Fixed Gear Crit

Mission Crit race report by Colin Strickland and statement of winner Cesar Valenzuela

Cesar Valenzuela from Engine11 surprised the whole men’s field in the Mission Crit by attacking from the break-away with world-class fixed gear crit riders Addison Zawada, David Santos, and Colin Strickland, only to be seen back by the rest after the finish line. Colin Strickland did everything to get him back and by doing so he dropped Addison Zawada and David Santos who settled for 3rd and 4th place. In the women’s field it was Jo Celso taking the win with Christina Peck, and Sydney Richardson getting 2nd and 3rd. We talked to the winner of the men’s race Cesar Valenzuela and have the privilege to publish the race report from Colin Strickland and how he experienced the race.

Top 5 Mission Crit
1. Jo Celso
2. Christina Peck
3. Sydney Richardson
4. Veronika Volok
5. Erica Schwanke

1. Cesar Valenzuela
2. Colin Strickland
3. Addison Zawada
4. David Santos
5. Rob Evans

Race Report by Colin Strickland
The stage was set for an incredible event for the Mission Crit IV. It was located in one of my favourite neighbourhoods in San Francisco (SF), 5 blocks from my big sister’s house, and 10 blocks from my mother’s apartment. The course was smooth, flowing, and a healthy mix of super-fast and challenging tight ripper turns. A solid crowd of spectators amassed for the women’s race, and only grew larger for the men’s A race as the night wore on.

We had a field of the best fixed gear crit racers the West Coast has to offer, and they take that stuff very seriously out here (as I was about to learn). The lengthy list of call-ups concluded and the starting bell sounded. With a solid 1st lap prime on the line, we rolled off at a ripping pace into the 1st hairpin. Cesar Valenzuela (Engine 11) shot out on a mission in the final long headwind straight and I locked onto him, contemplating jumping him on the final right hairpin for the 1st lap prime. Nah, Cesar clearly wanted it, so I hung back through the start finish and he rolled it un-contested. That sort of set the tone of the night.

After the 1st lap, Addison Zawada (State Bicycle Company) took over the pace making and showed us began the lesson on how to slay a hairpin turn on a fixie (my grasp of this subject has dulled a bit after a long spring campaign without a fixie in my bike fleet). I swear Addison was putting 1-2 seconds on me every time we rolled through the turn1 left hairpin. Addison is a handing wizard, and this was my first race on the new Pinarello MAAT 60.1 space ship whip. I was re-learning to trust my pedal clearance and my tire traction at those extreme lean angles, and it showed.

Within a few laps, Dave Santos (Aventon Factory Racing), Cesar, Addison and I soon established ourselves as the break of the night. I swear I didn’t do it. I was just rolling with the monster pulls from Cesar and Addison, who are both clearly on-form and confident. The four of us played nice for the first half of the race, even though Cesar surged through his pulls extremely hard (this may have been just a bit over-zealous, or a tactic to soften up his breakaway companions).

The bell rang for the mid race prime, and I decided to give it a go and stretch my legs. I launched hard on the headwind final stretch and opened up a gap to roll the prime without contest. I kept rolling alone for another lap or so, checking back periodically to see how the break was responding. I saw Addison putting in some digs (maybe the other guys too), and I was not feeling quite like my normal self, so I decided to pull the plug on the loooong solo effort and rejoin the break. It was a long way out to go on a windy day when you are not particularly feeling it. The 4 of us continued to play nice until roughly 7 laps to go, when Cesar rolled off the front medium-hard after I finished a nice hard pull. I looked at the Dave and Addison to step up and close it down since I had just pulled, and we all hesitated for 3-4 seconds. This was a serious mistake.

At that point, Addison took over the front and gave chase. Addison pulled for about a full lap, but Cesar was not getting any closer. In fact, he had opened the gap up to about 5 seconds. At that point, I knew this was a dangerous situation, so I put in a hard dig and rolled off the other two solo. We hit 5 laps to go and I had Cesar in my sights at about 4 seconds up the road. No need to panic, in fact, kind of an ideal situation for my normal self. Well, this time not so much. The laps ticked off, and Cesar was not slowing down. I was also not speeding up. Racing fatigue from a significant bock of hard racing/training and a 6:30 AM (4:30AM Pacific) flight the morning of the race were causing my motor to sputter a bit.

A few laps out, we started passing lapped riders who did not make enough effort to get out of the way of those of us racing for 1st, and that produced a shit-show going through the already extremely technical hairpin turns. While it did not change the eventual outcome of the race, it was a distraction that I could have done without at that point in the race. If there’s 1 comment for the Promoter, who otherwise did an amazing job, it is that lapped riders need to consider themselves neutralized until the front of the race completely passes you.

With the one-to-go bell lap, I knew I was pretty f*cked. I put in a couple of hard digs, but it seemed my legs had missed the flight that morning. Cesar was coming back, but just not fast enough. We rolled through the last turn and he had plenty of time for a proper post-up celebration. I know the feeling, and that guy deserved it! He raced a clean, intelligent and aggressive race from the gun, and he earned it the hard way. Hats off to Cesar Valenzuela, and remember that damn name, because you will hear it again. The dude has a serious engine, especially at a buck30 and 18 years of age.

Anyway, it was a good lesson in race prep details, and it was a fun night of racing with my friend in a beautiful city. Also, always a blessing to keep the rubber-side down! Thanks everyone for coming out to the race, and I’ll see you in Red Hook!

Cesar going solo with Colin Strickland chasing Video by Tito Capovilla

Cesar Valenzuela
“My expectations for the race was literally only to really give it my all from the start I kept a very clear mind in what I had to do and I did it. The race was just so much fun when it goes as planned actually even went better than planned to be honest! I loved the turn out.. so from the start I started off by getting myself in a good position for the race over all by taking the first lap prime and kept applying pressure to break up the race as much as possible so it ended up in a four man break and with about 10-7 I noticed Santos and Zawada were showing signs of having a hard time so Colin went for an attack on the straight back stretch and neither Zawada or Santos wanted to chase so I made the effort to bridge and when we had just made a right for the uphill I look back as we’re going in that short straight and everyone was waiting for the next move so I hit it and when I hit the straight on the back side I noticed I had a gap so I kept trying to stretch it as much as possible it was amazing! I impress myself every time. I decided to attack because I knew I’d have a better chance at winning and it would have been a overall better deserved win. When I set the attack I knew if they caught me I’d be done, so I wasn’t going to let that be a choice that night with the hairpin keeping me exactly 5 sec away from him every lap I seen a escape and I had to take it. It was also really exciting so my heart and mind did just start racing through the roof so I tried to remain as calm as possible every straight and it worked! I didn’t expect to do what I did, but I never doubt myself so if at the time I’m breaking away from red hook crit contenders and I have a small gap on them. I’m going to give it my all and take my chances.”