Pine Flats Road Race (Fresno, CA)
The undulating terrain of CA has meant I have been spending a lot more time on my road bike than I did in Boston. Since moving to the Bay Area, I have connected with a lot of strong road racers in the area and definitely gotten the bug to try my hand at racing road again. Although it has been years since I raced road as a junior, I plan on mixing in some road races this year with the hope of getting up to Cat 1/2 by end of the year.
Late last year I entered the Patterson Pass Road Race, a hilly 66 mile road race a few hours east of San Francisco. I made a long solo breakaway after the first of three loops and wound up winning by a commanding lead. To ring in the new year, I entered the San Bruno Hill Climb, a 3+ mile hill time trial. As a strong climber, I won my race by over 90 seconds and was just a few seconds behind the overall Cat 1 winner.
The Pine Flats Road Race was the first road race I entered for the 2015 season. I went down to Fresno with Robbie "Berto" Chrisman and Brianna the day before. After fighting through miserable traffic in San Francisco, we arrived late in Fresno and called it a night before an early wake up the next morning. The drive up to the hills east of Fresno gave us a nice preview of the terrain we'd soon be competing on. The course started with a 25 mile out and back section of rolling hills and a few cattle grates. The race then twisted down a fast descent onto very flat farm lands. The flats would eventually go away as we make the turn back up to the hills. The final 12 miles of the race featured two climbs, one longer 4 mile climb followed by a long descent and then a 1k steep pitch to the finish.
My race started out very tame and controlled. With the long flat section ahead of us, any attempt at a breakaway would almost be suicidal. I stayed up toward the front of the group to try and put in a few honest efforts now and then so we wouldn't just be on a Sunday cruise. The race followed a fairly uneventful course until we approached the foothills about 15 miles from the finish. Once we made the turn up the hill, I picked up the pace and had a gap on the field. I kept the effort high up the first climb and had built a decent lead. About halfway up the climb, I passed the E3 race that started 5 mins ahead, giving me some confidence that my move would secure the day. I continued to push hard on the descent to maintain whatever lead I had; hoping that the group behind me was fractured and wouldn't be able to work together to catch me. As I approached the final 1k climb, there was someone right on my wheel. Assuming it was yet another E3 racer drafting off me, I frustratingly told them to get off my wheel. To my dismay, it was two guys from the E4 race who had worked together to catch me on the descent. Having worked hard for the past 20 mins, my legs were far from fresh and it would be difficult to try and drop two strong riders, again. On the final climb, I put in a hard move at the first steep pitch and dropped one of the two. I recovered as much as I could before trying one last move on the next steep pitch about 150m from the finish. I made about 5 hard strokes out of the saddle and very quickly lost all power ... cracked! The other rider seized the moment and made his final move to win the day.
Overall, this was a great race! The scenery was spectacular; golden poppies blanketed the hillsides and cows were grazing on green hills all around. I got the opportunity to race some great guys. Despite coming up short in the end, I raced an honest race and lost to a deserving competitor (congrats Aria). My trip companions also had great days as well. Brianna won her first road race for W4 and Berto took 4th for P1/2. We celebrated with several In'N'Out burgers before driving home and consuming our fair share of beer.