Saturday, March 1st, 2014
"If you’re ever going to break out your fancy wheels at a Grasshopper, now is your chance. This is truly the only Hopper that has no gravel, though the rollers and steep climbing sections will challenge roadies who prefer the flats. Climbers will also be pushed to their limit trying to hang on the fast flat sections as everyone eagerly mashes big gears to see what they’ve got early in the season. In the back of everyone’s mind, the voice of reason for each big effort, is Joy Rd. Maxing out at 20% just 2 miles from the finish you will be doing your best not to walk your bike."
Rain was threatened but it cleared to be a beautiful day. Strong off shore winds
Coach, Benford, Scott C, Hobbs, Jacob
Stick with the lead group and contest the final climb
Go hard over the first climb, don't get dropped on the descent, hang on on the flats, repeat, repeat...
After a nice early arrival, we unloaded from the Sprinter and got geared up. Lots of discussion about what to wear as it was chilly and the sky was undecided. We all pretty much warmed up together and lined up in the top 30, except Jacob, who must have been stuck in the back. At the gun, it was the usual mad dash to the first corner where we immediately climbed up Coleman Valley. Having learned from Old Caz that I could keep up with the lead group on this climb but that chasing was difficult, I made my way into the top 10 as quickly as I could. The pace actually seemed somewhat civilized, which is a testament to my form (thanks Coach!) since I was only 1 sec slower than last year where I felt like I was going to die. I was next to Dana sitting about 5th wheel as we started the descent. I was on my new Wilier Zero.7 which was the perfect weapon for this ride. Not only does it climb like a goat, it descends with ease and for the first time in a long time, I made up ground on people in front of me on a descent. I was stoked to hit the coast in the top 10-15 riders. We turned South and immediately felt the wind. It was offshore (blowing left to right) and creating spectacular spray off the huge waves. We rolled south at a pretty good clip but no one really wanted to fight the wind too much. Pretty quickly, groups from behind caught us until we had about 35 riders, and Scott and Jason were in there so we had 4 riders! The next 20 miles were pretty uneventful, trying to eat and drink while not getting blown over. There were a few different guys that rolled off the front but nothing serious. And Levi was still in our group so everyone was just marking him. As we approached the right turn on Alexander, I saw Levi move up on the right. As he did so, he looked at a couple of his friends - Michael Sayers and Evelyn Stevens. They quickly moved onto Levi's wheel. We immediately made the turn and Levi hit the throttle, with Sayers and Evelyn in tow. I was glad I saw them move up and I knew what was about to happen so I was already on the gas and made the split going up the punchy roller, lots of guys didn't. A quick left onto Tomales-Petaluma road and fast descent to the right turn onto Chileno Valley. Everyone was scrambling behind to catch on and I think most guys did, I know our 4 guys did.
A kid from Airgas had been off the front for a little while and at some point early on Chileno Valley, Kurt Wolfgang went after him. And then Dana followed his wheel, thinking if he can get a break going, I could sit in. Which is what he did and what I did. Chileno was uneventful, with the exception of a small attack from the Studio Velo tandem of Rob and Thomas, which a few of us joined. It looked promising for about 30 sec. We made the right onto Wilson Hill Rd and I knew the second major climb was approaching. Wilson Hill is not very long but it's pretty steep - 0.9 miles at 9% according to Strava. We hit it hard with Levi setting the pace. As we hit the OSMO feed at the top, all that was left was Levi, Josh Dapice, Sayers, an Audi guy, a Squadra guy, another Airgas kid, a Capo Test Team guy, and myself. The climb stung and gave me a Strava cup for the effort. We hit the bottom, again the Zero.7 with Zipp 202's proving to be a fast descender, and blasted thru Hicks Rd. We all traded pulls pretty well and I was on familiar roads. As we approached Marshall, the next grueling climb, we saw the three man break part way up the climb and they had started to split apart. Kurt came back to our group pretty quick as the pace was blistering up Marshall. Gaps started to form about midway up and Levi had taken off. I was dangling with the Airgas kid and was about 5 sec off the most of my group. We crested and I had another Strava cup under my belt and again the Zero.7 bombed back to the group. We made the turn onto Hwy 1 and we had dropped someone but added Kurt. We rolled pretty well together, taking turns and keeping it smooth.
As we came into Tomales, we had lost Kurt along the way. We turned left on to Dillon Rd and the punchy rollers started. The Audi guy and Josh picked up the pace and I was struggling to stay on. On the last roller on Valley Ford Rd, the elastic snapped and I lost about 10 sec to the group. The Audi guys had pushed the pace and I couldn't keep up. We descended towards Valley Ford and I maintained the 10 sec gap. I could see them right there but couldn't close it. I could see they were tired and they were just cruising but any attempt at an acceleration on my part was short lived. I held the gap, hoping I could recover and make an effort to reattach. But in the back of my head, I knew I was cooked and still had Joy rd to contend with. My only hope was one of them cracking harder that I had. I still had them in sight when we turned left onto Hwy 1 and as we approached the split to Freestone Rd, I saw Dana waiting at the intersection, lost and waiting for the next group. I was hoping he'd see me in the distance but he didn't and joined the group. The solo run in to Joy was a combination of looking ahead to try to see the group, and looking backward to see if the next group was coming. At this point, all I wanted to do was protect my top 10 place. I hit Joy and immediately remembered what a hard climb it is. Holy crap, if I wasn't running a compact, I would have walked. I kept looking for someone to crack from the group ahead and someone to charge from behind. Neither happened until the very end. There was a long straight and I saw Sayers go around a corner. I then looked back and saw the movement of a rider coming up. I picked up the pace a bit and as I saw the final climb past Bittner Rd, I saw Sayers halfway up. I got out of the saddle and pushed it for about 3 pedal strokes, after which I collapsed back into my saddle. I rolled across the line in 9th place, Rob Evans turned out to be the rider behind me and he came in about 30 sec later. Dana was there and I was super stoked to see Scott C and Jason come across just a few places down.
We rolled back to the start and enjoyed beers and burgers in the sun and the storytelling began. Awesome day. MBFY!!
Distance: 80.7 mi
Elevation Gain: 8625 ft
Avg Speed: 19.5 mph
Max Speed: 55.0 mph
Avg HR: 162 bpm
Max HR: 188 bpm