After tons of confusion and oodles of disappointment, I was granted time off work and motored my way down to the Vlaanderen of Norcal: Madera. Not quite a fair comparison (not fair at all, really), but the short rollers and farmlands and torn up roads do bring some similarity. A guy can pretend!
Before diving into the nitty gritty, I'd like to make a note about race promotion. Having racing the Merco weekend seven days previous, I found some stark contrasts. Topsport did a fantastic job with Merco: results were posted within twenty minutes, start/finish areas were clean and concise, the registration attendants actually knew which side our numbers were supposed to be pinned, the crit course had full barriers, etc. Madera, on the other hand, was yet another Velopromo event. Don't get me wrong, I'm very thankful for the events Velopromo puts on...I just think they could up their game and attitude a little bit. The differences between the two weekends were obvious. I'll leave it at that.
7:30 AM, ouch. I expected this one to stay together, and it did. I can't wait to get out of the 4s, the negative racing is killing me. A few laps in, John rides up the inside next to me and jumps to bridge up to a little move, yet seemingly Schlecks it and nearly endos! He rode his front wheel for a good 50 meters in a move that, as far as I could tell, defied all physics given his momentum and the fact that he started out of the saddle. Impressive skills on instinct. Turns out his rear quick release got knocked open in the previous turn, and his rear wheel came out of the dropouts as he went to jump, then popped back in when he landed. According to the official, this was not a mechanical issue worthy of a free lap as nothing was broken. REALLY? I'm not sure if this one is on USA Cycling or Velopromo, but damn, very weak. I didn't see John the rest of the race, as he was forced to TT around solo to not get pulled. They finally pulled him with one lap to go and let him keep his number. On that final lap, I moved up to fourth or fifth wheel and hung out there until the back stretch. I noticed a good 5 mph drop in speed over the train tracks, and had the idea of a 1 km attack in the back of my mind if the same lull in pace happened. Sure enough, the pace drops on the back stretch, and some guy a couple spots attacks pretty hard. I risked it and jumped on his wheel, we had a gap around the last corner, and the guy takes the slowest possible line. I was forced to jump around and start my sprint early as the pack hit it up the outside, and managed to hold on for 3rd spot by half of a wheel. I probably would have had a better result if I was more patient, and I probably would have had a better result if that guy took a faster line around that last corner. I'm learning new things about the last lap at every race.
Not much to say. There was wind, as expected. It hurt, as expected. I remember passing a guy or two, some turns, and the finish. John missed the second turn, which had no flag person and about three cones. I finished 9th and was at 8th on GC.
With about two minutes to make up for a GC win and no upgrade points for it, my tentative plan was to hang out and wait for the final rollers. The first three laps were civil and nothing important went down. We started the fourth lap and I rolled up next to John and gave him a good stare. He knew, and launched off the front. After everyone freaked out and chased him down, I countered and got a good gap. I lost sight of the pack for a bit and hung on for a few minutes, hoping that someone would bridge and we could take over GC. However, given the negative tactics and that first on GC was a big guy who put 1:30 into second place in the TT, it wasn't going to happen. John told me to stay put and commenced with some wild display of stubborn power, attacking about fifteen more times and frustrating the hell out of the strong guys, who kept chasing him down. He did well to soften them up, as I followed #1 GC over the apocalyptic pavement and to the rollers. John hit it again and stayed out front for the first few rollers, and I jumped on the Davis train heading to the last hill. Everyone hit it at the bottom, and I dug for 5th behind three skinny ass juniors - most notably little Diego, who also won the crit. I probably would have had more in my legs if I kept it in my pants earlier on, but attacking like that is fun and I wanted to have a go at GC. I played it smart the rest of the race, but, lesson learned.
Great fun this weekend, a few more upgrade points, lessons learned, huge pancakes, some good talkin' to from the Velopromo moustaches, and a thankful evasion of bed bugs.