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!
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.
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.
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!
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!