This is a year of first timers: The Viper gets to second base with the podium girl for winning his first bike race, we eat healthy food, we go paint-balling for the first time... and many more to come. At Panoche though... I got to call "sit up and wait for the rider who flatted"... One of these days I'll get to call a pee break.
Panoche's course is a fun one. It is an out and back 67mi course. Go up a hill. Go down a hill. Take a left into a flat crosswind section. Go up a hill. Go down a hill. Turn around. Suffer all the way back in a headwind.
Two things that I am terrified will happen during a bike race:
- 1) Someone will throw a snot rocket and it'd hit me.
- To those offenders (you know who you are), spitting and projecting out of your nose lost its coolness back in the 3rd grade, that year that you realized girls are cooler than earthworms.
- 2) Someone will pee in the pack and I'd get an unfriendly shower.
I bring this up because 20 miles into the race, I've got to relieve myself. I roll to the back of the pack along the side of the road and try to go. Hmm, not much of a stream going. Ok, there it goes, better.
Wait... why is my shoe all wet. f**k. I know our shoes are fiery hot... but come on!
Here I was enjoying my ride, just chilling and singing songs in the back with the Mike's Bike's poster child, Rainier Schaefer, and now my shoe is ruined.
I was enjoying my day and now I'm just want to rip Barbie doll heads off and tantalize the youngins for their tears. Speaking of trying to torture the youngins (emphasis on trying), Travis, Riggs, & LaBerge were out fending themselves pretty well from this guy and his green stick.
We are within sight of the left turn into the flat crosswind and I just want to see friendly faces turn to ugly. This guy below epitomizes the latter.
We make the left. GAME ON! Rainier and I tried to make a dent. The field was too strong. I attacked a few times while Rainier had my back. I got off the front and caught the rider who was bravely solo for 32 miles up to that point. I got some stellar pulls from him, we got to the turn around only to see the group a mere 3 seconds behind.
I hit it hard up the up hill in front of me and half way up, I turn around and my breakaway companion was out and in place, James Enright of Squadra caught up with Ranier locked on his wheel. We get over the hill and back on the flat crosswind section. This is where some more fireworks happen.
Have you ever seen a bike racer go solo up the road when everyone (self included) is in absolute agony? It's nothing short of f****g amazing.
If you have raced in NorCal, you'd be lying if you said no. This guy, Rand Miller (Cal Giant), our district's criterium champion, built
and continues to build his reputation on the ability to always make a solo move when all eyes are crossed. For that guy, everyone remembers that crossover point in 2011 when it went from "Ah that's cute" to "Ah s**t" and then later in 2012 when it went to "LMFAO, that's funny".
Back to the campfire story... At this point it was Rainier and three others in a group with others chasing hard behind. I attacked and didn't get anywhere. Rainier had my back to make sure I could recover. When the next rider pulled through (his motivation to keep the break rolling), I attacked again. I got caught again. Third time is a charm, right? Either that or three strikes or you're out. This is the one I committed to knowing it was one or the other. I hit it hard and got a quick gap. I got to the point where I knew it was no longer bridgeable but at the same time sitting where I was on a leash. I held that gap for a few minutes holding back a little in case someone put a dig in to bridge. After 5 minutes, I looked behind and a rider was only 3 seconds off my wheel. I put in a deep 1k effort and opened the gap up and kept pushing harder and harder to open keep the gap growing.
At some point I told myself "sweet, this is kickass" and thirty seconds later realizing that there is a long ways home and saying "wtf am I doing, this hurts, and I just want to be done". Wishes were answered. I stood at the finish line eating a chocolate chip cookie the refs were nice enough to give me while getting to watch the rest of the race light up the field sprint. Ranier finishing up with 3rd in the sprint after covering for me all day. Brian Buchholz (Webcore) making a return for 2nd and Joe Dickerson (McGuire) rolling in strong for 3rd.
In my years as a cyclist, all my results were from sprints. My strategy was pretty simple. I sit around, pick my nose, maybe drink a milkshake, then sprint. If I wanted a chance at finishing well, it would ALWAYS be a sprint, no other way. I had always wondered what it would be like to approach the finish line, see the 200m sign and have the luxury to turn around to look off in the distance, seeing nothing but empty roads.
What happened this year? There's some synergistic magic within the team this year. The sponsors are super supportive. The team all wants to see each other win as much as they want it themselves. The team's management is pulling for the riders and making for a great year.