NorCal turns the excellent CCCX course into the Central Coast Invitational. I've directed my talent to support my son Miguel's Albany High Team in the 2nd Division for smaller schools. It was so nice to see all the racers and families of my old squad at El Cerrito and feel so welcome. And I can't describe how fantastic it is to see all the other coaches, racers, and parents from the other teams we work with. Spirits were high and NorCal High School Racing continues to be a tremendous success.
The weather held nicely Sunday morning and the first wave of girls at 10 was dry. The Varsity Girls were impressive. Most notably the Girls, who used to have Frosh and Soph in one group, have been split into separate Frosh and Soph heats because of the growth of girls in the sport. The Starts generally have crashes early as nerves and mixed skills combine, as can handlebars and knobby tires. Their starts were no exception with 2 of 4 having low speed crashes. Over the years the length of crowd control on the 400 yard paved start has been increased to good effect. All races finished safely.
The second wave at 11:45 of Frosh and Soph boys was interesting for me as that is when Miguel races. Coaching racers and developing your own kid are two very different but overlapping things. I have to keep in mind that he suffers from my own brand of stubbornness, independence, and a sharp mind. I am fortunate that he has his own set of motivations and racing savvy. I have faith in his own expertise and our ability to communicate well. I work out my nerves keeping his bikes tip-top and along the way imparting "suggestions" for tactics. The Start is along pave at about 2% incline and I asked him to consider letting the local boys from Salinas and Kingfisher, who race here all the time, to lead out and find a spot until things shake out.
I went 250 yards past the start and crowd control and slightly around the bend. A few seconds after the start I see Miguel leading the pack. WTF! Even at 100 yards, though, I can see he is sitting up and straight-armed; he isn't working at all. As they get closer the V of riders is spreading behind him and about the first 10 are pulling away with 2 of our teammates, Alberto and Tad included. I'm shooting as they approach with Miguel just spinning along easily in his high-cadence style. They whizzed past and around the bend and onto the singletrack where they sorted-out a bit more. He raced with the top 5 for 3 laps and on the 4th they dropped the 4 and 5 riders. They worked together but he missed-out on a final move taking 3rd, 4 seconds behind 2nd and 20 behind 1st. Home turf with new riding buds; they talked the whole time. The first image is of the start, the second his finish. I asked him about the start. He said that he got a lot of roll out of the new wheels built by Neil at Cyclemonkey and the Small Block 8's and really didn't have to work much on the pave.
Here is a little U-tube of the start by Patty Kintz of the Kingfishers:
At breakfast with Miguel and 3 other riders we talked about a basic tactic in these lower classifications; avoid the bodies. Bottlenecks of slower riders or near challenging terrain are the most costly things to a racer in NorCal as the range of talent is broad and passing opportunities can be limited with the hazards of inexperience, fatigue and panic ever threatening. I encouraged them to plan for such things, plan for safe lanes and escape routes. Within site of the Finish after the hairpin there is a bush on the right mid-straightaway. The newer riders will always "discover" the Finish line when they go around the bush and make a made dash for the line. Crashes happen here all the time as the last-gasp fury of the finish enters the muscles and brain disengages, most frequently with the Freshman racers. At the set-up of the course the day before I mentioned to League President Mat Fritzinger this trouble spot as we were putting up fencing. I noted that the bush had been trimmed back and asked for the course to be widened, which he did.
I warned the kids about this spot. One always wonders about whether they listen or not. The next photo we see Tad on the far-left avoid a crash of 3 freshmen at the finish and take 6th. Gotta love that kid. Alberto was not so lucky as he was blindsided by a frosh rider and taken down about a quarter mile before the Finish. No real damage but it shook him in his first League race. He still finished 10th.
All our racers did so very well. We put our very first Varsity racers in Boys and Girls and they rode very well into mid-pack finishes and got a sense for what Varsity means. Our JV boys went 15 and 20 in very large fields, which is awesome. Our Soph Boys went 3,6,10,13,14 and our JV Girl came in just out of the top 10 in 12th. The next photo is our Podium Finish with Miguel at 3rd and his new friends at 1 and 2. They both race for Calvary Kingfisher who are largely supported by Mark and Patty Kintz, our first friends in NorCal in 2002. Sweet!
I was proud to see my old racer kids with El Cerrito. They are all a year older and more experienced. Lindsey Martien took her first Podium spot at 3rd in JV. Chris Bennett took a second in JV to a local Salinas racer. John Bennett and the top Varsity boys went out hard early in what was by then hard driving rain, sending a huge message to the rest. OUCH! John put more hurt on the top racers, though, with a minute lead after second lap and they never saw him again. John Bennett wins the first Varsity Race of the season. I saved the last photo for him. Great kid. Sorry for the fuzzy focus; it was pretty nasty.
I'd like to add that the Bicycle Trails Counsel of the East Bay Sponsors a number of East Bay Teams including Albany, El Cerrito, Berkeley and Contra Costa Composite. It is their way of helping to shape the cycling community of the future. Also, MTBReview support these racers, too, with swag and jerseys. You can see the logos of BTCEB and MTBR on Miguel's shoulders. Further, I want to remind you all that I saw at least 6 bikes which were created by my former Mechanical Director, Lincoln Linsmith, and myself from parts donations from the MTBR denizens. I saw 4 other EC riders who now have their own bikes but started on bikes like these. We're all in this together. Remember that when you hear a young voice behind you say "on your left" and they pass nicely and say hello. None of this happens without a lot of community support.
Next Race is at Granite Bay on 3/15. If you are in the neighborhood stop by.
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