Copperopolis 2009 Race Report 55+
By Jim Langley
This year's 55+ race was so much like last year's that I have a short report. So let me first congratulate the teammates who had fantastic results Saturday and deserve a lot of praise for excelling in one of the toughest races you can enter. Way to go, Mark Edwards. No one deserves this awesome win more than you. You won with off-the-chart fitness, intelligence and class against the most dangerous 45+ 1/2/3 field ever. You are becoming the racer that sets the standard in NorCal/Nev Masters racing and that's a crown to be very proud of.
And, my helmet's off to you, too, Geoff Drake, for your outstanding finish, and for helping Mark win, both by pushing him in all those workouts we do together, and also for helping support him in the race. You and Mark form a 1-2 punch that's surely a daunting prospect that will have teams throughout the Bay Area and beyond wondering what they can do to defeat Team Bike Trip.
I don't want to steal his thunder, but a loud bravo to Matt Wocacek who established the winning breakaway in his race and then finished second. Wonderful work, Matt! I believe Miles Wadsworth took a fantastic 2nd too! And, Joe Platin had a super race finishing 8th. Russ Cadwallader raced strong in support of Mark and Geoff. And, another sweet story was Bob Montague's return to racing after his serious crash at Madera. Eddy Price and Matt Werner raced like champs too. We should see all their race reports sometime soon.
I Learn A New Stupid Bike Trick
In my race, it was a smaller yet tougher field than last year, with Mark Caldwell, Richard Lorson, Rick Humphries and some other new faces. Last year's winner and second place guys, John Elgart and Scott Hennessy were there, too.
As I mentioned, it was like last year in that we rode a decent pace the first lap and then worked the second lap hard trying to drop the weak. In 08 we whittled it down to 4 racers by the final climb. This year there were still a dozen riders together there. I know I'm fitter than last year - and about 5 pounds lighter - so I'm sure there were even fitter guys out there this year than last.
As we were flattening that last hill, something "funny" happened that I won't forget. The climb is important because if you can get enough of a gap there's a chance that you could stay away to the finish. But, in our group we were all too evenly matched for that to happen. Still, I did not want to give up an inch when the attacks started, and no one else did either.
I'll Call It "The Butt Plant"
I was on the wheel of Richard Lorson, a top climber in our age group. As he accelerated I matched his speed and stuck close to his rear wheel. Everyone was on someone's wheel and struggling to not let any gaps open.
I was right on the edge of the road, only gravel to my right. To my left was another rider who made it clear that he wanted me to give him Richard's wheel. He did this by riding up very close next to me and moving even closer. I knew what he wanted but I wasn't about to slow down and I couldn't really move to the left or right. He inched even closer and moved forward a little to get his bars ahead of mind. I still didn't yield a millimeter. I was thinking, 'I know he wants Richard's wheel but there's no way I'm going to give it to him.'
Wrong. This rider (who I won't name because anyone who's been racing with him for years and years and knows how many championships he's won will know who he is), had other ideas and a very clever trick for getting his way. Without making it look too intentional, he moved closer and put his right butt cheek/hip on my left handlebar/brake lever!
And, It Works Great!
To me, it seemed like he bumped into me, but with a subtle and important difference: A bump would have just startled me, no biggie. But, what he did essentially locked my steering and I had to react to gain control of my bike. I couldn't move to the left or I would have crashed into his rear wheel. The only solution was to yank my bars to the right to free them from his butt and that, of course, caused me to swerve to the right and almost into the gravel.
This was all the time he needed to slide onto Richard's wheel. When it happened I thought it was an accident, but I asked San Jose Bike Club's David Stockwell about it after the race and he told me that this rider had done the same thing to another guy, but in that instance it caused a crash and a broken collarbone. Then to research this "trick" more I asked my coworker who raced in Europe for a year and he confirmed that it's a known trick in the pro ranks.
Now I know and will be ready the next time, if this new 55+er tries it again. In fact there's a little rugby payback pinch I learned that should immediately get just the right reaction.
Mad Dash To The Line
Back to the race: We all crested the last hill together, bombed the descent and hit the 1k mark together. My plan was to get on the wheel of the guy who won last year, John Elgart. I did that and stuck there nicely even though Mr. Butt Plant was trying to scare me off John's wheel. But, my tenacity was all for naught, as when the sprint reached top speed my legs completely locked up and I could only creep the last few feet across the line.
I did watch one of the new guys, a Peter Taylor, beat John Elgart, though, which was something to see. That's the first time I've seen anyone beat John in a sprint. I also noted that John was the only one of last year's top 3 to place again. Peter took the win, John was second, Mark BP Caldwell was third. I was a distant 9th. (Last year I was 4th.)
I'm not happy with the result but I am pleased I made it to the sprint again, and while facing what I think was one of the finest 55+ fields yet. It's going to be fascinating to see what other hot shots show up this week for Sea Otter and if I can be more competitive.
**Rumor has it that Levi Leipheimer was DQ'd for crossing the center line so Ben Jacques-Maynes won the Pro/1/2 race.
**Copperopolis is famous for rough roads but after racing the Madera Stage Race and Orosi, I don't think it's so bad any more.
**Overheard in the peloton: "If I had $100 for every time I've won this race I could retire." -Mark Caldwell