Grasshopper #2 - Chileno Valley: Matt's Take

EVENT:Grasshopper #2 Chileno Valley


DATE: 2/16/12

AUTHOR: Matt Adams

TEAMMATES: Steve O'Mara (Elite Team) Andy Goessling (Elite Team) Daniel Holloway (Elite Team) Rainier Schaefer Elite Team) Chris Hobbs (on loan to TQE)

FIELD SIZE: Hundreds - here's the first wave taken from 50 deep from the start line

COURSE: 80 miles.  Starting in downtown Occidental, we immediately hit the first of two tough climbs that would bring us to the coast.  After a fast, bumpy descent, we headed south on Hwy 1, thru Tomales and down to Marshall.  From there, we went up the wall, blazed thru Hicks Valley to Wilson Hill, got an OSMO handup at the top, then down to Chileno Valley Rd.  After the CV run, we continued to wind our way west and north to the bottom of Joy rd where it turns out, there isn't any.  With a steep nasty start, the climb eased up an eventually finished.

Click here to view the pain via Strava

THE PLAN: Hang with the lead group as long as possible.  With two good climbs coming in the 1st 5 miles, withstanding the initial punch would be crucial.  If I could hang until the coast, I would try to sit in as much as possible and last as long as I could.  If I got dropped, then I'd ease up and wait for the next group to roll with and try to finish strong from that group.

RACE SUMMARY: After a good warm up with O'Mara and Hobbs up Bittner, I was as prepared as I've ever been before a race.  I found O'Mara at the start and squeezed in, there was no way in hell I was starting at the back of a 200+ field at the bottom of a climb.  At the gun we rolled to the bottom of Coleman Valley and it started.  The pace was fast but manageable and I was able to stay about 30 wheels back.  It was pretty brutal to go this hard so immediately.  I averaged 413 watts for over 5 min up the 1.1 mile 7.7% climb.  Strava showed my VAM at 1549, a new record for me.  Kris Lunning got the KOM and was only 9 sec faster than me.  At this point I would have liked to recover a bit but it got fast and started to string out.  At some point, I heard Hobbs yell "here we go again" and we hit a right turn and starting going up again.  The second climb was similar to the first but I started to fade.  There were probably 50 people in front of me at the top and I was about 100 meters off the back.  And then my knight in shining armor came to my rescue.  Daniel Holloway (yes, the dude with stars and stripes on his sleeve) slowed up for me and yelled to get on his wheel.  I gave it my all over the rollers but we only managed to cut the gap in half.  I was at the limit and cross-eyed and we'd only been racing for 20 min.  My second lucky moment came when a herd of sheep crossed the road in front of the lead group and gave me a chance to get back on.  My sissy descending skills then reared their ugly head and I promptly went to the back on the descent down to Hwy 1, where the bad luck hit.  I was only 20 meters back from the guys in front of me but they made the left onto Hwy 1 and I was held up by the moto due to a car coming.  So the chase was on and my knight in stars and striped dragged my ass back.  From there it was quite a gentlemenly cruise down Hwy 1.  I was stoked to still be with the lead group with 3 guys off the front (Lunning, Teeter, and a BikeMonkey guy).   The 4 elite team guys all made the group as well and at some point Hobbs dragged the second group up to us.  There probably about 75 guys at that point.

As we rolled towards Marshall, I took comfort that I knew the next two climbs well but I was still reeling from the initial effort.  We made the left at the bottom of the Marshall Wall and up we went.  The first half of climb is a series of steep "steps" and I hung ok on those, the second half of the climb is where Holloway became my coach.  As the group shrank behind me, it strung out in front of me and I found myself on Fast Freddie's wheel.  I though "Hot Damn, look at me!"  Holloway kept yelling "Come on, grab that wheel" and "Don't lose that f@*king wheel".  The climb lasted 11 minutes and I averaged 363 watts.  I crested the top about 20 meters off the guy in front and had about 4 on my wheel.  Again Holloway hung back and bridged us up as we rolled across the flat section at the top.  After the descent, we rolled comfortably thru Hicks Valley.  The group was down to about 25 and still had all the TMB elite guys.  The pace occasionally ramped up but there was no concerted effort to chase the 3 guys off the front.  Everyone seemed to desire some recovery before Wilson Hill, a short, steep, MF'er of a climb.  Wilson was the easiest of the day but still tough.  OSMO was at the top handing out bottles but with not enough volunteers it was a shit show.  I was polite and let everyone else get a bottle first (AKA I was last to the top and waited my turn) but apparently Freddie decided to attack over the top and strung out the group.  Again my descending skills killed me, even though I hit 47 mph, and I hit the bottom with no one in sight and a Chica Sexy guy on my wheel.  We chased hard, made the left onto Chileno Valley Rd and chased some more.  At the turn the group was in sight and apparently had decided to let FF and one other guy go, which allowed me and Chica Sexy dude to get back on.  We rolled quickly through the valley.

From here the miles ticked by and we rolled comfortably with only a small climb on Middle Rd.  I had no idea what to expect on Joy Rd but at this point I had survived most of the ride and was with the lead group (minus the 5 guys off the front) and totally stoked.  I was racing with 4 guys from the Elite team, a couple of Chicken Ride dudes, and a bunch of other kids.  I was yelling FY in my head!  And then the highlight of the day came.  I knew there wasn't much left of the race except to get to the bottom of Joy Rd and let O'Mara do his thing.  So I asked Andy G what the plan was.  He conferred with rest of the guys and rolled up to me and said "let's go to the front and set some tempo".  I was pumped, I had nothing left in my legs but was mixing it up with the P/1/2 guys and actually contributing.  Andy and I traded off a couple pulls and then Daniel came to front.  Holy Shit!  We were doing 27 mph with 75+ miles and 7000 ft of climbing in our legs.  It was all I could do to hang on his wheel but there was no way I was breaking up the TMB train.  We hit Joy Rd, I saw the wall ahead and did my best Cav/Cippo impression and pulled over to let the group go.  I limped up the climb with Daniel and we finished last in the group and 30th overall.  I think O'Mara took 4th out of our group and ended around 10th.  All in all it was spectacular.  What an amazing day full of pain and suffering!

RESULTS and STATS: 30th Place 80 Miles 7700 Ft of Climbing 20.8 Avg Speed 277 Norm Power Confidence that I can hang in the 35+ 1/2/3 field