There was an excellent Cyclocross race this past Sunday. Held next to Lake Hodges in Escondido, the course had a little bit of everything (well, little bit of everything that we can ask for in So Cal. In November). But it would be remiss of me to not share why this race is called Udo Cross. The Southern California cycling scene can seem very large and disjointed. But at the same time, pockets of community and connection also develop amongst us. When a cyclist is hurt or killed, we all fell it in some way.
This is how I felt when I heard about Udo Heinz just a little over a year ago. Even though I did not know him personally, I raced at many of the same races as he did and his personal story resonated strongly with me. It was an honor to race in an event named after him and that he contributed so much to.
I had circled this race in the calendar as it was the regional SCNCA cyclocross championships. Last year, I raced the Cat 4 championships at Irvine Lake and got second. This was race #2 in the local SPYclocross race series, sanctioned by USA cycling.
This year was a different Lake, a different course, a different bike, and a different category.
This would be my first time racing as a Cat 3. It had taken me a while to accumulate USA Cycling upgrade points…but that’s for another post.
As this was my first time racing as a Cat 3, I had no points in the series standings, so no call up. I knew this would definitely put me at a disadvantage. But then, some dudes who were called up weren’t even there. So when the official called “All other racers to the line,” I snuck into the last front row slot, on the very right on the inside.
On the start.
The start was great and I hit the first difficult section off the road in 2nd place. This part of the course was tricky. Downhill sand section and gravelly rocks. Followed by a 180 turn by the water’s edge to start the sand section again. This time uphill. And with the barrier section thrown in.
Hitting the sand in 2nd place. Right behind Vertican. This is on the first lap. Photo by Phil Beckman.
I knew I wanted to make my own line through the sand so I attacked right before the 180 turn. I powered the uphill sand section, cleaned the barriers, and chose to remount IN the sand right after the barriers. This would turn out to be a downfall later in the race. But on the first lap, I all of a sudden in front. I hear the announcer in the background saying my name. I should be happy. But I’m worried as hell! I’m never in the front.
I hit the flyover and as I start the backside of the course, which is a steady climb which seemed to last for a minute, I actually purposefully slowed down. “There’s no way I should be in front,” I thought. As I crested the climb and got ready for the descent, 2 or 3 other riders in my race passed me and I slotted in right behind them.
The downhill was welcome. Fire road and singletrack with some loose corners. This transitioned into some 180 turns back on the pavement, which honestly was a sign to me that the organizers needed to lengthen the course but didn’t now how else to do it. Then it was back to the start/finish area.
This pattern repeated itself for the rest of the race. Attack the downhill sand section, blow up the legs on the uphill sand section, recover over the flyover, then attack the climb and singletrack downhill.
In hindsight, after the barriers, I should have kept running because remounting in the sand was hard to get going again.
People started passing me and I couldn’t tell if they were in the waves that started behind me, or in my same category. People passing me is pretty much par for the course. People also were crashing in front me too. I avoided at least 3 crashes, all occurring in sandy, loose corners. +1 for tubulars, thru axles, and luck. Or is that +3.
Eventually I could see that one other rider and I were battling. He was behind me but each lap was inching closer and closer. I had met Griffith Vertican right before the start. Nice guy. And I knew we were in the same race. On the last lap I gave it everything I had to keep in front of him but he passed me on the long uphill. He later told me he went into the red to pass me and stay away. I told him I was already in the red.
I jammed the downhill, sprinted for the line, and that was it. I had no idea how I did.
When people go to the race with family and friends, they often chill after the race. Hang out. Hit up the kids race.
Yeah, my family wants to get out as soon as the event is over! So it was off to Thai food and the San Diego Zoo Safari Park.
Turns up I ended up getting 5th place! For me, I was happy. Solid enough result at the regional champs in my first Cat 3 race.
So post race lessons. I want to end these race reports with an analysis of what I did well and what I could do better. Hopefully these can help you too.
Things I did well:
– I don’t really warm up on the trainer anymore. I used to. And I guess if the weather was bad, a trainer warmup would be good. But otherwise, warming on the course allowed me to warm up AND learn the course at the same time. I ended up doing two laps to warm up.
– Started well. If you can, having a front row start helps so much. Call ups will negate most of this but if you can get a front row start, it’s time in the bag.
– Raced aggressively but not TOO agressively. I honestly wanted to hit some of those corners at warp speed but I saw people going down left and right.
– Raced to my strengths. I attacked on the downhill sand and singletrack descent areas.
Things I could improve on:
– Pacing. My first lap was 7 minutes flat but all the other laps were about 7:30
– Saving momentum. I should have kept running on the uphill sand after the barriers. This is how I got passed several times because I was getting bogged down in the remount.
– Know your competition. I was within shouting distance of 3rd place. If I knew who was in Cat 3 and who was a master’s racer, I might have dug a little deeper to stay with my competition.
Well, that’s my race report for Udo Cross. Hope you enjoyed reading it. More to come!
Oh, and the pictures are from Phil Beckman. Nice guy, local, does great work. Check him out at PB Creative.
Results for Cat 3. Interestingly enough, the top 2 riders in Cat 4 had faster lap times then all of us….
Phil making me look like I know what I’m doing.
Nice video of a lap of the race course. Thanks to Le Tour de Plants for posting on Youtube. Lots of videos here for our local cross courses. Around 0:40 is the start of the downhill sand section, 1:15 the start of the uphill sand section, 1:30 for the barriers, 2:20 for the flyover, 3:13 for the start of the long climb, 4:40 for the downhill portion, 6:15 back to the pavement, 7:10 for the Stuffed Burgers food truck, and 7:26 back to the finish line. This is pretty much the timing of the laps I was doing.