Thank you to Achieve athlete Owen McGrath for taking the time to write the following report from his experience at the 2014 Oakland Grand Prix.
I had mixed feelings about my fitness going into what was likely to be my last race of the year. I had made gains on my trip to Italy, but the training on those long and sustained hills doesn’t help much with the short bursts of acceleration one needs in a crit like this. I also took a business trip to Miami the week before the race and wasn’t in my usual routine.
In any case, I knew I was going against a stacked field and would have a tough time cracking into the top 6 (and the upgrade points), but was hoping I could get there.
The course was extremely technical with a last minute change that added a hairpin turn right after the start. It then leads to a downhill left hander, to a right, then a hard 150 degree turn on the back side before turning back towards the front. The course finishes with a right turn to an uphill leg to the line. Pre-riding the course, I immediately found myself nervous at the road quality: broken pavement, potholes, manhole covers… for anyone who’s called the course at the Giro di SF sketchy, you proverbially ain’t seen sheeiiit. The second, downhill left turn was made even tighter as they put a line of cones to force riders around a big pothole. Rule #5
No teammates on the line, but some friendlies from Mikes Bikes (Adriano and Zach Proteau). I also saw Michael Ubieta- we rode together in a break at Fort Ord, which he handily won. I marked him to take the win as he has literally won every race he entered this season with the one exception being a second place.
The race started at the usual fast pace. I missed clipping in again and started in the back, though didn’t panic and worked my way up slowly. Then on the fourth lap, Zach Proteau hit the pothole by the second turn, endo’d, and sent his bike flying in the air, which I hit as I went by. A bit remarkably, I stayed upright, though looked down and saw that I had cut up my hand and was bleeding. I was ok to keep going.
At this point the race took a turn for the worse. I just didn’t have my heart in it. I was shook up by the crash, and didn’t feel like my legs were there. My hand was covered in blood at this point. There were more crashes (FIVE in total that race) which made me scared; I was thinking that if I wasn’t in contention with two laps to go that I’d just go off the back and stay safe. I was consistently mid-pack and kept losing the gains I’d make on the straightaways to more aggressive riders edging me out in the corners.
It wasn’t until 5 laps to go, when everyone started getting tired, that I realized I was still strong and was able to move up and hang. I thought to myself, “shit, I’m still in this” and I started pushing again.
Then with 3 laps to go, I messed it up and “pulled an Owen.” I knew I wanted to move up, so I got on the front and drove the pace. The problem is that I then got stuck out there. After a few corners, I was trying to roll off (drifting hard left and right after the turns), but people weren’t coming around. People started yelling at one point when I slowed, so I (stupidly) sped back up. I did the whole lap on the front. Then with two to go, I threw a hail mary and attacked on the uphill before the turnaround. I put a 7-8 seconds on the field, which I then lost in the headwind after the left turn. The rest of the story is familiar, like the Giro, where I got swarmed and didn’t have the engery to hold my position, and finished 11th.
So that’s my first season wrapped up. I wish I was able to make more gains towards my Cat 3 upgrade (I still have no points yet), but I’m nonetheless happy with the results I achieved and physical progress I made in this first season. I learned a lot a lessons, some of which I apparently can not yet apply int a real world setting, but what more could you expect from a gregarious sales guy? Looking forward to taking a bit of time off and having a focused off season. It will all start up again before we know it. – Owen McGrath