Eating It Up in Northern California

The West Sacramento Grand Prix started off swimmingly. I got to drive, not fly, to a brand new UCI race weekend in my home state of California. I met up with Paul Sadoff and the rest of the Rock Lobsters, the crustaceous crew that introduced me to cyclocross six seasons ago. I finally had that good start I’d chased all season. I made the selection right off the line. I was rolling along in the front group heading into the second lap. Everything seemed just dandy at my last race before blasting off for Belgium.

Words: Andrew Juiliano / Images: Josh Sawyer: Bell Helmets

Call me too relaxed, too sloppy or too inattentive, but the second time over the barriers I clipped my front wheel on a stake. The stem came up, my face went down, and the two met with such a convincing crack that I immediately regretted my decision to forgo dental insurance. All right, I didn’t actually think about my medical plan until later that night.

I paused and found all my teeth still intact, but I’d lost the front group. “Thhhhhiiittt,” I thought as I spat out a mouthful of blood. But there was little time to brood. This was a bike race, and neither the front group, nor any of the other 49 racers were slowing down for anything, let alone my self-inflicted stem sandwich. I remounted and rejoined the madness.

RELATED: Check out Grit World Racing for more from Andrew Juiliano.

The West Sac Grand Prix was a special event for the California ‘cross contingent. Sacramento’s Emily Kachorek, who has been instrumental in growing this event over the past four years, pointed out that this is the first time in her professional career that she’s slept in her own bed the night before a UCI race. California racers like Kachorek, Lance Haidet, Amanda Nauman, Cody Kaiser and I spend our ‘cross seasons packing bikes, heading to airports and flying across the country to chase results at UCI races. But, the West Sac Grand Prix was different. No bike bags. No haggling with ticketing agents. No TSA scrutiny of multi tools. International racing was just a car ride away on the banks of the Sacramento River.

I wasn’t going to let a sore mouth and a swelling septum ruin this special day. Sure it had knocked me back a bit, sure I was still spitting red, but I’ve taken enough feet and fists to the face (the joys of soccer goalkeeping) to know the limits. I had not reached them yet. I finally settled back in, rolling along in tenth place. It wasn’t the finish I’d hoped for, but a UCI top ten, with its one international ranking point and 60 euros, was nothing to scoff at. I’d tough it out for another 45 minutes–after all, I’d been training four months for moments like these, and waiting four years for a UCI race in Northern California.

PELOTON Magazine is excited to be one of Andrew and Grit World Racing’s sponsors for the ’17/18 ‘cross season. To learn more about Andrew and the program read his article in issue 69 of PELOTON Magazine. You can get a free digital issue right here!