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2015-05-20 California State Championships Race Report by Tofor Lewis

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This last weekend I made my final trip of the year down to SoCal to race my bike. The high school racing series which began in February was coming to a close with one last race. The California State Championship! A battle between the northern conference and the southern conference. A race which always hosts the fastest high school riders in the state and the competition never fails to impress. This year the race was to be held in Los Olivos, on a course I was foreign to.

Typical of the Lewis family we left the house an hour later than originally planned on Saturday morning and began the 7 hour drive down. We arrived slightly later but still with enough to time for me to get a couple laps in and study the course. I had a quick meeting with my coach to talk strategy and then grabbed some dinner and headed to the hotel to rest up.

I woke up well rested, motivated, and ready to go! I lined up at the start 15 min prior to the race and began to get my self ready mentally for the battle ahead. Glancing around at the familiar faces, I knew that this race would not be easily won, I also knew I had what it takes to win it. I was lined up around 45-50 places back since I had missed some of the races throughout the year. This meant that I needed a very fast start in order to catch the front 10 guys before the first climb. The race went off and I immediately began mashing the pedals.

I worked my way to the outside and started working my way up the pack, picking guys off one by one. About half way to the climb I glanced down at my Garmin and noticed my screaming heart rate. Knowing the race wasn’t going to be won in the first lap, I decided to slide into the group. I hit the climb in about 20th place. The first major climb consisted of 4 steep switchbacks followed by a gradual 100 meter climb to the summit. Being that the group was so close together, the climb was pretty slow. The rest of the first lap I just focused on inching my way closer and closer to the front pack of about 12 who were starting to pull away but still giving my legs some quick rest time on the descents.

In the last kilometer of the race I made a strong effort and bridged the 15 second gap between the couple guys I was stuck behind and the lead pack…I had made it. This was a relief to me, I now just had to settle in and wait for guys to start popping off. As we made our way through the second lap the pace began to pick up and like I had thought guys began dropping like flies. By the beginning of the third lap there was just 4 of us. The pace was defnitley strong and I was starting to feel my legs but I knew the rest of the group was in the same position so I told them to “shut up” kept pushing on. This group was strong. I had raced all but one of them before and it had been so close every time so I knew that this race may come down to a sprint.

The last lap we all tried breaking each other but none of us would give in. I sat in around third most of the lap and waited for the right time to attack. With about a kilometer to go I made the pass into first and hammered the pedals. I made the last descent into the straightaway and gave it all I had maintaining first place. I could see the finish line and taste victory. However, the race was not over. I came into the very last turn slightly too fast and lost traction hitting the ground hard. I scrambled to my feet only to watch my three competitors pass me up. I rolled into the finish in fourth place and extremely disappointed. I was seconds away from being the state champion and I let it slip from my grasp. Huge props to the other 3 guys though, they are animals and it was anybody’s race. Now its time to rest up and get some road racing in before heading up to Canada with USA Cycling in June. Thank you all for your continuous support! God Bless!

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