By Mark Edwards 6/14/08
The Pescadero road race has come and gone for yet another year. Besides being a beautiful course, with better than average pavement, Pescadero was also my first ever road race back in 2004. It will always hold special meaning for me.
This year would include a couple of firsts. One, I would be a marked rider. I would have rival teams assigning riders to keep an eye on me. And two, I’d be racing with six other Bike Trip teammates. The 45+ and 55+ groups race together in this race, but are scored separately. This can make for some pretty interesting tactics and strategies as generally different groups aren’t allowed to race together.
As always, there were plenty of lessons to be learned. It’s amazing how clear hindsight is, while in the moment, I often don’t have a clue. More on that later…
VOS, Webcore, and Morgan Stanley were once again the dominant teams. My impression is that Webcore, while very strong, isn’t particularly well organized. VOS is an absolute powerhouse, and works very well together. Morgan Stanley has incredible depth, and runs their team with near military structure; they always leave a heavy footprint on a race.
John Novitsky (National Time Trial Champion) recently joined up with VOS, adding another impressive rider to an already impressive roster. As I’ve seen him do many times in races, he attacked early today. 10 miles into the race he took off with a Webcore and Morgan Stanley rider in tow. I wasn’t in position to grab their wheel, and didn’t really feel I’d be allowed to get away if I did.
The big teams watch a break-away’s makeup very closely. They want to insure that if the break-away succeeds, their man can win. Or, if he can’t win, that a key competitor isn’t represented in the break so that their team will have to do all the work to pull the break back. This allows their guys to sit in, rest, and then take the win after the chasing team has exhausted itself pulling the leaders back.
I was able to find out who the Webcore rider was and knew he couldn’t challenge for the win. This would put Webcore in the position of having to chase. But their recent history of lacking coordination suggested they wouldn’t put a chase together. I never could find out who Morgan Stanley had in the break, but it turned out to be the very strong and savvy Don Langley. There’s no way Morgan Stanley was going to pull.
So now Morgan Stanley and VOS had no reason to work, they could just sit back and let the rest of us wear ourselves out (if we wanted to race for better than 4th place that is). I tired to get a few guys to work on the descent back to town, but it was short lived. Three guys killing themselves to pull 30 guys isn’t an equation you want to be on the 3 side of.
Climbing Stage Rd for the second lap I again went to the front to try and raise the pace. Immediately Jon Ornstil and Rick Martyn of VOS appeared at my side and on my wheel. I wasn’t going anywhere without these two. I was frustrated (as these tactics are meant to do) and ramped the climbing pace up anyway. In hindsight, this may have helped my eventual placing, but it hurt my teammates as they were dropped from my initial pace - and the subsequent vicious attack 6 guys threw down just before the summit.
Highway 84 saw about 30 riders come back together, including Jim. I was cruising in the Peloton resting for the final climb, slightly puzzled by Morgan Stanley’s relentless attacks, when Jim pulled up next to me. I was glad to see him and thought I could pull him up to the lead 55+ guy after the feed zone. This would position both of us well for the final climb. But… just as I was thinking this, Jim took off up the outside.
Again the hindsight thing… Morgan Stanley, secure with Don Langley in the break, had organized all their 45+ guys around their 55+ rider. They had noticed Jim getting back on and had ramped the pace way up to put the hurt on him. Had Jim and I been more aware/experienced and communicated, we could have worked together to minimize some of Morgan Stanley’s actions. But we didn’t, so we each positioned ourselves for the final climb.
Jim’s race report is posted, so you can read how it went for him.
Morgan Stanley’s pace, and the hard climbs on Stage Rd, had whittled our group to about 30. We were also spread out nearly single file. So the sweeping right that starts Haskins Hill wasn’t as congested as usual. This allowed me to get in better position than previous years.
As we rounded the corner starting the climb the pace exploded. Immediately I saw the Webcore rider that had been part of the 3 man breakaway. He was fried, nothing left but 10 long slow minutes of pain getting to the top of the hill. ¼ mile in we were down to 15, and who came into view? John Novitsky. 2 hours hammering on the front is more than even a National Champion can do with 85 guys chasing him. As we passed him there was an attack out of our group. 15 was now 6 and the pace was scorching!
At this point I was hurting. I just hoped my companions were hurting as much. NOT! Kevin Susco threw down an attack that nearly convinced me to get off and walk right then and there. One guy went with him, and another bridged up shortly after. Leaving Carl Nielson, Rick Martyn, and myself to see just how bad we could hurt each other.
Carl set a hard pace. Carl’s better on a long climb than I am, but I’m a little quicker. Could I hang on long enough to try and beat him in a sprint? Then there was Rick, he was on my wheel and breathing really hard. But I’ve been here before, he may sound bad, but he’s typically a better climber, and faster, than me.
Carl and I traded the lead a couple times, then coming up to 200 meters I was on his wheel, Rick on mine. Carl jumped, I jumped, Rick jumped. I just barely got around Carl as Rick got around me. Good for 6th place. My best finish yet at Pescadero!