In the photo: Ben Marshall
Written by Ben.
This is what I had been told of the course before starting: there are two 4-5 minute twin climbs on Stage Rd, followed by a flat to false flat section, and then main challenge, a 7-8 minute climb up Haskins Rd. All three descents are fast and technical. 3 laps, 75 miles. It’s hard. I might cry. Most of these things turned out to be true.
The first climbs up Stage Rd and Haskins were pretty quick, more due to everyone having nervous energy than a desire to force a split. I hung out mostly at the back, having decided I lacked the panache to go with a move on the first lap.
The next pair of climbs on Stage Rd were similarly sprightly but uneventful, and it wasn’t until the false flat section before Haskins that Sam Quinby from Davis, my teammate Michael Kurnik, and a few others played their first cards to get up the road. All was brought back, but the group hit the base of Haskins with significantly less freshness than lap 1. I wasn’t going to mess about hanging around the back this time, and made sure I was in the front 5 up the climb, which proved pivotal as Juan from UC Berkeley attacked over the top of the climb with a few others and after chasing them down the descent, I found myself in a group of 4 at the bottom. With Sunpower, Pen Velo and Mikes, the largest three teams were represented, and I thought there was a great chance of this sticking.
It did, but not in the way you would expect. This would not turn out to be the cohesive cooperative breakaway you would think would be required with 25 miles left to race. Due to severely uneven commitment, our group of 4 was often two groups of 2, and included a not insignificant amount of gesturing and frustration. One man was tricked and dropped early on, and replaced by a hard charging descender half a lap later. We never had a huge gap, and I counted 40 seconds on one of the twin climbs on the 3rd lap and was sure we were going to be caught. But because of the makeup of the group and team dynamics, the peloton had even less cooperation than we did, and we hit the base of the last climb with about a 90s advantage over the nearest chase group.
Richie from Sunpower had saved the most energy in the group… and charged up Haskins in imperious fashion for the win. Richard from Pen Velo had gotten a 10s gap just before the climb, and it was all I could do to hold him there all the way up. Rolled in 3rd, destroyed, and grateful to have held onto the podium after 75 miles.
Kudos to Trevor crushing the finishing hill to take 7th, and to our sponsors Mike’s Bikes, Equator Coffees, Toyota Cycling, Capo, Gu, Specialized, and Achieve Coaching. Also to Alto Velo for putting on this race; it is a beautiful course and I’ll certainly be back next year.