On Saturday, I drove up to Petaluma with my old man and kid sister. My plan was to pop to the Mike’s Bikes tent and ask if they could fix up the lockout on Trevor’s bike, which he graciously allowed me to ride for this race. When I got there, they said I would just have to wait a little bit before they could get to me. So I waited. Other kids started coming in and popped in front of me and I waited longer while Mike’s adjusted their brakes. Eventually, after my Pa and sis had completed a lap, it was my turn to get checked up. The man looked at the lockout, decided it was too much to deal with (not his fault, he had a lot to do) and cut off the cable for the lockout. Oh well, no lockout. I like to go fast when I’m by myself so I went out and did a lap in about 29 minutes. I realized I would not need a lockout. The course was in horrible condition, and I was extremely grateful to be on a full suspension, it made a world of difference. I didn’t mind the climb; I’m usually better at longer climbs rather than sprinty ones. I got to the top of the climb and was stoked for the descent. But to my dismay, there was not really a descent. I had to pedal the entire time. Bummer! This race would test the powerful. Near the end of the lap, the course only deteriorated. Again, I was thankful for a full suspension. I finished my lap fast and talked with friends for a bit before heading home. It was nice to sleep in my own bed before the race.
I headed up around 9 with the McFaddens. I downed some food and heckled for a good while with the lads. My warmup went well and I was feeling prepared as I could be. I drank a bottle with 2 scoops of gu powder in my warmup and filled 3 more bottles with 2 scoops for the race. Before the race, I downed a delicious birthday cake gu (I like to have 1 before the race and 1 every lap). I was in the 5th row for the start, behind Birdo and next to Emmet. We embarrassed Noah and made some North conference kids laugh at how un-serious we were taking the start. Then, it was time to go. The start was fast, but luckily not too long before we hit dirt (unlike SoCal state champs). Josh Vahlberg passed me and I was behind Emmet up the climb. It was a fast pace but I was feeling great. I passed Emmet and worked my way up the stream of riders. It wasn’t long before I found myself in a familiar position – lots in front of me but no one behind me. I liked this position, it meant I had nowhere to go but up. By the downhill, our group of the top ~20 varisty riders had a pretty good gap on anyone behind us, and I was stoked to come through the first lap on the tail end of the lead group. On the climb, I passed more people who had destroyed themselves on the first lap, including the SoCal leader and a couple other fast kids from SoCal. A lot of them were on hardtails, I felt for their pain. But I was happy to have a fun little group of Colin Ellsworth; a fast guy from the north conference, Josh Vahlberg; another friend who’s been really fast all season, and a kid from Tam High who had actually caught on to our group from starting last – he was the JV leader last year. Our group mobbed past even more riders and stayed together for a lap. By the third lap, I was still feeling mint. Colin had gone off the front, Josh had taken a big ol’ digger but was still in front of me, and the Tam High kid had also taken a nice roll in the dust and couldn’t really catch back on to me and Josh. I led Josh for a bit up the climb, and saw my pals Max and Noah a big switchback up. I shouted to them, and was happy to be somewhat close to the leaders. Partway up the climb, we started to reel in Matt Saldaña (He won JV state champs last year). Not even his S-Works epic hardtail could save him on this course. I asked Josh if we would like to lead again, and he did. We were really starting to catch Matt, and before the top of the climb, we passed him. Josh and I were fully prepared to drop him on the descent, even if it was fairly nonexistent – Matt is a super fast rider, but has been known to be a bit behind the curve on the DH. Even though Josh and I were clearly going faster than Matt when we passed him, he hung on our wheels, and that sly fox passed us before the descent! I was not happy with that. It allowed me to rest up a bit, however. Josh managed to sneak passed Matt on a quick climb and I tried to follow but couldn’t quite make it. Now I was getting a little flustered as Josh was getting away and I was stuck behind Matt, who was slowing me down at this point. On the “berms” downhill, I went for a left side pass, and instead of letting me by, he began to close in on the left side, completely blocking me. We were both going very fast, and a Danger sign was coming up directly in front of me since he was pushing me to the side. I knew I would have to bunnyhop it, crash, or skid to a stop. Angrily, I skidded to a stop. Josh was now pretty far ahead, and I was now realizing that Matt wasn’t going to make passing him easy. So I had to follow Matt for a bit more, before I stormed by him, making sure he couldn’t catch back on. At this point, I was coming into the last lap. I was by myself on the climb, with Josh about 30 seconds ahead and the Tam High kid about 20 seconds behind. On the climb, I caught up to yet another bonked rider, except this guy was on a full suspension. Even still, the undulating bumps had crushed him. We chatted for a while, and he was actually hanging on to my wheel for a decent bit. I kept looking back to see if the Tam High was catching up to me. Luckily, although he was still close behind, he wasn’t making up time on me. Even though I had a gu at the start of the lap, I still had one left, so I decided to eat it to really make sure I wouldn’t bonk and get passed by the Tam High kid. This was my 5th gu of the race. By the top of the climb, I could still see Josh in certain sections. I really wish I had been able to hang with Josh, because I was still feeling strong and we could’ve worked together to make up time. But alas, he was pretty much doing that by himself, as he passed a bear dev rider, Julian Lepelch, who was now the next guy in front of me. Rather than trying to hammer and catch him, I decided to just keep it smooth and fast till the finish. My race was already going so well I didn’t want to risk destroying myself to make up just 1 place. So, I did just that – I ignored the pain, drank some juice, and kept it smooth through the corners. I still hammered where I could, and near the end of the lap I knew that the guy behind me was far enough back where I could relax a bit. On one of the final flat sections right near the finish, Morgan told me, “Noah won!” I was so amazed and happy for my friend. We sometimes give him a hard time, but we all love him lots and are so proud of the rider he’s become. I came through the finish with a random JV rider, and decided to sprint for the heck of it. Just like Matt Saldaña, he drove me into the side of the course and I had to stop pedaling. But whatever, who cares – it’s my last NorCal race! I still sprinted to the line with him and might’ve beaten him. I finished dirty, battered, but still feeling like I might’ve had a little more. I gave Max a nice hug, took some pics, and congratulated Noah. Not long after, Birdo finished, and Dan and Emmet came across the line holding hands. What a lovely memento for our last race. In the end, I had finished 12thplace out of the 65 riders in varsity. This was probably my best race this season. I was 23rdcallup, so I beat a lot of riders ranked higher than me, and finished not too far behind the 11 fastest high schoolers in Cali. What a great way to end my high school cycling career. Time to get fat over summer! In all seriousness, racing NorCal has been an amazing experience, and I can’t thank our fabulous Oakland Composite coaches enough. Morgan, you have done so much for the team, and me and I will always be grateful for it. Scott, you always push me to be better on and off the bike, without you I’d probably be fat and slow. And to all the other coaches – you have put so much effort to making this team the awesome, state-champ winning team it is (just wait till next year, and we’ll have 2 varsity state champs under our belts ;) ). I love you all Oakland Composite, and I think this is what I’ll miss most after leaving high school. Thank you!
Caleb O’Hare, varsity boys, Bishop O'Dowd, 12 / 65