I wanted this win pretty badly. I was feeling great, and the circuit race course suits my strengths well. The field was small (~50 racers), and the course is far less technical than it appears. You can easily fly down the backside without ever touching your brakes.
I make an early decision to try and keep the pace high enough in an attempt to shell some of the field. I spend quite a bit of time pulling on the stretch towards the finish (people were otherwise more than happy to sit up after the climb, but I wasn't). I controlled the pace for two consecutive laps; the effort was enough for another rider towards the front to call me a "small Mike Sayers". I felt pretty good about that. :)
Five laps to go. I was still feeling good but worked by doing the climb 11 times already. People were clearly suffering more and more, but the real move came with three laps to go. A rider, Andrew Hammond, attacked and rode off the front. Our group was too disorganized to catch him, and since I'm not Mark Edwards, I couldn't even consider a solo bridge effort. ;) Whatever. Happy to race for second.
Final lap. Now we're talking! The pace was very fast on the downhill and flats... this is racing!
1km to go. I'm towards the front and ready to throw down a sprint. I'm on the wheel of some random Chico, CA racer. He overlaps wheels (I suspect?) and starts that whole "oh shit I'm crashing" thing. The only thing going through my mind is "are you f**king kidding me?". I'm boxed in, but manage to scrub enough speed such that the landing is pretty soft. But my race is over, and I'm absolutely livid.
It turns out said rider was being a squirrel the whole race -- I just wasn't far back enough to notice. I did some post-race research... 22-year old with a very new licesnse (starts with 26xxxx). Naturally strong (he would take 6th in the RR the day after) but inexperienced. I'll be avoiding his wheel like the plague.
3T is Awesome
Aside from being taken out of contention, the biggest casualty were my handlebars. Carbon handlebars are nice but delicate, and I knew to test for failure when I noticed the scuffed bar tape on my right drop. Yep -- the whole drop came off with that trademark carbon-splintering-wrenching noise. Not the best way to shave grams:
What to do? I have backup bars at home, but I had to race the next day and also am a bit OCD about my bike fit. But wait! What's that oasis in the desert of mountain bike parts? The 3T / Vittoria tent, complete with a display of handlebars! One of which happens to be my size. I spoke with the rep, and he said that he wasn't technically authorized to sell them as a retailer but would do what he could. He called his boss, and they ended up selling me the display bars at cost! I was up and running again! A huge thanks go out to Rick and Ryan from the 3T tent at Sea Otter -- you guys are great.
Road Race (4/18/09)
On Saturday, I would learn my spell of bad luck was not over. On the second lap, after turning onto the nasty short climb, I dropped my chain and did not have the momentum to get the blasted thing back on. Normally, a dropped chain is trivial to fix... but when you're pumped on adrenaline and watching the field ride away from you, it's damn near impossible. A neutral support guy gave me an awesome push, and I spent the next 6 miles in ITT mode.
I managed (somewhat to my surprise) to make it back on! Unfortunately, I was feeling very fatigued after spending so much time in the wind... after four laps or so, I popped on the hill after the feed zone and ended up finishing the race solo, and about 20 minutes off the back of the group. I could have DNF'd, but I needed a long training ride. And heck, it was a great traffic-free ride!
Highlights from the race:
- Can you believe it? Our field successfully had a full-on "natural break" after the feed zone on the third lap. Best. Thing. Ever.
- The post-race lunch at In'n'Out: two double doubles, fries, and a milk shake.
- It was a well-supported race. Nothing like timing chips, two motor refs, and three neutral support cars for a Cat 3 field!