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Dynamic Duo Double Down on Copperopolis. Eric Lagier takes 1st, Piers Barry 3rd in 35+ 4

Copperropolis Road race is one of the epic spring classics in Northern California and is often referred to as the “Paris – Roubaix” of California. No cobblestones but famous for rough terrain and miles of pot holes.

Good races always starts long before the race. Weeks before the actual race, our cat 4 ‘tactical adviser’, CJ Wolf, had prepared a detailed analysis of the top 5 strong riders and the different scenarios for the race.

Unfortunately CJ could not join us on the actual day, but we did what we could to follow the tactics we talked about.

“The first hill comes quickly in the race at the 2nd mile marker and I am sure it will be fast but everyone will regroup at the top or along the rolling hills over the next 12 miles. I believe everyone will wait for the big hill on the 2nd lap.” CJ Wolf
There are many advantages of racing in the 35+ 4 category. One of which is the 11am start time. So after a god nights sleep I jumped into the car to pick up Piers, the better part of the Dynamic duo. Also with me was my dad who flew in all the way from France to see me race.
As I unpacked my carbon tubulars, I discovered that my rear tire was missing much of the rubber in two locations. Dr. Piers quickly made the verdict; “racing on pure kevlar would be certain suicide”. Bummer! So much for days of reading the great advice on ‘clinchers vs. tubulars’ on our chat, only to realize that I should have done a better prep and check my gear in advance.
Piers on the other hand had left home without his jersey and the thought of him racing topless made me a bit worried. Fortunately Alan Roberts came to the rescue as his racing unfortunately had ended prematurely for him.
As for warm up, Piers and I road 5 min. out and 5 min back in a modest tempo. That was it. No need to exaggerate all that warm up ;-). So at 11am Piers and I was ready to roll in a group of approx. 30 riders set to combat for the next 42 miles.

It was an easy start, allowing Piers and I to hang in the back getting familiar with the non existing pavement. But contrary to last year, there were fewer real pot holes, which was good news.
First lap was a walk in the park and Piers and I got a good view of the course. All the fun first started as we hit the big climb on our second lap as CJ had predicted. A few riders with Piers and I put the pressure on, and quickly the field was exploding. Piers and I nearly ended our race then as the two of us had a bumbling of wheels, but fortunately Piers unclipped, regained balance and we could continue. At the top of the climb we were 7 riders in what would turn out to be the building block for the winning break. We had put some effort in, but saved our matches for the final climb.
Then came a great collective effort with 10 sec. pulls in a fast moving pace line. A few riders showed sign of damage, but all in all we made the rotation work more or less smoothly. The chasing peleton never had a chance to get back.

During the rotations Piers and I used the small overlaps to chat about the final tactics. With 7 in the break and only Piers and I from the same team we had a strong advantage over the others and we were ready to play that hand when we started on the last climb at mile 38. Its a another ‘little hill’ of 300 vertical gain and about 1 mile long, but the perfect place to split the group. So as we started the steep part of the climb Piers accelerated and I stayed behind to keep folks in check. Unfortunately as Piers had been sick for most of the week prior to the race, he missed the killer ignition that he is otherwise famous of. So the other riders stuck to his wheel as he pulled up. It was then my turn to see if I could make a difference. Coming 100 m from the top I counter-attacked, reached into my stash of matches and pulled a few to light up the fire. Then came half a mile of rollers and gradual decent. A group including Piers caught me halfway down the decent, but it allowed me to get my breath for a few sec. to once again dig deep and pull away, shouting to Piers that we now only where 3. Racing down the last decent with 43mph is not for the faint at heart. Especially when there are numerous turns and the road is bumpy as hell. My bike was shaking like crazy. Piers did the right thing for the team by staying in the other riders wheel, letting him do all the work to bridge me, however I am sure Piers could have challenged me for the victory itself if I had not pulled away.
With 200m left, the road climbs all the way up the finish line. The other rider got up to my wheel and started moving past me. “Hell no” I thought. Fortunately he had spent all his energy chasing me, so when I went into sprint mode he had no more to give and I could race my hand in victory. Piers finished right behind us as 3rd.

 

Thanks CJ for good tactical advice, Alan for making sure that Piers did not have to ride top less and a BIG thanks to an amazing team effort from Batman himself, Piers. I will make it up to you when ever you are ready!
Next up Sea Otter…..
Eric

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