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Hans Gouwens wins Copperopolis 55+

ThirstyBears: Alan, Brian, Max, myself

Race plan: control the first lap, have someone up the road if there is a break going early, ride a hard tempo up the main climb on the final lap, and save Max for the sprint.

After doing 5 laps for 100+ miles with Phipps in the P12 last year, 2 laps of racing in the 55+ might seem like an easy spin around the block. We even got to sleep in because our race didn’t start until 11:25 am.  Fun to see all the action of the 35+123 and 45+123 go by with ThirstyBears at the front of the race every single lap.

The guys in our race to watch were Steve Archer (Morgan Stanley), Jon Ornstil (Hammer), Rob Anderson and Larry Nolan (Specialized), Jan Elsbach (Davis), and dark horse Mark Caldwell (Truckee Bicycle Team, but has probably won every NCNCA race on the calendar once or twice for Morgan Stanley).
We rolled out with 25 racers and Alan set a solid tempo all the way through the feed and the first part of the climb. As expected, Ornstil took over and tried to impress us all with his fitness. Anderson joined him up front and I was happy to sit third wheel. As we approached the top of the climb I glanced back and realized that Archer got gapped with Max sitting on his wheel. I surged to see what would happen and Anderson was the only one to respond, but wouldn’t pull through. I figured he wanted to keep it together for Nolan.
Max, Archer, Ornstil, and three or four others caught up with us, but except for Max and Archer nobody looked interested to keep the pace high, so I put in another dig to see if people would join me in the effort. Again, it was Anderson who came after me, but wouldn’t come through. I asked him if he was just going to sit on my wheel, but he could barely answer as he was still sputtering spit from the previous effort to chase me down.
A towed him for a while, but once we made the 90 degree left turn at the reservoir he pulled through and did his share of the work.  We quickly gained 40 seconds and the rest of the 36 mile race became a two men time trial.
At the start of the second lap we had about 2 minutes and decided to take it down a notch. With 10 miles to go Rob asked me, “so how are we going to play this out”? I told him that I knew his strength and my own weakness and that it would take some smart racing to beat him. I had given him the impression the second time up the main climb that I had trouble holding his wheel on the steeper parts, opening up a three bike length gap while breathing heavily.
As we approached the final climb before the long descent to the finish, I had Rob take a longer pull and attacked him hard into the wind. Gave it a maximum effort for about a minute before looking back once I started my downhill journey and realized I was solo.
I kept the pace high all the way to the finish and won by about 30 seconds.
Meanwhile, the second time up the main climb Max and Archer were able ride away from the remaining group of 10-12 chasers which included Alan and Brian. Max was able to distance Archer to take the last podium spot. Alan took 8th and Brian 11th.

Looking forward to the next race and hopefully I can return the favor to my teammates to set them up for a win 😉

Hans Gouwens

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