As I landed at the Ontario airport on Thursday afternoon, it finally hit me that race day was just a few days away. The heat was almost unbelievable as we walked outside into a perfect California day, but I still felt no stress for the first race of the season.
I slowly had to get myself back into the race week routine, which I hadn't used since July, and get ready for a Saturday morning race. With a pre ride of a very dusty, loose, and rocky, yet very fun course under my belt, I was ready to race. The excitement began to build throughout the night, but it was still hard to believe that the race season was already here.
On the line, I squeezed my way into the front row, with all the cat 1 women, and settled into race mode. I was so ready :) 10 seconds to go..... wowza was I actually about to race?...... GO! And the race season had begun! I had a great start off the line and went straight into the lead. This wasn’t quite the position I had hoped for, wanting to pace myself instead, but I settled in and we made our way to the first climb. The group of about fifteen women was following right behind me, including my teammates Kelsey and Veda. As we reached the first descent I was following Kelsey and another cat 1 women, when I slid out on a very dusty and loose turn. The crash came as a surprise, but I jumped up as fast as I could to begin the chase. The three of us already had a good gap on the rest of the category, so I just focused on catching up to the racers ahead of me. On the next dirt road I had caught the cat 1 women and took the pass and Kelsey was right in sight. Throughout the lap I was close behind her, but could not quite reach her. We reached a long road stretch and my teammate, Carson Beckett, raced past me right behind a group of riders in his category. I hopped on his wheel and followed them until we reached Kelsey. She was holding a steady pace and we made our way towards the finish. One lap was complete and I took the lead. We slowed down the pace a little and throughout the lap I made sure to pace myself for the last lap.
Kelsey and I had stayed really close together throughout both the first and second lap, so I had no clue what would happen in this final lap. Right away I brought up the pace to see if I could get a gap. Noticing that Kelsey was staying pretty close to me, I slowed down again, knowing I would not be able to hold that speed. Through the descent Kelsey and I were right together and reaching the next climb I went to build the gap again. I was able to hold it until we were out on the stretch of road, where I noticed that she was still close behind. I slowed down and she caught up with me. This was a super exciting and close race and I had no clue what would happen next. When we reached one of the final climb and I began to go all out. I was finally able to build a gap and my eyes were on the finish line. I reached the grass, where I stood up and sprinted to the finish.
I am so stoked to have taken the win at the first race of the season and can hardly wait for Fontana, where I will be able to recieve UCI points as a U19. I can’t thank my team, sponsors, family, and teammates enough for giving a great start to the season. I will spend the week here in CA until the next race, doing some great riding and enjoying some beautiful and hot days. Let the season begin!!