Category Archives: Rider Stories

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 – 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 – 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.

Modesto Flow 4/9/2022 – DJ Kang

I was going into Modesto, looking for glory. I did the preride and thought to myself, this course feels like a breeze. I got back to the hotel, hanging with the team and knowing I could manage my diet well the next morning. 

I made sure I had plenty of water and energy for the race. The dust was really bad, and much of it was getting into my face. The wind was also a big problem, with the dust and knowing it would slow me down when it came to the race. 

The race came. I started in the second row and am following the front pack for the entire first lap. In the second lap, I start to get tired, hot and got dust in my face, which makes it hard to breathe. I then know I just have to go as fast as I can, and not lose too much time.

In my final lap, I see a tired Andres Roberts and know I have a golden opportunity to pass him to get 9th place. Going into the final turn, I can barely breathe, however no one wanted it more than me. I pass multiple D2 riders and Andres. About 5 seconds before I finish, I throw up. I throw up again as I finish, and pass out at the end. Coming in 9th Place, was a huge achievement and knowing I let it all out, gives me nothing but joy.

Modesto Flow 4/9/2022 – Finn Kaste

Back in October when I first read the 2022 race schedule and saw the race in Modesto, I thought it was an error. I couldn’t picture a mountain bike race course in flat, agricultural Modesto but to my disbelief, I soon found out that it was not an error. The pandemic derailed my sophomore and junior year’s mountain bike racing and this is my last season with El Cerrito so I want to make the most out of it. I was profoundly disappointed that one of our races would be wasted in some urban park in a random, boring, flat city that I only knew from passing by on 99 south. I felt convinced that it would be a throw away race.

Seeing the POV video the week before did not improve my attitude. It could have been the GoPro effect but I watched the entirety of the video and it was pretty much exactly what I had imagined. I couldn’t believe we were racing on such a dumb course. I also saw, not surprisingly, that there was only 37 feet of climbing per lap. I tend to be the strongest on climbs and I suck at loose, flat turns. To add insult to injury the weather was forecast to be 90 degrees and windy. Luckily as race day drew closer that turned into a relatively sane but still not ideal 79 degrees. In the days leading up to the race I didn’t have a twinge of nervousness. I didn’t care in the slightest. The course was a joke, the weather was terrible, and I had just come back from a trip and hadn’t worked out in 10 days. 

On Friday as we pulled into the dusty parking lot under the overpass, the car thermometer read 98 degrees. There was still an hour before the team preride so I went out on my own to get it over with. I was impressed that there actually were some okay climbs, and the turns were pretty grippy. There were also some fun jumps and berms. I was done in 21 minutes so it was a very fast course. It wasn’t necessarily ideal for me but I felt a lot better because it seemed at least somewhat on par with the regular NICA courses.

The next morning, Tristan and I practiced some of the downhill turns and we got them down pretty well. Feeling more confident, we did another lap just for the heck of it and finished just as the freshman girls started staging. We had the whole day to wait and spectate but this time there was no apprehension. I had no expectations. This course was so different from the usual, I knew any order from the past would be thrown out the window. 

At 1 we finally started preparing. Warming up I felt a bit sluggish but I wasn’t surprised since I hadn’t really ridden in so long. We went to staging and Will and I somehow wound up in the second row. I set up my GoPro and started my Garmin and seemingly instantly everyone was counting down. 

We took off at a decent sprint. I let Chris and a bunch of others pass me. We were in a pretty tight pack going through the first squiggly series of turns and I was surprised how slow we were going. It seemed all my preparation with Tristan was a waste. We picked up the pace however as the course straightened out. I tried being responsible by not sticking with the top pack. As luck would have it, I saw an Oakland kid who was also straying from the pack and I started drafting off of him. Things were going well and I felt like I was pacing well but soon I noticed that we seemed to be catching the long front pack. Some people passed me to catch them. I saw Will in the back. I couldn’t resist and I sprinted ahead as well. I caught them and wound up right behind Will. I decided to stay right on him and to not let him go.

I realized we were going surprisingly slow. I wasn’t even breathing hard and I found myself braking at odd times. Because of the wind it seemed like everyone was trying their best not to be the one pulling the pack. I couldn’t believe it. I heard Tristan behind me yelling “this is crazy!” With the massive group ahead of us, it felt like practice. We were going at a conversational pace with occasional sprinting intervals after someone crashed or slowed down. After the first lap we were still so tight that we might as well have still been in the start chute. It was a very unreal feeling. 

About midway through the second lap on one of the sprinting intervals, I was surprised that my legs didn’t seem too happy. I decided to have one of my blocks. I felt great cardiovascularly but my legs were definitely complaining. I was surprised to find that I seemed to be losing the group. Luckily there was a big slow down at one of the tight, awkward turns and I quickly caught up. By the third lap, my legs felt better and I was still no more than five or six seconds behind the leader. It was so amazing but bizarre. I kept cracking up because it was so unlike any other race.

 As the lap progressed however, we finally started to pick up the pace. It was going smoothly at first but right at the finishing stretch there was a sprint and I started to lose the pack. My legs were complaining again and I couldn’t keep up. I was relying on there being another slowdown but there wasn’t. I tried keeping a fairly consistent gap but my energy was waning fast. Without a pack to draft off, I felt the full wrath of the headwind and I fell farther and farther back. I looked behind me and saw Tristan and Ulysses, a Berkeley kid that has always been closely matched with Tristan and I. They were quickly catching up and soon they passed me. I decided there was no way I was going to stay with them and all I could do was hope Tristan could hold Ulysses back (he succeeded). I struggled through the rest of the lap on my own. I wound up finishing 14th which was not great given it was a heat of 17. On the bright side however, I checked my gopro and saw it was still recording with 8% battery remaining. I had caught the four lap race in its entirety on my gopro which was a win for me. 

All in all it was a very unique race that I’m very glad to have experienced. Three epic laps followed by a bit of a crummy fourth lap but even though it wasn’t my strongest day or an ideal course, it was a very worthy race for my last NICA season that I’ll never forget. 

Modesto Flow 4/9/2022 – Tristan Schonfeldt-Aultman

I was actually really looking forward to racing at this course after the pre ride. I thought the course was fun and suited my riding style well. So I was pretty excited, except for the fact that it was supposed to be pretty hot.

Arriving to the course on race day though, I was surprised by how windy and dusty it was. I was sure that it would slow us down a lot and in combination with the heat, it would be pretty painful. However, it actually wasn’t too hot, even after walking around and cheering on people for hours, waiting for the varsity race.

Finally, when our race was starting, I saw that me and Finn were pretty much the only varsity riders not wearing glasses for the dust, but that was just fine. And so we then started our race, and in no time at all, I underestimated how slippery the dusty trail was and fell at the top of the windy beginning section. This didn’t hurt my position too much, but then like a mile later, I fell again but harder. This put me pretty much at the back of the varsity group, so I had to play catch-up for a while to get back to my original position behind Finn.

It took me like another lap or so to catch back up, and was able to get back my position behind Finn, but then the race took an extremely weird turn. Like all of the varsity riders were staying together in one big pack, probably because no one wanted to pass the leading people because of the super strong winds. This led the entire varsity group to drop their speed to like 5 miles per hour at some points. It was so crazy, like we were just doing a bunch of sprinting sections and then resting. Pretty much all of our first three laps were extremely similar time wise, and the people in the back actually had better lap times than the people in the front. I had the third best 2nd lap time followed by two people behind me.

I was able to talk with Finn a bit about how weird this race was, and I was telling everyone I passed or who had a mechanical that they definitely could catch back up. But I knew though that it would all come down to the last lap where everyone would sprint like crazy. I started to prepare for that by not going too fast, but I was still lagging behind the main pack a bit, but I was pretty sure I would be able to catch them again since they would slow down so much at specific spots like the two sharp turns near the river at the end. And finally when I was on the last lap, everyone stayed pretty together for the first bit, but then the front people started to sprint ahead, eventually leaving only Finn and Ulysses in sight ahead of me.

I was still a bit behind Ulysses, so I made it my goal to pass him. So for the first half of the lap, I slowly got closer to him, and used the long sprinting sections to get right up behind him. I then drafted off of him for a bit to try saving up my energy for the inevitable sprinting at the end, and finally, at the uphill gravel section right before you turn around and start heading back towards the finish line I was able to overtake him. To my surprise though, Finn was right in front of Ulysses, and I was able to overtake him too. This definitely brought the pressure since I had previously briefly overtook Finn before, but quickly got passed again. 

I picked up the pace for the remainder of the lap, trying to stay ahead, but Ulysses passed Finn and was right on my tail. I kept up the pace and sprinted up the hills, and was thankfully able to put some distance between me and Ulysses. And then again to my surprise, I could see someone from black mountain composite not too far ahead of me, and thought I maybe could get ahead of them before the finish line. I was on the last section before the final sprint though, and there wasn’t much time to get ahead of them. So when I got to the top of the final hill, leading to the finish line, I started sprinting like crazy to catch up to them. I was getting so close, but unfortunately I couldn’t get to them in time and finished only 4 seconds behind them.

I didn’t know what place I had got, but was so happy that I was able to get ahead of Ulysses and Finn. Hearing that I got 12 though, I was ecstatic, since I started out near the very back after falling twice, and stayed there for most of the race. That was also 4 spots higher than my last race, so I was super happy with that outcome. 

This was definitely one of the weirdest races I have ever done and probably will do. It was just so relatively leisurely, and I would love to race there again. Preferably though if it wasn’t as windy/dusty/hot. Bottom line though, it was a great and fun race.