Does this course need more describing?? Hard, with sections of difficulty, followed by challenging parts.
2013: 16th (35+ 1/2/3)
Bromstead, Cox, Benford, Oli, Funke, Foley, Hobbs, Barbicas
With a ridiculously stacked field, I was pretty intimidated at the start (note to self - don't look at the pre-reg list) but I was confident in our guys to keep things under control for the first lap or two but I was scared I wouldn't survive the climbs. The race started and the pace was quick. Folsom did their thing and rode aggressively. We immediately hit the Rock Creek climb for the first time and it was hard but manageable. The majority of our guys survived and we were together at the top. There were a few attacks and the group responded. I was comfortably tailgunning, confident in our guys to keep an eye on things. All was good as we made the left onto Hunt Rd. And then I'm not sure what happened. A group started to develop off the front and it grew to 10-12 riders. I did a quick inventory and realized all the strong teams and several of the strongest riders were in it. I saw a TMB jersey and assumed it was Bromstead. I asked one of our guys and it was Foley in the break (go figure... :)). Foley's strength is not in his climbing so this was not a good situation for us. I found Cox, Funke, and Oli and told them this break has to come back. Apparently Folsom didn't like their guy in the break either so they took up the chase. Oli and Cox said they would help but were going to let Folsom do most of the work. I was nervous but trusted the guys. I tried to relax and forget about making a bridge. And sure enough, before the second little climb, we were all back together. The descent was fast and bumpy but we all stayed together and upright.
We started the second lap and I knew we would go up the climb harder than before and splits would happen. I found myself caught at the back and would have to come around guys and close gaps. That was going to make the climb even tougher so I moved up into the front third of the pack. We climbed it 13 sec faster this time and I was able to hang on, but not comfortably. We got to the top and there were about 15 of us left. Thankfully Bromstead and Benford were there so things were going well. There were attacks and responses but we stayed calm. I told the guys to stay relaxed and only follow an attack if was the third or fourth guy going after it. With all the players and strong teams left in the race, no 1 or 2 guys were going to get away. Buckley went for it solo and stayed away the longest but we reeled him in before the second climb. The short climb was hard and the descent was fast and bumpy, but much easier for me in this smaller group.
As we started the third lap I drained my bottle and started to move to the right to prepare for the feed. I thought I was at the back of the group but I looked over my shoulder and saw Larry Nolan who had reappeared out of nowhere. I then looked left and saw the cavalry - Oli, Cox, and Funke had rejoined us along with a couple others. I grabbed a bottle in the feed zone just as I heard Hobbs yelling "Osmo" from the left side. "Damn, I can't get there", I thought. And then my knight in shining armor, or teammate in Cyan and Hi Viz Lycra, BBQ, was on my side of the road with a bottle of Osmo! I ditched my neutral feed bottle and grabbed my salvation juice. We hit the climb for the third time and I knew it was time to go to work. I found the key to the basement in my pain cave and got to it. Each steep section, another guy would go hard, shedding more riders. I knew I had to stay attached. Dapice, Phipps, Theobald, a Specialized guy, a Folsom guy. They all took turns hitting each step of the climb and more and more riders were dropped. We crested the top and there were 8 left. This time, we did the climb another 13 sec faster than the last... My legs were screaming but I had learned that the top of the climb is not the top. The strong guys hit the top and drill it to make sure the dropped riders stay dropped. So I dug deeper and stayed on, knowing that recovery was still minutes away. At this point, all that was left in our group were Phipps, Dapice, Theobald, Metcalf and Bryant from Folsom, and two Make-a-Wish guys. Theobald yelled at me to pull through but I was crushed and needed to recover. I did the minimum but it felt like the break at Snelling where I just couldn't keep up. Thankfully, Theobald focused his attention on making sure the Folsom and Make-a-Wish guys did work since they each had two guys. After the last couple bumps before the long straightaway, Dapice put in a dig and no one went with him. I thought this was a bold move as we had a ways to go. I would follow Phipps or Theobald if they chased or the second chaser out of the rest. Dapice held his gap of about 15-20 sec for most of the flat section at the top. As we caught him, Phipps countered and we all chased hard. The elastic almost broke for a couple if us and I cursed myself for not predicting that. I got my head straight and started to recover. I knew I had to stay in this group if it killed me. Phipps attacked on the last punchy climb but we all followed.
We hit the descent and I kept telling myself "balls to the wall, balls to wall". I didn't have the legs to chase at the bottom so I had to stay near the front. I was nervous for a downhill attack but thankfully no one did. I moved up and around some guys on the descent. I was third wheel at the bottom and feeling good. I moved up to second wheel over the first roller and at 1 K to go, Metcalf came through like a freight train. I assumed he was leading out Bryant but I jumped on his wheel and followed it. I pictured the sprint finish just like the Pt Reyes Roasters sprint, uphill and curving to the right. As the 200 meter sign approached I felt movement on my left and Phipps jumped with Shane L on his wheel. By the time I accelerated to match them, they had about 10 meters on me. I thought they went early and might fade and I went hard. A blur of black went by me on my left and Theobald closed in on the leaders. I went as hard as I could and felt Bryant on my left elbow. Through the haze, I felt like I held him off for 4th and the results confirmed it. Shane took the sprint and Phipps held off a hard charging Theobald for second. I was initially bummed because I felt I misplayed the end but after it sank in, I'm pretty stoked I contested a sprint finish in a group that strong, in a race this hard, and with some many other strong guys dropped. And I got some upgrade points!
Finishing sequence courtesy of Chris Hobbs and Alex Chiu