Written by Marco Lei.
My memories from racing Dunnigan Hills the past three years had been pretty blurry. Despite the small rolling hills and unshielded flats, the course has its own way to put one deep into the pain cave. The past few years had been hot, windy, and dusty. This year is a little different. Due to the on-going forest fire from the Mendocino complex, the air quality throughout the Bay Area was very unstable for most of the week leading up to race day. My training plan is tailored to peak around this time, and I was very much looking forward to do well in this race. That said, rule #5 kicked in, and I'm going all in. Due to the low registration numbers and knowing that my fellow Cat 4 teammates are unavailable for this race, I opt to join the Masters race this year, hopefully shortening my exposure to the thick air while getting some good personal results.
The race condition was a lot better than expected. The wind was mild, with just a slight hint of smoke - really nothing to worry about. We had 13 racers in the Masters category and the race official combined us with the E5 group, for a total of 27 racers in the combined field.
Having raced this course a few times in previous years, I have a good sense of how to position myself well for a good strong podium finish. There were strong team showing from Davis Bike Club and Revs Road Racing, and my plan was to ride in the shadow and let them initiate and neutralize any moves in this race. And this plan actually worked out quite well. The pack was all together riding along the highway, and I positioned myself towards the front of the pack to make sure I don't miss any breakaway attempts, but also conserving as much energy as I can drafting the pack. Coming through the final corner onto the freeway overpass, and knowing that the road starts to bottleneck after that point, getting stuck in the back was not an option to win this race. We were keeping the pace high as soon as we got over the freeway overpass, onto the final kilometer of the race. At this point, I really didn't mind taking some wind on the front as positioning is very critical for this final stretch. Coming up to the 200 meter sign and the uphill finish, the action began as I sprinted as hard as I could, but got beaten at the line by half a bike length, finishing 3rd place.
Overall, it was a nice race and rule #5 did its trick. I sure will come back to bring more TMB riders onto the podium for next year! And congrats to TMB Dev Racer Jason Anderson on taking the Win in the Cat 3 race!