The 39th Annual Cherry Pie Criterium (A NorCal Classic) Sunday, February 9, 2014
Course is the same as in previous recent years. One mile closed loop in Napa Valley Corporate Park. One moderate hill at start/finish with 180 degree turn at the top of hill, three 90 degree turns, one looping turn, one chicane. Counter-clockwise.
The first time I raced this was ’93 as a Cat 3. I’ve raced it many times since, usually as a worker for different teams. When the course ran clockwise I came in fourth in college in ’95.
WEATHER - Old Man Winter in full force – Rain, standing water, cross, swirling and head winds
TMB TEAMMATES - Cox, Bromstead & Allen
Create a breakaway as soon as possible and control this race. Nothing was getting away without one of us in it. We were racing for the win.
The first race of the season never really seems real to me until the race begins. There were so many reasons not to drag Mary up to Napa to watch us go around in slippery circles. But in the end, the fact that I had committed teammates racing, motivated me to go… and maybe Pelaez’s email lit some kind of small fire in my gut (Thx Steve;). Time to go to work.
Flooding on the way up detoured us off the 121 and pushed prep time back twenty minutes. My adrenaline was already flowing as people in rain suits directed us into a sheltered VIP spot under the over pass (the Mini Cooper is so manly). I jumped out into the cold and wet and was fired up to see Allen, Cox and Bromstead roll up looking so focused. Something just felt so right. We had a complete unit ready to do battle.
A very small field of 12 riders assembled shivering on the start line at the top of the hill. In disbelief I kept looking around for more riders? I didn’t see anyone I saw pre-reg’d earlier in the week at the line. The official kept cracking jokes like we had all day to stand around half naked in the rain.
From the start, Hunter, who was later DQ’d, rallied for the first corner creating a gap. Knowing my homies had my back no matter what, I chased hard, caught him and didn’t look back. By the first left-hander there were four of us in the break, Thirsty (Jason), Lange Twins (Greg), Hammer (Hunter) and I.
For the first several laps Thirsty and Lange were reluctant to work and I tried several times, with Hammer on my wheel, to open a gap but Thirsty would bring it back. Good rider.
About halfway into the race, Lange Twins pulled the plug, “I can’t race this way” he shouted and dropped off the pace. Thirsty was proving hard to shake so we began working together. A couple times on the hill I nipped him at the line for primes.
The teamwork going on in the field was awesome to see. I was super pumped every time the course doubled back and I could see The Mike’s trio covering the attacks, looking so dialed. Each time I came around I’d see a different teammate on the front – I drove the pace that much harder. We’re a team dammit, this ain’t no club!
Three laps to go the officials started announcing the Hammer rider was DQ’d and should not be racing for whatever reason. Words were exchanged and I tried to tune it out. We raced on into the climb before bell lap. I pulled clear, botched a shift at the very moment Thirsty surged on my left. It was enough of a gap – twenty yards – to cause me to panic. Up out of the saddle, I could not close this gap. He hit the downhill first and extended the lead he kept to the finish.
No regrets. This team is the best team and I’m ecstatic to be a part of it. Miserable conditions for a bike race but we made it ours. We battled. Dave and the Scotts represented 100% and we split the prizes like teammates do. For those of you that might be wondering, the pie was sooo tasty.