First, I want to give everyone a little bit of a low (pun only sort of intended) down on the team I’ll be riding for this year. To start, Andrew Low has been building bikes since 2010. I met him mid way through 2011. Chas had won the “coffeecat” race at the Westside Invite in Portland the year before and it was his responsibility as the winner to throw the following edition. The final checkpoint at this race was Andrew’s shop. Though not a coffee shop we had plenty of cambros there to supply the dizzy, nauseous and severely over caffeinated racers with one last final cup of misery. After borrowing Chas’ LOW// pursuit to race at the 2011 Red Bull Ride & Style I began talking to Andrew about getting my own. From that point on our relationship has snowballed to me racing his frames all over the world and helping him develop new geometries for his bikes. It has been an amazing relationship and when the idea came around about starting a LOW// Factory road team I was more than happy to join in. Obviously.
February and March can be a busy two months for roadies in California. If I wanted to I could be packing a bag right now for a three day stage race in the Valley while simultaneously unpacking from the Chico Stage Race. Every fall when I start winding down (code for burning out) I look back and think for a second, “NO. No racing in February. Not in March. Okay maybe April. But definitely by May.” And every year I find myself at the same races. Though I can’t complain. It’s pretty good training to find yourself lining up with 50+ other racers who are as eager to test their legs as you are this early in the year. For the lucky few it can be an early win or points grab bag. For yours truly, a couple of pack finishes and some new power numbers. Winter came along pretty alright.
Also, I want to tell everyone right off the bat I am not professional nor will I sugar coat results in race reports. Let’s call it, professionally amateur. If I did not finish (DNF) a race I won’t conveniently leave that detail out. Just trying to keep this as real as possible. Over the years you figure out how to learn more from DNFs than you do wins. Right? Right. Just going to keep telling myself that.
Here we are with the first big weekend. Four races over the course of Saturday and Sunday. First is the Folsom Winter Criterium and second being the Coppertown Circuit Race. Saturday morning the alarms are set. 6:57, 7:01, 7:08, and 7:13. I have a weird tendency to never set alarms on a time ending in 0 or 5. Not quite sure why. And for those early morning wake ups, I use the Dethklok “Dethphone” ring as a buzzer. It’s crude, but works. I highly recommend trying it out. You know, if you’re in to waking up with a 120bpm heart rate. Also, my girlfriend hates it.
Folsom is your standard office park crit. Normally these lack features worth mentioning. Squares, rectangles, maybe a chicane. This particular race is shaped like an uppercase “D.” Two ninety degree right turns with a long swoop of a turn on the back. For both events there were two fields. A 2/3 and a Pro1/2. I opted to race both on both days mostly just to verify the 4ish hours of round trip driving for the day. Although this weekend I stayed at my dad’s place in a town about an hour’s drive east of San Francisco. At Folsom the 2/3 race went alright. My teammate Tyler finished the 3/4 race on the podium and was eager to keep the momentum going. I promised to help out where and when I could. He ended up snagging one of the primes in our race and finished better than me, I ended up 39th out of 63. The Pro1/2 race was a bar fight between Herballife p/b MarcPro and Mike’s Bikes p/b Equator Coffees. I was happy to sit in and let the fists fly. Until I wasn’t sitting in anymore. I DNF’d. But hey, I learned a lot. Right? Right.
Coppertown is a little more interesting. It’s in this weird old copper mining town named Copperopolis. I’m not making that up, promise. The course is basically a three mile out and three mile back loop with a hairpin on one end and a quick turn around in the town center on the other. A long winding course with a few rollers that eventually spit you into the town with a right, left, right, left, left, left, right, left back on to the main road. The wind will also play a huge role out here, splitting the groups and punishing anyone who dares to chase.
Again, two races.
During the 2/3 race I was the only one riding for my team. It was a small field but Coretechs had three guys in, so all eyes on them. They kept attacking and counterattacking forcing all the other solo teams to either chase or wait and hope they come back. Finally with two laps to go one of the Coretechs riders and another rider (who did well the day before in Folsom) broke away. I hesitated, but finally began my chase. I went with one rider whose gear slipped coming out of the hairpin and I was left alone to finish bridging up. Turns out I had the legs to catch them. We find ourselves working well together taking even pulls with less than a lap to go. Then what none of us were expecting was to see the other two Coretechs guys start reeling us in. This goes against what you would normally think of when referring to team tactics. You have a teammate up front on the bell lap, you don’t chase. If someone else jumps get on their wheel. But don’t chase. Well, we were eventually caught. The field was back together for a bunch sprint. I sat up, tired from my efforts. I finished 15th out of 16.
After the high nerves of a race weekend it was nice to chill out and look forward to a ride with the homies to NAHBS the following week. The plan was to head due north from the Pittsburg/Antioch BART station up to Sacramento. A sixty mile drag of flat farm roads along the Sacramento River Delta. Seven of us were riding, Dustin, Wilis, DJ, Mark, Chas, Ramon and myself all brought together one or way or another via bikes, Cadence, messenger work, travel, photos, coffee, alleycats, you name it. And in the sag van we had the brilliant eye of John Reiss shooting photos. This was a first year for Andrew to have his own booth dedicated to LOW// Bicycles. Having the Cadence booth right next door made it even better. We controlled almost an entire row’s worth of space. On display was his Aero Track frame, the CX bike, road bike, and the Track Criterium frame, which I am particularly stoked on. You’ll be seeing plenty of that bike as I get ready to race the Red Hook Crit again this season. The popularity of this kind of racing can’t be ignored. More on that later.
Then just barely a week later was a quick morning ride with The Athletic’s very own Julie K in my hometown! A pop up shop at the City + County bike shop warranted a mellow Marin Headlands mixed terrain ride to kick it off. It was rad sneaking a ride in between the storms. The route featured a Fort Cronkhite loop which was an old WWII coastal defense bunker, which all the way up through the Cold War housed SF-88 Nike Missile launch sites. The loop consists of (one of my favorite descents ever) going up and over Hawk Hill, down to the Rodeo Lagoon, and up a short but very steep climb to an old bunker before descending again on broken pavement and gravel. It’s a nice two hour loop from SF proper.
There’s so many of these old bases scattered along the Marin coastline, as well as south on the peninsula. Seeing as they are regular features on my training rides I will definitely share some photos and maybe even a few history lessons. Bet you weren’t expecting that!