Lighting It up in L.A.
By Yannick Eckmann (Cal Giant Berry Farms/Specialized)
Leading up to the weekend of CXLA I was setting my goals high, aiming to place top five on both days. As I got to the race on Friday to pre-ride, the course was really muddy and sticky so I decided not to pre-ride and get my bikes all dirty. The next morning I came out to pre-ride the course since I didn’t have to race until 8:30 in the evening. The course had dried out pretty much, leaving the course very fast. I was pretty excited about that.
Later that day when I came back to warm up I decided to ride the course again. By the time I pre-rode the course the second time it had dried out even more. I was preparing myself for a dry and fast race so I decided to go with Challenge Fango tires because they are fast, but grippy in turns. An hour before the race, I got on to the trainer and warmed up as the women raced. Two laps into their race it started to mist a bit, and during their race the course went from being dry to muddy and slippery. I decided to switch my setup from front and back Fango tires to a front Challenge Limus. I felt pretty comfortable with that setup and headed down to the start line. As we lined up the mist got heavier and turned into rain.
I was standing almost in the first row at the start which meant I needed to have a good start. When the whistle went off I started as fast as I could and was sitting in fifth and kept moving up. I moved up to second place before the first turn, but coming out of it I was back in around seventh or eighth place because I was sliding all over. As I rode by the pit I told my mechanics that I wanted a double Limus setup front and back wheel. The next time through they gave me the signal that they were ready to go with the other wheels set up. I changed bikes and after that I felt comfortable on the whole course.
After I switched bikes, I rode back into the lead group just before the real attacks started. Still labored from bridging up, I got popped from the lead group as a result of the attacks. Then I was just riding my own pace trying to minimize the gap. Soon, a couple more riders dropped of the group and I was able to catch and drop them. With two laps to go I was closing in on Zach McDonald and eventually caught him. I had to go straight to the front because his teammate was right behind us and Zach would have waited for him to come up. With a lap to go I tried to drop Zach but I wasn’t able to and when the technical parts of the course came, Zach went around me and opened a gap on me. He was riding the turns a lot smoother then I was and opened a gap all the way to the finish. I eventually finished with a solid ride in sixth place. I was pretty happy about the ride I had and the result even though it was one place off my goal.
After a night race it is always hard to get up in the morning for the next race. I got about six to seven hours of sleep before I had to get back up to eat breakfast and head over to the race course. The Elite Men’s field was to start at 1:00 pm in the afternoon, which was less than 24 hours from the previous night’s race. I was pretty tired when I got to the course and wasn’t feeling like riding. I mostly sat around at the race course. I pre -rode one lap and then sat around again. Eventually I started to warmup – nothing serious though, just some medium pace to get the legs moving.
The course was still wet and slippery and the mud was like peanut butter. I liked the conditions but didn’t expect too much because my body felt really sore at the starting line. When the whistle went off I didn’t have a great start, since the starting straight was so long. Luckily, I was able to move up pretty easily. I got up to the fifth position and then just stayed there. I was really surprised that I was in the lead group, which had a gap on the rest of the field. Tim Johnson went on an attack and I went with him. It was just us two for half a lap and the whole time I was on his wheel thinking, “What am I doing? I will blow up.” Half a lap later, I did blow up. Ben Berden rode past me and I tried to stay on his wheel but was unable to do so. Then, a few seconds later Ryan Trebon came flying by and I wasn’t able to hold his wheel either.
I was riding for a few laps on my own trying to catch back up. With three laps to go, Todd Wells caught up to me and I was able to hang with him. We rode together and tried to minimize the gap to the front. We took half lap pulls throughout the remainder of the race. With half a lap to go, Chris Jones caught on to the two of us and didn’t hesitate to attack. We tried to keep up with him but we didn’t have enough power to completely stay on his wheel. He was able to get both of Todd and me. At the finish line I was able to beat Todd to the line for fifth place. I was happy with the result on the second day but was a bit frustrated to be so close to the spot in front of me. All in all though it was my best weekend so far and it showed that I have the power to be up in the front. It was also another good eye opener for the last USGP which is coming up next weekend.