JRennie and I headed over the hill the day before to scout the course and ride the descent and the run in to the finish. He got a first hand look at what's called the Paris-Roubaix of California, I got a refresher on how fast you could actually go with both wheels off the ground seeing three or four of everything.
Raced the 45+ 1/2/3 with one of the strongest fields that's turned out this season. Pretty much all the climbers and some new faces, one of the guys apparently was a Euro pro and did the Milk Race, one of the other ex-pros knew him.
Copperopolis: The prize money is carp, the odds of breaking your bike are excellent, and it's really long and painful.
This is a race everyone wants to win.
You've seen the pictures, and they don't lie. Nasty pavement, though they've patched the real man eaters on the descent from last year. I didn't even make a full lap then, a well place skewer into my front wheel jujitsuing my spokes and leaving me to limp back.
100m into the race it's nearly deja vu as a guy comes unclipped right in front of me and I nearly run him over. Oh man, that was close.
Milk Race guy goes off with two other independent riders from the gun. See ya! 67.9 miles to go...no one's going to chase.
We hit the big climb and, as I figured, the two guys that beat me at Orosi go to the front, along with my old team's main guy. I join them and we take turns making pace. Crest the hill and there's a much smaller field of 20 or so, unfortunately none of my teammates made it over with us so I'm doing a head count. The major players make up 5,4,and 3 of the field respectively and begin using these numbers to fire off attacks. There's also one of my most respected attacking rivals in there.
Much of the rest of the race can be broken down into simple formula:
If BREAK= 3 big teams in BREAK = (alliance with independent riders + chase)
If BREAK = 2 big teams in break > effort = let big team chase.
Independent Rider A = Crazy solo attempt off front into headwind = chased down by big teams
Independent Rider A + B = Crazy group attempt off front into headwind = chased down by big teams
Independent Rider A + B + C = Ill-fated group attempt off front into headwind = chased down by big teams
Big climb = slightly smaller field
Insane 45 MPH spun out 53/11 descent = slightly smaller field
All the breaks are back a few miles up the climb on lap two. See formulas.
On the third and final lap we crest the climb and there's 13 of us. At this point it gets very tactical, with attacks being fired off, getting gobbled up, the pace slowing (literally) to under 10 MPH, followed by attacks, and repeat ad nauseum.
My plan was to wait till the last short hill before the long descent and drill it. There was a slight headwind, but with a little separation and confusion everybody would have to put in the same or close to the same effort and maybe we'd thin the field. If nothing else I wanted a pretty clean run in the the finish.
So I pop off the seat and hammer. I hear one of the guys yell "mark him!" to a teammate, only to have my inner thighs start spasming uncontrollably. Damn! I sit make down and try to push and my quads seize up. I groan in pain and try to keep pedaling with the group. Another spasm and I start to drop off, figuring this is it, I'm done. I pull to the side, start getting passed, and think about bagging it. I can still barely pedal though, so I drop it into the bailout gear and try to spin things free. I'm sitting on the back of the field spasming, cramping, spinning, and try to will my legs to relax.
And, after a couple of minutes of searing pain, they do.
We near the top of the climb, I figure I've got nothing to lose, so I move to the front, draft one of the bigger guys through a short roller, and punch it when we go over the hill. I look back and I've got a gap. And no cramps.
A mile or so later I'm joined by one of the other aggressive independents, and we take turns drafting each other down the hill, a close order drill made a bit more exciting by the vibrating sander effect of the road surface.
We can't hold off all the chasers though, and soon we're around 8 or 9. We hit the bottom of the hill and start hauling through the rollers heading to the finish.
One rider passes me and I see it's GWHBNAH. AKA: 200m Masters WR holder. Oh piffle. I was hoping we had gotten rid of him, but I knew if he made it over the hill, he could go downhill very quickly.
3km to go and two riders touch wheels in front of me and a crash ensues, I make it around the carnage and am well positioned with 1km to go.
The 200m sign is at the base of the hill, it's an uphill sprint to the finish. I do the math and light it off at 220m, hoping that GWHBNAH dissolves to goo if he has to sprint longer than 200.
I have gap.
I look back, more gap.
Finish line in sight.
20m to go! I might win this thing!
Then something blazes past me, the vacuum and heat from the comet pulling off my glasses and setting fire to my eyebrows. (Seriously, JRennie got to see the finish and commented on the smoke).
So I got 2nd.
Turn around and head back to check on my fallen comrades. They come in well ahead of the rest of the field, a bit worse for wear but not seriously injured.
On the bright side:
Our team is in the top three for district BAT points.
I'm second in our district BAR.
my Cat-2-ometer is at like 140%, but I'm going to wait till at least after Mt. Hood and probably Everest to upgrade.
And Reynolds Alta Race wheels are indestructible.
And the new Fuji rides darn nice on the most horrific road surfaces.
On the other side of that coin is I get to look forward to a year against GWHBNAH.
So it shall be.