Back in the States, the fever from Argentina is basically done, and now it’s time to start getting the legs back going again. Doing some local racing is always a good time, and I believe usually a better way to get some training in then just going out and pounding efforts all by your lonesome. At the end of the day I’m a bike racer so I want to race my bike. That may be down with the biggest names in the sport in a different country, or just with some good ole local boys at home.
The UCLA Road Rce has a decent course on hand. A 12 mile loop which goes up, turns, goes up a bit more, turns, descent, turns, then flat with a gradual rise to the start of the climb again. It’s not an easy course by any means, and the real kicker that not many people mention is that your at elevation. Not crazy high but around 4,500 feet. Thats not too far off Boulder elevation to give you an idea. You don’t feel it too much at first but you’ll see people just come undone towards the end of the race. I know this first hand from a few previous races. I didn’t do this race last year but the two years prior in the Pro 1/2 field I got shelled towards the end pretty good.
After signing up online I figured I would check the pre-reg riders to see who was gonna show. Usually a local race gets a pretty weak field, especially when its a hard course. Most people like to flock to the local crit scene, unfortunately thats not much of bike racing nor do you get much of a work out. Surprisingly though there were a good amount of riders signed up. Even more surprisingly USA Cycling had myself as the predicted winner. Minor fist pump at home moment. Come race day and lining up I would say there were 60-70 guys on the line. Pretty cool for a local race, but don’t quote me on that exact number. The next kicker was that there were a descent amount of pro’s on the line. Optum (now Rally) had a few guys, Axeon had a couple guys, Incycle had a full team, Silber had a full team, and some other Canadians from a couple other teams and then myself on my own holding it down. Maybe 15 or so pros showed up, I think that might be a record for a local race.
We started the first climb and Silber rode the front setting a descent tempo and already I could tell it was putting some people in the back in difficulty. For me today, the key would be doing as little as possible but also tacking onto the right moves with teams be represented, once something goes up the road with the right mix of guys that would basically be the end of the day and I had to make sure not to miss that. Nothing happened on the climb, then we turned at the top and nothing happened again. Once we hit the descent attacks started going. I followed a couple but made sure not to do anything too big as it was early and most stuff on the descent wasn’t going anywhere. Two guys got away on the descent from Silber and Axeon. Once we hit the bottom and turned on the flats, the attacks started to go. It was constant attack, counter, repeat. On that section there’s not much room to hide as it starts dragging up. Through the constant shuffle about 8 of us got away and hooked up, myself included. We turned to start the next lap and another group of about 8 bridged up. Once we hit the climb Silber was at the front setting a good pace and rode some of the riders off the back which just bridged up. After the climb and onto the descent I scoped out who was all here and took count. A decent group with maybe 13 riders in it with 4 Silber guys, Axeon, Optum/Rally, Incycle, H&R Block and then some fluff. The fluff would be the local guys that I’m not really sure of there teams and names.
I knew this was basically the race as we we’re going pretty good already and on this course its more or less the strong survive. Nobody was going to do a Hercules bridge move and most all teams had riders up here. During the second lap I more or less sat at the back and let Silber do all the pulling. I was here on my own and didn’t have anyone in the back or here with me, so I wasn’t gonna do much work at all this early on. I was plan A, B, & C for this race.
Lap 3 was more or less the same, nothing too eventful. Lap 4 is when it started getting interesting. Still the same dynamic with everyone present, but the Silber boys finally got tired of pulling everyone around. They now used there 4 guys to start throwing in attacks to get away and more or less taking turns. Myself, Geoffrey Curran (Axeon), Jesse Anthony (Rally), Orlando Garibay (Incycle) were kind of the only ones in the group who would follow, but Silber made it clear they didn’t want any passengers. If they had someone follow they would just sit up, then the next attack would go. The “fluff” in the group just sat back and watched this all happen, either too tired to follow or just wanted the pro’s to do it. Eventually one Silber rider got away and that was worst case scenario for us. Now they had 3 guys in the group of 12 or so who just sat on us. The size of this group was a bit too big for everyone to work. The core of us who were following moves could pull, but then you had the other guys; “fluff,” who would just sit and we didn’t want to pull them around so before you knew it we weren’t going very fast. That ended lap 4 and going into lap 5 it was more or less the same. A couple guys were dropped but still the same core guys, not much work going on, at this point Silber represented almost half of the move as they still had one guy up the road. A couple moves on the climb, but nothing went. Some pulling here and there, but still uneventful. We needed to cut this group in half to get some real cohesion going.
After the descent on the lap 5 and into the flats more attacks started going. I could tell guys were starting to get tired as the attacks were pretty timid. Overtime though one of those Silber guys would just tack on the back and shut it down. Finally coming into the last lap I was pretty over it and attacked hard again. One Silber guy came with me, but I didn’t care at this point, I just wanted to get away with one to go. I started to put some space on the small group behind as we rode the climb. Once towards the top I looked back and saw 3 riders coming up and the Silber rider with me went hard to where I couldn’t follow and now he was second rider on the road. The three riders caught me and it was now myself, Incycle, H&R Block and another SIlber sitting on. With a half a lap to go we all worked well together, minus the Silber rider sitting on. After the descent and through the flat area the Silber rider sitting on jumped us and got away. The Silber boys ended up playing there numbers well and went 1, 2, 3. The three of us came in for the sprint for 4th and I ended up just missing out on it getting fifth. I should’ve bike thrown.
All in all, a pretty good day, I thought I felt pretty shit half way through, but I guess everyone else was as well. Hats off to Silber, they rode a good race and played there numbers well. Now its Sunday & Valentines Day which means its time for a solid 6 hour spin.
Jon Hornbeck, rides professionally for the Holowesko | Citadel Racing Team p|b Hincapie Sportswear Team and is also is the owner of Spandex Stampede Cycling Fundo Events. You can follow Jon on social media at @JonHornbeck.