Date: February 7, 2016
Category: M123 35+
For many racers, the Cherry Pie Criterium signifies the start of racing in Northern California. I and six of my Team Mike's Bikes p/b Equator Coffee teammates pulled up to the line on a mix of Specialized bikes, ranging from last year's Venge, the new Venge Vias and Tarmac. Fuelled with caffeine from Equator coffee and energized with Probar fuel, bolt and meal bars, we were ready to roll. With two of the bigger NorCal teams having training camp this weekend, Thirsty Bear and Squadra, plus the Redkite Bump Circuit race also taking place, and don't forget the Super Bowl, let's just say the field wasn't huge! There was just over 20 riders and TMB certainly had the largest representation. That said, there were a couple former pros who are notorious NorCal strong men who we definitely had to keep an eye on; in particular Michael Sayers and Scott McKinley.
Our team plan was to have three guys marking early moves. Then with about 20 minutes to go, if nothing had been established, two or three guys, including myself, were to look to get a break going. If it came down to a bunch sprint then we had a designated lead out and would be working to get Scott Cox the win.
The race started and right from the gun there were a few hard accelerations which strung out the field and got everybody's heart pumping. Over the next 15-20 minutes there were a few breaks that got up the road. We did a good job of making sure TMB was represented in each. Finally, a group of eight riders were let go, includingthree Mike's Bikes guys (Chris Hobbs, Dave Allen and Oliver Ryan) and Michael Sayers.
Once the break had extended it's distance from the chase group, in which I was in, some words were shared on the dissatisfaction of how my team was riding. Essentially, it was interpreted that we were sitting on the front and blocking. In one hand, I understood the point being made. But on the other hand, the number of riders we had in the chase group versus competitors created this situation to a degree. At one point, after being tired of hearing the complaining, I shouted to my teammates to drop to the back. We did so, and then an attack came, which actually made it easier for us to cover since we could see it. On the opposite side of these 'voiced concerns', some riders may view our positioning on the front advantageous because it made it more difficult to mark bridge attempts that we couldn't see coming. In any case, I can guarantee we as a team were not blatantly blocking, or doing it on purpose. In fact, I can recount two times where a TMB teammate chased down a break with a team member in it, in addition to towing the field too.
Fast forward about a half lap, feeling slightly annoyed by the way the dissatisfaction was handled, I decided it was worth trying to bridge to the front group if the opportunity presented itself. There was a little slowing, a slight uphill and a head-cross wind....opportunity knocked, so I decided to go for it. I made the bridge after about a minute of all out riding. I then let my three teammates know I was there and they kept the pace rolling. At one point, Michael Sayers put in a strong move and we decided it was best to let him sit out there for a while. Of note, I later found out he had raced the 45+ race just before this one and essentially soloed off the front from the beginning and stayed away. Strong riding sir! I have to give credit where credit is due. Back to the race, with the break seeing the tail end of the main field, there was a little concern Sayers could possibly bridge up to them so we soon decided to bring him back.
Move to almost half way through the last lap, I was sixth wheel, right behind teammate Dave Allen. He was behind Sayers, who was fourth wheel, behind my two teammates, Ryan and Hobbs and one other riders. I asked Dave if he wanted to switch up and he agreed. Oli took us through two more turns and pulled off and Hobbs took over. He lead us to and around a 180 turn roundabout, exited and accelerated towards the short 6-7% climb. As we were just onto it, Sayers moved to the left and began to wind it up. From the top of the hill to the line, it was about a 20sec sprint into a head-cross wind coming from the right. Sayers was smart and stayed all the way to the left, forcing me hit the wind if and when I tried to go by him. I felt strong so I got a little run at his back wheel before hitting the wind and was able to make it by him and hit the line first for the win.
Following the podium presentation, the team gathered around our vehicles in the parking lot and enjoyed some post race food; quinoa and vegetable salad with buttermilk biscuits provided by our new team chef, Matthew Accarrino of SPQR in San Francisco (We feel so fortunate to have a one star Michelin chef looking after our nutrition needs this year.) This was washed down with what we all really came for, the notorious cherry pie, given to the winner of each race. Special thanks to teammate Matthew Sloan for bringing forks and whip cream....glad somebody was thinking ahead.