Race Reports

Jason Smith gives DDA first win of 2017

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Folsom Winter Criterium M35+ 3/4
Race Report by Jason Smith.

Coming into the race, my expectations were high and I was feeling the pressure to do well for the last couple weeks.  All week long I was playing out the way I wanted things to go in my head to mentally prepare for the race.  The weather forecast was looking shaky, so I made sure to pre-reg so that I couldn’t back out if it rained.

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1. Jason Smith DDA, 2. Nicholas Roberti , 3. Theo Goguely

Come race day, I was excited to break out the newly minted 2017 Data Driven Athlete Racing kit and was hopeful to get to be the first person to have it displayed on a podium. As we lined up, I began to take stock of who was going to be in the race and what I thought they might do. I knew that I needed to keep Nick Roberti, Danny Mossman and Jose Cuevas in my sights at all times, as they can all finish a race in a hurry. The race started pretty smooth as everyone seemed motivated to stay together, and it must have been apparent to the organizers because they started in with the primes. First up was the beer prime and Roberti was near the front.  I knew he is a master prime hunter and while the beer prime didn’t interest me, I wanted to keep close in case it lead to a break.  Next prime was $50 and since that was more than the race purse, it had my interest. I tried to be near the front so that I could make the jump after the last corner and it worked out. It was also a good chance for a little finishing practice and my race day was now paid for.

A break got away lead by Alex Velez of Folsom Bikes and they were staying away.  At first I wasn’t too worried because the Tesla team had a full squad in the race and didn’t have anyone up the road.  But Tesla weren’t at the front and break wasn’t coming back.  Sierra Nevada then went to work with Greg Price of Rio Strada Racing and led the charge and got everyone back together with 4-5 laps to go.  I knew at that point I needed to stay toward the front and make sure that nothing else got away.  As we approached the last lap, it slowed down just a bit, then as we hit the last lap it ramped back up.  As a result, I got swallowed up a bit on the long back stretch.  As we hit the final curve, I was probably too far back, but feeling very comfortable.  Nick Roberti really opened it up and the race for the podium was on.  I probably came out of the final turn somewhere between 5-10th and looked for where my clear path would be.  I let loose and began to make up spots. I found a slot on the inside and was able to come across the line first.  Another great day on the bicycle, next stop Cat 2!  (full results)

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Shortest line – in the gutter | photo Jim Elder
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photo Jim Elder
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photo Jim Elder

Charlie Goes Back to Back at Sea Otter

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Race Report by: Travis Retzer
E3 Sea Otter Classic Circuit Race

Charlie winning again from a 2 man break
Charlie winning again from a 2 man break

Every opportunity you get to race your bike on a race track is a good one!  Charlie and I lined up at the starting line with a simple plan: find a way to win.  After a win in the criterium the previous day, Charlie says he’s going to try and attack at the halfway point if it’s together.

The race starts, and we begin the first of many ascents up to the infamous corkscrew of Laguna Seca.  We get to the top and begin the descent, and I’m feeling good.  We hit the third lap, and we start the climb… I feel the legs seizing up, and the pain is a little bit more than it should be for this early in the race.  I start talking to myself: “c’mon man, sack up and get it together!”  Next thing I know, Charlie attacks.   Now I’ve gotta get to the front and do my job.

Charlie sets a sizable gap right off the bat.  Unfortunately for that course, there’s good visibility of the track, making it tough for breaks to stick.  A guy  jumps and instantly returns to the group. A few seconds later, a familiar face sprints by and attempts to join Charlie up the road.  It’s a rider wearing a specialized kit.  His name is Eric, but Nate affectionately nicknamed him ‘Big Beef’ while racing at Santa Cruz.

It’s dejavu: Charlie and Big Beef, together again.  I watch him connect to Charlie, and I know the next lap is critical for the break to be established.  We cross the start-finish line, and their gap is growing.  They’re still in sight, but barely.

Another lap goes by, and now they’ve built a 1 minute lead.  I’m doing my best to control the front of the pack.  Attacks/bridge attempts are made, but the pack isn’t letting anything else get away.

We make it to the bell lap, and the gap is holding at a minute.  I know these 2 have it in the bag, now it’s a matter of Charlie finding another way to beat Big Beef.

I position myself at the front of the pack for the final climb/descent.  We approach the final 2 turns, and the field sprint starts.  I manage to get a finish somewhere up there towards the front of the pack  I cross the line, and now all I’m caring about is where Charlie finished.

I turn around, catch my breath, and see Alex (Charlie’s father) with his hand up in the air- I know Charlie got it.  Charlie finishes 1st, I finish 8th.  Stoked to be a part of another win for Data Driven Athlete Racing!

Chris Returns to Red Kite for the Win

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Chris on the top step at Red Kite

Red Kite #4 35+ 3/4

Results for this season have been great for our little band of Cat 3 racers (9 wins and 4 additional podiums if anyone is counting). Unfortunately, these results have been met with a growing sense of expectation. Pre-race text sessions have grown from “what can we do to put ourselves in a position to do well” to “here’s how we’re going to win”. Leading into this race, the expectation was that I WOULD win. This expectation led to quite a bit more anxiety and pre-race jitters than usual.

For the past few months, we have been chasing points and chipping away toward our upgrades and we’re all collectively on the bubble. Going into this race, I knew where I needed to finish to put my chase to bed and turn focus to getting the rest of the group over the top. I didn’t need to win, but I needed to do well. That gave me some comfort, because while some 29 racers were pre-registered for the event, we had 50+ toeing the line looking to derail my objective. Several familiar faces and many heavy hitters were in the mix. A few teams had 3 or 4 riders and there were many other paired riders. A lot of action to cover and it was unlikely that I’d be able to cover it all, so I made my usual “guys to watch list” and headed to the line.

The Red Kite crits are contested on a wide open, non-technical, 3 or 4 turned (depends on your stance on the first sweeping “turn”) business park course. It should be safe, but the races rarely end without someone hitting the deck. In an effort to avoid the inevitable melees, I usually raced this event by sitting off the back, conserving energy, picking my own lines, and giving space to get around any crashes. Picking daisies as Nate calls it. The course is wide enough that I could jump around the field to get into action if warranted, but I usually saved my legs for the last couple laps of action. With today’s elevated expectation and my anxious energy through the roof, I changed my approach and made a point to stay near the front.

The race started off in typical fashion. Solo attack after solo attack rolled off to feel out the group, but were covered by the field again and again. Not much to worry about at this point and I considered falling back to the rear of the field as the anxious energy was starting to fade. Fortunately, I stayed near the front as some 15 minutes into the race a strong duo had slipped away. I kept an eye out for a response from the pack, but the gap grew from 5 seconds to 10 and after a couple laps the two were 15 seconds clear. Knowing where I needed to finish, this move was quite enticing and I waited for an opportune moment to make a bridge attempt.

Heading into to turn 3 (really, turn 2.5) I jumped from second wheel into a head cross wind with enough kick to prevent anyone from latching on. I connected after chasing for half a lap and jumped into the rotation. A couple laps after bridging, we were joined by 4 more bringing our group total to 7. Maybe too big to succeed, but we had enough of a gap on the field to try to make it work.

Once the laps cards appeared and it was evident the group was not going to bring us back, thoughts shifted from driving the pace to winning the race. Morgan Stanley (Blaine Ashely and Charles Bunting) had two riders in the break with one sitting on and the other helping push us out of the field’s reach, needed to watch them closely. Coretech (Dennis Wall) is just hammering turn after turn and it appears that his energy supply is endless.

A Bloc (Deniz Warraich) and Pen Velo (Tom Dillon) are rotating through smoothly and don’t look to be hurting. Chris Morris of Folsom Bike is in the mix and he took a well-earned result two weeks prior at Coppertown. All strong opponents and placing well will be a challenge considering I’m not feeling great. We press on lap after lap until the final bell rings us through the finish line.

The cagey games started a bit before the last lap with riders taking fewer or shorter pulls and doing a lot of looking around to get a sense of who still looks threatening. On the last lap, I settled near the back and stuck myself on the Morgan Stanley duo while A Bloc took us to the first 90-degree turn and into the tailwind section. Coretech took to the front and drove down the backside of the course. He was clearly feeling strong and we were all reluctant to come around at this point.

Through turn 3 and into the head/cross section, Coretech hit the gas and we fell in line to get what shelter we could find. 300 meters before the final turn, Morgan Stanley jumped around Coretech and PenVelo with a nice surge while I stayed glued to their wheel. Nearing the final turn, Blaine came around Charles and they bumped a bit forcing Blaine a bit off the preferred line into the corner and to the outside line for the sprint. Once that small window between the two of them opened, I jumped through it and hard into the corner.

Head down … sprint sprint sprint … get past Blaine, check to the right for anyone coming up the inside … all clear … race won and then relief. No post up, just exhale and relief. Objective met.

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Chris takes the sprint finish from a 7 man break

After running through the podium pics and such, I pondered jumping into the 35+ 123 race since I was already kitted up and down in Livermore. In the end, I raced and it was brutal. I failed to hydrate well between the races and had to bum some extra water from Chris Morris (a lifesaver) before the start. I felt like pulling out of the race from minute 15 through 57 and did all I could to follow wheels. Eeked out a 16th place and called it a day.

Santa Cruz Classic Win

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Race Report by: Travis Retzer
Santa Cruz Classic Criterium, E3 3/20/16

Charlie with the win
Charlie Velez – Back to back wins

When the discussions began to emerge regarding this race, I was far from excited to jump in and commit to racing it.  To say that crits have been a monkey on my back would be an understatement.  And here they’re trying to convince me to jump into a technical “crit’s crit”; what are they thinking?!  I had my sights set on the Red Kite Tempus Fugit TT, which was the same day, and also just so happened to be in my back yard.  The thought of sleeping in on a race day was pretty damn nice.  After multiple text messages of shaming, and a long-lost teammate coming to stay at our house for the weekend, I begrudgingly committed to Santa Cruz.

Before I know it, it’s Sunday morning and I’m pinning up my Castelli San Remo getting amped to race.  I look up from the parking lot, with a prime-time view of the downhill 120 degree off camber turn for which this course is famous.  You can hear the squeal of fresh brake pads on the carbon wheels as riders drop in.  Now I’m getting jacked to race!

We line up, with a short and simple game plan: start up front, stay up front, get in a break, and win this race. The whistle blows and Nate and I instantly hit the front.  I follow Nate’s line as we drop into and through the hairpin.  We come around for the climb to the start/finish and I suddenly know this is going to be a bad-ass race.

Break attempts are being made but they keep getting reeled back.  I attack on the climb about 10 minutes in, but it doesn’t stick.  Shortly after, Nate goes with a move and again it comes back.  We roll through the start/finish about 20 minutes in and then the decisive move happens…and at the perfect time.

A strong SJBC rider hits the throttle and takes off.  Sensing an opportunity (see video link), Charlie takes off for the bridge.  At this point a strong looking rider wearing a Specialized kit attacks to bridge giving them 3 up the road, this move looks like it could be one that sticks.

Now it’s time to shut this race down.  Nate and I move to the 1-2 position in the group and are on a mission to take this race over.

Riders make moves, but we cover them all.  I kept hearing the announcer say, lap after lap, “the gap remains at 30 seconds, and the black kits of the Data Driven Athlete racers are all over the front controlling this one.”  Nate continued doing what Nate does; covering move after move, while I’m trying to give him some reprieve.

Nate and me up front
Nate and Travis, controlling the field.

I hit the front on the last lap, determined to set a pace that’s going to discourage anyone from attacking.  As we enter the hump before the climb, I feel myself starting to pedal squares.  I hear Nate yell, “get outta there” trying to keep me out of the scrum/danger that comes with a sprint finish.  We make the final turn, shoot off to the right, and finish the race in the pack.

We get the word Charlie took the sprint (in junior gears), and we are pumped!  Mission accomplished: Charlie wins, we control the race, and another solid outing for the Data Driven Athlete Racing team.  Kudos to Charlie for having the strength to get out front and hold onto a 30 second gap for 30 minutes.  Thanks to my teammates for the push I needed to race this one.  I’m so glad I raced it, my new favorite crit!

Santa Cruz Classic Criterium E3 Podium
Santa Cruz Classic Criterium E3 Podium – Race Rim wheels with the assist