By Dana Williams
Race: 2016 Oakland Grand Prix
Date: Sept 18, 2016
Teammates: Rob Amatelli, Matthew Sloan, David Allen, Josh Pizzica, Chris Hobbs, Scott Cox & Steve Pelaez
The Plan: be aggressive from the start, have fun, and get the W. If it came down to a sprint then David Allen was our sprinter, with me sweeping him.
Course: 8 turns on pretty wide open streets. Turn 5 was the only tricky one at 150 degrees. A small change in elevation of approx 5-6% up between turn 8 & 1 then back down between turn 2 & 3.
Conditions: couldn't be better for mid September; sunny and high 70's/low 80's.
Ah yes, the final race this season. Well, at least for most riders that is. Anybody still needing their fix of racing has one more road race next weekend. But it's way the heck up in Henleyville. Thank you VeloPromo, but I'll pass. But in all seriousness, thank you to VeloPromo for the amazing job they do each and every year with all the races they put on.
Steve and I roll up to Oak-town in the teams Toyota Sienna. I have to say it's nice being chauffeured to the race. Thanks Steve! Buzzing from the Equator Coffee I slammed down during the drive, I head over to registration, pick up my numbers and then off for a quick bathroom break. Low and behold most of my #TMBEquator teammates are ahead of me. And I must say they are looking damn sharp in their Capo kits. The only thing going against them is the beautiful aroma of the blue porta potty's. A quick shout out to them and then it's back to the van to get kitted up; Skinsuit is already on, Specialized S-Works shoes, gloves and evade helmet tightened up and in place. Smith PivLock glasses locked and loaded. A quick height adjustment to my saddle before I throw my leg over my bike, and I'm off for my warm up.
At the start line there's around 25-30 guys. The atmosphere is pretty light. We’re happy there are quite a few more riders than we anticipated based on pre reg. The whistle blows and we're off. It's not long before attacks begin. And thankfully most of them come from my teammates. Scott Cox throws in a strong early move. It's brought back and then Rob Amatelli lets one loose. Then Chris Hobbs unleashes his fury. Scott, Matthew and Josh are there to cover bridge attempts. Rob too. This goes on for about 20mins. David is also active and trying to follow dangerous moves, as am I. I'm tempted to put a hard move in and see what happens but I decide to hold back for a little bit longer with hopes that guys legs will soften up a bit more.
The bell rings signifying a prime lap. Three quick turns go by and I exit out of turn four around 5th wheel. I decide to sprint up the right side and go for a long bomb for the prime. I get a decent gap, nab the prime and look back to see two other riders bridging up. I keep the pedals turning and soon we are in a three-man break, Ariel Hermann, Chris Cane and myself. I have to admit I wasn't watching the lap counters but thinking back now I'd say we had around six laps to go. The three of us were working pretty well together. Specialized was not represented and I could see they were on the front of the chase group pushing hard. A lap or so later I look back and I see three teammates bridging up. I think to myself, this is good news. They make the bridge and we continue to push on. Some other riders must have worked really hard because soon the group is back together.
Next thing I recall is rounding turn four and asking Chris how many laps to go. To my surprise he says 'we're coming up on two to go'. Woah, it's game time. Just then Chris marks a move and he and three other riders (Ariel Hermann, Chris Baker, Rick Lawton) float off the front. They cross the finish line with two to go with about a 5-7 second gap. I start to have flash backs to the San Rafael criterium....is the Specialized rider up with Chris a strong sprinter? Can Chris beat Ariel in a sprint? Should we bring them back, or at least try? I believe it was David and Scott up towards the front as we went around turn one with two to go. We shared a few words and decided it was best to try to try to bring them back. As we came into the 150 degree turn 5, I saw a rider had gone down. It was Ariel. But he was back up and seemed ok. The guys continued to push on the front. We go around the final turn and start up the hill with the bell ringing, signifying one lap to go. I stand up and sprint up the right with the intention of trying to bridge up. It isn’t until I exit turn four that I come up to them. I don’t believe they saw me coming so my instincts say to go by as quick as I can. My legs are starting to tighten. I stand up and dig hard and go by on the left, hoping nobody comes with me. I take turn 5 and see I have a gap. I know that if I can accelerate hard and get up to speed then I'll have a good chance of staying away. And thankfully that's how it unfolded. I roll across the line for the win.
Cheers to my Team Mikes Bikes p/b Equator teammates for their hard work and great racing. It was arguably our best race of the year. And of course thank you to the team sponsors and supporters; Mikes Bikes, Equator Coffees & Teas, Toyota, Financial Force, Specialized, Achieve Training & Coaching, Violich Farms, ProBar, Capo Cycling Apparel, Sutter Health Novato Community Hospital, Bike Smart, Smith Optics, Look Pedals, Betwixt Chamois Cream and Zealios Sun Barrier.