Monday, May 30, 2011

Mt. Hamilton Road Race, May 29, 2011

Notes From The Mt. Hamilton Road Race
By Jim Langley

Andrews get the Amazing Race award
This was my first full Mt. Hamilton Road Race. A couple of years ago I did the 55+ race but it started on the backside of the mountain and only covered about 35 miles, a far cry from the complete race, which has long held the status of one of the most epic road races you can do in NorCal.

So, when Bob Montague alerted me to the fact that they were offering a 55+ race this year over the full course, I couldn't sign up fast enough. Plus, Bob figured out an ingenious car transfer plan so we would be able to get from the finish in Livermore back to our parked cars at the start in San Jose without much delay. Otherwise, the driving is almost as epic as the race.

We had a pretty good Bicycle Trip/Symantec crew entered with Bob, Gary and I in the 55+, Mark and Geoff in the 45+ Open, Scott in the 45+ 4s and Andrew in the Elite 4s. Geoff was our top finisher with a nice 12th place. Bob, Gary and Scott had solid races finishing in good shape. But, Mark, Andrew and I had some issues out there:

  • The Amazing Race award goes to Andrew. He gets knocked off his bike about halfway up Mt. Hamilton, hits his head so hard he smashes his helmet and is knocked senseless. But some Good Samaritan picks him up, puts him back on his bike and Andrew somehow manages to finish the entire race. The medics at the finish line take one look at him and tell us to get him to the hospital ASAP.
  • The Bad Luck award goes to Mark, who flats only 7 miles into the race and then has to sit in the sag and follow his race to the finish and then wait for us all to finish. You might think they'd have a sag with wheels considering how many people were entered in this race, but they didn't, so Mark's day was ruined.
  • Maybe I should get the Survivor Award. Things are going okay early in the race. We've passed Grant Ranch, which is where the climb kicks up again and we've pulled back 2 of the guys from the lead group. I'm feeling good and ready for the final 10 miles or so to the top, and suddenly I hear "snap" as my seat rail breaks and I go all crooked, leaning to one side. I think about dropping out, but decide to continue and managed to finish on the broken seat. I'm so lucky the other rail didn't snap.
  • We're on the starting line getting our instructions and they tell us that there's a motorcycle event taking place on the backside of the mountain and we need to be careful because they're speeding, drinking and racing up the road. Later we see ambulances coming up the hill and we're worried that one of these crazed motorcyclists has killed one of us, but it turns out that they crashed into each other. Idiots.
  • It would have been smart of me to research the race a little more. The descent down the backside of Hamilton is fast and dangerous and definitely not suited to carbon rims and the crappy braking of carbon-rim brake pads. My nice effort getting over Mt. Hamilton on a broken seat in around 10th place is wasted because I can't stay with my group on the descent due to having no speed control. I have to let them roll away or crash trying to stay with them. If you do this race, bring your best braking setup.
  • Speaking of that descent, Mt. Hamilton is probably the closest I've come to doing something like a Grand Tour stage. You have the 19-mile climb over Hamilton at the start (about 4,000 feet and supposedly with 365 turns - one for each day of the year), the super-technical descent where a daredevil can make up real time, then there are numerous short, tough climbs on the backside and some super-fast descent coming into the finish with an excellent run-in to the sprint. All in all, an epic race that I'm delighted to have finished under the circumstances.

1 comment:

Nils said...

Great report, Jim! You guys are harder than me.. that race is really something. Btw, the braking on both Easton and Zippy carbon seems really good..