|UNITY SPORTS CYCLING||
It was a cold and overcast race day as the sun rose on St. Patrick's Day for 2013, and Team Unity was missing"Big Mike" Bonilla with a broken collarbone. So here's to a speedy recovery bro! Even though we lost one rider we gained another with Chris Becerra racing his first race ever. Chris is another Jr member along with Jose and Lucas.
Each are attempting to upgrade to Cat. 4 by completing 10 races this season as Cat. 5's. Looking pretty relax for his first race of the season, Chris also competes as a runner at University High School. At 7am the race begins for 30 min's around a .9 mile flat course of Hughes Park.
As the speed increased Chris and Jose began to fall back, while Lucas stayed in the slipstream of the pack.
With Lucas safely in the pack and keeping hopes alive, it was to be Chris's "initiation" to hold on for dear life and finish the race. Jose with much more racing in his legs was just in reach and in the same predicament. When it came down to the last lap, Lucas was in a prime position to participate in the sprint with his parents cheering him on! Like with all athletic abilities mastering the pack sprint requires considerable practice, so as we looked for Lucas's approach to the finish line; in he came in 18th pl. Followed by Jose in 43rd and a valiant effort by Chris in 45th. Unfortunately we were not present for Travon's race so late in the afternoon, something we will have to figure out how to be present for. From the race reports he finished 24th out of 65 riders, nice job overall.
Hopefully in another month the early morning races will be over and both categories will be closer together! Spending half a day at the races can be much at times when our riders compete so far apart on the race schedule. Apart from all that it was a nice event with some good results overall. Our good friend and supporter Mike Miranda from Cannondale was there with their tent; and had words of encouragement for Travon, Lucas, and Mike.
With only two Cat 5's for today's race, Mike and Lucas are beginning to learn how to race as teammates and race together against the pack. This is really crucial to their development as advanced riders which enables them to strategize and improvise as they compete. Just like all the crits they compete in for now, they will last for 25 to 30 minutes, so trying to stay at the front is a must! It took awhile to position themselves, but as the race came into the closing laps they rallied to the front with Lucas close to Mike's wheel. As the sprint began both were able to avoid any mishaps and Mike came in strong after his crash in Carson to take 9th and Lucas with a "sweet sixteenth" place! Well done lads!!
Like I mentioned earlier it was a long wait before Travon's Cat 3 race was ready to start at 12:30pm for a 55 min event. With a decent size group on the line the early laps were at a moderate trot, but soon breaks were beginning to form off the front! As we shouted to Travon to try and bridge across; the break was eventually caught within the last few laps. With all the top places being in that move, the pack had their wish and they sprinted like mad to the finish! Not being able to acquire that crucial last lap position Travon was able to muster a 21st pl out of 52 riders. Timing is everything, especially in criteriums.
Before the next race on our regular schedule, two riders Lucas Bentz and Travon Salazar decided to get another crit in their legs and entered the Ontario Series #2 the following weekend. Lucas for the first time raced in the Jr 15-17 cat. being that he is just 15 yrs old! Both young men finished in 16th pl in their respective races for a respectable result.
The first Crit of the season for the crew was the Carson series on Sunday Feb 17th. Although our aim is to be a road racing team primarily, sometimes a lack of local races dictates our schedule. Either way some speed work and more pack riding will help in the long run. In the Cat 5 race where our guys are steadily advancing to the next level which is Cat 4, every race counts. Since Cat 5 is considered the entry level for amateur cyclists, the pack consists of all age groups and abilities. So things can get pretty chaotic to say the least during the race, and as luck would have it with only a lap to go a rider took out Mike Bonilla as he was moving into the lead for what seemed to be an impressive finish! Down he went with the other rider and that was that! Surviving all the drama was Cameron Khoury in 34th, and Lucas Bentz and Jose Lopez rounding out the field of 51.
To salvage the day for Team Unity the responsibility fell on the shoulders of Mr. Travon Salazar; who is looking for a top placing to kick start his season. Travon's talents seem to be in sprinting or fast finishes by his own admission. So his strategy was to sit in and wait for the right moment in the last few laps. To his credit the pack stayed together and as they rounded the final turn to the finish line, Travon came out of the pack for more room to the line and came across in 8th place!
And now all the hard work and pre-season training pays off as Team Unity Sports Cycling starts its' 2013 racing season at the 13th Annual Boulevard Road Race in Crestwood, CA on Sat February 2nd. Nestled in the Cleveland National Forest east of Downtown San Diego, the event is rated class 2 for road races with a challenging 22 mile course that finishes on a steep climb. To add to the excitement of the day 14yr old Jr Lucas Bentz, and U23 rider Cameron Khoury would be starting their first race in the Cat 5a heat, alongside returning U23 Mike Bonilla and 17yr old Jr Jose Lopez.
Our most accomplished rider who will be striving to move up to the Men's Cat 2 division is Trevon Salazar, another promising U23 rider who will be doing 67 miles in the Cat 3 race. Trevon has a truly dedicated training ethic and already exhibits a keen racing potential. Our Cat 5 group will be doing 44 miles.
First off the Cat 5a pack of 50 riders went off after detailed race instructions for rider safety and race rules of the road was clearly stated. It would be a little over an hour before the first group would come down the flying descent after the major climb and lo and behold it would be our climbing "ace" Mike Bonilla in a breakaway of seven riders ! Next to come through was Lucas Bentz who at only 14 was competing against riders many years older and with the disadvantage of Jr gear restrictions. Following him was Cameron Khoury looking quite composed in his first road race and shortly after was Jose Lopez having the same gear restrictions as Lucas. While that group was finishing up their race, Trevon began his Cat 3 race under ever changing weather conditions that became quite cold and windy.
Like most difficult road races the Cat 5 peloton was broken into small groups and individuals trying to survive to the finish. So what became critical was to finish and first across the line for our squad was Mike Bonilla for a superb 10th pl, just behind the breakaway he was in earlier! Next in was Lucas Bentz in 31st and not too far back was Cameron Khoury in 32nd, to be followed by Jose Lopez in 37thpl. It would be much later before we would see Trevon come through for his final lap, but as he rounded the corner from the climb it just wasn't go to be his day as we shouted words of encouragement. Bike racing is a tough sport, make no bones about it! Hang in there Trevon! Overall we came away with invaluable experience and everyone showed true grit and courage, GOOD JOB MEN!!!
The official season for our team ended with the So Cal Crit Series in Carson on 8/26. Only Jose and Henry competed, with Jose completing his tenth race overall; which should allow him to race as a Cat 4 next season. Unfortunately Henry is no longer racing with us since he is pursuing his Cross Country and Track and Field career. Good luck Henry we'll miss ya, show em what cycling legs will do for you! As we approach 2013, we begin with recruitment of more young riders and more sponsorship. Last month we had our first team meeting for next season at the home of Lucas Bentz, a promising new Jr rider. Here we laid out team expectations and commitment for a successful racing campaign. We heard from Walter Gomez, our U23 rider who recently returned from bike mechanics school in Oregon to tell the team the importance of bike maintenance and performance. Finally we took questions from the group, and set the first Saturday of October as our first off season training ride.
Coming next month on Saturday Nov. 15th will be our first team fundraiser to help us take the 2013 season to new heights and success! We will have special guest appearances to speak on our behalf to inspire and motivate our worthwhile cause. Hope to see you there!
Ladera Ranch GP nestled in a seclusive park like community in Laguna Niguel, CA hosts the final races on our calendar for 2012. The event of the day for Unity Sports was the Cat 5, the first race on the schedule. Just to put things in perspective the categorization of racers in 2012 is very much different than past decades of USCF racing . The age level and the actual experience of training is in question in my mind, from a level playing field. All things considered if you have the talent then you will succeed regardless, but to put all ages together and say these riders have no racing experience or maturity is suspect. That being said we at Unity Sports will show that true hard work and dedication combined with expertise and modern training will prevail !
The race was delayed much too long due to a car on the course, that could have affected the outcome of the race. Therefore after almost an hour the riders were off, and positioning now was even more crucial. Putting in the miles and realizing what racing is all about; Mike Bonilla positioned himself early in the start and found himself in the break that ultimately succeeded in the top placings. Due to gearing formats and competition selection Mike was not able to keep the pace, this is why you need to know speeds and race dynamics. The knowledge was priceless because when you have the "engine" you have to experience the turbo zone! Kudos Mike you are on your way, stay committed. Our Jrs from a age standpoint are gaining invaluable palmares from a racing pedigree; they have to believe in themselves and be willing to commit to the next level !
Keeping it real until we meet again, Peace !!!
With the "Dog Days of Summer" upon us it seemed liked a good idea for the fellas to roll out a few miles. Only seven hearty souls were able to ease on down the road this time. Starting with Damon Turner, Andrew Morgan, Donnell Wiley, Michael Selma, Charles Taylor, Thomas Ward of "Crankin Time", and Randy Smith. Sag support, route info, and motel reservations were provided by Crankin Time Bike Tours.
Our starting point was Anaheim Stadium under cool overcast skies. We took the bike path for several miles as we made our way to the coast bringing us to Seal Beach. From there it was down PCH with the rest of the cyclists that were on the road. The weather stayed the same until we arrived at about the halfway mark at Camp Pendleton; where we saw cyclists that had just completed a triathlon there. So now the sun was starting to shine and warming things up a bit, which felt much better.
With the sun shining and temps. in the low 70's it was a perfect setting to head on into San Diego as we passed through scenic coastal communities. The last test for our weary legs was the infamous Torrey Pines climb with about 20 miles to go. The weather was beginning to warm up as we approached the climb, which wasn't helping at all! Nevertheless we all made it and regrouped at the top where the sag van was waiting for us. With the beautiful view all around us it was fair to say it was all downhill from there! So into San Diego we go, freshen up at the motel and grab a much deserved meal and complete a perfect road trip! Thanks again to Thomas Ward and his lovely assistant for a great time!
Now that the 2012 season is winding down, the emphasis for our young riders is to begin to develop their race savvy and understand the dynamics involved in racing. The key is of course is to race as much as possible so that reactions are instinctive and quick. The ability to improvise is crucial as well as knowing your competition. With their last race as Jrs 17-18 at the Ontario Crit Series Henry and Jose didn't quite get off to the best of starts. Lessons to be learned as far as equipment goes and overall preparation. Still both finished which was the main objective to qualify for next years upgrading. Next weeks race at San Marcos began the formation of team Unity with three riders in the Cat. 5 race, with the addition of track cyclist Cecil Miller; yet absent was Henry Santiago. Our top rider was Mike Bonilla in 26th, Jose Lopez in 34th, and Cecil Miller in 39th. The last premier event on our calendar was the Brentwood GP a beautiful one mile circuit along the elegant San Vincente strip in Brentwood. Starting off with the first race of the day was a full squad of Henry, Mike, Jose and Cecil in the second Cat. 5 grouping. With only 30 min. of racing in total, things heated up quickly with a few riders getting off the front. Showing good form was Mike Bonilla who stayed with the front group as they reeled in the break. Never say die Mike was able to punch through with an excellent 15th pl. in the dash to the line. The rest of the team finished with Jose 34th, Cecil 39th and Henry 44th.
Possibly two more races for 2012 and we will then assess our progress for 2013, hopefully we can go out blazing...Forza!!!
This months report focuses on the Juniors State Road Championships in Bakersfield, CA on June 2. To say the least it was a hot tough day even with the early morning start on Saturday. Taking on plenty of water was the order of the day, and bringing it on home was Jose Lopez in 20th pl. and Henry Santiago right behind in 21st. Later down the schedule our newly registered U-23 rider, 19 year old Michael Bonilla started his first race of the season as a Cat 5 with a fine 41st pl. due in part to a crash on the first laps fast descent. Excellent job gentlemen ! To put the icing on the cake at the Serious Cycling Crit on June 16, maestro Jose scored his first points with a fine 7th pl. and fellow teammate Henry rolling in at 15th ! Things are coming together as we wrap up the season with a few more races to allow our riders to compete as Cat 4's in 2013. Stay tuned!