No season opener is fit without a fresh mixtape. If you think race reports are more boring than music, then all I can offer you at the moment are a few albums that I checked out on my trip to the first big race in Fontana this weekend:
'Ambivalence Avenue'- Bibio
'Black Sands'- Bonobo
'Crystal Castles' - Crystal Castles
'Psychic Chasms' Neon Indain
The scene at Fontana this year was quite similar to last - first big off-road event of the season, same techy course, same nice warm weather, same hotel...The starting line-up was 18 riders shy of last year's numbers, with a similar spectrum of talent (but with more Canadians it seemed). Having all of these similar variables was a good thing, because aside from having a solid race at Fontana, I wanted to have a good comparison to my performance from last season. I felt more confident this year having put more time on the bike. In summary, 2010 is off to a better start. I ended the day in 21st (11th American) 11:24 behind the leader, whereas last year I finished 36th (26th American), 18:30 back.
I've done a few road races so far in 2010, but none of them have offered the same rush as the start of an off-road event. There was a hectic, 30-second start-loop at Fontana this year, followed by the same fast fire-road into absurdly steep climb into techy descent...all said, don't f#%@ it up in the first 3 min of the race or you'll get get caught in energy-wasting traffic. Suddenly, cyclocross nationals in Bend didn't feel so far away. Looking ahead into a sandpit before the first climb I could see riders fumbling slowly, frantic-lemming mode onto the otherwise fast rock line, so I preemptively dismounted and ran through the outside of the sand, gaining 6 places that I didn't have to worry about again. At that point, I was sitting in 19th, with Barry, Sneddon and Ryan close ahead. The first lap went by smoothly (besides the start), and I focused positively on the four laps ahead. With a steady pace I gained another three spots going into the second lap, now in 16th. For laps 2 through 3, I focused on riding consistently and focused (though I felt confident, I didn't want to induce another overzealous blowup like the beginning of last season). At the beginning of the 4th lap, Canadian Peter Glassford caught me on the windy paved climb, and I was beginning to feel my strength fade. I grabbed his wheel through the singletrack climb but lost him just before the top. That's when I may have slipped for a bit off my good form both physically and mentally. By the end of the lap (17th), I could see a group of 4 closing on me. I held them off up the last steep climb. They caught me on the pavement, and at that point I slowly began to lose them in the headwind. It was a painful four spots to lose, especially because it came at the end of the race. I pushed myself as best I could to the finish, feeling spent. It was a good race, except for the last 20 minutes.
Overall, I am happy with the outcome. I'll take this weekend's shortcomings as motivators, and focus on making a positive trendline from this point onwards. It's good to be starting considerably ahead of last year. Looking forward to the longer daylight and the opportunity to finally get solid mid-week riding after leaving the office. Looking forward to Sea Otter...