After all the hard work of Saturday's Barrio Logan, it was off to the San Luis Rey road race for Sunday morning. This race is held up in the hills in Bonsall, northeast of San Diego.
The course is fairly hilly, but certainly not as tough as the Omnium road course was. It was 4 laps around an 11 mile loop. The course started out with a climb right off the start, followed by a steep descent, a few miles of rolling hills and then back to the climbing as you made your way back to the start finish. I was able to keep to the large chainring on my front gears for most of the hills, so it wasn't too bad.
It turns out that this is a pretty popular race, a full field of 100 riders showed up, so things were pretty hairy the first couple laps. It was also pretty toasty out there on Sunday. The temperatures were somewhere in the mid-80s (Bonsall is inland, so doesn't get the nice 70 degree weather we see in San Diego nearly every day). With 100 riders packed into one lane of traffic on country roads, you can imagine how tightly things were grouped for the first half of the race.
Not being a real strong climber, my plan for the day was to stick with the pack, avoid the accidents and hopefully be near the front such that I could use my power to scoot by the scrawny climbers at the finish. Regardless of how it turned out, a day after Barrio I was going to be happy to keep up with the pack the whole way, get a good workout and stay safe.
With 2 laps to go things finally started to speed up a bit. We dropped the pack down to something like 50 riders. For me it was fast, but not too uncomfortable. With 1 lap to go things really started to pick up. I was able to stick with the pack up the steep climb out of the start/finish, but when it really got cranked up I had a hard time sticking on the ascent to the finish.
One of the things that makes it really tough in these situations is that if you're 40th or something when the hard climbing starts you feel like like you're trying to run up a hill while portions of the hillside are falling down around you. Basically as the pace picks up, the weaker riders have a hard time keeping up. While you're working your ass off trying to catch the guys at the front you have guys more immediately in front of you that you're working to try to catch and follow forward. Unfortunately though, as you're catching them and starting to feel like "hey I'm back onto the end of this thing, I'm going to be able to relax a bit", you realize that in fact the guy you just caught is losing ground on the leaders and you have to storm by the guy and set your sights on the next guy up the road. Repeat this 12 or so times and you realize that it's basically just you and your pain trying to get up the road faster than the saps you're surrounded by. Maybe if the climb was 3 or 4 miles rather than 1 or 2 some consistent riding could have gotten me back to the leaders; however, that wasn't to happen this day.
I caught a few people heading up the final climb and willed myself to catch another 5 or 6 guys in the flat before the finish. I had to sprint pretty hard to the line in order to keep one of these guys behind me at the finish.
At the end of the race I felt pretty content. I never really expected to do too well in this race, I felt like I worked really, really hard, and I managed to beat a number of guys that got the better of me in the Omnium road race. So I'll take it.