One more race to add to history this last weekend. It was my debut to SoCal racing, my first glimpse at the riders whom I will be competing against this season and possibly many more seasons to come. It was the largest field I have ridden in since my entrance to the sport not so long ago, 44 riders I think. The week building up to the race I'll admit I was nervous, not knowing what to expect...I mean Californians are better at everything, so obviously, I would be facing much tougher competition than I did in Utah and Arizona. The plan was to stay at Rob's house the night prior (the race being near Oceanside), get a good nights sleep, then drive down on Sunday morning well rested. Well, I forgot the X factor. I was staying at Rob's. I didn't end up going to sleep until about 1:00 and then had his drunk brother come home, who realized I was there. Fortunately Rob explained to him it wasn't ok to just wake people up in the middle of the night because he wanted to say hi.
I did however get in about 6 hrs of sleep so all and all I was good. with a good breakfast at some place near Newport w/ hot waitresses and a pleasant drive down the PCH, Rob and I made it to the race. There were tons of people there. More than any other race I had been in, or gone to watch. This added to the intimidation factor just a bit. As I'm rolling through the endless line of cars, people checking out what bike I got on my roof..."look at that cheap thing, what a joke...he's going to race that?...Scattante? and so forth" Obviously just a figment of my imagination, but still.
Anyways, as I got dressed and emerged from the car in the Bearclaw kit, my attitude changed. I forgot the trainer so I warmed up through the parking lot as others got ready. Now (in my mind) people weren't looking at the bike, but instead the Team Bearclaw kit I was wearing. The confidence suddenly escalated. I was ready to kick some ass.
As I sat at the start, a guy w/o a team kit pulled up next to me. I laughed to myself, who is this guy? After all, I ride for someone now...I earned the right to be pretentious. I ignored his futile attempts at conversation and successfully made myself out to be pretentious. As we rolled to the start line after the A group left I heard a call from the side, "Hey! Performance!" Taking a second to realize that was me, I looked to see a rider who occasionally comes to the store. We struck up a conversation across the whole peloton, him saying he thought I was just a mtn biker and me telling him I'm just starting but I don't expect much. This of course was to throw off everyone at the start who was sitting there nervously themselves just before the race started. Psychological warfare, that's the name of the game. I listened to some other riders making jokes to everyone, speaking loud so all could here. But as my experience in Utah told me, these were the guys who would be as easy to drop as a match above a fire pit full of gas.
For those still reading, I'll finish quickly. The race started. I moved my way to the front of the pack but spent little time on the front for the first third of the race. After the first lap on the second half of the climb I moved to the front, picked up the pace hoping to separate the field a bit. It worked and by the top of the climb we were 4. For the next 22 miles we held off the pack and the chase group, dropping one rider at the end of the final climb. I didn't push as hard as I could on the final climb thinking that since I felt so fresh still I'd have a chance to out sprint the other two who were left. I was wrong and they took me in the final 500 meters. I still placed third though, so a good race.
When I first joined up w/ Bearclaw, one of them told me that it was guaranteed that w/i 3 weeks, hot girls would be knocking at my door. Well, not exactly. But a pretty hot photographer who was there told me she had been cheering for me because I was with Bearclaw. Good enough for me!