by Matt Werner
photos Andrea Silva
I'll keep my post short since placing 20th is nothing to crow about. I did enjoy the race though, and learned a few things along the way. The weather was perfect, cool and sunny. Wind was a factor up on the plateau. Beautiful country, what I saw of it.
I avoided this race last year because of all the talk about how epic and rough it is. I don't like to think about crashing, and images of dodging gaping potholes and bouncing water bottles while flying down technical descents put the scare into me. But this year I had to see what its about.
The truth is, the road surface is ridiculous, but the holes have mostly been patched. Its a patchwork quilt with none of the qualities associated with quilts. The descent was so rough it made my feet and hands numb, and my eyes jiggled in their sockets so badly I couldn't focus on the rider in front of me... but it wasn't really technical. I just gave the bike its head and held on for dear life, hoping the pounding would end soon. I don't know how the pros can handle 5 times around on this course!
I started near the back in a field of almost 50. I moved my way up through dropped riders, and did a quick head count as the front group crested the first climb...15, maybe 20, and me the last one over the top. An accomplishment, to stay with the lead group. I spent a moment catching breath, looking at the butt-logos of the riders in front of me, only to look up and see that the 3 in front of me had let up and allowed the group to ride away. I jumped into the gap, trying to bridge to the lead group, 100m away. I couldn't do it. I dangled off the back, could practically smell sweat and chain lube of the group in front of me, but couldn't do anything to close the gap. Eventually I fell in with a chasing group of 6 or 7 and spent the race in that group.
Lesson learned: push through at the top of the climb, don't let up as the road gets easier, and make sure to stay in the shelter of that lead group.
I also watched a rider from our small group attack on the last short climb, thinking it was too soon, but he made it all the way to the line. I'll remember that next time I race Copperopolis.