Alexey’s Video Diary: Bonelli Park – UCI race number 1!
Alexey Vermeulen Video Diary: Changing the kind of bike you race is more difficult than it sounds, and no matter how many times that I say it out loud, I am still convincing myself that I race mountain bikes professionally now.
PS. There is a lot of learning to be done.
This past weekend was Bonelli Park, my first introduction to UCI racing on the dirt… and MAN was I nervous. Being nervous for a race is good, and normal in my experience, but it was quite an odd feeling to be going into a bike race without much knowledge of what to expect at all. After over 10 years of racing the simple concept of toeing the start line at an XCO race was new to me… I can explain it pretty easily though… you wait for your name to be called.
I arrived in San Dimas mid-day Friday (a day before the racing started), after driving from Santa Monica. Once there I met up with some friends and went to pre ride the course. My first thoughts: “Wow, these guys ride hard all the time” and “Oh shit, rock” … after 4 laps on course and some time catching up with good friends, I headed back to the hotel.
Pre race rituals are similar to past seasons with one main difference, its back to junior racing days… I am in charge of everything. Bike checkups, meals, transportation as well as myself. Most difficult at the moment is learning the nuances of mountain bikes. Do I run a 34, or a 36 front chain ring? Do I put 21 psi in both tires or 21 in the front and 22 in the back? Is my pump even accurate to those numbers… no… I need a digital gauge (I bought one).
Saturday is cross country race day. After waking up and shaving my legs (race day superstition), I head out to get some breakfast and coffee with a friend. At races, you can tell where the best local coffee shop is by where you see the most racers. Many guys will take notes on the best coffee shops for future years before remembering to write down race notes. We race at 1:15 and after much planning, I quickly see that I have arrived properly tardy to my first race. I quickly dress up and check over everything before heading out to get a warm up in. The course is 3 miles long, features 4 steep climbs with matching descents and it takes about, 11:30 for the fastest lap of the day. Its rocky and dusty after some time without rain and incudes some log and stump features.
After a long wait I hear my name and roll to the line. My heart is racing as they call two minutes and I sit back down on my top tube. Before I know it we are off and racing, elbows hitting, and guys sprinting. For the roadies out there, when I say sprinting, I mean imagine the entire peloton trying to get into the breakaway… and it never settles down, guys just get dropped. Through the first half of the race I do not feel comfortable, but I am constantly moving forward which feels good. This feeling dissipates quickly, a lap later I find myself on the ground after a rock garden while taking a bottom corner in true roadie fashion. After the race and fully letting the previous 24 hours sink in, I was ready to sleep… for a long time!
Sunday was short track day… pretty much a criterium on dirt, grass and some asphalt, but shorter, and harder. I once again didn’t know what to expect from the race, but I much more relaxed, the jitters had been calmed. The course was 1 mile long and we would race for 20 minutes plus 3 laps. The race started ballistically! I have never looked down after 13 minutes and been so tired! I was feeling good considering the circumstances before dropping my chain, after that it was survival… I finished 37th. My favorite quote from after the race came from Pete Karinen, “That was kind of fun” ha! I mean… it was!
As I write this, I have just finished up logistics for this coming weekend to race in Temecula at Vail Lake UCI. Check back to see if I make it through unscathed!
Photos by Erick Gonzalez of Wildglassphoto.
Alexey Vermeulen was US National Junior Road Race champion and has podiumed in the U23 and Elite US Time Trial championships. After three years with the BMC Development Team, Alexey was signed by the Dutch WorldTour team; LottoNL-Jumbo. After two years riding all the WorldTour events and the World championships he moved back to the US to ride for the Interpro Stradalli team. Since the start of 2019, Alexey has turned his hand to mountain biking.