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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