After 63 grueling race miles with over 5K feet of climbing, the race came down to a bike throw. In that moment, it became an instant classic between two close friends, now on rival teams vying for the title Best Norcal Team. But before it came down to the bike throw, the race was brilliantly ridden by Shawn Rosenthal who threw caution to the wind on Mt Hamilton's hairy descent. He built a lead of 2 minutes and was riding away with the race until the dreaded cramps sneaked up on him. Painfully, he marshaled on and rallied the troops.
Here's the race video and a glimpse of how I motivate my riders (@ the end).
Below is Tyler Brandt's race report:
Mount Hamilton is one of my favorite races on the calendar, a close second to the Nevada City Classic, but it has not been kind to me for many years. Mount Hamilton was my first race in the Category 3’s in 2006 I believe. I was still a Junior on the amazing Team Swift program and I made it over the climb in the front group and then cracked around mile-40 on the big roller climb, when out of no-where a dropped rider from the 1/ 2 race (Mack Chew) pushed me back into the lead group and I stayed with them to finish in the top 15. A year later I placed 4th in the Cat 3’s at which point I was still a great climber, I thought, and I absolutely loved the race.
The next year I was still a junior, but I was racing in the 1/ 2’s now and it was a rude awakening. I was no longer a climber, not in this category. For the next three years I toiled off the back, suffering a lot on the climb and never making anything near the front group. Last year was particularly disappointing when I got dropped with Rand Miller and barely beat him for something around last place with a silly bike throw.
After working particularly hard this winter and losing some of my baby fat, I was certain that this year would be different. It was also helpful that Mount Hamilton aligned with U.S. Pro Nationals, giving us local racers a moment of respite from the climbing prowess of local strongman Nate English. On the surface, it appeared to be a pretty even battle of teams at the race and I was confident in our leader for the day, Shawn Rosenthal, after we had gone for the pre-race ride the day before and he had smashed my face in with his “openers”
Alas, the race started and we began to roll up the hill. I didn’t get much of a warm-up in, mostly just focused on using the bathroom a few times to make sure I was as light as possible. Right away I knew I felt good, but I was still a bit worried. Shawn needed me for the last part of the climb and I wanted to make sure that I would be around for the fireworks show that I was sure the Cal-Giant Climbers were going to put on. The miles ticked by and I started to feel better and better, there were a few attacks, but nothing really put me in difficulty. Near the top Huffman finally put in a big dig on the front, but I wasn’t too worried about it because I knew that with my descending skills, at this point on the climb, I would be able to easily catch back on.
I finished the descent near the front, but was not yet aware that my teammate Shawn Rosenthal was up the road, after bravely and safely handling his bike down a hairy descent. I followed a little attack from Chuck Hutcheson on the next roller and when I began to pull through, Jim Wingert yelled at me.
My day suddenly became absolutely amazing, not only had I survived the climb, but my teammate now had a 2-minute gap on the field ala Paul Mach status 2009. Even more gratifying was that I knew Shawn was on amazing form and that it would take a very organized and complete chase to bring him back now. The tactics were beautiful. While Team Mike’s Bikes had initially been disadvantaged by not having the strongest climbers in the race, the pendulum had suddenly shifted and we were in complete control. To top it off we had the fastest man (boy?) in NorCal still in the lead group, our own little pocket rocket James Laberge. The wonderful thing about bike racing is that it isn’t just a lab test based on pure power to weight strength; it’s the complete contest, a measure of strength, ability (being able to handle one’s bike) and brains. And a smart team can win even when they don’t have the strongest rider in the race.
After an impressive chase by Cal-Giant and Marc-Pro Strava, Shawn was reeled back in with about 5ish miles to go. My teammate John Piasta immediately put everyone back on the defensive and countered Shawn’s move. The next 3 miles were a constant flow of attacks and I tried to stay in the midst of everything at the front while still leaving a bit for the sprint. We hit the final descent and Team Mike’s Bikes controlled the front, with at least 7 guys leading us down. At the bottom I saw our advantage and yelled to my teammates to hit it. It was wonderful display of selfless riding while Rainier Schaefer, and Matt McKinzie hit the lead-out first. Then Shawn Rosenthal, after riding all day on the front still sacrificed everything and anything he had left to help the lead-out. We passed the 1k to go sign and the big engine Jim Wingert took over and then Eric Riggs took us to 250 meters to go and at this point Sam Bassetti attacked our train on the right side and then Chris Stastny came flying by even quicker on my left. I was still confident in our sprinter James Laberge and I knew we couldn’t lose this race after how hard everyone had worked for this moment. I hit it hard and figured that around 100 meters to go he would come blasting past me. I stayed on top of the 11 tooth, probably too big of a gear, I could sense James wasn’t coming and Chris had a good gap on me. I put my head down and gave it everything I had, I wanted to win bad. With about 30 meters to go I saw Staz start to put his hands up, but I kept digging and threw an absolute prayer of a bike throw. At that moment I was pretty sure that I had pipped him and in the process I almost crashed him out. I was absolutely ecstatic to come through for my team and get the biggest win of my career, while also sad to have stripped the win from one of my best friends on the racing circuit. After being teammates for the past two years, we have had some great battles this season and I am glad to have finally come out on top before the rivalry became completely one-sided.
I can’t thank my teammates enough, this team came together as a unit in the early season and we have fought together as one throughout, led by our fearless leader Steve Pelaez. It is a complete joy riding for Team Mike’s Bikes and I hope that we can keep building on our success throughout the summer as we head to some bigger races across the country.