This was a strange enough experience that I thought I'd write about it.
I drove up with Bob, Jim, and Joe. Ed was there, and I did spot Nils, but didn't have a chance to talk to him. There were so many 45+ 4/5 riders, that they split us into two fields. Bob and Joe were in the "A" field, while Ed and I were together in the "B" field. Jim rode the 55+ race, where he did quite well, and Nils rode the E3 race.
I did not come into this race with good fitness and it was a flat race on paper, so my plan was pretty much not to respond to any breaks, and hope for a sprint finish. For the first 7-8 miles, it all went according to plan. On the outbound section, there was a strong quartering headwind from the right, and I sat happily on the left, doing virtually no work. One of the other riders said "this is turning into a really boring race." Perfect. As we went over a freeway overpass, I heard shouting behind. It was one of the San Jose guys drifting off the back, trying to attract the attention of his teammates. Behind him, I saw riders turning, and a large group riding away in a different direction.
I drifted back, and turned around. No one else followed. The San Jose guy (who turned out to be "Bunkie" (Ed) Webb said "I want to wait for my boys." He had 4 other teammates in the race, and it looked like half of the group was up the road, but not attacking. I preferred to arrive in the pack without "his boys," so I put my head down to chase, and he jumped on my wheel. We traded pulls, into a headwind. After chasing for several minutes, we had narrowed the gap, but it started to stabilize at a hundred yards of so. Damn, they're speeding up. Instead of waiting to get worn down, I jumped across the remaining gap with Webb sitting on. With my nose on the stem, my new Power Tap showed scary high numbers, but we made it back to the race and were able to rest on the very back for several minutes. Once I felt vaguely human, I looked around and saw a Bike Trip jersey in the front third of the group, out of the wind. "Ed made the turn. Cool." I decided to cruise up to tell him that I was back. That's when things got ugly for the second time.
It wasn't Ed. It was Jim. Webb and I had chased down the 55 pack, but we didn't know how many of our pack were mixed up with the 55s. It turned out that he was sticking with me, we talked about it, and decided to look over the group to see if any of our guys were in it. All the way down the left side, from front to back, the race numbers showed all 55s. We weren't sure if we were the front our race, or if there were other people even further up the road. At that point, the guys in the middle/rear of the 55 pack noticed our numbers, and started yelling at us. They were going to call a referee, have us DQed, and so on. Webb and I drifted off to the side to discuss what to do when we spotted a group of 3 further up the road that looked like part of our race. We decided to bridge up to the group of three.
We traded pulls again, but the guys on the front of the 55 pack chased us down. We sat up for a minute before trying again, and the guys in the middle of the 55s started shouting and threatening Webb and I again. We did a "rinse and repeat" a couple more times, and finally ran down the 3 guys who DID turn out to be in our race. For the second time, I was totally gassed and really, really needed a rest. At that moment we were hitting the rollers that were the "hills" part of "Dunnigan Hills," and the front of our race came through, working a fast paceline. I saw that Ed Price was with them. Webb jumped on the train and went on to win the race. I jumped on the train and blew up on spectacular fashion, going backwards through the 55s and then through the people in my race who were unable to hang with the chase. Jim saw me slipping and told me to hang on, but there was simply no gas left in the tank at that moment.
The race itself had gone up the road, but I convinced several of the dropped riders to start working again - mostly because it was going to be a long ride back alone in the wind. We eventually became 5 riders, then caught another group of 5 or 6. The eventual group of 10+ motored back much faster than I would have liked at that point. It was a learning experience and a hard workout - on par with something that Mark Edwards would design. My Power Tap file shows many extreme power spikes, and sustained early L4/5 that you do NOT want to see if you are trying to conserve energy. Congratulations to Bunkie Webb (SJBC) who also did tons of un-necessary work, but was able to go on to win the race. If I had known that I was off the front with one of the strongest guys in the field, I would have ridden very differently. As Humphrey Bogart said to Claude Rains in Casablanca, "I was misinformed."