Eric Lagier take 3rd in the E4 at Snelling.
Who plans a road race to start at 8.20am, 3, hours drive from Mill Valley, expecting the field of 100 to fill up. Still this is what happened. 100 riders registered for 63.2 miles of RR. The course, 5 laps of 11.7 mile each of narrow country roads northwest of Snelling, Several small hills, several sharp turns with excellent to fair pavement.
Piers Barry, joining me for his first cat 4 race, and I, decided to explore the ‘luxury’ of a Merced Best Western motel, allowing us to sleep till 6.20 before getting up and ready for the Elite Cat 4 race. Yep, you got it right, why make it easy and register for the 35+ 4 with race start at 12.25 and a field limited to 60, when you can challenge yourself with a group of 100 young and energetic cat 4 riders.
8.10 and we were ready to race. After a neutral lead out of Snelling, the race was opened up and we started on our first of 5 laps. Pace was moderate, but a lot of movement and often I found myself stuck in the middle, with riders coming up from both side, only to experienced to be pushed out the back. It does take some time to get used to 100 riders around you, and I kept thinking of the wise words from the Early Bird clinics; “protect your front wheel”. Still multiple times Piers and I had riders paying no attention when shifting position, which unfortunately resulted in Piers crashing hard on lap 3. A rider made an erratic move to the left, leaving no chance for Piers. Down he went – HARD. I was right behind, but fortunately managed to stay clear as the pace was moderate going up a hill. The peloton continued, but I stayed behind and waited for Piers to get up on this bike again and together we chased to get up to the peloton again.
After that close encounter with pavement, both Piers and I stayed closer to the front, to stay clear of more crashes and also be ready for any attacks. Numerous attacks in the front was started, but was no problem to stay on to their wheel. On the 4th lap Piers tapped my back and said “lets go”, as a few other riders was increasing the speed. Both Piers and I pulled hard to create a gap, but we only managed to get a few sec. Another rider attached solo and I jumped onto his wheel. Coming to a sharp turn, staying right behind his wheel, I could see that he had misread that turn completely, and I fortunately chose my own path, as he skidded out on the side of the road with lots of gravel and then did a slam dunk into the pavement. Not a nice sight, and the second crash of the day.
The great thing with road races that have laps, is that it allows you to check out the course and plan for the best place to attack and prepare for the finish. I had noticed that 3.2. miles from the finish, once passing a small bridge and a slight turn, there was a good little hill, followed by yet another hill. This for me would be a perfect place to attack if it was going to be. I told Piers my intentions and as we started on the final lap I hoped that no breaks would form before then. The good news was that the peloton was good at neutralizing any attacks, the bad news was that both Piers and I continued to struggle for a good placement in front and as we approached my attack point, the bridge, I found myself locked in between many riders. So nothing else to do than slow down, move to the far far left – and I mean where pavement stops and gravel takes over, and then start pulling hard. As we started the climb after the bridge, I turned on the ThirstyBear jet engine. A Jet engine I had been practicing with Hans on the 7 sisters and I went all in. Piers unfortunately was stuck and could not join me, nor could any one else for that matter, leaving me alone with 3.2 miles solovride to go with the peloton fiercely chasing me. Fortunately, once done with the two climbs, and the sharp turn, where the other rider had crashed just before, I had a straight road with nice tailwind. Going 27 miles an hour I was able to keep the peloton away. I kept forcing the pace, only looking back very few times. Meanwhile Piers was hard at work as a one man army, going up in front, and as a one man wall, trying to slow down the entire peloton! As we approached the finish line, there is a sharp turn, lots of gravel and many potholes, I therefore slowed down, and the peleton nearly caught onto me, but a exploding tubular wheel and subsequent serious crash with lots of body and hardware damage, made the peleton break into two and I just jumped up from the saddle and sprinted the last 200 meters. Unfortunately I had to let 2 riders pass me at the top of the finish. Still I was happy I had made the solo break and finished 3rd. My 2nd podium place in basically a week. Thanks Piers for great riding support. Next time, at Copporopolis I will repay and set you up for the win.
Hans Gouwens takes 2nd in 45+123 at Snelling
Woke up at 6am all jittery thinking about the Omloop van het Nieuwsblad, the first classic race of the season among the Pro Peloton in Europe. As soon as I finished making some coffee, I fired up the laptop to get on Sporza, the Belgium channel to listen to my southerners speak funny Dutch.
For a list of all results click here.
In perfect weather conditions, Coppertown Circuit Race presented itself from its best with a pavement in mint condition and desert dry road. Cheered on by his own family from Denmark, I was ready to show the colors of a thirstyBear.
A group of 34 riders set out for this 1 hour ride, with a pack dominated by Team BP Racing/Sierra Nevada and Team Revolution. Especially Team BP Racing with 8 riders was ready to make their mark and sent a rider out in front and then build a great wall to control the pace. We were a few that tried to break the constellation, but Team BP Racing kept sending new riders out once the others were caught. On the 2nd last lap 2 riders found themselves 15 sec. in front of the peloton. Coming up to the 180 degree turn I positioned me at the front and just after the turn another rider made an escape with me in his wheel. It was a half hearted escape and soon I found myself solo riding to bridge the gap to the break. As I approached them I yelled, “lets get this party started” and encouraged them to start rotating with me. We quickly got a good rhythm going and most likely because one of the riders, Craig Dolley, was from Team BP, the rest of the BP riders saw no point in chasing us and left it to others. We passed the finish line with 1 lap to go and things felt good. I pulled 60% of the time and kept forcing the pace. As we turned by Coppertown Square we had increased the distance to the chasing peloton, but my 2 friends in the escape was starting to loose momentum and found it more and more difficult to pull and I had to raise my voice to make sure they took some pulls up front so I at least got some air in between my pulls. I was confident that if we made it to the 180 degree turn, we would also be able to make it home. The benefit of this race is that you have great visibility of the course and it was therefore easy to see where the chasing group was. We made it to the big turn, and I just stepped on it. Initially with Craig and Martin on my wheel, them taking a few short turns, but as we approached 1km, I pulled away and never looked back. I crossed the finishing line 100 meters ahead of the break group, and with the peleton coming in half a minute later. What a great experience. My first Cat 4 race. All the many training rides with the monster strong ThirstyBear Cycling team really is starting to pay off!! Now off to Snelling with Piers.
Thanks to Martin Szwarc (2nd) from Stuzio.com and Craig Dolley (3rd), Team BP Racing for making my victory possible.
Pine Flat Road Race. Length 62 miles 4,200ft climbing
“Thanks Hans for organizing an amazing weekend of riding, Richard and Kelly for providing the best and most attentive SAG ever, Joe and Max for spending hours cooking fabulous food for us, all of you guys for being so supportive of the women on the rides and special thanks to Duane and Kyle for pulling so much and helping me stay with the group!:)” – Chris Lundy.