by Scott Cox
Date: May 14, 2016
Category: M123 35+
Teammates: Matt Adams, David Allen, Rob Amatelli, John Barbicas, John Funke, Oli Ryan, and Matthew Sloan
Cat’s Hill Criterium (presented by Mike's Bikes) in Los Gatos is a NorCal classic and a favorite race for many on the Mike’s Bikes Masters team. There is some added incentive as Mike’s Bikes is the major sponsor of this awesome downtown venue with a rich history in cycling. The town comes out in support of this all day race and it offers a unique course with a 20% hill each lap. Cycling fans and everyday people can get in on the excitement choosing between a few great spots on the course to get close to the action - on the climb, at the bottom of the rough pavement descent and the start finish line.
This week was exciting as it allowed the team’s focus to shift from the other great Spring NorCal races to one that has been on my tick list for a few years now with some near misses. The hill may lead some to think this is a climber’s course, but actually favors an all arounder with a good sprint since it is basically a 15 second sprint up the hill each lap. This course is well suited to my team and myself and we had a solid plan in place to try and get the win. It would not be an easy task as the course is hard and there were other well respected opponents. Some of the racers on Peet’s that we all respect and have used as role models in cycling were doubling up in the 35s and 45s for this one. This included class act Dan Martin - Multi-National Champion and reigning World Champion, Kevin Metcalfe - 15 time National Champion, Nick Theobald - highly decorated NorCal racer and workhorse for his team. Specialized was represented with Jeromy Cottell - World Champion on the track and a threat in every race on the calendar and a scrappy Scott Bromstead that would likely be involved if it came to a sprint. As always, there were several other strong riders that we would need to keep an eye on and the course adds its own mayhem. I had Matt Adams, David Allen, Rob Amatelli, John Barbicas, John Funke, Oli Ryan, and Matthew Sloan by my side in this one.
Cottell and Peet’s would likely race aggressively and want a break that would play to their strengths. Cottell, Martin and Bromstead would likely be able to contest a sprint, too, but we have faster guys and also work together well for leadouts, so a sprint tilted heavily in our favor and that was the plan - keep the race together until the final time up the hill. There is no way to control what happens the last time up the hill. We would have to be in good position to prevent getting behind any mishaps and also be the fastest up the hill. May the strongest man win - easy, right?
The announcer did all of the call ups for the decorated guys in the field and I used this as extra motivation for the day. It may sound arrogant or overconfident to say that I was going to win this race, but that is what I was thinking as I believe that is the mindset needed to win. Any doubts that were trying to creep in were pushed aside and I was surrounded by the best teammates one could ask for. The whistle finally blew and the race was on.
The hill did its job and Martin/Metcalfe/Theobald/Cottell used it is a springboard to try and get a gap and a break going. Things happen fast in a race and I recall someone being off the front on many laps and my teammates covered or bridged to every break attempt. I was glued to Dan Martin any time he hit the hill hard. I could see that I had more pop on the hill and could easily stay in contact with him over the top of the course. My teammates were everywhere and I knew they would keep things in check and I wanted to stay engaged in the race and near the front to avoid any mishaps on the hill. It is also pretty sweet to know you have other teammates that are capable of the win and that took quite a bit of pressure off of me. I saw the 8 laps to go card and I think everyone knew it was going to come down to the last lap.
Matt Adams was all over the front of the race and started keeping the pace high to discourage attacks. The classic breakaway riders had to relent and were prepping for the finale. Oli Ryan came to the front as well and things were going to plan. I even saw Rob Amatelli with the flashy socks and orange bike in the mix stuck in his 14 tooth cog as Dura-Ace is not built Rob-o-tough and he shredded it. Fast forward to 2 to go and my teammates were keeping me up front and the legs were good. The bell lap came and all was good. Funke came up as planned and led it to the hill for one last time.
You can just feel things in a race and I knew David Allen was close behind me and in position and Matt Adams was there, too. So were the other contenders and everyone still had a chance. I swung wide on the hill and took it up the right side where no one could slow me down. Create your own destiny. We came over the top and I throttled back, moved left and slotted behind Theobald in second wheel thinking this is perfect as he would stay on the gas to lead out Dan Martin. My plan was to enter the descent in 1st wheel and was coming by Theobald on the final little rise to make my move when I hear the Specialized ViAS coming on the inside and Matt Adams tells me to get on board. All aboard and I think I yelled something like “all in, Matt”.
Be careful what you ask for because all in it was and I could barely hold his wheel. Matt drilled it down the descent, picked the perfect line through the final turn and stayed on the gas. I sprinted as hard as I could and just put my head down and made my move to come around Matt and barely did at the line with Martin hot on my heels.
TMB goes 1/2 and 5 guys in the top 10! I soft pedaled with a surreal feeling. Not that I won so much (that was a bit surreal though as I have been the bridesmaid the last two seasons), but because my selfless teammates were genuinely happier about the fact that I won than I was and I was pretty stoked!
Special thanks to everyone on the team for the support and opportunity at a race many of us could win. Extra special thanks to Matt Adams for the W. A sprinter knows when someone lets up that little bit to make sure the win goes to you. Good things come back around on this team!
Thanks the Alex Chiu for the amazing photos