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March 2016

Race Report – 2016 NICA Race 2 at Granite Bay

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2016 NICA Race 2 at Granite Bay

Saturday, March 19th

by Joey Rempe, Senior @ Novato HS

Ahhh yes, nothing like waking up earlier than usual on a weekend to drive to a NICA race! I woke up and stumbled out of bed far later than the time I had set my alarm to the previous night. In a groggy daze, I wondered whether I had packed all my essential riding stuff; smelly gloves, smelly helmet, muddy shoes, scratched glasses, and old bottles. I was really happy to have stayed late the previous night at Brustop, replacing a destroyed bottom bracket and spending some quality time with my fussy drivetrain (huge shout out to Aaron and Kevin for getting me dialed). As long as my bike is functioning properly, I know the ride is going to be great. Let’s go racing!

Granite Bay was calling my name and I couldn’t wait to get out there and shred! Granite Bay has always been a favorite for me. The terrain is more steep and technical than our first race at Fort Ord which makes the racing a little slower, but more challenging. The course is diverse throughout offering up rock gardens, sharp turns, flowey descents, and sand. The course also always feels great to race since it’s so well traveled. Just riding it, you can feel the thousands of race laps that have gone into it, honing the perfect tacky lines that weave in and out of the trees. Lots of shade, lots of flow, lots of fun!

San Marin Novato High School - Race Pit NICA

I had secured a solid 13th place finish in the Junior Varsity (JV) D2 division at the Fort Ord opener race two weeks prior which gave me a 13th place call-up. I rolled up to my starting spot expecting a 30 second wait until race start, chatting with the other riders around me. Then the flag dropped after only a 5 second pause from the race announcer and we were off! Almost immediately, I was overtaken by what seemed like a swarm of 10+ riders, all kicking up rooster-tails of sand as they passed. I knew as long as I found a happy place within a group of riders, I could pace myself then wait to attack at the end of the lap where I could make up time on the descents and the flats. This plan always works without fail… unless you get dropped.

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Somewhere around the beginning of lap 2 I was alone, except for a rider from Waldorf who was probably 15 seconds back, and he was gaining. I decided to try and hold my pace instead of run from him, which I knew would leave me with an empty tank for lap 3. Nearing the end of lap 2, the racer from Waldorf had passed me and I had stuck to his wheel, trying to hitch a ride. I made my move to pass and then it was on to lap 3 to see if I could pick up any more positions.

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Lap 3 was fairly uneventful, I could tell I was slowing down and I was wishing that I hadn’t trained as hard the previous Thursday. I caught two riders from my division at the first climb of the lap, and tried the same strategy: Stick with ‘em, draft, and attack late. Towards the end of the lap, there is a peak, then a descent onto a stretch of pavement, then onto the final segment before the finish. At the peak, I managed to pass the two I had been following by taking a more aggressive line through a climbing rock garden. Then I widened the gap by being as aggressive as I could on the descent. Then, disappointingly, the duo caught me on the flat pavement before the final push to the finish. I don’t know how but sometime between the top of the hill and the end of the flat, the duo had become a trio as another JV D2 rider had caught up. In a panic, I foolishly tried to take a more aggressive line through a muddy corner, which landed me in a pile of rocks and shrubs that wasn’t on the trail. So I ended up losing 3 positions going into the last few turns! I managed to gain two of these spots back fairly far from the finish but I knew the last one would be decided in the last 100 feet with a crank-bending sprint!

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Although my overall finish was decided within the last 100 feet, it was not as glorious nor as beautiful as it had played out in my mind. I wish I had photos to show what happened, but you will have to use your imagination. Coming around the final turn, I attempted to pass a rider from the Granite Bay Grizzlies named Ben Gould. I was way too aggressive and didn’t realize how tight he was taking the corner until I punched one of the course’s fence polls with my left hand that sent me rolling directly into Ben. Fortunately, neither of us wrecked and I ended up rolling across the line just before him. I want to apologize dearly to Ben, I shouldn’t have taken that last corner so aggressively and I certainly didn’t intend on passing him like that.

That was the conclusion to my long race day. Though for some of my team mates, the day ended much earlier than expected. An early accident took my friends Gavin Parnes of Novato High and Kyle Hammer of Marin Catholic, out of their race just seconds after the flag dropped on the Frosh D2 category. Both got roughened up enough to stop and take a DNF on this one. Both of them have recovered and will come back to race #3 in Lagoon Valley with a vengeance!

In the end, Granite Bay was just as I remembered, a great mix of dry sand, tacky dirt, and a true test of a rider’s technical ability. My lap times were solid and my bike performed wonderfully. As a bonus, securing 17th place in my division bumped me up to 10th place overall in individual points! Woo hoo! Now all there is to do is buckle down for the next three weeks and train my butt off so I can hold my place in the standings. Thanks again to Bicycle Brustop for helping me stay out there and continue to do what I love. Stay tuned for race #3!

Race Report – 2016 NICA Race 1 at Fort Ord

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2016 NICA Race 1 at Fort Ord

Sunday, March 6th

by Harrison Jantze, Senior @ Redwood HS

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5, 4, 3, 2, 1, and just like that the first race of the season was underway. For as long as I have raced with the NorCal league race number one has always been Fun at the Fort, located at Fort Ord in the beautiful Salinas, or is it Monteray, California. This year however, this race was special too me. Last year I had come out a little too strong and cramped up in the last lap and was determined to not tell the same story this year. The first race is always an interesting one because there are so many aspects at play. There’s new competition to scope out, new kids to help as they attempt their first ever race, and it’s the first chance you get to put all the hard work that you’ve been putting in to the test. Which brings me to 12:45, precisely. The time I mounted my bike to begin my warm up. I had my music in and my pre-race playlist going, nothing like a strange mix Sublime, ODESZA, Nirvana, and a couple other bands to really get you in the mood. By 1:20 I was at the start line with just five more minutes to go. As Vanessa started her countdown I took one last deep breath and before I knew it we were off.

The entire JV field shot up the first hill, later I found out that there was a crash off the line, but that’s neither here nor there. The first lap may have been one of the most painful experiences of my life. As I desperately tried to fight my way up to the lead group to grab a wheel there seemed to be borderline chaos. Kids dropping off the front of the pack and falling back, kids coming up from the back to the front, and even kids riding off the side of the course. But, by the time we reached the first descent everything seemed to be sorted out fairly well and things began to calm down as we all settled into what would be a fairly consistent pace for the next eighteen miles. After the start my first lap was pretty uneventful, but I did manage to pull a sub twenty minute lap which I thought was pretty cool.

As I moved into the second lap I found myself quickly gaining on what appeared to be another rider in front of me. I was soon drafting off of his wheel waiting to make my next move which I did shortly after one of the descents. After that I was alone, and was alone for almost a full lap before someone came up from behind and attempted to pass me. This ended up being a pleasant surprise because there were a few sections of the course with a bit of a headwind and it was nice to have someone to draft off of once again. But, by the time we reached what was my favorite spot to attack on the entire course, a gravely fire road that was borderline too long to sprint up, I was ready to make another move and so I buried myself a little bit deeper in the pain cave and pushed it as hard as I could up the hill.

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Then it was onto my fourth and final lap. As I started up the first climb of the final lap I found myself thinking a bit about how this was the last time I would be doing this climb and how this was my last season and my last first NorCal race, but was quick to push all those thoughts away so I could focus on the final lap. As I moved into the final lap I caught another group that was ahead of me and was yet again relieved that I could draft. However, as we entered the final descent the two riders in the front made a move to get around a rider and there wasn’t quite enough room for me to get around. By the time I could get around they were long gone and there just wasn’t enough time left to catch back up.

I couldn’t be more happy with the first race of the season. Consistent lap times, a solid fourteenth place, and I now know just how tough JV is going to be this year. Looks like all that’s left to do is go put in some more miles in the pain cave to get ready for the rest of the season. That and take my bike to Bicycle Brustop and have the mechanics dial in my shifting; which after all the mud and sand is much needed.

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