I made the journey to Winters with our newest team member, Michelle Heaton. I've ridden with Michelle for about five years on the Sunday and Wednesday rides and she's really strong - period. Not just for a female rider or a rider over the age of 45, just a strong rider of any sex or age. In addition, she's a great person and a friend who really cares about those around her. She owns her own successful Montessori pre-school.
I read before the race they had taken out the English Hills section of the course so I thought the race would be dead flat, but I was wrong. Indeed, the big hill in the middle of the course was still there and having ridden Winters several years ago, I knew it would be a tough day in the 45+ open category race.
A group of four riders went away before the big hill in the middle of the course and they stayed away for the whole rest of the race. I saw Joe Platin breakaway from the group as the race hit the bottom of the big hill section and I knew my chances of helping Joe (which were slim at best) in the sprint were gone.
The race then became a flashback of my prior Winters experience in the 45+ open. I lost contact with the main group on the last steep section of the hill, tried to bridge on the descent to no avail, formed a chase group with 12-15 other riders, caught the main group (five of us) after an 18-mile chase, got dropped again near the top of the big climb, formed another chase group with 7-9 riders and finished 2nd in the second group, five places behind Joe in 30th.
I was very satisfied with my race and put in a good effort on the two long chases, taking almost every pull to help our group make up time on the main pack. I know the main group was not riding very hard because four riders were up the road and most of the big teams were represented in it but our group rode as one, working together in unison for a common goal and we did it after a 45 minute chase.