2018 UCLA Road Race
Can't see the high peaks, thick clouds obscure them mid-slope. A covering that seems to smother the higher ground, a quilt with frayed and fraying edges. Streamers and ribbons are torn from the border and cast out over the flatter eastern lands. It is difficult to tell if the ripping is being made by the sharp trees or currents of air. Either way the wind is behind the damage, driving the clouds down from the mountains and out over the desert. Below the clouds at the line where they wisp away into thin air, before the ground disappears, a fresh white covering is visible. It is cold. The wind, as it often does here is blowing with force, shredding the clouds, howling through the wires; I check myself more than once, looking up, expecting to see a fighter streaking past, but no, just another gust and its shriek.
As morning turns to afternoon those gusts, every so often, carries small flurries of icy flakes in their stream of cold air. I am not sure the competitors notice at this point along the course; finishing the long, arduous climb into these juniper and joshua tree-studded hills being of more immediate concern. Juniper Hills Road, there is no higher pavement here, nothing further up that you would want to ride into on a day like this. At this point, there are only another few minutes of climb; over the hill strain turns to stress - keeping bike and rider on the road while the pounding wind batters and bruises, pushing against a racer's wavering path, his will to survive, her desire to fight on.
In contrast to those dark ominous clouds on the mountain, those that have been torn away are like white puffs floating on an azure sea out over the desert. It is not until you watch them closely that you notice they too, are racing; their shadows glide over the near valley, then up and over the brown hills with ease, and disappear beyond sight.
Once again UCLA Cycling up together one of the most challenging road races on the local calendar. Struggling uphill into the wind was one thing (and, by the way, it got worse as the day progressed), but that descent, always fast to begin with, must have turned it into a terror of a roller coaster ride with the wind. Skid marks and bibs, or skid marks in bibs?
Okay, so one hundred thirty-two photos have been selected for the album, which you can view here. There are none from the earliest wave of races, all from the races that started at 9:30 or later, both collegiate and USA Cycling categories.