As I’ve said in previous posts on this blog, the Challenge Challenge Road Race is the coolest event on our local calendar. Why? Because it hits a sweet spot between Grasshopper style adventure rides and our run-of-the-mill central valley RRs. Put another way – awesome roads and it’s an actual race. This year Team Mike’s Bikes was represented by Cal Cup leader Adam Switters and me. The day started off fairly mellow, something I definitely welcomed, as Challenge is notoriously long, hot and hilly. Those of us who had ridden it before knew it was not a question of if, but when, the race would become brutally hard.
This year the serious suffering started on the long climb on the second of the race’s three laps. With Davis rider Matt Rodriguez up the road in a solo move launched on lap one, a selection of five riders got away from the field, thanks largely to attacks of Kirk Carlson of Bissell Pro Cycling. Josh Dapice, Keith Wong, Switters and myself rounded off the group.
We worked together pretty well from there, rotating through to build a sizeable gap on the field and reel Rodriguez in. The latter of those two objectives took longer than I think any of us expected as Rodriguez threw down an impressive effort, staying away solo for quite a while.
Then on the course’s long, fast descent on lap three, Switters put in a bold move, aided by the aerodynamics of the Specialized Venge and Zipp 404s and drifted away from the group. After Switters built the gap on the descent, the other four riders in the group put up a fight and chased, but it became clear they didn’t have enough to bring him back over the unforgiving, constantly undulating backside of the course. So the race for second started to sort out.
Things started to break up in the chase group as we hit the long feed zone climb. We lost Rodriguez and Wong, then Carlson. I then fell off Daspice through the feed. I had a few scares from late surges from Carlson then Wong, but fortunately was able to hang on for third.
Big thanks to my wife Kelly for awesome feeding on a hot day, and convincing the neutral crew not to just leave after the other fields had finished their significantly shorter races.