I was exhausted when my alarm blasted through my dreams at 5 am that Sunday. The prior day had been spent helping out at Mike’s Bike’s Mega Sale and then racing in the brutally hot Cat’s Hill race. I was on a bit of a mission though; I had placed almost stone last at Cat’s Hill due to a mixture of heat, delayed start, and poor timing on my hard efforts. I really wanted to redeem myself. After begrudgingly going through the morning routine and flopping into the car, we drove over to Livermore. It was surprisingly chilly that morning, and I warmed up by turning on the seat warmer and watching the competition roll around through the window. When we lined up and the whistle blew there was a small group of us, but one notably strong pro rider. The race odds went from “possible win” to “this is going to be a sufferfest” once I noted that addition to our start list.
The first hill was decent, but it got harder, and harder, and finally I was climbing fully out of the saddle and breathing like a dinosaur. Thank goodness we crested the hill and turned over the overpass just as I registered that my legs were screaming. We’d already lost two people. We got to the next rollers and the pro rider rolled to the front. She looked over her shoulder and then just started kicking out watts like she’s just been warming up over the first hill. Only 3 people made it over the rollers with her, and I was not one of them. I looked down at my garmin to vaguely register that we were 20 minutes into a 3.5 hour race, and the field had just shattered into the final selection. This was definitely a sufferfest.
I caught a rider and we both got caught by another. That makes four up the road and three in the chase with some stragglers deciding whether to keep chasing or to throw in the towel for the day. By this point it was also in the high 80s. Aka quite warm. Things were pretty boring for the next few hours/laps. I even got to enjoy the snake carcass we kept passing, and caught glimpses of the infamous windmills that dot the horizon throughout Livermore. This place would be quite gorgeous if I didn’t happen to strongly dislike getting dropped on hills in dry heat with only two waterbottles and no flat kit.
The last lap I spent the majority of the time trying to figure out how I was going to win the “field sprint”…out of the three person groupetto that we’d become. Was it worth sprinting for 5th? Yes. Was it going to hurt? Yes. How long should I anticipate having to sprint? 2 mins max up a fairly steep hill. Did they have water at the finish? Hopefully. Were we last on the course for the morning wave? Yes. We hit the rollers. Folsom, who had two team mates up the road and had done an excellent job of doing nothing to help us catch the selection, attacked up the hill, drilling the pace to make sure I didn’t attack her into the descent like the last lap. She was pooped by the flats though and I took a pull, constantly glancing back in anticipation of the attack. Finally I rolled off the front to see if anyone else would pull as we got to the last right hand turn. Only 4 minutes left!!! JLVelo thankfully took the front and I slotted in at third. At the base of the hill, Folsom attacked again and I followed, JLVelo dropping back with a leg cramp. Half way up and I knew I’d have to go soon but not too soon as the finish line was jauntily placed on the flattish descent after cresting the hill. When I could see the line I attacked with everything I had (not much at that point) and pretended it was a crit finish. Wheezing like a stuck train, I sweated and grimaced and groaned past Folsom for a 5th place finish. What a long ride.