|A view from the top of Cat's Hill. At 23% it is very steep and will sap the life out of your legs in no time. Note the telephone poles in the background to get a reference for the height of the hill.|
The Cat's Hill Classic is a staple of the Northern California race circuit and has quite a bit of history as well. The race has been going since the 1970's and one of the most famous races was in 1978 when a young blond kid from Reno, NV (Greg LeMond, future 3-time winner of the Tour De France) won the race. The course is about 1 mile long and consists of 5 right-hand turns and 1 left-hand turn. In the middle of the lap is the "cat's hill" which is about 1 block long and 23% of gradient (for my PA readers, the Manayunk Wall is 17% gradient). My Cat. 4 race was 16 laps of the course and just as many times over this climb.
|On the climb and early in the race. I am in the middle of the photo.|
Kelsey and I woke up early for my race as we had about an hour drive to Los Gatos and my race started at 9:20AM. We arrived by 8:00AM, picked up my race number, set up my bike on the trainer, and Kelsey walked around the corner to grab a cup of coffee. My warmup consisted of 30 minutes on the trainer as I was told that you need to be warmed up in order to tackle the climb at race pace right after the start. In talking with some of my teammates they also mentioned that you need to shift before the hill, use a high cadence to climb whenever possible, and that the hill is the most important part of the course and will almost always determine the winner.
|At the start of Cat's Hill, somewhere around half way into the race.|
We lined up at the start and I finally got my first glimpse of Cat's hill thru a cross street and it looks quite intimidating. It looks like a wall of asphalt and I was pretty nervous to get over it for the first time and settle into the race. We started as a field of about 50 and once we turned left onto the Cat's hill there were a few people who immediately dropped there chain and I had to dodge at least one other rider who just wasn't fast enough to stay with the field. The next few laps were also pretty nervous as the field is fighting for position before the climb and speeding down the backside on really bad pavement after the climb. I distinctly remember trying to count the number of laps we had left but it was all too confusing and I realized that it would take forever if I was counting each lap.
The next thing I remember was hearing that we had 7 laps to go and that the field was all of sudden down about 20 riders. I was doing a good job of conserving as much energy as possible and I just waiting for the pace to pick up as the number of laps dwindled. With 2 laps to go the fireworks started to happen at the front of the race and everyone was left chasing to hang on. I put in a huge effort to close the gap with the field on my 15th time over the climb but as we made our way down towards the finish line it had become clear that the gap was just a little too big to close. I was now in a race with 2 others for what seemed like 30th place but I managed to put in 1 more good effort up the climb to gap my 2 competitors and almost caught the remainder of the field by the end of the lap.
By the end I had finished in 24th place but I was felt good about how I rode and how I had reacted to the repeated hard efforts that this course required. This race was definitely one that I thoroughly enjoyed and one that I think I could do much better in with just a few tweaks to my game plan. I was kind of kicking myself after the race as I knew I could have went harder and been right in the mix unlike last week when I was crushed and didn't really have much of a shot to do any better.
Tomorrow, Kelsey and I head up to Sonoma to watch the motorcycle races and next weekend I have another hilly road race to contend with.
|Just after the race. This is about the 5th picture that Kelsey was trying to take and I wasn't having any of it.|