Super Sweetwater Grasshopper had the most eclectic collection of bikes on the "start line" of a race that I have ever seen, every flavor: mountain, road, cross, maybe a tandem, so sweet! After the first push up a steep hill, however, there were just roadies: Peter Stetina of Garmin, Jeremy Vennell of Bissel, Chris Winn of Horizon/Panache, and Jonathan Teeter of Marco Pro Strava. Nick Frey of Boo Bicycles and I caught them on the descent, but lost them again on the incredibly steep (portions greater than 15% according to Strava) next section of Sweetwater Springs Road. We were eventually joined by four others, including my friend Jason Benford of Freewheel, for the Old Cazadero Highway climb. Coming off this ridge on a dirt path toward Austin Creek is where I put my Tarmac SL4 and DIY Garmin mount to a serious test. Such a rad descent with portions steeper than -16%, rocks, jumps, divots, mud hairpins, branches, and people cheering! I had two slick tires sliding in a couple sections, but that was not nearly as rad as the dude who attempted to ride the creek crossing on his ROAD BIKE. Think ankle deep running water, river rocks, algae, spawning salmon, crawfish, maybe a fishing vessel. One of the highlights of the day!
After climbing out of the creek basin past disgruntled locals, our group worked well together out to Highway One, then headed back East on Willow Creek Road. Here I rode the front, because the road is torn up with pot holes hidden in puddles and didn't want to be caught off guard with a pinch flat like I had a previous year. I rode harder and got a gap. Knowing the three leaders had probably finished, I kept it rolling just so I could beat Jason, known for his climbing prowess. At the bottom of the Willow Creek climb I felt my front tire going soft, and the air lasted until about three switchbacks from the finish (unbeknownst to me, I would have just walked to the finish for fourth place had I known it was so close).