Copperopolis Road Race
Saturday, April 4th, 2015
A 21 mile loop of fair to terrible paving, two climbs and a fast, very bumpy, twisty descent.
2014: 3rd (Elise)
2013: 7th (Elise)
Pretty chilly at the start of the race, but it gradually warmed up. Slight wind, noticeable on flat sections of the course after the first big climb.
* Team – mark the strongest riders & ride hard.
* Personal – Be smart, try to make the break when it forms, drink lots of fluids, have good positioning going up the final kicker.
After a confused Cat 3 rider was turned back and left our group of P/1/2 racers, we quickly rode through the feed zone and headed up the main big climb. It was my first time racing Copperopolis and I was surprised by how steep & long the initial climb was. The first climb broke apart the entire field. I didn’t realize it until we got to the top of Climb #1, but by the time we hit the flat section there were only five other riders with me. It was Leah Thomas & Joanna Dahl (MM), Beth Newell (Jakroo), Jane Despas (ICE), Jill McLaughlin, and myself. Rotations were decent and there were continuous attacks from different people. On lap 2, Leah Thomas counter attacked Beth Newell’s try to shed some more people from our group, which resulted in 3 pairs forming—Leah & Jill in the lead, then Beth & Joanna, and Jane and I were chasing. Jane and I rotated very well and we re-connected with Joanna and Beth on the plateau after Climb #1. 1 km before Climb #2 the field support car sped past our group of 4, and came to an abrupt halt at the intersection before the beginning of the climb.
I would have never seen this coming, but a caravan of cattle loaded semi-trucks was just making their way up the climb ahead of our group. The race officials from the car yelled at us that there were two others about to come our way and we needed to be extremely careful because of the treacherous descent ahead of us. I knew at this point that unless we immediately got around the trucks, the gap between the leaders and our group would become too big for us to make up. As we climbed, 2 pickup trucks with cattle in hangers sped by and would not let us pass! Now it was a total of 3 huge semis and 2 crazed pickups between our group and the leaders. We tried to communicate with the drivers yelling at the top of our lungs, but our voices weren’t heard. After continuous braking action, screaming chicas, cattle poop flying from the hangers, and dodging the pothole-riddled descent, all vehicles ahead had pulled off to the side of the road to let us through. Well, that was nice!
I think by the time we approached Climb #1 of lap 3, the gap was at 2 or 3 minutes. It didn’t look like we were going to catch the leaders. Climb #1 was a sufferfest, the plateau was fine, and then came a hard attack by Beth Newell going up the final stretch of Climb #2. I knew I needed to get to the front of the group before the descent in order to place well. My legs just didn’t seem to go any faster at the time, and as Beth and Joanna crest the top that led into the steep and long descent, I was back by a couple seconds again with Jane Despas. To my delight, I crushed it on the descent, re-connecting with Beth and Joanna before the end of the descent. Jane caught back up to us as we were coming up on the finishing kicker.
Joanna started the sprint from the right side and Beth and I followed. Though I had the longest path to the finish line of the three of us, I was right there alongside Beth and Joanna. I had selected the small chainring and ran out of gears (bummer)…and came in third in the field sprint by a hair. It was a good effort and I’m happy to have gotten 5th overall on such a tough course.
- Warming up with a trainer is a great option for cold days
- Scouting the finish and/or testing different gearing during the finishing stretch would have been good
- Don’t trust the feed-zone. Not everyone is willing to hand out bottles to strangers!