn’t sure how I was doing in the race, so the only thing I could do was ride as hard as I could.

Since I was now alone, I managed to enjoy the beautiful course a lot more. The race was held on a series of cliffs and meadows, with nice views and pretty flowers. It was truly one of the nicest courses I’ve seen.

Funnily enough, despite dreading the massive puddle of water before the race started, by the time I got to it on my second lap I was actually looking forward to the chance to cool myself off. It wasn’t actually that hot yet, but combined with how hard we were working, I was feeling really hot.

The race ended well, too. I managed to pass a number of people from D2 on the second half of my last lap, and I was happy to be finished. I ended up placing 27th, which wasn’t as good as I had hoped, but I was still happy with it. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to get the team bike to Gabbie before her race.
Even though I didn’t place as well as I had hoped, it was enough to qualify for states!

Six Sigma Showdown – 05/01/2022

This weekend, 21 members of the ECHS MTB Race team participated in the NorCal Regional Semifinals at Six Sigma Ranch and Winery in Lower Lake. Riders lined up against other high schools from the East Bay all the way down to the Central Coast to ride a gorgeous, technical, meandering loop that was lined with oaks, poppies and lupines and offered punchy climbs and fun challenges. The loop was a little over 6 miles long and featured 692 feet of vertical climb per lap, plus a stream crossing. Freshmen and Sophomores completed 2 laps; JV Boys and Varsity Girls 3 laps, and Varsity Boys raced 4. 

El Cerrito High got 3rd place in Division 1 Team points.

Here’s how our individual participants did: 

Varsity Boys: Christopher Hill, 3rd (podium); Tristan Schönfeldt-Aultman, 12th; Will Diego, 13th; Finn Kaste, 14th
Varsity Girls: Cate Flowers, 6th
JV Boys: Tobin Power, 3rd (podium); Theo Borys, 6th; Joaquin Chun, 7th; DJ Kang, 15th; Noah Barry, 16th; Odin Simms, 17th; Felix Bloemraad, 27th; Miles Hansen, 32nd
Sophomore Boys: Jalen Epps, 20th
Freshman Girls: Annika Borys, 6th; Gabrielle Walmsley, 17th
Freshman Boys: Yoann Perrodin, 1st (podium); Jack O”Neal, 2nd (podium); Jaq Chin, 7th; Daniel Gansmiller, 9th; Gabriel Sabatini, 22nd 

A second set of podiums was held at this event to honor the riders’ overall standings in the 4-race series this spring. ECHS riders on the steps in those included:

Varsity Girls: Cate Flowers, 6th
Varsity Boys: Christopher Hill, 3rd (podium); Will Diego, 12th; Finn Kaste, 13th; Tristan Schönfeldt-Aultman, 14th
JV Boys: Tobin Power, 3rd (podium); Theo Borys, 4th (podium); Joaquin Chun, 5th (podium); Odin Simms, 11th; DJ Kang, 12th; Noah Barry, 15th; Felix Bloemraad, 23rd; Miles Hansen, 28th; Tyler Ko, 36th
Sophomore Boys: Jalen Epps, 29th; Blake Christner, 32nd
Freshman Boys: Jack O’Neal, 1st (podium); Daniel Gansmiller, 6th; Jaq Chin, 8th; Gabriel Sabatini, 16th; Yoann Perrodin, 31st
Freshman Girls: Annika Borys, 3rd (podium); Edda Grondahl, 6th; Gabrielle Walmsley, 17th

On May 21st, the NorCal Championship Race will be held at Boggs Demonstration Forest in Cobb, CA. Nineteen ECHS riders have qualified to race in the championships against riders from all over NorCal, from the Oregon border down through San Luis Obispo county. Good luck, Gauchos!

Six Sigma Showdown – 05/01/2022 – Tristan Schonfeldt-Aultman

This race was going to be interesting. It was the first race of the season where varsity was going to go first at 8. I didn’t really know how I was going to handle that but I preferred it over waiting the whole day for our race.

So we woke up and started warming up for 30-40 minutes and before we knew it we were lining up at the starting line. The countdown started and we were off, and of course like all the other races this season, I had a pretty bad start and ended up pretty much at the back. It took me roughly 2 laps to catch back up and I realized I kept getting dropped on the downhills. I guess I was just being cautious since it was the morning.

Eventually though, at the end of the 2nd or third lap, we formed the ECHS train where me, Finn, and Will were all riding side by side. It was then that I took the lead after the three of us talked about who was going to lead on the straight away. And so until the under-the-bridge section Finn was right behind me and I even passed someone else on the way.

Finn seemed to bonk at that point though because Will had passed him and now I felt the pressure to keep up the pace so Will wouldn’t catch me. So that last half a lap was painful as I kept sprinting up the hills to finish quickly. I then was surprised to see another varsity rider and was able to pass them as well, so that was cool. I then sped down to the finish line and sprinted to the end, coming in 12 and beating Will and Finn as the second varsity rider in our team for that race. This made me super happy and it was a nice last race before championships.

BHHR 4/23/2022 – DJ Kang

I had never done a road race before. I registered and knew it would be a long sprint. I kept up the whole way until we got to Castro ranch rd and my chain had problems going. I lost about 20 seconds and couldn’t recover and at that point knew just finish. I didn’t feel like I put my best effort in the first lap and put in way more the second lap. Ultimately I just wanted to finish and not worry about result.

BHHR 4/23/2022 – Will Diego

This was by far the most bizarre race I’ve done, mainly because I race XC and this was my first ever road race. Rather than an all out sprint at the start, the race began with a gradual ride down San Pablo Dam Road. For the first few miles I was in the middle of the pack, constantly being passed by incredibly aggressive riders and slowly getting pushed farther back in the pack. My main goal was just to not crash.

After 20ish miles we reached the first climb and the pack began to separate as the pace increased. Funny enough this shifted me from middle of the pack all the way to around top 10. Then this became even more distinct after the Papa Bear climb. Finally I had caught up to the other riders on my team, all of us being in the top 10 riders.

Then on the flats of the 2nd lap, just as before, the more aggressive riders passed me and I was shot back to approximately 20th. My goals, after seeing I was able to stick to the front, were trying to stick with the lead pack and to again not crash. As we got closer to the Mama Bear climb the pace began to pick up, then as we hit the climb I had to do a slightly high pace, still nothing compared to anything I’ve done before in XC. As we rode through the hills the pack became increasingly more separate.

Then finally on the last climb my teammates and I were in the front and went to a full out effort, going as hard as we could for the 3 minute effort. All of us together until the final 200 meter sprint, which was the most brutal. During that sprint I was able to move from 4th all the way to 2nd, beating one of my teammates but losing to the other. As soon as I passed the finish line my legs failed and I had to coast over our group of parents. I reached them, set my bike down then instantly collapsed onto the ground and sat down, my legs completely shot after the all out sprint. This was by far the most unique race I’ve ever done but it was also a super fun race and I look forward to racing on the road in the future.

BHHR 4/23/2022 – Jack O’Neal

Coming into this race with a week of riding this new bike I didn’t want to crash. For most of the race we were riding pretty chill except for when Grant put in some attacks to keep us on our toes. No one got off the front and the people at the front were playing games. At some points we were going so slow you were barely pedaling. The masters group passed us at one point and that made everyone notice we were going too slow, we passed them again almost instantly. Last lap Grant drove the pace up momma bear and I got to the third or fourth wheel at the bottom of papa bear. Closing on the finish I passed Yoann and Grant and pushed as hard as I could till the finish.