Pascadero Road Race Report
By Jim Langley
Well, the plan was to win the race, so taking second - even though it's my best finish this year - was a revolting development. Especially since the team had worked so hard to protect me early in the race (you're the best Scott and Matt!), and since I had chased so desperately to catch race winner Mickey Caldwell at the bottom of Haskins.
So, there I am on one of my favorite climbs, on our "home" course, and it's me versus Mickey with one climb left to decide the race. My plan is to sit on his wheel to the top and come around at the last second. But, there are a couple of small problems. He's got a teammate with him, because we're racing with the 45+ group. And, my legs have been pulverized from seemingly endless chasing after Mickey's Morgan Stanley teammates massed at the front of the pack before the second climb on Stage Road to give Mickey a free ride and drop me cold. Luckily, I wasn't the only one who got gapped and our little group killed ourselves to reel the lead pack back in by the base of Haskins.
So, I'm doing the right thing: sitting on Mickey's wheel, trying to recover, trying to wait. But his teammate drops back and sees me and tells him I'm there. We're not climbing very fast and I'm thinking that, even though he's on fire today, Mickey hasn't climbed with me this year, so I should have a good chance here. I just need to wait. But, it's distracting having another Morgan Stanley who keeps coming back forcing me to change lines and waste energy. About half way up he gets dropped, though, and now it's the two of us.
Things are still looking good and I'm thinking right, just sit there and let him go first. But, nearing the top, I suddenly lose my resolve - or maybe it was my mind - and decide like an idiot to try to sprint away from him at the 200 meters sign. 200 meters. That's too far when the road's flat. At the top of Haskins it's forever. And that dumb move guarantees I don't win the race.
In my defense, I dropped Mickey on climbs in every race this year, so I was definitely overconfident. I'm also a decent climber who typically attacks on hills and makes it stick. But, the reality on Saturday was that I didn't have anything left and when I stood to "sprint," it became an interminable crawl to the line - the slowest, ugliest, most laughable excuse for a sprint you ever saw. The harder I tried to generate some semblance of speed the more my legs locked up and the slower I went. As the finish approached I could hear Mickey on my left shoulder going .001 miles per hour faster, and disgustedly felt him creep by and watched his tire cross the line 1 cm before mine for the win.
No matter how I look at it, I have to give him and his team credit for working so well together and forcing me to use so much energy to chase them down. That's what really won the race. And, it's actually flattering to think that the Morgan Stanley team was working to beat me - especially considering I didn't have any notion they even knew who I was or that I was a contender. Still, I'd like to think I could have got him at the line had I not taken off first, but I'll never know. I do know that he out-rode me throughout the race and probably deserved the win just for that.