Districts Road Race 55-59 Category
Saturday, July 24, 2010, Markleeville, California
By Jim Langley
Even though I only finished in the field sprint and didn't get any closer to the podium than the past 2 years, this had to be the most fun I've had at a race in a long time.
Bike Trip Road Trip!
We caravaned up in 2 cars, Scott Martin and I in his Subaru and Bob Montague, Tim Sawyer and Joe Platin in Bob's SUV. The 4-hour drive up to Markleeville wasn't all that bad because we left in the morning this year and avoided the traffic. Plus, we all looked forward to seeing Tim's brother in law Paul's place where we were all staying: only minutes from the racecourse with ample sleeping quarters, to-die-for views and even a ping-pong table! [Huge thanks for setting this up, Tim!]
Even better, amazing Chef Bob turned Paul's place into a mini Cafe Sparrow and cooked us a gourmet meal of pan-seared sesame seed-encrusted ahi tuna with risotto and salad and Joe brought an incredible carrot cake from The Buttery. We sat on Paul's deck enjoying the most awesome pre-race meal ever, until someone realized that we were actually looking at the water tower at the top of the climb on the racecourse!
Readying To Race
Since we had pre-ridden the course when we got up to Markleeville, and experienced how thin the air is at 6,000 feet, and just how steep the first climb is (it was Bob's first time up there) - racing it with a stuffed stomach was a sobering thought. So, at that point we decided to stop eating like pigs and start concentrating on race preparation.
Tim, Scott and Bob's job was to support Coach Mark Edwards in the 50-54 race, while Joe and I were in the 55-59s. We all had instructions from Coach Mark on how to approach the race so we compared notes and went over our plans - a discussion that was still ongoing at breakfast. I can't tell you have nice it was to be able to lounge around at Paul's and not have to rush to get to the race on time and we took full advantage.
And We're Off!
The 50-54s went off first at 8:10, and I'll let someone in that race report on it. From what I heard, and what Scott told me on the way back, everyone rode great and helped Mark to another outstanding Districts result.
In the 55s, what we expected to happen, happened: New 55+ rider, Specialized's Rob Anderson (who goes solo and wins districts every year, it seems) did it again, and pretty much, that was the race. The only difference is that Steve Archer of Morgan Stanley went with him. No one else could go with them though. I didn’t try and Joe didn't, either. But I don’t think I could have stayed with them and was afraid to risk blowing up on that first steep climb. And, I believe Joe was in the same boat.
I felt awful anyway on the first lap. It was hard to breathe at first and I couldn't push it and get myself going. I probably needed a much longer warmup. But, Joe and I rode smart and hung with the pack. It was comprised of about 30 riders after Rob and Steve powered off the front. We couldn’t get the pack organized though there was a lot of talk and a few attempts.
I tried to bridge once on the first lap but when I got around the corner and saw how far ahead they were I knew I couldn't make it without help. But, every time we’d hit the hills, the pace would be too fast for the flatlanders and they absolutely refused to help to chase down the break.
It was actually kind of funny. We've got 30 guys and we can't get any kind of reasonable paceline going. And, it's not like anyone is blocking for a teammate. Well, Mark Caldwell would have tried since he's Steve Archer's teammate. But, if even 10 guys worked together there would have been little he could have done, and I'm sure we could have made up the minute gap the 2 leaders had on the pack. But, due to the climbers putting down the hammer on the ups, the other guys would only rest on the flats hoping to be there at the end for the sprint.
We did talk about taking it easy on the climbs so that people wouldn't get gapped or dropped and could help on the flats. But, then on the third lap, Webor’s George Smith attacked on the second climb, and that time up was painful. My heart rate was higher than it's been in a long time and my legs were screaming, but all the training paid off and I was okay with it and went over the top near the front. That's when everybody sat up and most of the guys that got dropped got right back on.
To The Finish
So, it came down to the 4th lap. We tempo’d the climbs on that lap and it was not so hard as lap 3. I didn’t want the group to bunch up and clog the road and block, as had happened last year. So I made a series of attacks down the home stretch – probably 4 or 5 hard jumps in the closing 3-mile gradual uphill to the finish line. This strung out the pack and dropped more guys.
In the end, it was all for nothing, as Mark Caldwell jumped around me for 3rd, and other guys came by too. Maybe I could have waited instead of attacking over and over, and just sprinted, but I expect with his skills, Caldwell would have taken 3rd anyway.
One interesting outcome was that right after the sprint, Mark Caldwell turned around, looked for me, did a U-turn, rolled up, put a hand on my shoulder and gave me a few tips - and actually said that I was strong enough to have taken the sprint! That's surprised the heck out of me because I've probably raced against MC 10 times now, and that’s the first time he has said anything to me.
So, I guess I at least impressed him with my attempts to shape the race. I'll take it as a compliment and remember his advice (attack from the back, not the front). Someday I hope to actually out-ride him but it's going to take more fitness and smarts. It's nice he was willing to give me some helpful tips!
Thanks a million Tim, Bob and Joe for the incredible Districts lodging and food - and great racing everyone! Thanks for reading,