Orosi RR 55+
A Day for the Sprinters
By Jim Langley
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After last week's big win at Madera, I went into this race mostly for the fun of riding a new course and seeing if I could get another decent result. Mark and Scott raced it last year and recommended it as a good one for climbers so I thought I'd have a good chance and enjoy the change from the mostly flat courses at Madera last week. Also, top 55+ers Scott Hennessy and Mac Carey were registered and they're tough competitors who have taught me many lessons - Scott, especially on longish, hilly races. (Orosi is 2 laps of a 28-mile course, which about 2,000 vertical feet per lap.)
It turned out that the race was a relatively uneventful one. There were only 9 guys entered, apparently all climbing specialists, I believe 4 of them were from SoCal from their jersey sponsor names. The one guy I checked out online before the race had even won the Mount Everest Challenge - pretty good indication that he'd be trouble in the hills.
If I'd investigated the race more closely, I might have decided to pass. It's a lovely loop, but the climbing is not the kind I like. I prefer long, steady rhythm ascents. Orosi is constant little climbs. They don't even look like real hills but they keep working your legs and on the second lap when one of the LA guys went to the front and put the hurt on us on the first grade, my legs didn't want any of it. Just another couple of mph and I would have been dropped with the 4 other guys who came off here.
I dug a little deeper and hung in at the back and felt slightly better as we covered the next series of ups and downs with Mac driving the pace. Every time we hit another hill my legs protested and I had my fingers crossed there'd be no harder attacks because there wasn't much left in them. Luckily that didn't happen and I rode as best I could, tried to recover as possible, and tried to get ready for a fun finish since the 5 of us were obviously going to come into the long, straight finish together.
Sprinting not being my strong suit, and there being a couple of powerful-looking guys out there still, I threw down a few hard attacks coming into the finish to try to prevent the guys from attacking me, and to try to take something out of their legs so maybe I'd have a chance when we sprinted. Scott jumped a couple of times too. But, we still hit the 1 K to go marker all together.
Some Speed In These Legs After All
Normally, this is where I'd take off, lead out the bunch and then have them all come by on the line. I've made this mistake so many times that I was actually thinking that I might as well make it again - and that it would be okay to finish 5th.
But, as soon as these awful thoughts popped into my head, a much better one pushed them out: 'get a grip, Jim - you're a Cat 2 now - you're going to win this sprint - race smart!' (amazing what a big win and upgrade does for your confidence and mindset)
It's a good thing my focus got right and my confidence returned because we were only going slower, fanned out across the road, everyone looking at each other, no one wanting to be first to lead it out. I judged Scott to be the fastest finisher and wanted to follow him. I slowed even more so he'd come up on my left a little more. He did that, but a little too much forcing me to ride the line between the road and gravel shoulder to get around on the inside.
I didn't want to be boxed to the inside or have to sprint on the gravel, so I made a fake jump on the inside to get my bars ahead of Scott's and this caught the attention of the guys on the left. One of them yelled "right!" and that was the signal that made everyone really jump, Scott going first. Perfect!
I waited for a half a second and was right on Scott's wheel when I went. I felt like I had the speed to come around, but he had the advantage of being in front and the line was closer than I thought it was, and he beat me to it. So, Scott got another nice win, while I finished a close second. Mac Carey was right behind me in third. Scott is an excellent sprinter, maybe second only to John Elgart in the 55+, so there's no shame in taking second to him.
Overall, it was a tough race with a fun finish, and another happy result. I didn't win the sprint, but it was very close and my tactics were almost right this time. It was right to be on Scott's wheel. It was right to wait. It was a good tactic to get the others to jump first. No one came around me too, and I almost caught Scott, so I'm confident I actually have a competitive sprinting ability, which will help in future races.
But there are things I need to work on. My mistake was taking the wrong line trying to come around Scott. He took the shortest line which I wanted too, and this forced me to change my line mid sprint - enough to cancel any speed advantage I had. I should have known where he would go and taken a different line so as to accelerate straight ahead and not have to turn or swerve. Another mistake was focusing on what's happening around rather than on getting more power and speed to the ground. You lose power and speed if your focus isn't mostly on explosiveness. I am certain I can improve here and become more dangerous.
Now you know what I'll be working on in these coming weeks before Copperopolis, which came down to a sprint finish last year too. Congrats to Mark, Matt and Matt who all also had great races in their categories. Watch for their race reports and thanks for reading!