Sorry this comes a little late, but I have some photos, race reports and some stories from Humboldt State’s road season. And I certainly can’t let them go to waste.
Despite making at least a 6-hour trek to every race, we somehow pulled out the DII Western Collegiate Cycling Conference championship. I think that attests to Humboldt County’s epic riding and a few very dedicated team members that were willing to make the haul down south nearly every weekend. Let me tell you, that trip is no easy task week after week, sometimes missing class on Friday, and often pulling in too late and exhausted on Sunday night to get any sort of homework done before class on Monday. But HSU Cycling makes it happen, and it paid off!
Here are some of the guy’s (where are all you girls this season?) race reports: Dave, James, Andrea, and Kelyn.
Stanford Road Race C’s
By Dave Garcia
There were lots and lots of surges on the way out during this race. I stupidly followed one or two of them early on before I realized that no one who wasn’t from UC Davis or Stanford was not going to stay away on the way up; workhorses from those two schools wouldn’t tolerate that shit on the way back.
Winston Sauber went slightly OTF with a couple UCSB kids and I think a UCSD kid up the climb which was real risky and not worth it in my opinion. I could’ve managed their pace but I didn’t think that the break would stick (which I was right). Eventually Winston realized that he was going to get sucked in by the pack and dropped back; when I caught up to him I gave him a little room for my wheel and encouraged him that we were gonna go for the win. The two or three other guys that were up the climb with him stayed away though until about 4 miles before the finish.
The way back was interesting and dynamic. I did my share of work during the descent portion and spent the small time of pure flat before the finish mainly sheltered. I had to close a few gaps because of other people’s poor descending skills and just generally laughed at a lot or riders’ stupid wastes of energy. A lot of riders would jump out of the draft on the way down only to gain a few positions in the line or to pull on the front (WTF?). It really amazed me how people waste energy.
We caught the other breakaway riders on the flats before the finish and the pace slowed down incredibly. No one was up the road and people wanted to conserve energy for the sprint. Fast forward to 1 km: I’m feeling great and ready to kick some ass. I wanted to start my sprint pretty early around like 400m but this Berkeley guy was just floundering in front of me slightly left of the shoulder just kinda blocking the way. Eventually I squeezed by on his right and he let me (thanks). This was enough room for me to open up a sprint (a little late) and still get 2nd place.
For next weekend I think that Winston and I need to work together in the final few kilometers to set one of us up for a great sprint finish.
Stanford Crit A’s
By Kelyn Akuna
In the men’s As the pace was fast from the start. I had told myself prior to the race that I was going to sit in for at least the first half hour, holding wheels and conserving energy near the back of the pack. At what point I decided to ignore my own advice I’m not particularly sure, but it was early in the race that much is certain! I found myself in the top five to ten positions either setting tempo or chasing breaks. In retrospect it’s actually fairly humorous. The kind of racing I focus on is about split second decisions, reacting instead of thinking. It was fairly recently that my coach was telling me not to over-think things that I should follow my instincts, of course, the kind of racing that I specialize in is typically over in less than three minutes at the most. Although instincts certainly play a role in crit racing, clearly the tactics are different and having the presence of mind to think situations through is essential.
For the first 40 minutes I was doing fine. I felt comfortable on the bike and holding my position in the pack. My cornering skills were rusty, as I learned on the second turn of the first lap when I clipped my pedal, but as the race wore on they began to return and I was carrying more speed through the turns. What really surprised me was not the pace, it’s no faster than any endurance track race that I have done, but rather the length of time we were able to sustain that pace. Typically the longest endurance race I do on the track is about 10 miles and we do that in less than 25 minutes. This race was an hour!
As the race continued I began to look for the lap cards every time we passed the start/finish line, I had expected to see them when we had reached five laps to go. Much to my chagrin they appeared at nine laps to go and the sudden realization that I had more race left than I expected felt like slug to the chest.
As my heart pounded away to the tune of a funeral procession I found myself sliding through the pack until at last I wasn’t just the back, I was off the back. I looked up and it appeared that the pack was slowing down so, reciting some advice I’d gotten in one of my first races, “One more effort,” I put out one big acceleration to reach the middle of the pack. Luckily I was able to recover, enough so that by the time we reached four laps to go I was able to close my mouth and breath through my nose for the first time since the first half of the race. I kept telling myself, “four to go, just finish!” With two laps to go it dawned on me that it wasn’t just about finishing, it was about finishing well. If I didn’t cross the line feeling like my heart was going to beat its way out of my chest I’d done something wrong and I might as well have stayed home. I had lousy positioning going into the final lap but I started to make my way forward and put in another big effort on the back side. There was no way to advance through turn three so I went in somewhere around 20th position and was able to sprint my way to what I think was around 15th. I couldn’t stand the whole sprint as my legs were on the verge of seizing and by the time I crossed the line I was completely spent.
Having the opportunity to compete in collegiate races has been amazing and I am eternally grateful to Humboldt State and all the members of the Bike Club both past and present that have enabled me to become the athlete that I am today. Someday, in the distant future, I look forward to the time that I surf the web and see the familiar green and yellow jerseys, the smiles and excitement from the new members of the team and I’ll smile when I remember that that was how I started.
WCCC Championships, Davis Road Race B’s
By James Williams
The start was about 1.75 hours from the best place the team has ever stayed the night. (Luke’s parents are the best!) We got there with plenty of time to warm up but just after they ran out of TP. The Men’s B race wasn’t until 1:35, so Luke and I helped the C and D riders gear up, and then I prepared for another nap. I awoke to stories of victorious C and D riders and tales of terror in the gravel sections of the race. I put on my kit then met up with some of the UCB guys for warmups. The race started off with a tailwind and a nice easy pace, I settled in, chatting with the group. The pace picked up as we hit some small hills and I moved to the front in anticipation of the gravel section. There were at least two major crashes that took out two top Davis riders in the first section, then there were multiple attacks into the second deeper gravel section, more riders down. We regrouped and headed for the feed zone to do it all again.
At some point a Davis rider went off the front but nobody seemed interested in bringing him back. The pace remained about 14mph into the wind, none of the teams wanted to pull. Back to the gravel section, Luke attacked bringing pain into everyone in the peloton. 28mph through the deep gravel, riders falling off the back or just falling down, it took everything I had to stay on his wheel. We slowed down when we hit the pavement with only about 10 riders in our group. Slowly, riders chased us down and we regrouped. 14mph into the wind, that Davis rider was set for first, nothing Luke and I could change. There was a small group of oak trees to the right, on the last lap it looked like they were ~2-3 miles from the finish.
We passed the feed zone and the group requested a nature stop, Luke and I soft pedaled on the front, we came up with a plan. Into the first gravel section we held back letting the rest of the field do the work. We hit the small section of pavement and Luke turned to me with a questioning face, I nodded my head yes and we sprinted around the peloton into the gravel.
There were shouts of profanity and disgust as Luke once again showed the peloton that Humboldt could not be matched on this formidable road surface. Weaving from one side of the road to the other Luke found the best lines, I glued myself to his wheel. The field blew further apart as what could have been mistaken for Tom Boonen continued his charge. I attacked when we hit the pavement, the remnants of the group struggled to follow. I soft pedaled over the top of a small hill and slowly some of the victims of the gravel section made contact with us. Luke attacked the next hill, I sat up and watched the reaction. We descended the hill and a course marshal/ref car pulled up beside us. Someone in a green and yellow jersey went over the yellow line, we were told to stop to determine if the violation was on a Calpoly rider or one of us. Luke had attacked on the hill so it was ruled that he had violated the line rule, the rest of us were told to resume the race. By this time the chasing groups managed to make contact with us, the majority of the peloton was back together. I was pissed, Luke had ridden harder than any other rider of the day and I was certain it was a Calpoly rider that crossed the line. We continued towards the finish and I saw the small group of oak trees in the distance. I moved to the front staying in the left side of the lane and prepared for my sprint.
I charged into the headwind giving everything I had, there was a small response from the peloton by individual riders but they were short lived. My gap opened up and I settled in for my TT to the finish. Looking back, the peloton began to string out but my gap was still building. Head down I pushed on, the gap now steady at a little over 100 meters.
I rounded the last corner and I could see the finish tent in the distance, there was no way they could catch me now. I relaxed my pace and crossed the finish to take 2nd place.
You don’t need a D1 school with an 8-person team to get good results, You only need Luke and his Cervelo soloist.
Davis Road Races D’s
This was my second sanctioned race ever, and man was it a fun course. First off, I made the mistake of assuming that since we were in Davis, the course would be pancake flat, and I put on my 11-22 corncob freewheel. I could have used a winder range for sure. After the chubby davis guy gave me grief for my jump bucket and mtb cleat shoes, we were off. A pretty good pace got set by davis right away (maybe the tailwind got them carried away?) I stayed right on someone’s wheel in the front 5-10. Everything was fine until we hit the rolling hills with short burst climbs. Somehow I managed to suicide downshift my chain off, which lost me some time. Luckily I was able to get it back on without stopping, but I had lost the top riders. I hit the gravel aggressively and caught back up with a few people, eventually grabbing joey from Davis’ wheel right after the end of gravel. He was kind enough to do most of the pulling into the vicious headwind…Thanks joey! We got to the turnaround and felt the tailwind catch us…”we’ll catch ‘em if we work together” we agreed…I took off with joey on my wheel, but a minute later joey started bonking (maybe I should have pulled into the headwind more?) I worked really hard with the help of the tailwind to try and catch the front. I hit the gravel and passed a few straggling C’s, but my wheel started feeling funny. I feared the worst but wouldn’t admit to flatting: I could see a few D riders ahead! I asked this guy I passed if my tire looked OK, and he said yes. 300 ft later I knew that wasn’t true. I had pinched. Threw my spare tube in, pumped it up and within a minute was back on the road without losing any spots! Half a mile later…flat again. I screamed in frustration. Joey passed me and said “sorry”. Then all kinds of D’s and ladies started passing, as I patched my two pairs of snake eyes. I borrowed a floor pump from a passing parent’s car, caught up with Sean who had just passed by, and finished the race with him.
Still don’t understand how I pinched my 120psi tire w/ liner. Oh well, at least the course was really fun and I finished the whole ride.
Davis Criterium D’s
First crit ever! 25 minutes. 10th place
Really fun course, great S corner (turns 3/4/5)
Sean had two slow leaks, so he went for the first prime, and man was that a funny show. He took off like a bat out of hell and a bunch of riders got worn out trying to catch him. He got the prime on the third lap and then just stopped, leaving lots of riders very confused.
I hung on to the top 10 and took it pretty easy the whole time, very fun race format. Had to be stubborn a few times with people trying to snag the wheel I was on.
With 3 laps to go I found myself with a lot more momentum than the pack coming into the first corner, but for some reason I held back. Whoops, mistake. Last lap on the beginning of the S turn, and this davis guy comes screaming (literally yelling “inside inside inside”) on the inside of my turn. For some reason I back off. Whoops, mistake. Try to catch up and scrape a pedal on the second to last turn. Whoops, mistake. Finished with gas in the tank, too, but I’ll learn not to do that next time.
Still, I feel pretty good about 10th place and after that was done, I was just asking when the next crit would be.
Thanks for introducing me to “official” racing, team! Good work champs.
PS thanks to luke’s parents for hooking it up big time! They should get a logo on our jersey or something.
By Luke Ramseth
As for me, I have my first season of collegiate racing under my belt. It’s been exciting at times, and heartbreaking at times as I suppose all racing is. Unfortunately, the downers have far exceeded the positives this spring.
In my first-ever collegiate road race at UC Santa Cruz, I started feeling some serious flex in my frame, and the occasional cracking noise. Hmm, I thought, that doesn’t sound so hot. I looked down to see a massive crack between by bottom bracket and seat tube. Great. Felt aluminum frames are the worst. It was my second Felt that has snapped at the bottom bracket, and needless to say I didn’t race the rest of the weekend. The squad didn’t need me, though, as Kelyn scored a 2nd in Street Sprints, and Carl and James torched the Bonny Dune hill climb course.
Next up for me was the Stanford Race. By this time (a few weeks later) I had a new frame, a Cervelo Soloist, and a mindset that I wanted to win after my bad luck in Santa Cruz. James Williams, my trusty teammate in Men’s B’s, and I covered all the major breaks, and I tried to escape on the way back to the finish on an out-and-back course, but to no avail.
It was altogether in the last few miles, and I tried to stay near the front on the incredibly narrow road, as the center-line-rule was in effect. The sprint was chaos, as can be expected when fifty dudes duke it out on a six foot wide road. I was in decent enough position, launched my sprint, some idiot sat up in front of me, I dipped maybe a foot over the double-yellow to avoid him, and ended up third. Not bad, I thought. Until I heard that someone in our field had been DQ’d for crossing the center-line. Yeah, turned out it was me. I thought to myself, man I’ll never even get close to the center-line again. I was wrong.
Next day in the crit on the Stanford Campus, I wanted redemption. I felt great the whole race, but unfortunately kicked it a little late at the finish, and ended up in fourth.
At Davis’ Conference Championships, James and I both came in feeling in good form. Unfortunately, James had some allergies hit him hard the night before, and was stuffed up all morning.
Long story short, we both were killing it through the two gravel sections of the course, and had whittled down the field to a select fifteen or 20 guys going into the last few miles. I looked around and saw the suffering on everyone’s faces, yet I was feeling fantastic. It was truly one of those amazing days on the bike.
I put in a dig on a small hill, just to see how they would react. Got a good gap, and all of a sudden the referee’s car pulls up to the group. He tells a Cal Poly rider he’s DQ’d for crossing the center-line. I’m thinking, whew, at least it wasn’t me this time. But then he changes his mind and drives up to me and asks if I crossed when I attacked. They guy was determined to DQ somebody, so he stupidly decided to pull ahead of the group, slow us down, and proceed to tell us that he would neutralize the race if we couldn’t figure out who crossed. I admitted to attacking, and that seemed to be enough for him. I was DQ’d and soft-pedaled my way back to the finish while the race continued on without me.
James scored a second place, and I ended wanting to shoot myself for somehow managing to get DQ’d for the second time in two weeks. Lesson learned this time, I hope.
In the Crit, James and I both ended up mid pack, but the rest of the team came through in the clutch and allowed us to claim the DII title ahead of Santa Clara. We snagged our trophy, and trekked back to the cars to bring the goods home to Humboldt.
Check back in the Fall for some MTB updates and reports!