By Dennis Pedersen
I really enjoyed racing my bike in CCCX #2 last month since I love the green, rolling hills of Fort Ord and its closed, paved roads. This time our team in 45+ was Mark, Geoff and me. We were outnumbered by other teams in the 36-rider combined 45+/55+ field. VOS had 9, SJBC 4, Webcor/Alto Velo 7. Eddy was our teammate in 55+. This race ended up like "deja vu" for me, but with some key differences.
We had feared it would rain, but even though a few showers hit town in the morning while I was eating biscuits and gravy at Harbor Cafe it stayed dry, but rather windy, at the race. We discussed tactics en-route and during our warmup lap. We thought we rode smart last time, mostly, and decided to try similar tactics. But we also had some other options we'd throw down if the race demanded it. For me, I didn't plan on trying another solo flyer, but still thought stringing out the field in the flatter sections would serve us well.
When the race started (using the start/finish that CCCX #1 had used) I was a bit back but quickly moved ahead on Parker Flats Road with the tailwind helping me along. Last time I pulled the peloton along here, but this time, on lap 1 even, a break had already formed... yikes! I wasted no time in trying to pull the rest of the pack behind me to close the gap... I wasn't trying to bridge, per se, but apparently only Larry Hampson (VOS) followed me and sat on my wheel a bit before dropping back into the main group. Nobody else came, so I... pedaled hard and suddenly I was in another breakaway like last time.
This break had Brain House (BikePalace) who was one of the stronger 45+ riders in the break at CCCX #2, plus two 55+ guys: George Smith (Webcor/Alto Velo) and a Joselyn's rider. I didn't think we'd last, but like last time thought that I could help my team by forcing unrepresented teams like VOS to chase us down while Mark, Geoff and Eddy could draft them in the strong wind. It gets weird when you mix the age groups like this, because teams have to choose between helping 45+ vs. 55+ teammates. It looked like Webcor decided to help George in 55+ by blocking the pack, as Mark and Geoff did so selflessly for me in 45+. But VOS took no action that I know of; I think they gambled we'd come back together for another sprint finish.
Anyway, we pacelined fairly well for a few laps, George and I taking by far the most pulls (he later told me he thought we should just have gone by ourselves). But on lap 3 or 4 a ZteaM rider in his white kit bridged up to us; a considerable feat given the huge gap we now had! I wasn't sure who he was, but I was pretty sure it wasn't Hunter Zeising... perhaps his teammate Cale Reeder? Oof, he's very strong and proved that every time he took a monster pull at the front! The Joselyn's rider gave up, but the rest of us rode in a fast, rotating echcelon through the crosswinds. I had to skip a few of my rotations to avoid blowing up!
I neglected to wear my watch so I kept looking for lap cards. I thought we might be on the last lap, but when I looked at the cards they were partly blocked by the guy changing them and all I saw was a "2." OK, two laps to go... or was he tardy in getting the "1" card out? I didn't want to ask my break-mates if they knew, for some reason. I must remember to always wear my watch! Cale continued his hard pulls and I saw him scrutinize us all carefully for signs of weakness (there were plenty!). My legs were constantly burning, lungs at their limit too. So when we hit the "stair-step" section on Eucalyptus Road into the headwind the rest of us just watched him rapidly gobble up a couple hundred meters in no time!
And as we approached the finish I just kept riding like we were taking pulls so Brian sprinted off before I had a chance to react. Duh! Well, I still got 3rd which is pretty cool (and $25!), and Geoff came in 4th even after working hard with Mark to block! Great results for Team Bicycle Trip!