On the weekend of May 14, 2011, 19 of our 21 riders made the long trek down to Los Olivos to square off against our NorCal and SoCal rivals in the California State Championships. We’d earned a berth in the championships by placing 4th overall for division 1 in the NorCal league.
We arrived at the venue on Saturday afternoon. The parking, pit and staging areas were situated in a large, flat valley, with Firestone vineyards to the west and a series of low, rolling hills to the east. The race course was laid out in these hills. The start twisted through the pit area before heading off north on a long straightaway, through a creek bed with water running in it, then climbed gradually till it veered east into the hills. There were a couple of short steep climbs that forced a number of riders off their bikes, but other than that it was pretty straightforward. The single track course worked its way up the northern hill to the eastern perimeter road, before snaking its way back down again. From there it headed east on a fire road climb, which gave way to a single track climb, then wound down once again to the valley floor, finishing with a very long flat run back to the pit area, with another dip through the creek bed, then on past the finish line.
The course was generally disliked by all, with the exception of Jonny and Emily Laskin. The kids thought it was boring, and the almost constant hard washboard surface was teeth-jarring and unpleasant. Plus, other than the two climbs in the middle of the course, there were no places to pass. By race day, though, it had improved somewhat. Some light rain came through early in the morning, softening and flattening out the trail.
Our first racer of the day was Bella, in a JV field of 25 riders. She got a seeded start, and rounded the first corner in the front third of the pack, heading off towards the creek bed and out of view. When we next saw her she was fording the creek once again to complete lap one, in 7th place but just a short distance behind the 5th and 6th place riders. When she came around again for the finish, she’d moved up to 5th, finishing just 8 seconds behind 4th and 15 seconds out of 3rd, earning another trip to the podium.
For the sophomore girls, our five riders didn’t have particularly great starts. They came through in the middle to rear of the pack, which meant that their work was cut out for them, with the limited opportunities for passing and the potential for pile-ups on the first set of climbs. But when they came through after lap one, Emily Lane had somehow worked her way up to 4th, followed by Annie in 5th, then we saw Clare in 11th, Emily Laskin in 16th, and Linnea in 18th. And on the second lap, nearly everyone moved up, with Annie finishing 3rd, Emily Lane in 5th, Clare and Emily Laskin in 12th and 13th, and Linnea in 17th.
For the freshman girls, Nicole had a pretty good start, but she had a bit more competition with the SoCal leader thrown into the mix, and her TL rival decided to sprint the start, getting way out in front early. Thalia and Lauren came through in the middle of the pack, and they all headed out into the distance. After lap one, they came back through with Nicole in 5th, just a short distance behind 4th, then Lauren was 12th and Thalia 14th. But they kept at it on lap two, with Nicole passing a Nevada Union rider to take 4th, and Lauren and Thalia moving up into 11th and 12th.
The next wave began with our sophomore boys. Max had a seeded start and had a decent position going into the straightaway in front of the field of 48 riders. Ross, Jake and Michael were though next, in the middle of the pack, off on their first of three laps. After lap one, Max was in 17th, Ross in 21st, Jake in 35th and Michael in 43rd. Somewhere on lap two Ross developed trouble with his rear derailleur. Max finished lap two in 11th, having moved up an impressive 6 spots, Jake moved up to 32nd, Michael was pulled for time at 42nd, and Ross limped on his gearless bike, done for the day. Max finished the race in 9th, having passed a Tam and Redwood rider to get there, and Jake moved up four positions to finish 28th.
For freshman boys, Seth got a seeded start and was up near the front of the pack heading into the straightaway, somewhere in the front 15 out of 60 riders. Evan, Linot and Walker came through near the middle, but shortly after passing through, a San Ramon rider slid out beside Walker, causing him to go down. He was not hurt, and dusted himself off and got back on the bike, but by that point he was dead last. Seth came through to finish lap one in 9th, with San Ramon’s Shane Trento right on his tail. Evan and Linot were 32nd and 38th, Walker had done some passing and moved himself up nine spots to 51st. Out on lap two, Seth was overtaken by Shane, but managed to pass two strong riders from Drake and Salinas to finish 8th. Evan and Linot each moved up a spot to 31st and 37th, and Walker had yet another fall that pushed him back to 52nd.
For JV boys, Jonny was once again taking on Drake’s Lucas Newcomb and Tam’s Skyler Taylor, along with the SoCal leader Joel Turner. His story follows this entry, below, and I don’t want to give away the ending. Our other JV rider, Stacey, got out in the middle of the pack of 48, got through lap one in 30th, riding just in front of a pair of Berkeley High riders. He was still with them on lap two, though they’d moved slightly ahead, and he rounded out lap 3 to finish 32nd. And that was the end of our race day.
We got five riders on the podium, and, using SoCal rules, our top seven riders scored. Those were, in descending order of points scored, Jonny, Bella, Annie, Nicole, Emily Lane, Seth and Max. They combined for a total of 3266 points, enough to earn us 3rd place, putting the team on the podium for the first time this season, at the State Championship when it really counted. Way to go, everyone! It was a great team effort, we had a lot of depth back there in the ranks, and our awesome team spirit and camaraderie really propelled the Bike Dawgs up to the front.
Congratulations on your 3rd place finish, on all your personal achievements both in this race and all the previous races, and on a really fun and rewarding season. I look forward to riding with you all next season!