I really like these road races; partly because they're just a 45-minute drive from Santa Cruz, and partly because the race categories are so friendly to a Cat 3 Master like me with several options of when to race. So this is the fifth time I have raced there this year.
I picked up Nils so he could race the Elite 2/3 race at 12:30, and the gray weather started to clear up after we arrived. I got ready and warmed up, chatted with friends, and took a few photos of Nils while I waited for my 2:00 race start. I think there were barely ten racers, which is fun, because there are fewer variables which allows me to focus on my tactics to a very specific degree.
Our first lap (of 6 total) on this smooth, 4.3-mile rolling course (all on closed roads) was really just a warmup. But on the second lap the chatting riders behind us persuaded Scott Calley (VOS) and I to take some pulls at the front to liven things up, or perhaps initiate a breakaway. I felt it was in my interest to keep the pace higher, and also hoped I could spring a breakaway that would force others to chase into the wind. So on the Parker Flat climb we opened up a gap and, sure enough, some of the fast guys chased us down. I doubted they'd let me ride away in a break, ever, so I couldn't waste too much energy doing this.
So on the third lap Scott went on the attack again and got away solo, while I watched on to encourage others to either go with him or pull me up to him. In this case nobody went and so he started to disappear up ahead. After working too hard in some of the previous races here I stuck to my plan and just waited. Only occasionally did I push the pace, and never too hard. I wanted the gap to be manageable, and also to keep my competitors breathing instead of chatting. Eventually Rob White (Bicycle Blue Book) bridged up to Scott, really digging deep; he's a strong sprinter which made me think some of the others would chase, but still nobody did. Maybe they doubted he and Scott could maintain their pace.
I was able to stay really focused in this race and did a good job of carefully considering when I should force the pace and when to just hold back. I would carefully consider the wind force and direction, where key riders were positioned at any given time, and how I felt before choosing my place to attack. In this way I was able to put some of the other riders in trouble without putting myself in any trouble. It truly is easier to accept pain when you are the one dishing it out!
On the fifth lap, on the stair-step climbs on Eucalyptus, I opened up another gap so there were only four of us chasing just as we caught Robert, who was gasping for breath. I could see Scott ahead, but closer, so I felt everything was exactly as I wanted it. I was mostly just worried the others in our chase group weren't tired out and could beat me in a sprint; at least John Cheetham (Metromint) was forced to take some big pulls too, though not as many as I wanted, of course. Scott's teammate Courtney Grossman (VOS) hadn't had to pull at all since his teammate Scott was in the lead so long, nor had Mark Bailey (Alto Velo) so both were a potential threat. I guess I still have a few things to learn that would have helped me.
On the last lap I took a pull past exhausted Scott and now it was between the four of us to determine the winner. I was trying to string out our small group just enough to make it harder for guys like Courtney to beat me in a sprint, but mostly I was worried that John would be able to use my energy to his advantage. So I rested a bit on the final descent, watched, waited, and started my sprint at maybe 90% a bit early. I skittered through the last two turns, and prepared to use my last jump to meet whoever tried to come around me. It turned out that John was that person, and my last jump was too little to beat him, but at least I finished 2nd place after a very entertaining and empowering race!
|I think we all had fun!|