Scott and I left at a mind-numbing 3:30 a.m. for this race, but the drive went by quickly and we were treated to a great sunrise with snow in the surrounding mountains.
Three teams had four riders each: San Jose, Echelon, and Orange. I was without a teammate, as was Carl Nielsen. It was great to have Carl there so we could discuss things as the race unfolded—sort of temporary teammates.
A five-man group got away at mid race, with all three of those teams represented. I thought about bridging, but Carl and I decided that Echelon would never tolerate the fact that Cale Reeder wasn’t up there. And they would like nothing better than to have us do all the work to pull the group back. So we waited.
And it very nearly worked. We caught three of the five. I went over the top of the big climb on Cale’s wheel, second in our group, which felt pretty good. With two miles to go, Cale was next to me, and suddenly pulled off. “Cale, you OK?” I asked. “Flat,” he said. So that was it for Cale.
I led the group up the final climb, but right after the 200-meter mark, two Orange guys came around me. Given that two guys were up the road, that made me fifth.
I have to say, despite the drive, I love these races in the Sierra foothills—great scenery and big climbs, my kind of racing. And the race felt remarkably safe. Even on ripping descents, these guys were smooth. I really felt like I was among experienced bike riders. Nice.
At one point Cale came up to me, put his hand on my shoulder, and we chatted. So I guess I must be in the club now!
Lessons learned? Perhaps I should have chased down the break. But it’s possible I would have pulled the whole field. And I probably could have been savvier on the finish climb. I just figured it was a drag race up the hill so I hit it hard. I was worried that others might catch if I eased, but there was actually a pretty good gap to sixth place. So maybe I could have sat on someone else for a change.
But as it was, I got fifth and another coveted Velo Promo T-shirt. This one even looked like it was designed in the last decade, so it won’t go straight into the rag box!