By Geoff Drake
I’ve never done Orosi before, but it always sounded like one I’d enjoy. I’m partial to old-style road races, and it didn’t take long to see that Orosi fell into that category: lots of broken pavement, gravel sections, copious climbing, ripping descents with cliff-edge drop-offs, accompanied by jagged snow-capped peaks all around and blooming wildflowers lining every road. Bike racing at its best!
My race was two laps—about 60 miles. I noticed at the start that we were missing Jon Ornstil, who is a frequent animator of this race. But we still had Carl Nielsen, who has been flying lately, and a host of other strong-looking riders.
Predictably, Carl went straight to the front on the first, 1,000-foot climb and proceeded to rip everyone’s legs off. I sat on his wheel like grim death. When we crested the summit, I finally took a look around, and there were just four of us remaining, including Carl, Bill Brier, Chris Courtney, and myself.
On the back side of the course I was concerned that our pace wasn’t high enough, and sure enough, before the final descent, we were caught by several riders.
But I knew there would be another separation on the second trip up the big climb. Carl again went to the front, this time hitting it even harder than on the first lap. Once over the top, we were a group of five this time.
Once again, I became concerned that we’d be caught. I exhorted everyone (in a nice way) to work together, and tried to put some emphasis on my request by going to the front on several occasions. I’d much rather be last in a small breakaway than suffer the boredom and uncertainty of a field sprint.
Lo and behold, after my repeated requests, everyone started working together. Thus began one of my favorite things in bike racing: a small group of riders, committed to staying away, taking equal turns at the front. The miles rolled, and the chasers were never to be seen again. Fun!
Before the final descent, Courtney noodled off the front. It didn’t seem serious, but before we knew it he had a decent gap. As we hit the valley floor, we could see him up the road and started working together. Despite a coordinated effort, we couldn’t bring him back. With just a few 90-degree turns to the finish, our group of four starting thinking about the sprint for second.
For once, I was determined not to be The Big Strong Dumb Guy Who Goes Too Early. Mark had given me some good landmarks for the finish. I gauged the wind, picked the sheltered side of the road, and waited. Two guys jumped. I glued up to their wheels, put my head down, and came around with several bike lengths to spare.
Second place. I’ll take it!
Plus, Scott was fourth in his race, so maybe it was worth leaving at 4:30 a.m. after all…