Murrieta Cat 3 Race Report – 3/10 Crit and 3/11 CR
Saturday was an early start. Race was to begin at 9 am and I was coming from Camarillo – about 2 hours north of Murrieta. I arrived around 8, full of caffeine and ready to go. By the time I was situated and registered and ready to warm up, I had about 35 minutes until race start. I got loose enough and went to the start line. It was already pretty warm, thankfully, and the temperature was slowly rising as it continued to do for the rest of this scorcher of a day.
We set off and as can be expected at this technical course, turns were slow and cautionary. This is an L-shaped course with 6 turns. Two long (~500m), wide straights with narrow turns and sections in between. The 2nd-to-last turn goes onto a narrow drag of pavers and then a tight turn onto the everlasting final sprint straight. Anyhow, Lots of braking and worrying and yelling, “hold your line bro!” Such is life in these races. Most of the [1 hour] crit was pretty uneventful. Long straights topped off with riders piling inside just before the turns to see if they could manage to make position without anyone noticing. There were a few break attempts along the way but I think we all know that breaks are heroic in this cat 3 field. We love our sprints at crits. There was a crash near the halfway point that eliminated the top GC contender, winner of the TT, from contention.
We continued to ride as a pack for the remainder. I think there was a break for a while but we all knew it would get caught as soon as we decided. With 3-4 laps to go, we caught the one man break and started shuffling and preparing for the final push. I knew I didn’t want to get caught behind too many wheels on this course with a few laps to go. So I stayed in the front and wasn’t worried about being in the wind but more so about being safe. I felt good as I came off an easy week so I figured I would have a lot of energy in the final laps. Therefore, if I had to eat some wind to maintain position, so be it. On the final lap, I maintained a top 5-10 wheel and on the strait before the final turns, I awaited a large pack to rush up the inside. Knowing this would happen, I scanned behind me and stayed near the front, 3rd and 4th wheel. I knew the personnel around me were intending on being in the sprint and contending for a top spot. So I kept urging everyone to keep up the pace and keep our inside lines safe so that the turns would be fast, safe, and successful. We did just that. We came in and out of the final turns fast and safe and I was on the 3rd or 4th wheel. Once we were on the final straight the speed leveled off and we all began to match sprint each other. The guy ahead of me is a track jr who is quite fast and I knew I would want to be glued to his wheel. Unfortunately for him, the rider ahead of him put a strong but quick effort in and no longer had enough speed for us to stay behind. Therefore, Dan, in front of me, started an early sprint with not many other options. A few seconds later I saw my opportunity and accelerated as hard as I knew how, coming around Dan (Get Crackin’ team). I believe this gave me the gap i needed to sustain, even with the guys behind me holding my wheel before the acceleration. I kept sprinting and put down all i had to the finish and it was enough to give me glory. I crossed the line in celebration and as I always do, was quick to turn and immediately begin congratulating, talking and breaking down the race with the other finishers. Derryl Halpbern (Metal Mtn), a regular on the podium was second, and Colin from Get Crackin’ was a close third. Neither Derryl or I had done the TT the day before so we had no prior points as Colin did. We were now 13 and 15 points behind the leader (Colin) and were 5th and 6th in the overall from the crit success.
Sunday was a 930 start and a 13 lap race around the ~3.5 mile loop for about 46 miles. I had stayed at a local hotel so I was mostly refreshed in getting to the race site. We suited up and got going once again. We pretty much stayed as a pack for the entirety of the race. Small breaks but nothing to worry about for the most part. So, we all shuffled around for 2 hours and when the final lap came…so did chaos. Once again, I got up front at the start of the final lap. In fact, I even did a teaser attack to see if anyone behind would go crazy. They weren’t about to let me away (thankfully because I didn’t have the fuel to do it anyway) and I came back into the group and fought for position. My efforts today, however, were not as successful in staying up front. I dropped back a few spots and got trapped. Once this happens on a narrow single-lane it can be tough to make any head way forward. With only 3 or 4 corners left, I knew I was going to have to work to get to the sprint. uh oh. With two turns to go, I was ready to make a quick and strong push to get up to the front 10 wheels. But unfortunately, the [widened] road was still blocked with riders that went near the front and slowed down. This created a secondary barrier which I couldn’t get through, despite my yelling and screaming to “GO!!!!” Second-to-last corner came and it was my luck to take an outside approach (to set up an inside approach to next section) and I got stuck behind a waning attacker. This was bad because I was in good position before this and I had to take this turn slow. After I passed I basically sprinted about 95% around a big chunk of riders, maybe 15 or so. I also brought with me a few sprinters who were marking my wheel previously. I was able to make a hard push to the front before the final turn but then I saw Derryl already launching. This is bad because he is a great rider and he had a great jump about 100m before the final turn. This is ideal in this finish. I was still 20m behind him trying to bridge the gap in order to contend on this sprint. Then the final turn came and again there was receding attackers that had been caught right in the middle of the corner. Im not sure if this slowed me down but I certainly remember paying attention to them in order not to hit them. Out of the turn I was full gas and quickly catching Derryl but with little real-estate to overtake him. Unfortunately, the sprinter behind me used my draft well and bolted around me out of the turn. I was able to keep my momentum but both Derryl and the drafting rider were able to maintain their lead and I was behind them in third with a close nose finish hold that position. I threw the bike across the line in order to confirm my podium. It was quite a manic finish but luckily I was able to get around enough riders before the final turn in order to be able to sprint. I would have been much better off without having to get through so much traffic in the final 3 turns, but hey that’s what we deal with in bike racing.
Great weekend. I ended up third (3rd) overall in the GC and we (La Grange) were 4th in the team GC. Beautiful weather and a great precedent for next weekends huge stage race in San Dimas. We WILL be very strong there and a force to be reckoned with.
Lets also give a sigh of relief to Nick Gillock who broke his collarbone in the final turns of the crit as he got caught up in a crash. Very tragic and fortunately he has no head injuries or anything more severe. However, a healing collarbone is no fun. Very sorry Nick. Also congratulations to our teammate Carlos Franco who was attacking and putting in great effort to protect me during both races this weekend as well as recent crits at Ontario and Dominguez. We’re excited to see you again Carlos.
Lastly, huge props to our Cat 1 and 2 guys for making noise this weekend and obtaining podiums…see race reports as I don’t want to divulge too much.