Mark won this race the last two years, so it fell to Russ, John Marshall and me to uphold the standard this year.
The day before, I was flabbergasted by the weather report: rain. Will it never stop? Indeed, the skies looked leaden on my drive over the Richmond Bridge from my in-laws house in Marin. Then, with impeccable timing, it started to spit during the brief promenade. By the time we turned onto the course, it was raining in earnest. Hey, I just cleaned my bike! But I felt smug about the fact that I’d put on a thin, long-sleeve undershirt right before the start.
Our race was 2.7 laps, or 52 miles. The first half lap was pretty fast, especially with cold legs. However, I didn’t find the pace on the climbs particularly hard. The second time up “mama bear,” I remember seeing Carl Nielson munching away, and I had enough breath to say, “Hey, what’s for lunch?” (Answer: rice crispy bars.)
The two dominant teams were Morgan-Stanley and VOS. (Cale Reeder, who has been going extremely well this year, was a DNS due to illness.) Mark sagely recommended that we let these guys do the work to chase down breaks—unless both those teams were represented, in which case we better be up there.
I followed this advice, with one exception, when Jon Ornstil and Chris Courtney went up the road. That looked like a good combination to me, so I bridged up, took a long pull, then Jon took a pull—then Chris sat up and we all relinquished to the hard-chasing field. So much for that.
What I didn’t know at this point was that someone had already escaped. But more on that later.
I felt good coming into the final, finishing climb. John gave me a nice pull into the first part of the climb, then I moved around the left side of the field and found myself in the top five. Carl launched one of his trademark uphill attacks, and I glued up to his wheel. It was a hard pace, with the two of us at the front. But there was a headwind, even climbing at 10 mph, so I was glad to sit in for a few seconds. Partway up the climb I felt like I could go a little faster, so I swung around Carl and hit it hard--UCSC L5-style. I never looked back, but I didn’t hear any heavy breathing or shifting, which I figured was a good sign. With the finish line in sight, I stood up and sprinted. People told me later I had a few bike lengths on Steve Archer and Jan Ellsbach, who had a photo finish behind me.
For a moment I actually thought I’d won. I didn’t know that Blake Reed, the winner, had been up the road. Good thing I didn’t do some goofy end zone dance, or I would have looked like a moron. Congrats to Blake, for holding off the field for the better part of a lap. Nice ride and a nice guy. Nonetheless, I was happy with second, particularly since there were a lot of good climbers out there.
Russ finished an excellent seventh, so congrats to him!
Overall I thought our small contingent rode with class and made our presence known (in a good way). John Marshall rode the whole race in the top 10—and often in the top five or right smack at the front. He obviously knows his way around a bike race and Russ and I were glad to have him there.
The bad news was that the organizer initially lost our results; it took more than two hours to do the podium! Jeez. Good thing I’d already bought a box of chocolates for my long-suffering wife on mother’s day. I dutifully handed over my winnings to the chief executive of the house and all was forgiven.
(Thanks to Carl Nielson for the photos!)