This Saturday was the UCLA road race, a local race in Socal, with a great course near Pearblossom. We did 6 laps of a 20km course has a 6km climb, and a 6km descent, separated by some rollers after the hill, and a false flat leading into the climb, and the start finish is located 1.5km into the climb. The Garmin said there were about 2700m of climbing in 120km, so a pretty solid course. A pretty good field turned up, with some domestic pros training in the area coming to get some race miles in.
The race started without a neutral roll out, and went pretty hard from the gun up the hill. There were a few early attacks, but the fast pace meant no one got very far, and they subsided until we went over the top of the hill. I was well positioned over the top of the hill in a slightly broken pack, but everything came together on the descent. Alex Cataford of Silber Pro Cycling rolled off the front with an Incycle rider before the start of the climb, a TRU-Cycling rider bridged up very shortly after that, the move didn’t look too dangerous until the pack completely sat up on the hill, seemingly happy to have the break gone for the day. At the start of the 3rd lap the race really kicked off, with riders attacking left and right. The field got whittled down to roughly 20 riders, but without a cohesive chase the gap to the break went out to 3 minutes very quickly. By the 4th time up the hill the gap was a 6 minutes, but still no chase, the stronger climbers attacked each other, breaking the field into groups of 2 and 3, with Ben Perry of Silber Pro Cycling and an Incycle rider going off the front. I couldn’t make one of the accelerations about halfway up the climb, and just rode steady by myself the rest of the way, passing riders as they got dropped, and by the top I was in what was left of the ‘peloton’ of about 7 or 8 riders, with Alex Cataford and Ben Perrys’ groups up the road.
We rode hard on the rollers and the descent, but couldn’t close the gap to Ben’s group, and about 2km before the 5th time up the hill the infighting among the remaining riders resumed, with Villegas of Smartstop disrupting the chase. Just before the turn Stefan Barberi of Cal Giant, an Incycle rider, myself and another rider went clear from that group, and rolled hard into the climb. I heard a crash behind me, and saw that Stefano Barberi had gone down just as the Smartstop rider had brought the rest of the small group back to us. The other rider and I suddenly had a big gap to the group as the climb started. I wasn’t sure if we should wait, but decided to keep riding steady to try to bridge to Ben’s group. Halfway up the hill the other rider attacked and bridged up to Ben, as Ben dropped the Incycle rider, leaving me riding alone. I rode by myself for an entire lap, before catching the Incycle rider the last time up the hill on the 6th lap. We worked together, and brought back the TRU-cycling rider who had been dropped from the original break.
With 1.5 km to go to the finish I attacked the group and shed the TRU-cycling rider, but couldn’t shake the Incycle rider. I felt I had him on the ropes, but I couldn’t manage a strong enough acceleration to gap him, and as we came to the line he was able to sprint around me for 5th. In the end it was another 1st and 3rd for Silber Pro Cycling, with Alex Cataford taking the win, and for the second race in a row I finished one place out of the money, this time in 6th. I am pretty happy with my race; it was a good experience racing a tough course with a fairly strong field. Thanks to UCLA Cycling for organizing the event, and to Nigel Ellsay for getting me there, and to the family who fed and cheered on Ben, Alex, Nigel and me.