Bob Montague, George Janour and I decided to join forces in a race we could all enter. In my case that meant racing with the younger group rather than my preferred 45+ group... but racing with teammates ended up being more fun.
The race course is the usual 4.3-mile loop on the closed roads of this former Army base, and we were to do five laps. We were determined to make this a fast and fun race. So right at the start, on Parker Flats Cut-Off Road, Bob took a nice hard pull at the front of the small group of 18 racers, and I pulled through right after him. I probably shouldn't have been surprised, but some guys from Leopard-Sapporo then pulled through even harder than we had... game on!
The race was full of attacks which we had agreed we'd take turns marking. I was impressed at the number of attacks and how well-timed they were, but also with our ability to mark them. If I'd had to mark them all I would have been exhausted very quickly; that's a major plus to having teammates. Bob showed tremendous spirit when he lost his chain on Eucalyptus Road's climbs but managed to rejoin us and continue his hard work. Wow!
The 35+ group definitely races harder than the 45+ group (we had several laps under 11 minutes!). The attacks really tired us out and a few times I was worried about my ability to continue... but I didn't want to let Bob and George down and I always managed to dig a little deeper to stay in contact with the main group.
We ended up having a few breakaway groups form, always with one of us in it, but they were all reeled back in like fish. Until we started our fourth lap; that's when a guy (I think from Dolce Vita Cycling) soloed off the front on the climb up Parker Flats. Nobody followed him and soon he was well out front.
The rest of us took a few pulls and eventually the breakaway guy was brought a bit closer. On the last lap Dave Porter (Bicycle Blue Book Racing) bridged up to him on Parker Flats and the pace picked up. I looked back and saw we'd dropped five or six guys in the process. I was nervous the duo would stay away, as they still had a nice gap on the final climbs up Eucalyptus. By then I was so exhausted from trying to maintain contact that all I could do was gasp for breath as I followed at the very back of this chase group as we descended from the top of Eucalyptus for the last time. But I was relieved to spot the duo about 100 meters ahead as we hit the bottom of the descent, on the long, fast straight leading up to the last two right-hand turns on Parker Flats.
Somehow I managed to make the strong draft of the riders ahead of me work to my advantage and I flew around them all on the right, past the duo and into the lead. It was a long sprint, but I figured it was my best chance vs. trying to fight them all in a bigger field sprint. Well, it almost worked, but four guys managed to counter-attack me at the finish line, with Erik taking a well-deserved win.
So, finishing 5th in a tough race like this was still an accomplishment for me and I was very grateful to Bob and George for the work they had put into this cool team effort. Thanks guys!