Fort Ord is an enormous (~28,000 acre) former US Army base near Seaside, CA, perched on the edge of the pristine Monterey Bay. The rolling terrain and abundant closed roads make for lots of great bike racing opportunities. Most notably, the area is home to the annual cycling family reunion and race week known as the Sea Otter Classic.
Less prominent—but much appreciated by anyone seeking plentiful chances to race—the Central Coast Cycling Road Series also takes place on Fort Ord. Known as CCCX, in homage to its Cyclocross roots, the race series takes place frequently throughout the year and the schedule is such that most racers can get in 2 or sometimes 3 races in a day. That fact makes CCCX a favorite of those, like myself, who are hunting for upgrade points.
The classic CCCX course is a great rolling loop around the base with plenty of punchy hills to test the legs. With a construction project currently preventing racing on that course, the organizers have substituted an out-and-back course that is not quite as interesting but still makes for great racing.
The Seaside Bay View Circuit Course we raced this weekend traverses a straight road with good pavement and a nice assortment of rollers to keep things interesting. Also keeping things interesting are the U-turns at either end of the course, which force riders to slow down quite a bit and are generally followed by explosive efforts to regain speed and punish those who failed to position themselves well going into the turn. Indeed, in both races I did those turns would prove to be the deciding factor.
Category 4 Race
With no teammates and a large contingent from one team (San Jose Bicycle Club made up a third of the 18 rider field), I figured my best bet was to ride conservatively but remain attentive for any breaks containing their riders. The first half of the race saw the usual futile early attempts to get away, with people punching it on short uphills only to have the field roll right back to them on the subsequent downhill.
About halfway through the 50 minute race, someone attacked coming out of the far (relative to the start) U-turn, which is followed by a decent little uphill. Myself and five others were able to cover the move and we quickly realized that the rest of the field was not. Obviously, all of us liked our odds better in this reduced group (not to mention it made the U-turns more pleasant) so we did our best to cooperate and keep the others from joining back on. Having 2 of the SJBC riders in our group of 7 definitely increased the odds of pulling that off.
We succeeded in staying away and for the last several laps it was obvious we’d be sprinting each other. It was clear enough that everyone was conserving a bit of energy and thinking through their best bet for the sprint finish, which is at the top of a hill. Prior to the race, I’d overheard some masters recapping their completed races and asked them for any advice regarding the finish. Very helpfully, they pointed to a certain light pole at about 200 meters to go and said that was the spot to open it up. Anything before that would probably be too early given the uphill slope and slight headwind.
Coming into the finish, someone went early and we all jumped on his wheel. I stayed as patient as possible and held off my best effort until we reached the light pole. That worked out well, as I was able to advance through several riders who were fading at that point. Three of us got good separation from the others, with the eventual winner ahead by a couple meters. Second place and I were neck and neck at the line and closing down the gap to first. I was happy with the finish and my sprint effort, and extra happy to know that I had just earned the 2 points I needed for my upgrade to Category 3.
Category 3/4 Race
With my points in my pocket, I decided just to have fun with this race and see how it developed. The afternoon had delivered a pretty solid headwind on the outbound portion of the course and this, combined with that fact that most of us had already raced at least once, made for a painfully slow first lap.
On the second lap, there was another attack at the far U-turn and this time only 4 of us ended up covering it. We agreed quickly to work together and set about taking brief, hard pulls. One young rider was popped from our group pretty quickly, leaving 4 of us to share the work. Everyone left seemed pretty strong and competent, so I committed myself to the break and took good, honest pulls to do my best to help keep us away.
The apathy that marked the start of the race seemed to continue for the main field and pretty quickly we had a good gap on them. About halfway through the 50 minute race we had more than 30 seconds on the field and I felt our odds of staying away were good. We continued working together well and the gap grew with each time around. Coming into the final lap, it was clear that they would not be getting us back, so we all started resting up the legs a bit for the finish sprint.
I led us through the final U-turn, which was a mistake because that put me on the front coming into the finish. With no one to chase us down, things got very tactical and slow as I tried to find my way off the front of the group. Again, someone opened up the sprint from ~500 meters out and we all jumped on his wheel. He faded pretty quickly, leaving three of us to duke it out. I tried my best but couldn’t pass either of the other riders, giving me another 3rd place finish.
All in all, two results I was pleased with and a satisfying way to close out my career as a 4. There are 5 more CCCX race days this year—some of which will cover a different, looping course—so go check them out if you’re looking for some solid racing in a beautiful place.
Congrats on your 3s upgrade David!