Team Mike's Bikes p/b Incase went into the race with six riders; four guys from our elite squad (Roman Kilun, Steve O’Mara, Rainier Schaefer and myself, Dana Williams) and two guys from our Masters squad (Jacob Berkman and John Barbicas). Our plan was to do our best to control the race. If there happened to be a break that we weren’t in, then we felt we had the numbers and strength to control it and bring it back when needed. This would determine whether we would lead somebody out at the finish or not.
Following a three mile neutral roll out (believe it or not, it was actually a gentle rollout, even without a neutral vehicle to control the speed), we got a few instructions from the officials and were off. It was my first time doing this course. From what I wast told, it was a fairly flat 17 mile loop with a mile-long gravel section and some rolling terrain towards the finish. That description was spot on. On side a side note, I can see how wind can play a major factor in this race, but we didn’t have to worry about that due to the 8:00 AM start.
As I recall, the rolling terrain as we finished up lap one is what caused the first split. In this break were seven riders; myself and teammate Roman, James Enright of Squadra, Chuck Hutcheson of Marc-Pro, a rider from Davis, Lombardi and Form Fitness. It wasn’t long until Chuck decided to put in a move and got up the road about 15 seconds. We decided we wouldn’t close the gap right away but instead keep Chuck within 25-30 seconds and see how things played out.
About a quarter of the way around the next lap, I look back and see two riders coming up on us. I see an arm wave, recognize the kit and realize it’s a teammate. I try to quietly mention this to Roman, but I can tell James Enright overheard me because he was soon on the front and accelerating. I gather he realized it wasn’t to his best interest to have three Team Mike’s Bikes p/b Incase riders in the break. Roman and I didn’t do any work, hoping our teammate would make it it up to us. A mile or two down the road, after bringing back Chuck by about 10 seconds, Rainier and a rider from Davis bridge up to us.
Chuck is reeled back in at the end of the gravel section on the second to last lap. With three teammates in the break, we decide to launch some attacks. The ‘Chulkster’ covers pretty well all of them. On the final lap, a Davis rider rolls off the front just before the gravel section. Rainier goes to the front and keeps a good tempo to keep the gap around 5 seconds. Roman is second wheel, I’m behind him, Chuck is behind me and then Enright is behind Chuck. I’m not sure how the others were positioned. Rainier gets us to the top of a riser about 2.5 km out and drops back. Roman keeps a good tempo. Next thing I know Rainier comes by me and is back on the front (what a teammate!!). At about 1km to go, Rainier is done and Roman puts in a light acceleration to bridge up to the Davis rider, who now is only about 20 meters up the road. I let a gap open up, hopefully creating a little indecisiveness with the guys behind me. Do they stay on my wheel or try to bridge up to Roman. 250 m out and Chuck puts in a good dig, Enright’s on his wheel and I follow. Chuck slows and my momentum takes me back to the front. In retrospect, I wish I had done all I could to stay behind them.
Roman is now climbing up a riser, the first of two, between 200-125 meters from the finish line. As we crest it, I see Roman look back and see that he realizes he still has the gap. He starts to accelerate as he starts up the second and final riser, at about 75 meters from the line. I’m looking over my shoulder wondering when Chuck is going to jump. Roman is out of his saddle and digging. Chuck jumps, comes by me. I dig in and accelerate. We’re closing on Roman. 20 meters from the line and I see we’re going to pass Roman. Will I have enough to get by Chuck. We cross the line, unfortunately for me, Chuck is about a half wheel ahead. Roman is close behind in third followed by Enright.
It was a well fought battle and the ‘Chulkster’ wins this one. Riding off the front on his own for 40-45 miles, managing the countless attacks and then taking the win definitely solidifies Mr. Hutcheson is the guy to beat in NorCal (in my view).