By Dennis Pedersen
Last year I got dropped 1.5 laps into this 4-lap, 41-mile race held on the rolling access roads of this former Army base and didn't bother to finish. So I wasn't too excited about revisiting! But Coach Mark convinced me it could be a fun way to practice some tactics with the team: True enough, Mark, Russ, Miles and Joe would also be racing.
After a neutral roll-out the pace was easy for a while. The plan was for me to make the first attack; on the long hill by the feed zone, which could also give me a head-start up Hennekens Ranch Road, the biggest climb at about 3 or 4 minutes in my lowest 39×25 gears.
When I jumped it was surprisingly easy to get a big gap up the hill and over the crest, though nobody bothered to go with me. And still I was able to rest enough on the descent that I could climb at my own pace up Hennekens, even though I got caught by the pack halfway up where there is a slight step. Very cool!
Then l noticed that Joe was having trouble with the furious pace of the peloton...he was in danger of getting dropped. So I led him over the top, where the headwind gets pretty strong and Vlada cheered us on, and downhill and back to the leaders after a hard chase. Trust me, that was really fun!
On the third lap Jon Ornstil (VOS) and a Safeway rider effected a breakaway and so the pace was slow as VOS blocked... and other teams looked to us to chase as our team started the race with the most riders entered. But I was tired from chasing and more concerned with recovering for the climb up Hennekens, so I rested.
On the third lap even Russ and Miles were demoralized up Hennekens, and I was really hurting too, but at the top I got Russ and Miles to go with me and a few others (many of them were also in my second-lap chase group!). Once more I was in chase mode! But once more we managed to get back in the main pack. Still, it took its toll on the team because in the meantime we had left Mark alone to try his best to catch the two guys off the front. He didn't get much help.
And Hennekens wasn't done with us yet: This fourth time up I was way too tired, and I wished for 39×27 gears. We all got dropped again; though Russ and Miles were able to stay with a chase group I was alone behind them.
So I soloed across the line with a practice sprint for about 20th place. Mark took 4th, Russ and Miles roughly 15th, and Joe behind me. Still, I got lots of enjoyment from helping with the team effort. And maybe next year I'll be able to finish with the lead pack; the slightly climbing finish would be perfect for me!
Thanks go to Russ, for driving. He even got me home in time for my 4:00 massage appointment!