Author: Chris Hobbs
Flat, windy course.
Winner: Dan Martin in solo break
Scott Cox: 2nd
Dan Vigil: 9th
I was not even supposed to do this race. I am getting ready to get my head kicked in at the Tamarancho Dirt Classic, so I am technically a mountain biker for the next two weeks. But when I heard the biggest climb was a little bridge over an irrigation ditch, I perked up. Scott Cox sealed the deal by nominating me as team captain.....bastard.
Mikes Bikes p/b Equator Coffee is now such a large and important team that, like Sky, we split into different squads....eg. crit squad, climbing squad, stage race squad. For this race, we fielded the fatty squad. Scott isn't really fat enough, but he brings beer so we let him race with us.
Oli Ryan gave me some valuable intel on the race. The most important tidbit was that they are always short on portapotties. That created a change in pre-race routine to hit the Starbucks on the way over for coffee and potty stop. Given how long the portapotty lines were when I got there, that probably made the difference between warming up and not. He also mentioned that there are a lot of separate fields on the 9 mile race course loop, so passing groups is common. That gives the advantage to a smaller breakaway, which can get by another field easily, while the main peloton might take longer, or worse, be neutralized while being passed by a faster group.
Today was the debut for my RaceDots, which are little magnets meant to replace safety pins for holding your race number on. I secured my number, then bent over into a racing tuck to check that it was flat, and a corner immediately pulled out from the RaceDot. Oh well, I threw a pin in that corner.
I was less of a shitshow than normal and got a short warmup in and got to the start early enough to be right in the front. And then waited 20 mins since they started late.
We were racing with both the 35+ and 45+ groups together, but picked separately at the finish. That made for a larger (though not slower--those old guys are brutally fast) field. Since I was captain for the race, my job was to do as little as possible...I am not very good at that job. It was active at the front, with lots of attacks on the first lap. Scott and Dan patrolled the front on my behalf and kept me out of the wind when I needed to move up. If you have been watching the Tour of California this week and seen Bradley Wiggins being shepherded around by his teammates, it was like that, but with more hamburgers.
Even though the course was pan flat (71m of climbing over 100km), the wind made things interesting. It was blowing hard enough that on the tailwind sections, I was turning the 52x11 for 35mph without feeling much apparent headwind. In fact, the tailwind sections were the hardest for me, and lots of gaps opened there.
On the second lap, I had drifted back a little bit after the peloton slowed suddenly, allowing riders behind to swarm past, and then we hit a cross-tailwind section that blew the race apart. I was too far back, though I was right on the wheel of renowned hammer Dirk Himley. Echelons formed up and I was working hard to try and close up to the front group, but we were not organized enough. Scott had been at the front and made the front echelon.
I was not too worried as Dirk is strong enough to bridge on his own, so I figured he would pull us across when he felt like it. That never happened. Chris Espy of Specialized was another strong guy in our group. But the group was dysfunctional, and did not share the work or rotate smoothly. There were some passengers who were trying to interrupt our chase for teammates up front.
That allowed the front group to move out to 30 seconds ahead of us. Dirk kept yelling at us to work harder and attacking us, which was really putting the hurt on my legs. I can diesel along but the constant surges were tough. He saw that I was one of the stronger and more willing guys in the group, so he asked me to attack with him. We tried a few times, but could not get away, and the efforts put the zap on me. By 5 laps into the 7 lap race, I was feeling really tired and had to just sit in and rest for a bit. Dirk kept hammering away at the group, making life hard, but at least we were making some ground on the front group.
Through the finish line with 2 to go we heard that Dan Martin was off the front solo (madness), and we were gaining on the front group.
On the last lap, I dove into the first corner where the wind goes from headwind to cross tail, and gave it some welly. Not a real attack, just putting some pressure on. Dirk was hanging at the back and everyone was looking at him, and immediately I had a gap. Chris Courtney from SJBC jumped across and we started working together. As Sean Kelly would say, I made the calculation and decided to push on. Pretty soon we were halfway across to the front group. I took one corner with a bit too much enthusiasm and lost the front tire for a moment....I would have wet myself but I was too dehydrated.
Dirk tried to attack across to us and ended up pulling the group back to us. I had played my last card and held on grimly in the cross headwind. We were close--10 seconds--to the lead group and picking up a few of their discards, but we could not get there. With a kilometer to go the pace went out as everyone prepared for the sprint. Himley had finally escaped us but was caught in no man's land. I jumped way too early and was basically a complete idiot. I was so spent that if it had been uphill I probably would have fallen over before crossing the line.
Scott worked hard and smart all day up front. Dan Martin held everyone off to solo in for the victory--I can't even imagine the horsepower that required. Scott was the next 35+ rider across the line in the chase group, about 15 seconds ahead of my group.
Dan came in with the next group for 9th. There was no peloton as such....just detritus scattered over the windy course. Overall a pretty solid showing for the fatties.
As we cruised in we went by Dan Martin and congratulated him. He rode back to the cars with us and said something really nice to Scott and I, along the lines of "You guys have only been a team for 2 years but I am impressed with the way you ride and behave". I thought that was classy and it made me feel great about our band of merry men.
Dirk came by to say hello and throw his arm around me. Does that mean I've gained admittance to the Old Man Nutcase Hammer Club? No.
As usual, we crushed the post-race when Scott produced some hoppy recovery beverages. Dan then led us out to the nearest In n Out.