Mark sagely had us ride up Mt. Hamilton two weeks prior to the race. That was my first experience on this beautiful, 19-mile switchback climb. On that ride (after doing the Metcalf LKHC in the morning), I was stung four times by a yellow jacket that had decided my jersey was a good place to spend the winter. After that I cracked completely and struggled to the top in my 39x27, so my memories of the climb were not exactly rosy.
On race morning, I continued this comedy of errors by missing the exit and driving to Fremont before I realized my mistake, leaving little time to warmup. In talking to Mark beforehand, I figured that the strategy for this race was to do whatever possible to stay with the front group over the first climb. This way, you could be on a wheel across the central valley section. I managed to execute this strategy, but was a little distressed to see my average watts at 390 after the 20-minute climb. This made me wonder: How much was still in the tank for the second, longer climb?
Once on the second climb, I looked around and was pleased to see Mark and I were together in a small group. It ended up being a pretty comfortable pace for me. I figured I could do at least 20 minutes at an even harder pace, and the total race was going to be about 1:15, so at exactly 50 minutes into the race I depressed the gas pedal a bit. When I looked around, it was just me and Greg McQuaid. At one point, to our great surprise, we passed the series leader Tim Clark, who was apparently having an off day. After that we passed my season-long challenger, Thomas Novikoff, but he quickly latched onto the back, making a group of three.
I still felt good, and figured I had another harder effort left, so with about 10 minutes to go I accelerated again, and Novikoff started to come off. Finally, I rounded the corner with the summit buildings in site, and began my sprint for fourth place. Wrong! I’d gone too early. There was still another switchback and a couple of hundred meters to go. McQuaid must have regarded me with amusement. Surely he said under his breath, “What a dolt!” before he came around me easily for fourth. This scenario occurred several times this season. Note to self: spend more time studying race finishes! In the end I was fifth; Mark was 11th.
After the race I drove straight to the family Thanksgiving celebration in Marin. Unfortunately, my clothes didn’t make it. So while everyone else circulated in finery, I confirmed my longstanding reputation within the family as a complete goober, slinking around all evening in sweaty cycling gear. Doh!
Team Bike Trip finished third overall for the season, a bit of a disappointment. This was probably due to missed races and a lack of women participants. (That’s my theory anyway; you need a doctoral degree in mathematics to understand the actual points formula.) There’s always next year. It was a fun LKHC season, regardless! Good job team!