Cal Aggie, a win for All Masters!!!
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.