Against all odds the ThirstyBears pulls a podium spot for Holger Steinbach at Wente 45+ 123
Thirsty Bear Team: Hans, Gardie, Scott, Holger.
I hung out with friends a bit long last night and went to bed late. The result, I overslept big time. My plan was to leave the house at 5:50am to be in Livermore by 6:45 to have enough time for the usual preparation including a half hour warm up.
When I stared at the clock still half asleep and saw it was already 6:50 I was very close to throwing the towel and turn around to get another hour of sleep. But something drove me out of the bed that said you got to at least try. Luckily my stuff was all packed, the coffee was already in the coffeemaker, I just needed to jump into my bibs and in the car and off I went.
After 10 minutes of driving I noticed that the “low gas” light had come on. Stopping to get gas was not an option if I wanted to still make it. If the light had just come on when I first saw it, I had a decent change to make it, but it was going to be close. When I filled my tank with 19.3 Gallon after the race I realized how lucky I was to not run out of gas.
By the time I had registered, had visited the porta-potty, put the TWO number on, it was about 8:10. I made it, the race would have to take care of the warm up. When the race started Scott and I rode off the front, but no sign of Hans and Gardie. Seems like my team members had “late issues” too today.
Scott and I kept the pace low at the front in the first half mile hoping Hans and Gardie would still catch on. It only took a few minutes and rocket man Dirk Himley engaged his thrusters to take off. Still being cold I could not chase after him, but 4 riders managed to slip into his draft (Hancock, Eatinger, +2). Shortly after Chris Courtney made an effort to bridge across, but didn’t quite make it.
3 of the riders Dirk pulled cracked on the first hill and got gobbled up by the field shortly thereafter. After we passed the finish area Scott and I went to the front and drove the tempo to try to stay close to the break. After a while Gardie came to the front. It was good seeing that he had caught on. The tempo work got interrupted a few times resulting in a 1:30 minutes lead by Himley and Hancock when we got the first time check. Knowing how strong Dirk rides it was unlikely we’d bring him back unless the field would mount a serious chase effort. But that didn’t happen. Gardie Scott and I stayed close to the front of the race in laps 1 and 2, while Hans, per his plan, rode conservatively further back. Towards the end of the 2nd lap on the approach to the climb as Scott was at the front I used the opportunity to break away. At the start of the climb I had about a 15-20s gap so I decided that I’ll try to go solo. I managed to maintain a consistent effort and my lead kept growing. When I didn’t see the field anymore going up the penultimate Wente climb, I knew I had a good chance to stay away. I pushed on as strong and consistent as I could and before I knew it another lap had gone by.
Shortly before I got to the last climb I approached a group of 7 or 8 riders with 900 number. As I passed the group on the left, without any warning the two riders to my right crashed and almost took me down with them. I couldn’t believe it. After I had passed this unexpected hurdle I went up the hill one last time. I probably could have taken it easy since I had a comfortable lead, but did not want to risk being caught. So I rode as hard as I still could until I crossed the finish. Haven’t had a podium place in a while and was very happy to have managed to go solo for 2+ laps to 3rd place.
About a couple minutes later the chasers arrived. Gardie sprinted into 5th place, Hans got 8th and Scott 15th.