Sea Otter Classic Circuit Race
April 17th 2015
Win (is there any other goal?)
With a course and a field like this, it was very difficult to come up with a plan. So much of this race is survival so tactics go out the window when you’re hanging on by a thread. But the plan was for Dana and I to “sit in” but watch for dangerous moves as one of us would have to be in the group that went to the line first. But Allen, Bromstead, Cox and Pizzica were to watch early stuff, then if possible, I would attack around 3 to go, and if it it all came back together, whoever was there would look to lead out Dana.
As always, this race brings out a tough field due to it’s location and prominence in the cycling world. The pre-race planning basically called out the entire field as a threat. Scott Giles was the obvious one to watch, but also Jeromy Cottell, Charon Smith (winner of the crit the day before), Rob Evans, Ben Albracht, Norman Zellers, and a few other names that I wasn’t familiar with. At the start line, Scott B and I were chatting with Ben from Art’s and he also mentioned Rudy Napolitano as a strong guy - Oh yeah, he had just won the San Dimas stage race and came close to beating Giles at nationals last year. Ok, add him to the list.
From the gun, the race went crazy. A hairy-legged guy in a plain orange Rock ’N Road kit hit it hard and it was on. I felt good the first time up the climb and it reinforced my decision to run the 202’s on the Venge. Those wheels roll so fast uphill, it’s not fair. Lace them up with the new S-Works Turbo Cottons and it’s almost cheating!
The first half of the race is pretty fuzzy but I know Bromstead went with an early attack, maybe even on the first lap. I was able to stay in the top 5-10 wheels to look for dangerous, AKA Giles, bridge attempts. Most of the action seemed to take place on the back straight away which meant if you let too big of a gap open at the top of the climb and couldn’t close it on the descent, you were done. I had a moment of fear when I thought Bromstead’s early break was still away and then I looked over and he was next to me. I assumed I was wrong and it was Pizzica in the break, then I looked around and saw him too… That explained why the action had picked up. The first 30 min of the race were extremely active and I saw Cox, Pizzica, and Bromstead cover lots of moves. Napolitano, Orange jersey guy, Giles and Zellers all looked to get off the front and it seemed that most everyone was just marking Giles.
At about the halfway mark, on the back straigtaway, I was second wheel and swung out the left in order to move back, the pace slowed and I was able to look at our field for the first time. It looked to be down to about 15 riders, including almost all of TMB (I think Dave was out at this point but can’t be sure). My momentum and the pace slowing caused me to roll off the front, but on the other side of the road from the pack. We crested the backside hill and I can’t remember exactly how it happened but this is when our break went. Either I decided to give it a go and others responded or I saw Napolitano and a couple others attack and I went with them. But we made the hairpin and Orange Guy drilled it. I know Napolitano was there and so was Cottell. Orange Guy and Cottell traded pulls through the start finish and the four of us had a gap. The next time through the start/finish, Rob Evans had bridged up and I think we had about 20 or 30 sec on the “field”. We were pretty disorganized for the next two laps with Cottell and Orange Guy doing most of the work. Napolitano would pull through sometimes, as would Rob and I. Eventually we settled in started to work better but that hill really disrupts any rhythm you can get. I tried to time my pulls so I was pulling with a tailwind so after the descent and the sharp left turn, I would pull to the top of the small hill, then again at some point through the start/finish. I started to get worried at about 5 to go that I wouldn’t last and I feared the berating I’d get if I was dropped from the break. I was pretty sure we’d stay away so it was time to focus on staying relaxed while getting through the next few laps. Napolitano seemed to be the strongest, he just had that look like he wasn’t trying that hard, even on the climb. I couldn’t really tell how the other guys were feeling but I figured someone had to be getting tired so on 3 to go, I hit the steep part pretty hard and forced some separations. As we crested, Napolitano accelerated on the false flat with Orange guy on his wheel and I jumped on. Cottell and Evans had been gapped. We dropped down the corkscrew and stayed on the gas.
At 2 to go, I had a quick chat with myself, “only 2 more times up this bitch, stay with these guys.” On the steep part, it was Napolitano’s turn. He accelerated and got a gap. I chased on the false flat as we caught the 45+ field. Napolitano made it past them before the descent and I was right on the back with Orange Guy. I was a little concerned with what to do here as there were moto’s all over the place and I didn’t want to get in trouble for mixing fields. They descended pretty slow and I moved past them fairly quickly. Orange guy pulled through on the final straight of the descent before the sharp left and we closed the gap. We were together again and through the 45+ field with no issues.
So here we go, one to go for the race! Through the start/finish it was Orange Guy, me, then Napolitano. Napolitano attacked on turn 1, Orange Guy looked back at me and said “I can’t go with that”. I responded with “I hope he comes back, that’s too fast for me”. He had small gap and I put my head down and revved up the engine for the chase. I went pretty hard up the first part of the climb and felt like I was closing the gap. Orange Guy was on my wheel so I went as hard as I could up the steep part, hoping to close the gap to Napolitano and create one to Orange Guy. Well one out of two isn’t bad. Napolitano help his gap and Orange Guy dropped off my wheel. I tried to recover on the descent and keep the pace up. I put in one more hard effort to close it on the little backside hill. But to no avail, he held the gap at about 5-10 sec. As I crested, I knew it was over. I relaxed a bit through the hairpin and realized that Orange Guy was still charging. So I gave it what was left and crossed the line in second, 6 sec behind Napolitano and 3 sec ahead of Orange Guy.
*I’m not sure if I could have stayed with Napolitano on the last lap, but I’m left wondering had I anticipated his move better and didn’t let the gap open.
*The team rode strong and we had more guys finish this year which bodes well for the next couple months of “hard man” races
*Having Dana in the race was a calming influence for me, it was great to look over and see him there
*As we all know, the absolute best part of this sport is the post race beers, food and story swapping
*The best of racing that I mentioned above is way better when we have success
*I was even more stoked with my result after looking through Napolitano’s previous results and it gives me hope for Nationals in September
*If you write a race report where Napolitano is mentioned regularly, use Rudy early on, it saves time
Distance: 28.8 mi (13 laps)
Avg Speed: 23.9 mph
Max Speed: 44.7 mph
Avg Power: 311w
Max Power: 1057w
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