I had a game on both Thursday and Friday where my school team ended up losing those good battles. Saturday, my family ended up playing in a volleyball tournament fundraiser for the Brain-Aneurysm foundation. We played maybe 5 straight hours with only 5 minutes for breaks in between each of the 5 matches. Winning a big match in the semi-final boosted my confidence after the 2 days of losing and I just felt great afterwards.
My dad and I woke up at 4:00 AM, loaded up the car, and drove to Granite bay while I slept. Even though I felt super confident, I did play 12 hours of volleyball with little rest but the love for the game masked my pain. I rode the pre ride with Coach Johnny and the Oakland team and we went at a super mellow pace. I was able to see all the lines and find what I wanted to ride, test out my dropper on a race course, and decide between my carbon or my aluminum wheel (because I raced the XTERRA and mtb race at Granite Bay on the aluminum wheel and it felt great). The course was so well put together and the dirt was amazing. After settling with the carbon wheel, I changed out into some casual clothes and I was able to enjoy myself for the first time ever. Sundays just feel more chill than Saturdays and even though I was anxious to race, I had fun just cruising around.
Nutrition wise, I had some oatmeal waffles at 4 when I woke up (it works with early races like XTERRA but not really for these later races). Also, I had 2 bagels with peanut butter and 2 bananas with 1 1/2 bottles of water leading up to the FROSH boys starting to warm up.
Getting to the warm-up, I felt pretty tired in my legs but I just wanted to have a good day on the bike because I love Granite Bay, this is real mountain biking, and I wanted to go and have fun on my home track. The warm-up felt good, but I felt concerned that I was kind-of struggling to spin fast and powerful and I had a more than average sweat. With 30 minutes to the start, I used the bathroom and spun out on the dirt going to the start. Something new this race was that I was using calf-socks in hopes they would help me out.
On the line, I kept to myself and took my HotShot before it was time to race. We started, I found myself in the top 10 heading into the first single-track, and I just wanted to stay on a wheel. From past experience, I knew the importance of not being stuck behind a slow rider on single-track. I also knew that the Monterey boys love to go out fast and hard so I fell off the wheel a bit with a pretty good gap between me and the guys behind me. I gave the lead train some room, but I kept them in sight as a marker and I feel like I had more flow in the first sections than they did. 2 crashes and some bottlenecks from the lead kids brought me into the top 8 and I was ready to TT my way through the track. Out at the point, I passed up a Monterey kid who looked gassed from the blazing start and I just kept flowing through. I kept saying to myself “Fast is smooth and smooth is fast” “this is a time trial so do your race” “We aren’t in Monterey anymore so send it.” Soon I caught another kid while I was maintaining my pace. Then I caught Drew from Fresno, my fellow Junior rival. I dropped him and I just focussed on a pace I felt I could maintain for 2 ¼ laps. I made it to the final climb and descent and I caught my boy Cameron Stewart. I stuck onto him and we worked together. On lap 2 I led him and we started catching packs of D1 kids. On the first significant climb, he got caught behind 4 guys and I rolled away in my TT mode (I didn’t attack, I just went at the same pace). For the rest of the lap, I did what I usually do where I attack the punchy climbs hard to maintain the flow and I tried to control my heart rate and energy. On the final lap, I caught up with Alex, the current points leader. He wasn’t looking good and I was sure I could pass him. As expected, I’d make a move and he’d try to block or counter it immediately. At one point, he collided with me and slid out and I slowed down so he could get back up. He countered when my wheel slide out and attacked hard on the same climb I dropped Cameron a lap ago. I was sure I would catch him again later because he’d blow up hard, but my heart rate was uncontrollable and my legs felt like jelly. I had been drinking and eating but I guess cliff blocks aren’t effective in a race anymore. From here, I just tried to maintain my race pace at 95% and just focussed on flow and cresting hills. From here, I was sitting in 4th and I just kept pushing so I wouldn’t drop out of the top 5. After the switchback climb near the end, Cameron caught me and he gratefully paced me up the rock garden and down the hill. From here, he opened up a gap but he was still close enough to not break my spirits completely. Across the road, marsh pit, and final single-track, I kept looking over my shoulder to see no one around me at all. I made it to the beach knowing I was home free and I just pedalled my way to my first podium of the year. I crossed the line and waddled my way all the way to the water where I jumped in with a cheering crowd behind me. Cold water never felt so good and my drained legs and aching back thanked me. I stayed there for a while and Calvin from SF and Brian from Black Mountain joined me.
I walked back up to the finish area where I got my back cracked out, changed, and feasted on the amazing chicken and rigatoni that was there. I kinda wish I ate more because I heard the meat got thrown away but that’s a lesson on my part. My weekend was a success and I feel so proud and accomplished with what I did. I feel like racing my own race and having a technical course really favored my style of riding and I need to work on my nutrition and training because I feel so drained by the last ⅓ of the race.
Dylan Gong, junior varsity boys, Oakland Composite, 5 / 40