So this was another special race for me that I had always wanted to win; like how Cal Aggie was my first crit 12 years ago, Bariani was my first Road Race, and I remember riding the classic course with 20-30mph winds, watching the group get obliterated by it, and thinking “this is fuckin, glorious, I want to do this again!” Little did I imagine that one day I’d win it on the toughest iteration of the course yet, but like Cal Aggie this only could happen with the team we have… it wasn’t my win, it’s our win!
We came into it outnumbered, but far from outgunned. As we discussed before the race, Gardie, Travis, Grefrath, and I have been on really good form so far this year, so with Ken’s help we each had good chances of our own should we get in the right move, but we agreed that if it came together at the end we’d lead me out for the sprint because it’s actually been quite good recently compared to the others. Not a situation I usually find myself in but I was game, and we agreed that we’d let Peets and Touchstone do the initiating of moves since they came with the largest teams and seemed intent on driving the action. With that we were off and it didn’t take long for the action to heat up!
Wind was decently strong and primarily out of the North so we had a tailwind and cross-tail to start so people were using that to set the pace almost from the gun. I had heard from some of the 45+ guys that the top of the course on the rollers heading east is where the field had blown up in their race so I was careful to be up towards the front for that stretch. We had already seen a couple of attempts from Peets and Sayers to start something before we got there, but through the rollers after a series of attacks and counters a move with Gardie, Boyton, Cottell, and some other guys made it up the road and got some good distance from the field. Sayers of course wanted in on that and tried to bridge, but Peets wasn’t having it, so with Jason and Travis covering that move I sat on Chris Baker because my gut told me if there was going to be a counter move he was going to be on it. Sure enough as soon as things slowed up from taming Sayers, Baker jumped and I just sat on him and let him pull me across to the break. Somewhere in there Dan Martin managed to make across as well, and we had a solid group of nine guys that represented a bulk of the firepower from the field. Only Mikes and Coretechs weren’t represented but they didn’t really have anyone who we thought could pull it together enough to pull us back so the chances that this break might stick was pretty good.
Well, that was good news in a sense, but the reality was all this happened with 65 miles to go, so it was going to be a long, hard day out in the wind if we were going to stick it, and with that much road ahead anything can happen. Lucky for me I had Gardie Jackson with me, and he was my rock in that group. I mean, what a teammate, he would ride next to me every so often and say things like, “you’re looking great, you got this… keep it up!” Words of encouragement in a situation like that from a guy like Gardie mean the world, it gets your head in the right place and kept the fire in me burning. At one point when are chances of staying away looked fairly solid he said “you’re our guy in this group, save yourself as much as possible for the end…” For Gardie to have that confidence in me to say that gave me the confidence that I could pull it off if I played my cards right. I focused in like a lazer and watched my efforts (power) to make sure I was saving as much as possible without just sitting in and doing nothing… which is what Peets (aside from Boyton) were doing.
It was a funny situation, because it seemed clear to me that initially Patterson was the guy they were working for in that break, and he was doing as little as possible in the rotation to the point were Gardie went back and said “I’m not working if you don’t work…” and got him moving again. Then he flatted right before the last lap and Dan Martin decided to stop working. It was still 20 miles to the finish and here we have Dan not doing anything which seemed odd along with being disruptive, and this forced us to be even more careful because knowing Dan he could have attacked us at any time and blown the whole thing up. He was claiming that he was suffering and just couldn’t pull, but I still wasn’t sure if he was bluffing, or even if he was blown he was saving just enough to jump us at the end. At this point Gardie was very adamant that I drop back and sit on Dan, “if he doesn’t work, then you don’t!” I did my best to follow that advice, but every now and then I would make a move or follow a surge just to see if I could tease Dan out… I know Gardie was having a hear attack when that would happen but I was being very careful not to overdo it. I just really could not grasp what Dan’s game was… maybe he was actually just that wrecked!
Anyhow, we still had Baker, Cottell, Boyton, and James Enright to be concerned with so heading into the final climb up the hill I watched as Enright took the initiative to attack and see if he could shake things up heading into the finish. Funny side note, I remember back in the day being intimidated by that short climb, but after all the years I’ve spent working on much longer, harder climbs, especially in Utah, it feels like a speed bump. Still need to pay it it’s proper respect but I actually love having it there to make the race harder! Well, Dan Martin was the first to jump after Enright and being glued to his wheel I just let him pull me along until we caught up and then it was on to the final drag to the finish.
I’ve played that finish out a million times in my head. Last time I did it I was a Cat 3 in 2012 in a very stacked field and finished 5th or 6th (I’m getting old, I can’t remember), so I knew where the prime spot was to ramp it up, I just needed to be patient and let the others get me there… Enright led us out of the turn and Boyton had Martin behind him and started his surge early. I knew Baker or Cottell had to be on me and I was going to have to turn on the rockets like never before if I was going to out run them. As Martin started up I could tell he had nothing and I surfed around him and back onto Enright’s wheel and as it got faster I heard Gardie tell me to “go,” and it was the right spot I had always thought it should be, and off I went…
It hurt so good, and I couldn’t believe it when I got across that line ahead of the rest of that group. It was a little emotional even. When Gardie caught up to me I gave him a hug because it was just as much his win as it was mine given how it all played out. Then Natalie tells us about her win, and Travis rolls up and tells us he got 2nd in the field sprint for 10th! That was so awesome, it just felt good all the way around.
Grefrath and Ken, after bowing out of the race with mechanicals, were right there on the side of the road handing out water bottles, and Ken gave the crucial assist with a bottle of electrolytes at the start of the last lap. Another example of key teamwork when I sure needed it. So like I said from the start this was a team win in every way and I am very lucky to be with you guys. Even Jan.
Thanks for reading, now on to Chico!
ThirstyBear won all three masters races, the 55+, 45+, and 35+We couldn’t have done it without the awesome group that I’m proud and happy to call teammates. Jerome won the 55 race, I won the 45 race with Jerome taking the field sprint for 3rd, and Mike won the 35 race with Joe in 3rd, me in 5th, Travis in 7th, and Erick in 11th. In both the 45 and 35 races, we could not have won if we didn’t have a team of smart and strong racers.
After aging up this year, Cal Aggie was my first 45+ race ever. I’ve raced this course many times and I know how the course, the wind, and team dynamics play out. Despite coming into this race, typically with the best fitness in the group, I’ve never been in a winning breakaway at this race. Today was the first time for many things.
The plan was for me to attack and try to establish a breakaway and for Jerome, Duane, and Ken, who it was great to see out at the races again, to sit and cover. If the field was together at the end, everyone not named Jerome would lead-out and control to get Jerome in position for the final sprint.
After initiating the first and many attacks, it became obvious to me that almost nobody was willing to work in a break, save Scott Fonseca, who was characteristically attacking and racing aggressively. Like everyone else in NCNCA masters, I’ve raced with Scott many times and I know the good and sometimes bad things about his racing. He has a reputation. Regardless, he is a very good bike racer and he likes to attack the race. Because I also like to attack, being up the road with him about 15 minutes in was not unfamiliar territory.
As we started to get separation, Scott told me that if we stayed away that he’d let me have the win. I know Scott and he knows me: I’m a strong racer and a person who helps breaks stay away. In fairness, his best podium chances were up the road with me, because Jerome would likely win the field sprint. I didn’t entirely trust Scott, as I am always skeptical of people on other teams, but I decided to focus on staying away and testing his word instead of trying to drop him starting with 3 or 2 laps to go. I also tried to take good solid and pulls into the wind because I wasn’t worried about him attacking me. The two of us got about 3 seconds a lap until the final lap when we had maybe 30-40 seconds on the field.
True to his word, Scott led out on the long straight to the finish and I came around him with plenty of space to post up at the finish. Chapeau Scott! Jerome took the field sprint for 3rd from what I heard was a MONSTER lead-out from Duane and Ken, and we got our second victory of the day. Folsom is next and thank you for reading!
I want to tag on here and start off my report by echoing what Jason said… the win in the 35+ group was a team win all the way, it would not have been possible without them.
I’ll start this race report off 12 years ago, which was my very first race at Cal Aggie (with Phipps in fact). Before I started that race I had this wild idea that at some point I would just be able to ride away from the pack and show everyone what a bad ass I thought I was, and this seemed entirely possible in my delusional mind for absolutely no good reason at all. Predictably I completely imploded upon attempting that kind of stunt and wound up fairly far down in the placings at the end of the race. I still had much to learn, and I needed to get much stronger if that was ever going to work… but even more than that, what I really needed was a talented group of riders to work with as a team.
Fast forward to this past Saturday.
To start off the year I got held up in Salt Lake for almost 3 weeks longer than I had anticipated for work, and it was fairly cold and miserable there and not at all ideal for training. I would do intervals and feel like I was having a heart attack because the air up there was so cold and thin I just couldn’t breathe! So when I toed the line to start the 35+ race I really wasn’t sure where my fitness was and what I was able to do, but I had every intention of mixing it up while sharing attacking duties with the other boys, and then lead out Joe in the event we were all together at the end. Jason started things off with a nice hard acceleration that forced people to chase, and then as soon as we caught him I put in a strong acceleration, and that type of thing continued with Travis, Joe and Erik for about 2/3 of our 45 minute race. Travis had been off with a couple of other guys for quite sometime until we caught him right before the start of 6 laps to go, at which point I put in a hard acceleration that gave me some nice room on the group. Initially I settled in to a fairly moderate pace with the hopes that someone like Espy or Grundman would bridge across and we could motor a small break for the last 6 laps, but then it became clear that I had a very large leash and I decided to settle into a solid threshold effort and see if I could hold it… if anyone was going to bridge they were at least going to have to work for it and be tired enough to even things up in a sprint!
Each lap I’d check how far back the group was and they didn’t seem to be making up any ground…so with 3 to go it started to dawn on me that I could probably hold it if I ratcheted up the power just a little bit. With one lap to go the crowd was pretty hype going through the start/finish and I thought “just 2 more minutes, you got this…” but as I rounded the final turn it looked like they were right on me so I had to dig a sprint out of me somehow if I was going to make it. With everything I had in me I managed to lay down 1100 watts after roughly 16 minutes at 390 watts, and it was over, I had done it. That idiotic dream of mine from 12 years ago finally came true.
For many, many years I’ve raced that race without a team around me, and in the years where I did have a team typically they weren’t very organized or just weren’t that good, but the whole race dynamic changes when you have a group of guys like we have now. Any one of us could win that race in some fashion and it makes other teams less likely to chase me knowing that they would just be towing someone like Joe, Jason, Travis or Erik up to have them then take off and win. That works in our favor, and I happened to take advantage of it at the right place and the right time. Just the mental relief knowing that I’m surrounded by such a solid group of dudes makes all the difference in the world.
So yeah, now the pressure is on to show that wasn’t a fluke, and with this group I have a feeling we’ll each be seeing solid success in one form or another throughout the rest of the season. Stiff competition, but we have what it takes!
Oh, and Jerome mooned me. Not sure how that played into my success but maybe there’s something there… frightening thought.
Contributor: Tom Lyons
Contributor: Tom Lyons