This is a new stage race based out of the newly built town of Copperopolis. The race consists of a 10 mile out and back Time Trial, a 75 minute circuit race and a 69 mile Road Race, over two days. At the outset, I would have to say that this was a very well organized event over challenging and safe courses, but it was not very well supported by racers in Northern California. Hopefully that will change in the future. If we want to see more opportunities for racing in our area, we must support those promoters who take the risk to put these events on.
My race only had 15 racers entered out of a possible 75. Our first event was the Time Trial. I didn’t have too much information on the course, but I was determined to make a better effort than I had at Madera(28th) and at the 1st Swanton TT last week. I was somewhat optimistic because I had been getting some good input from time trialists and I had done more work in the aero position, enough that I was beginning to become a bit more comfortable. I got in a good warmup on the road and got to the start on time. I went out hard, possibly too hard. My average power about 1 ½ minutes into the effort was between 500 and 600 watts. I had experienced a similar thing at Madera and had made too much of an effort to recover. This course was advertised a gently rolling, so I decided to continue going hard to keep my speed up and only allow for recovery on the downhill sections. I think this strategy worked out pretty well. There were only a couple of spots on the outbound leg that were downhill, but they provided me with a good period for recovery and I was able to work hard on the rollers. I was looking forward to having more downhill on the homeward leg, but it really didn’t turn out that way. After it was over, I and those I spoke to agreed that the course was uphill tailwind on the way out and uphill headwind on the way back. It was a challenging course with no steep hills, but plenty of rollers. The pavement was not particularly good and a few of the riders with the fancy wheels and Time Trial bikes were grousing about it. I was okay with it. I stayed in the aero bars almost the entire time and finished a bit under 30 minutes. The girl at the finish told me that anything under 30 was good, but they had only seen the cat 5’s and a few of our group at that point. Still I was satisfied with my effort. Turns out I was in 4th, about 30 – 35 seconds behind a couple of fit looking Davis Cycling Club riders and 1.5 minutes behind a Webcor rider named Allen. Allen had not raced in 4+ years and had downgraded to our category. Although he said he was 20# overweight, he was clearly the favorite.
Next up was the circuit race, a couple of hours after the TT. The circuit was a 6 mile loop that began at the outskirts of the town center of Copperopolis and then turned on to the left side of a divided 4 lane roadway. We went out 3 miles, made the turn and came back 3 miles. The finish and preme line was at the top of a slight incline after a slight descent. 5 second time bonuses (premes) were awarded for crossing the line first on the 2nd, 3rd and 4th laps. On the finishing lap, time bonuses of 10, 6 and 4 seconds were awarded for 1st, 2nd and 3rd respectively. I picked the wrong wheel for the sprint at the finish, but I did win a 5 second preme on the 3rd lap. I was however relegated for using indelicate phrasing upon crossing the line of that preme, and so lost my time bonus to the man behind me. I will have to let that be a lesson learned. My sometimes colorful use of language is outside the rules of bike racing. The remainder of the circuit course wound through the streets of the town center, but it was still very safe, mostly because it came after the group had exerted itself to get to the line. My finish in the circuit race kept me in 4th place in the GC with only the road race to go.
Team Bike Trip was fortunate to have been offered accommodations at Robert’s mother’s lake house, about 10 minutes from Copperopolis. The house was very nice and provided us with everything we needed to rest up for the next event. The road race was scheduled for 69 miles on Sunday and scheduled for two waves, the earlier one between 8 and 8:30 am, and the latter between 11:30 and noon. I was to go off at 11:45, but I went over early since Nils and Robert were scheduled to go in the early wave. After their races took off, I ate and read the paper in the town square. It was a very nice day. Nils came back in early with a flatted tubular, not too happy that his race had ended early. About that time, I got suited up and got in an easy warm up. I didn’t do too much because I figured that we wouldn’t go out hard after the prior day’s racing and nearly 70 miles ahead of us. Turned out that they led us out neutrally with our support vehicle for about 4 miles, so we were all plenty warmed up by the time a pedal was turned in anger. And, pedals were turned in anger. Davis had 3 men in the group and 2 of them were in 2nd and 3rd in the GC. They sent their third man to the front on the first lap of this three lap race and then began to take turns cranking up the pace. They hoped, I’m sure, to drop Allen from Webcor as the leader on the road. The pace was harder than I had expected as compared to the shorter race at Madera which had been a younger and bigger field. I believe one or two guys got dropped from the pace on the first lap, but I was too busy hanging on and trying to conserve to do any counting. Part of the course was on the windy backstretch of the Copperopolis Road Race course. When we first got there, Allen showed us what we were in for. As we turned back into a wicked crosswind, he launched a brutal pace and every man was challenged to stay on. Still, I think most did. The course continued over mostly horrible roads with some cattle grates and occasional gravel sections for several miles. What climbing there was were power hills and they suited me well. We continued on to a turnaround point and then back past the finish line to a turnaround point at the start line and were off on our 2nd of 3 laps. The 2nd lap is where our race was decided. Davis had let up on their attacks but Allen continued to push the pace. As we approached the windy section he jumped hard and set a torrid pace with 3 guys hanging on for dear life. I was not one of those guys but I recognized that I needed to be. I burned the biggest match in my book and put the hammer down. Davis’s 3rd positioned rider had gone with me but he told me that he couldn’t help because his team had a rider in the break. I looked back at him and asked, “What, are you kidding me? This is our race! Either we work together and get back on now, or we are done.”. He thought it over and agreed, taking a short pull as we started up a fairly long incline. It was enough. I was able to recover while he pulled me for about 20 seconds. I launched with everything I had and was able to complete the bridge just as the lead group crested the rise. Unfortunately, the Davis rider who had helped me had not made it. This was the winning break. We would stay together, the remaining 5 of us, to the finish. Attacks were launched, but no one could get away. I had burned a lot of energy bridging the gap and chose to ride conservatively from that point. I wanted to try to win the road race, but I was also concerned that I might bonk. I tried to remain hyper aware of the moves around me and made sure not to let myself drift off the back at all. Still, as we came closer to the finish on our 3rd lap, I tried to position myself for the sprint. There were only 5 of us and plenty of roadway, and when the time came, I was on the right wheel. The only problem was that my legs had nothing left to respond. I tried to go, but couldn’t. I was 5th in a 5 man sprint. More than a little frustrating. Still, I was thrilled to be there at the end of what had been a brutal road race. And I didn’t lose any time in the GC to any of the guys who were close behind me. Plus, one of the Davis riders who was dropped had been in 3rd position. He finished well back and I moved up one position in the GC to 3rd. Podium!!!!!!!!!!! Huge cash and merchandise. OK, 20 bucks and a Teeshirt. Still, I’ll be framing all of it. I’m stoked