Sunday morning marked the second race day in our early Season. Brian Castelli, Nick Grudzien, Austin Hermosillo and I were in attendance. It was Cold, breezy and still a bit damp in a few of the corners (most notably the last corner).
Brain and Nick raced the 40+ Cat 4/5 race as 8:30.
A wet course caused a sluggish start, with water flying into the face of everyone. Corners were slow with most folks sitting in. Halfway through a break started, Nick and 2 other folks. As the gap increased Brian moved up to the front to control the pace of the main pack. Not content to sit there after a lap, he unleashed and bridged, only to notice that he pulled most of the group with him (whoops!).
The pack stayed together for most of the rest of the race, dropping a few, including the exhausted-from-pulling-the-field-across-the-gap Red Peloton fellow. A couple teammates from a San Jose squad decided to test gravity and both lost, providing a concert of the sounds of breaking spokes and cracking carbon. Ultimately, they walked away. A bit of a rain shower part way through added to the spectacle. Nick ended up sprinting for a respectable 5th in a very competitive and tight race.
At 11:10, Austin, Nick and I raced the Open Cat 4 race.
Yes, Nick raced both! The Field was a descent mix of 27 riders, with seasoned veterans, young strong up-and-comers, and some fresh to cat 4 rookies (miss-matched kits, saddles to high, super squirrelly!). The race started relatively smooth but quickly cranked up to 25mph+. For the 45 min crit we averaged 26 mph, so it was overall a very fast crit. We had a team plan to use Nick and Austin to shut down break-a-ways and attacks, so that there would be a good opportunity for a group sprint finish.
Early only there were several small attacks and accelerations, but being a wide smooth, flat course, it was easy to see these attacks coming. Nick and Austin took turns at the front matching and countering these attacks with the precision of a pro team! It was apparently very early that we were here and affecting the race! They shut down 4 or 5 descent digs from strong teams like Olympic Club and San Jose Bike Club, even the random all for show Team Swift attack!
As this was Austin’s first Cat 4 race since upgrading, he had forgot that there were prem’ laps, and actually drove hard to keep the peloton connected to the abrupt accelerations of the people sprinting for socks and hats! This worked well to prevent people from trying to attack off of these prem laps.
Roughly 30 mins in, during a lull in the action, 2 riders jumped away and established a healthy break of at least 20 seconds. We let this break go for several laps, both to give poor Nick some time to recuperate as well as see if any other teams were going to help try to bring the break back.
With laps cards now showing 7 to go, people were starting to get nervous and several random people started taking pulls at the front. With no decent headway being made, “Nick the Grinder Grudzien” rolled to the front like a boss and put in a smooth powerful 2 lap pull (keep in mind, he already shut down attacks and raced a whole separate race!) which brought us within a good 10 seconds of the break! This also got the Terun team to commit to the chase! (One of the Terun riders even told Nick after the race, they weren’t going to help until we went, which speaks to the Respect that Red Peloton has in the local race scene!) They jumped on the front after Nick and joined the hunt. Oddly enough, San Jose Bike club, who had a guy in the break also pulled on the front. With 3 to go and most of the Peloton’s energy quickly being zapped, the field was strung out and the break again was maintaining their advantage. With hope of catching the break starting to diminish a streak of black and red blasted up the left side of the Peloton! “Austin the Amazing” came back to the front for a final “suicide” dig! Mentally I was super stoked to see Austin come up, because I was sitting 5th wheel behind some tired people, feeling the pain myself and I didn’t want to have to make pull! Austin pulled at 27 MPH for another lap which brought us close enough to smell the fear on the break! Austin then cracked, and no one wanted to pull through, despite Austin’s frantic hand waving. I pulled through and put in a 30 second effort to not lose any ground on the break. At this point, we were well into the meat of the last lap. San Jose Bike Club came to the front at this point as well as the tail gunners (the guys who sit on the back of the pack hoping the peloton will come back together in the final laps, so they can try and sprint). I had to dig deep on the final straight away hitting 33 mph and holding 3rd wheel before the last corner! Amazingly and like a pro race, we catch the break 20 yards from the last corner! This pushed the line of riders out a bit from the perfect race line coming through the final corner. The group came through smooth, but the moisture on the ground, intersection paint and flashbacks to my pedal clip from last race made me hesitate just a bit to make sure I was upright a bit more before hitting the boost for the sprint. The finish was only about 100ish yards away and the road was nice and wide. It was a mad dash for the line. The 1st and 2nd place riders was clearly well rested as they gapped the rest of the sprinters. I managed 4th by half a wheel, and fifth was at my heals coming across the line (pics attached!). Amazingly 3rd, went to the kid who was in the break and managed to get through the corner and still sprint after a 10+ lap break away effort…. All in all, it was a great race, where great team work got Red Peloton on the Podium!