Claudio wins 35+, Foster 55+ at Bariani Road Race
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!