Category Archives: Race Report

Vail Lake Short Track Junior UCI race

March 13, 2019

Vail Lake short track race was my first “big pond” race of the year. I knew from the previous race and training that I had the potential to do well, knowing that I had a really good sprint. However, I needed to see what the course was like and how the others (pro men/women/junior women) raced the course to figure out the best strategy.

The course consisted of two sections. The first half of the course was wide open and overall uphill. In this section I knew no one would want to attack or go hard, drafting would be a key part. I also knew from watching the previous races that the race would regroup along this stretch as no one would want to work. The second half was tighter, containing a fast straight downhill into a flying uphill corner. After a few more seconds of climbing the course went back downhill into two tight switchbacks before heading into the last straightaway which had a 180 degree turn into the fire road sprint back to the finish. Each lap took about 3 minutes.

I started 4 rows back with ~6-7 across. The start to any mountain bike race is important, but I knew that there would be time to pass and as long as I stayed out of a crash and in sight of the lead group, I would be able to move up. As the UCI official counted down our race start, I prepared myself to accelerate off the line and to stay alert. Normally, I have the power to accelerate to the front, but as I was behind others, I wasn’t able to move up. Rather than get anxious, however, I stayed calm and collected. For the first two laps, I rode behind my teammate Gabe, riding smooth and seeing how I was feeling. Looking back, I had a much lower heart rate during these laps, averaging 188BPM. Starting the third lap, the front group slowed down quite a bit, and I saw this as my chance to move up. As we were climbing the open section of the course, I took a more off-camber line and moved from 15thish position to 2nd, stealing a wheel from another racer as if I were on the velodrome. This “victory” was short-lived, as seconds later I felt my back wheel slide out underneath me as a rider fell on me from behind.

The whole thing happened before I could react as I found myself on the ground with a bike on top of me. I immediately jumped up, grabbed my bike in extreme frustration and jumped on it like a cyclocross bike. I had lost the front group and was about 15 seconds down. My legs hurt, my breath hurt, and my seat had broken in the back, making it wobble slightly. Looking back, I realized I had a moment of doubt, thinking that maybe this was where I lost it all. But as those ideas filled my head, they were quickly replaced with remembering Kate Courtneys UCI win despite flatting and losing her top 3 positions. I gritted my teeth and accelerated as hard as I could, passing 15 or so riders along the way. However, I knew that if I wanted to finish strong, I couldn’t burn all my matches at this moment. I spent a lap moving up until I caught a group of chasers with some of my teammates. I managed to pull it back so we were only 5 or so seconds back. The next lap I sat in a bit and tried to recover and save some more energy, before starting the lap 5 where I put in another effort to bridge up to the front group, back into the top 10.

Chasing back after the crash.

At this point I was hurting quite a bit, having averaged 197 BPM, much more than my first two laps. For the next 2 laps, I suffered, trying to recover as much energy while still staying upright and holding my position. I remember hearing “3 laps to go” and mentally groaning. However as the announcement for 2 laps left went out, a new wave of energy hit me, and I moved to the front. 

Going into the race, I knew I wanted a sprint finish. I knew that I was a sprinter and that out of most mountain bike racers, I was one of the strongest finisher. However, as I had spent most of the race chasing, I was never able to analyze who I was racing against and what their strengths were. So when I moved to the front, I put in some very short, 5 second or so efforts to see what and how people would respond. After a few 2 or 3 of these, I realized that everyone wanted to cover an attack, but did not want to commit to anything. More importantly, I noticed I had better acceleration than the others. 

Testing everyone’s legs.

Going into the finish of the second to the last lap, I slowed down and moved to the right side of the course. At this moment, a rider from Mexico attacked and I slipped right behind him into his draft. He hauled it along the straightaway through the finish and the bell for the last lap rang. He thought he caught me off guard and had opened a gab, but instead, I was sitting comfortably on his wheel, using minimal energy. After 20 seconds he looked back and sat up. We now had 2 and half minutes of racing left, short, but too long to start the attack. We regrouped for about 20 more seconds before the next attack went. This is where I look back and realize I should have attacked. At this moment the rider from New Zealand attacked, with the Mexican on his wheel. I moved up to cover it but got blocked by another rider. This wasn’t the situation I wanted to be in, but I was able to accelerate around him and back onto the wheel of the Mexican. We reached the top of the hill. I kept my speed and kept pushing. Both the riders ahead of me sat up, tired, but I still had something left in me. I dug hard and passed them both as we started the downhill. As we went down and around into the flying uphill corner, I knew I had everything in the bag. That was until I pushed down on my pedals only to feel the force disappear as my chain snapped.

Looking down at the snapped chain as the eventual winner passes me.

This… sucked. I’m proud to look back as without thinking I just got off and ran. I lost about 50 seconds and ran across the finish line in 22nd place, 21 places lower than I knew I  would have done.

Walking across this finish line.

My First Varsity Race

Background: I am one of the assistant captains of the team, a junior at Carlmont High School, and this is my third year racing for the team. My freshman year I finished in 26th overall in the freshman category, I trained really hard that off season and placed first overall in the sophomore category with a second place finish at State championships. I am a climber, the longer the better and this year I will be racing with Cameron Adams on the Bear Development team.

Going into this race I knew that I had the best fitness I’d ever had but since I had never raced in varsity before I knew that I would be starting from the back and would have a lot to learn about my competitors, high-level tactics and the nutritional needs for races that were over twice as long as my races last year. The course was an extremely fast, flat course with a few short, very steep climbs mixed in. With four laps for the varsity field, these would be crucial sections for gaining time and would be choke points for attacks. Due to the style of the course and competitive field I had planned out passing spots and knew that I could only hope to catch up to the front group in the first half of the lap, due to the second lap being mainly windy fire road and double track. I also talked to my coach beforehand and we decided that I should only try to pass on flats or downhills because passing on climbs would waste too much valuable energy. 

Bridging up to the front with Cameron Adams on lap #1

Starting from the fourth row next to my high school teammate Blaise, I was able to execute on my plan perfectly; passing most of the field on the first flat section of the race and catching up to the front group by the top of the first climb. Unfortunately, before I had time to recover, Nathan Davis from Monterey put in a strong attack on the front group splitting it, with me still in the back. They quickly put twenty seconds on me with only sevens minutes until they hit the fire road; I knew that I was going to have to dig deep if I wanted to catch them in time. I put my head down and hammered for the next seven minutes, picking up the stragglers of the now destroyed pack as I went. I wasn’t able to catch the final three riders by the time the fire roads had started but I had pulled it down to only a few seconds and we had cumulated into a chase pack of five riders which was more than enough to battle the wind and catch them with a couple miles left in the first lap.

For the rest of the first lap and the entire second everybody sat in with only some slight change in positioning between the eight of us who were now in the front. On the start of the third lap I felt amazing but had a miscommunication about my feed so I had to drop to the back of the group in order to open a GU, this was the start of my downfall. On the first climb, the 7th place rider started to fall back and a gap started to form in front of him, I decided to go against my race plan and go for a pass to fill the gap. Right as I did this, the 6th place rider goes for a pass well, causing the 7th place rider to surge forward and blocking me from moving up at all. As we crest the hill none of the positions had changed but the back three of us had all burned matches. This is also when Nathan decides to attack the group which causes my worst fears about a gap forming to become a reality as I watch the pack get strung out with me too far back and not enough energy in my legs to bridge up immediately. For the second time in the race, I put my head down to bridge up. Even though I get within a few seconds, I had no help from the other riders with to make the final push. The rest of the race was just a blur of pain as I continued to try to close down the gap with the front group as it continued to grow. The other rider with me was toast but still managed to beat me fairly easily in the sprint causing me to be pushed back to eighth.

Sitting in with Varsity pack on the end of the second lap


2018 State Championships

You could say we had a pretty good showing at the 2018 State Championships in Petaluma.

The State Championships bring together the NorCal and SoCal leagues. Additionally, these two leagues are split into separate conferences. For example NorCal has North and South conferences, each racing on a different day of the weekend, but not at State Championships! Everyone rides together making for fields of 100 riders compared to the usual 30. There are new riders to race against, unknown quantities. Its what makes the State Championships something special.

The Woodside Beasts were one of the top teams at the 2018 State Championships in terms of top 3 placings. That’s an achievement that will be hard to repeat and all the results came from our group of sophomore boys (we’re actively recruiting girls, know any?)

Cameron Adams – 1st Place Junior Varsity

Cameron won the Junior Varsity. We knew he was coming on form and in with a podium chance but the win was unexpected. Here’s his words from the race:

“For my race, it went way better than I expected. The first lap was hard and it was anyone’s race, but as we climbed the first hill, people started making mistakes, especially on the downhill, so at the garden, it ended up just being myself and two others. By the time we started climbing for our second lap, it was just me and my race leader and two year “frenemy” Alex Akins from the Lightfighters. I took the lead and picked up the pace and by about half way through the climb managed to open a gap. I tried to keep up that pace all through the second lap (getting the 3rd fastest lap time of the day, something I’m super stoked about), and by the third lap I was grinning up the hill as my dad and teammates cheered me on. One kid from another team got a picture of me crossing the finish line, and in it describes just how happy I am. Going back to the beginning of the season, I was off the bike for a few months until about a month and a half before the season due to injuries. My first race, I got 7th, and from that moment on decided I would train. What I think makes this race so much more important to me is that I proved that you don’t have to be a ‘god’ or a ‘mutant’ with good genes or super strength to win, you just have to have the heart and motivation to get better. So in the end the title of State Champion means so much more to me than just a race that I won. To me it represents all the sweat and effort that I put in these past few months to get to where I am today.”

Cameron on lap 2 of 3 in the lead, catching a rider from the earlier starting D1 category.

Quinn Felton – 2nd Place Sophomore

Quinn had been on a storm all season, leading the NorCal sophomore category from the very first race. For much of the race he was just behind the eventual winner Levi Mason from the SoCal league who proved to be just a little bit stronger on the day.

Here’s a section from the NorCal race report. “This is what happened at the front of the Sophomore D2 field with buddies Levi Mason, Santa Maria Valley Composite [SoCal] and Quinn Felton, Woodside Beasts [NorCal]. These two have been friends for a while, and they ride together, but they race for two different leagues so it was time they try to distance themselves from one another in this race. Levi had a strategy of hanging with his friend on the climbs and trying to take him on the descents. Even though Levi took the victory, he and Quinn have embodied the sport we all love by “just riding bikes together.” ”

Quinn’s improvement over last year has been phenomenal. For perspective, his lap time improvements over the previous year were 4 mins for the first lap and 3 minutes for the second, plus he had an extra lap to do. Its a testament to what can be achieved when you set a goal and work towards it.

Quin on his way to second place with no one in sight behind him.

Blaise Baker – 3rd Place Sophomore

Its always nice when a rider gets a results which you didn’t expect. But then looking back, it should really should not have been a surprise as his results were consistent and he was also coming into form. Blaise lives up to “Beasts” name; sitting on his wheel in a training ride is a beastly experience. What’s more, he’s a soccer player so its scary to think what he might do if he focused on cycling.

Blaise rode a very smart race. Quinn and Levi were too far ahead so he played the waiting game with another two riders, making the effort on the final long climb to round out 2nd and 3rd for the Woodside Beasts.

From the NorCal race report: “Another Woodside Beast was nipping at Quinn’s heels, and that was teamie Blaise Baker who said, “I really can’t believe it. I was hoping for like a top 7, but I knew it was a stretch for 3rd. I always do a lot better on courses with lots of climbing so States was basically a perfect course for me. After the first climb I was able to stay with the second group and throughout the race we kept dropping people until I was the only one left. I am just really stoked. We did so well as a team and I can’t wait till next year when we have a girl (or more) and we can go for a team award.”

Blaise passing a rider from a another category with the 4th place rider, a leader from a SoCal conference behind

In Summary

Cameron, Quinn and Blaise will all be racing Varsity next year (and for the year after). That’s a whole new level that will bring in new challenges but I’m confident they’ll be able to step uop to that challenge.

In total we had 11 riders at the State Championships. Everyone has their own goals, not every one has to be, a state champion.  Many turned in performances that met their goals and everyone had a great time and that’s what really counts.

Click here for a full set of results.

Paul’s Swan Song

Every now and again, there are performances and results that bring a smile to one’s face. Paul’s 3rd place in his final NorCal race was one such occasion.

Paul Serra is one classy rider. In 2016 he was 3rd at States in the Sophomore class, a last minute passing attempt gone wrong cost him a higher placing. That race  was won by one Noah Hayes, this year’s Varsity champion.

Noah and Paul went on different paths. While Noah continued to focus on Cross Country, Paul took up his passion of Enduro racing. Enduro is more about downhill skills, cornering skills, and requires power rather than aerobic endurance. Paul still did the cross country races but with a different training regime he was never as competitive as he might have been.

We knew the Six Sigma course, with its many twists and turns, would suite a rider with Paul’s cornering skills. But we still had to talk him into riding.

You can get an idea of the many twists and turns in the Six Sigma course which require a different skill set from the many other race courses.

Pre-riding the course with Paul was a eye opener in terms of advice for getting round corners fast and what’s the best line.

Paul had visions of holding onto Noah’s wheel (they are still good friends from their Sophomore days) but that didn’t last very long as Noah was in a class of his own. But a 3rd place podium finish is not just any podium place, its a very respectable one and Paul was clearly ecstatic with his placing in his final race.

What characterizes Paul is his outgoing personality. They guys have been racing together for 4 years, it’s their last race in NorCal. Normally 4th and 5th are standing on grass but Paul pulled everyone together for one last past race podium hug! This epitomizes the spirit of NICA High School Mountain Biking. Its the friends and experiences you make along the way that are important.