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Snelling RR 2013. Hans Gouwens takes 2nd 45+ 123 and Eric Lagier takes 3rd E4.

Eric Lagier take 3rd in the E4 at Snelling.

Who plans a road race to start at 8.20am, 3, hours drive from Mill Valley, expecting the field of 100 to fill up. Still this is what happened. 100 riders registered for 63.2 miles of RR. The course, 5 laps of   11.7 mile each of narrow country roads northwest of Snelling, Several small hills, several sharp turns with excellent to fair pavement.

Snelling Road Race. 63.2 miles
Snelling Road Race. 63.2 miles

Piers Barry, joining me for his first cat 4 race, and I, decided to explore the ‘luxury’ of a Merced Best Western motel, allowing us to sleep till 6.20 before getting up and ready for the Elite Cat 4 race. Yep, you got it right, why make it easy and register for the 35+ 4 with race start at 12.25 and a field limited to 60, when you can challenge yourself with a group of 100 young and energetic cat 4 riders.

Piers with a nice souvenir of his close encounter with the pavement.
Piers with a nice souvenir of his close encounter with the pavement.

8.10 and we were ready to race. After a neutral lead out of Snelling, the race was opened up and we started on our first of 5 laps. Pace was moderate, but a lot of movement and often I found myself stuck in the middle, with riders coming up from both side, only to experienced to be pushed out the back. It does take some time to get used to 100 riders around you, and I kept thinking of the wise words from the Early Bird clinics; “protect your front wheel”. Still multiple times Piers and I had riders paying no attention when shifting position, which unfortunately resulted in Piers crashing hard on lap 3. A rider made an erratic move to the left, leaving no chance for Piers. Down he went – HARD. I was right behind, but fortunately managed to stay clear as the pace was moderate going up a hill. The peloton continued, but I stayed behind and waited for Piers to get up on this bike again and together we chased to get up to the peloton again.


After that close encounter with pavement, both Piers and I stayed closer to the front, to stay clear of more crashes and also be ready for any attacks. Numerous attacks in the front was started, but was no problem to stay on to their wheel. On the 4th lap Piers tapped my back and said “lets go”, as a few other riders was increasing the speed. Both Piers and I pulled hard to create a gap, but we only managed to get a few sec. Another rider attached solo and I jumped onto his wheel. Coming to a sharp turn, staying right behind his wheel, I could see that he had misread that turn completely, and I fortunately chose my own path, as he skidded out on the side of the road with lots of gravel and then did a slam dunk into the pavement. Not a nice sight, and the second crash of the day.

The dynamic duo. New cat 4 riders Piers Barry and Eric Lagier
The dynamic duo. New cat 4 riders Piers Barry and Eric Lagier

The great thing with road races that have laps, is that it allows you to check out the course and plan for the best place to attack and prepare for the finish. I had noticed that 3.2. miles from the finish, once passing a small bridge and a slight turn, there was a good little hill, followed by yet another hill. This for me would be a perfect place to attack if it was going to be. I told Piers my intentions and as we started on the final lap I hoped that no breaks would form before then. The good news was that the peloton was good at neutralizing any attacks, the bad news was that both Piers and I continued to struggle for a good placement in front and as we approached my attack point, the bridge, I found myself locked in between many riders. So nothing else to do than slow down, move to the far far left – and I mean where pavement stops and gravel takes over, and then start pulling hard. As we started the climb after the bridge, I turned on the ThirstyBear jet engine. A Jet engine I had been practicing with Hans on the 7 sisters and I went all in. Piers unfortunately was stuck and could not join me, nor could any one else for that matter, leaving me alone with 3.2 miles solovride to go with the peloton fiercely chasing me. Fortunately, once done with the two climbs, and the sharp turn, where the other rider had crashed just before, I had a straight road with nice tailwind. Going 27 miles an hour I was able to keep the peloton away. I kept forcing the pace, only looking back very few times. Meanwhile Piers was hard at work as a one man army, going up in front, and as a one man wall, trying to slow down the entire peloton! As we approached the finish line, there is a sharp turn, lots of gravel and many potholes, I therefore slowed down, and the peleton nearly caught onto me, but a exploding tubular wheel and subsequent serious crash with lots of body and hardware damage, made the peleton break into two and I just jumped up from the saddle and sprinted the last 200 meters. Unfortunately I had to let 2 riders pass me at the top of the finish. Still I was happy I had made the solo break and finished 3rd. My 2nd podium place in basically a week. Thanks Piers for great riding support. Next time, at Copporopolis I will repay and set you up for the win.


Hans Gouwens takes 2nd in 45+123 at Snelling

Woke up at 6am all jittery thinking about the Omloop van het Nieuwsblad, the first classic race of the season among the Pro Peloton in Europe.  As soon as I finished making some coffee, I fired up the laptop to get on Sporza, the Belgium channel to listen to my southerners speak funny Dutch.

I used to go to Belgium to party as a teenager and I spent many weekends in Antwerp, Brugge, and Ghent. A crowded St-Peter’s square in Ghent welcomed last year’s surprise winner Sep Vanmarcke (Blanco) and 197 other riders who were about to tackle the 198 tough kilometers over the narrow and twisting Flemish roads while enduring freezing temperatures and a blisteringly cold wind.
I had my hopes up high for Lars Boom (Blanco) to take the win today, but instead it was Luca Paolini of Katusha who showed the friet eaters how to finish a race.
Next up, our own Classic – the Snelling Road Race in sans culture Snelling. No van Eyck Altarpiece and certainly no frites met mayonnaise.
I met Alan “Pelo” Roberts at the Marin Brew Co at 9am for the docile drive to the central valley.  Our spin sensei fitfully parked his Prius in the last spot available and gave us the perfect meeting spot with Giel, Gardie, Eric, and a bloodied Piers.  Eric just took 3rd in the cat 4s, while Piers found some pavement along the way to the finish line.  Dan Palmer joined in and soon it was time to get serious about racing the 45+123 for Alan, Dan, and myself. Giel and Gardie took off with the Pro12s
The general plan was to watch and see and save the bullets for the last half of the race. Since Alan has the best sprint he was told to sit in and not to waist any energy just in case it came down to a small field sprint.
As soon as the 50 some riders were unleashed after the neutral section, the attacks came sooner than expected. There were at least a dozen guys to mark and numerous teams with plenty of depth to take into account.
Halfway into the first lap I found myself chasing Kevin Klein with a guy I had never seen before. He was super strong and put me on edge several times. After a full lap of chasing, Klein still had 20-30 seconds on us and my break companion finally threw in the towel. What followed was plenty of other accelerations and numerous half ass attacks without any serious commitments. Found myself chasing again for yet another lap with two other fresh-legged guys, but never got close enough to catch Klein.
In the end, all the hard work paid off to go with every move. I finally got away solo during the final lap on the tailwind, downhill segment and decided to wait for CSC rider Scott Hollander (at least he had the right last name) who had broken away from the peloton as well.  The two of us drilled it and finally caught Klein. I had warned Scott that the only way to win this race was to attack Klein as soon as we got close. Went as hard as we could, but Klein got the 15 seconds of rest he needed when he saw us coming and was able to grab a wheel. As predicted, he sat in with 3 miles left to race.
Knowing that I couldn’t beat Kevin in a sprint, I attacked with 1k to go to get rid off Scott Hollander. Klein came around me with 200 meters to go.
Dan got 9th, Alan 26th – excellent race fellows!
Posted by Hans Gouwens.

For a list of all results click here.


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