Date: February 20, 2016
Category: M123 35+
I set my alarm for 4:00 am and then reconsidered and changed it to 3:45 - oof. Pre-made my favorite steel cut oats, loaded up my bottles with Osmo and made sure my go to Probar Bolts and Fuel were on board. My Specialized Venge ViAS and gear bag had been packed and ready for two days. It must be the start of the NorCal road racing season with Snelling RR as the official kickoff. Snelling is a classic race with major bragging rights and Team Mike’s Bikes Masters was returning with the reigning champion from last year who also happens to be the 2015 National Criterium Champion - Dana Williams. We had a strong team to support him with individuals who could also win this race pending how it played out. New signees for 2016, Rob Amatelli and Mathew Oliver David Magpie Manymiddlenames Sloan, were in the line up with Christian Hobbs, Oliver Ryan, David Allen and myself.
We met up before the start of the race already pinned up and looking smart in our Capo custom kits. We went over our plan to make sure we did not miss out on any dangerous moves that may include some of the usual strong man suspects like Patrick Stanko (the STAND), Jonathon Baker (Chico Masters), Michael Sayers, Craig Roemer (Specialized), Kevin Metcalfe (Peet’s), Josh Dapice (Specialized), Chris Phipps (Thirsty Bear), Scott Giles (Art’s) and the list goes on and on in this star studded field. We would have to be a bit selective in what moves to cover as we had fewer numbers than some teams. We have the best leadout train in NorCal and wanted this to come down to a sprint finish for Dana.
The whistle blew after the neutral roll out and it was on. Stanko started the fireworks and Phipps was on it. I believe Patterson (Peet’s) made the move, too. Specialized went to work and I recall Chico Masters getting involved with some others including our Chris Hobbs to keep the break in check and dangling off the front. Everything was looking good and this strong field was not going to let this break make it. We were heading into the rough bridge and Dana warned competitors and teammates alike to be careful crossing it as we approached. Dana double flatted - come on karma - WTH. Without a moment hesitation, Matthew Sloan was asking which wheel Dana needed and sacrificed his race. Truly selfless and I mean this happened before Dana’s wheels were all the way flat = #teamplayer. Oli Ryan stopped to help bring Dana back as well. I’d like to take a quick moment here as these things are not trivial. It was windy and already showing to be a hard race and these guys knew how incredibly hard a chase was going to be and accepted the challenge. I am on a great team. Oli ended up catching back on only to flat (sigh) and Dana chased like a madman and got close, but did not make it as several strong men were chasing the break in earnest. Had the break not been up the road, Dana makes it back I think.
Well, that’s bike racing and one needs to adapt. So I go from leadout man to sprinter in my mind until I see Dana again and prepare myself mentally for my new role. The break is finally brought back and things settle a little. Then the accelerations started up again in earnest. The elastic started to stretch more and more and Stanko and Jonathon Baker sensed this and attacked on the tailwind section and got a gap. We knew this was dangerous as Specialized was looking tired from chasing the first break and the other teams, including us, were not in a place to start a chase. You could see the change in pedaling style as fatigue was creeping in. Metcalfe made a move and this brought out Dapice and others, but only Metcalfe and Dapice got clear. So, 2 up the road, 2 chasing and the field is tired. Amatelli and Hobbs were marking moves and very active allowing David Allen and myself to rest for a sprint. Thirsty Bear was making some attempts to chase here and there and it looked like a race for 5th for us.
One lap to go and I moved into the top 5-10 spots with the plan to stay there to assure good position for the sprint as it is difficult to move up on the rough and windy Figmond Rd. Amatelli, Hobbs and Allen made their way to me and I was protected and feeling good with teammates near by. It is a really special feeling to be protected like this and any fatigue in your legs just disappears giving you a major advantage in a sprint. Amatelli took the front like a boss and we took the left hand turn onto Figmond with Bryant (Peet’s) 2nd wheel, Hobbs 3rd and me 4th. We started to catch other fields and I was telling Rob to stay right to gutter the field and he did a great job doing this and staying safe passing the other riders also on the right side of the road. Bryant ended up on the front and smartly moved left allowing room for his team to move up on the right and shielded from the wind. I did not like this, but I had David Allen right in front of me and we were nearing the final right hand turn in great position. We were almost to the final turn and Specialized sprint duo of leadout Espy and sprinter Chris Baker did their previous years podium winning 1-2 punch leadout and came by fast on the inside line. I jumped to get on this move. I recall being 4th through the turn and there was a little gap ahead of me. I sprinted hard from the corner and came by Espy just after Baker launched his sprint. It was a long way to go still so I sat down to regroup as much as I could and put one last effort into the final little rise to the finish line coming up about a bike length short. Baker took the field sprint and Novikoff pipped me at the line so it was 7th for MIke’s Bikes today. Jonathon Baker took the W, Stanko 2nd, Metcalfe 3rd and Dapice 4th.
We had some laughs and food together after the race and these are some of my favorite times with our team. We had some bad luck and the result was not what we were looking for, but had a great time and the team is clearly ready for Chico next weekend.