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IronBears go 1st and 2nd at Wente Road Race

Date:  April 30, 2011
Event:  Wente Road Race, Livermore, CA
Category:  35+1/2/3
Distance:  4 laps (63 miles)
Field:  approx 45
Placing:  2nd
Teammates:  Chris Phipps (1st), Paul Dyrwal (11th), Tom Roberts (12th), Ron Castia, Brenon Daly, Duane Coughlan, Greg McQuaid

After a bit of disappointment at Copperopolis last weekend (flatted with about 4 miles to go while in the main chase group that ended up sprinting for 2nd place), I was ready for a little revenge at Wente this weekend.

We rolled out into a monster headwind and the first few miles were spent dodging wheels because nobody really wanted to work hard into the headwind.  Ron took advantage of this lull and took off on an early breakaway.  Nobody gave chase, so he stayed about 150 yards ahead for quite a while.  We turned onto Altamont Pass and the headwind became a cross wind and the field lined out behind the front echelon.  As we approached Carroll, I saw Chris crusing up the right side of the peloton and knew the pain was about to start.  Sure enough, it was full throttle up the climb and my legs were very vocal about my lack of warm-up.  I remember thinking that if the climb hurt this much every time, I might be in trouble.  We hit the top of the cilmb and had already shed a few guys and Chris kept the pace high on the false flat atop the pass.  We roared down the descent and made the left turn onto Patterson Pass and once again there was Chris, drilling it hard at the front.  Thankfully I was chilling a few guys back, watching out for dangerous breaks and generally trying to gradually get into the race.

There were lots of break attempts throughout the race, but the field was having none of it today.  The 2nd time up the climb was just as tough as the first, but my legs felt better and I started looking around at the competition to see who looked good and who was struggling.  Surprisingly, the Specialized guys were active throughout the race, but didn’t look to be as dominant as they usually are.  Safeway had a couple strong guys in Nick Theobald and Jan Weissenberger, but Jonathan Eropkin wasn’t in attendance.  Brian Choi (part of the all-day break last weekend at Copperopolis) looked good, as did Greg Anderson of Morgan Stanley and also the Folsom Bike guys and Andres Gil of Michael David Winery.  Ron attacked a few more times along the way, and Paul, Greg, Chris, Brenon and Tom all jumped into promising looking breaks, but every time the field would work to bring them back.  

On the 3rd lap, I was near the front at the top of the pass and took advantage of a little lull to take off on a solo break.  I stayed away until the flat roads after Cross, where I was caught by the field, but managed to jump into the echelon and start recovering for the next series of attacks.  Shortly after we turned onto Greenville, a promising break formed with all the big teams represented.  Unfortunately, that meant there were too many guys and all the solo guys who missed out immediately took to pulling the field back together, so we headed for the climb with about 25 guys, with 5 or 6 Thirsty Bears.  The attacks and chasing brought us up to the Cat 3’s and they were neutralized while we passed just past the start area.  The field rolled smoothly along towards the climb and once again Phipps went to the front and set a hard tempo.  It was on this climb that I was able to get a bottle from a buddy of mine and I knew I had good legs because I was able to speed up and get back to the top 5 or so position I’d held at the bottom of the climb.  We definitely hit this climb hard and by the top of the pass, we had whittled this down to about 12, but a few more caught back on as we descended.  I went to the front to help keep the pace up as we cruised around the back side of the course and was thankful for Tom Roberts’ help as we headed back into the wind.

We caught and passed Kyle’s Cat 3 break and played ‘cat-and-mouse’ with him until the real aggression started on Greenville, with attacks and counter-attacks coming thick and fast.  Paul and I ended up in a break with Kevin Metcalfe and a bit of a gap, but once again the field wasn’t about to let 2 Thirsty Bears get away, so we were back together on the flat stretch heading towards the start.  Weissenberger launched an attack and I found myself on Metcalfe’s wheel following it.  I looked back and could see one other guy behind me and a nice gap to the field.  The other guy turned out to be Andres Gil (big thanks to Paul for pointing him out at Copper last weekend).  Well, we all saw the gap and so Metcale, Gil and I put the hammer down.  Weissenberger immediately starting sitting on and I was a little concerned that he might be trying to pull a fast one on us, so I mentioned to Gil that we needed to lose our ‘passenger’ and he and I started taking turns attacking hard to keep Weissenberger on the ropes.  Metcalfe was working with us, and was in the right spot in the rotation so he wasn’t bearing the brunt of our attacks, but we couldn’t get rid of Weissenberger.

As we turned onto Altamont, Jason Boynton of Folsom Bike bridged up to us and he also worked, so we had a break of 5, with 4 workers.  We kept the pressure on and despite the moto ref saying we only had a few seconds gap, every time I looked back I didn’t see the field, so I kept pulling hard to make sure we stayed away, also knowing that Phipps could easily close a 30 second gap on the climb.  We approached Carroll and I watched everyone in the break drop into their small chainrings to prepare for the climb.  I knew I could do the climb in my big ring (I run a 50 tooth compact) and knew that would give me an advantage once the climb started to level off.  I also knew that I could out-climb Metcalfe, Boynton and Weissenberger today so I kept my eye on Gil as we started the climb.  When he shifted and attacked up the left side, I attacked up the right side and only Metcalfe could stay close, but he was clearly struggling.  I got onto Gil’s wheel to recover for a few seconds and then I attacked again.  That was the end of Metcalfe and I heard a spectator cheering him on and saying that Phipps was coming.  Sure enough, I looked back and there was Chris, coming up fast from behind.  While I really wanted to get the win, I knew Gil was very strong and he was still hanging tough, so when Chris caught us, I told him to go, figuring that I’d follow Gil and tell Chris if Gil was able to get on his wheel.  Well, Chris pulled away and Gil couldn’t follow his attack, so I sat on Gil waiting for him to burn out.  He backed off, and I hit it hard with about 150m to go.  I didn’t look back and crossed the line in 2nd.

Even though I was 2nd, it was a great feeling to know that I could have won against a very strong field.  Afterwards, Chris even said I should’ve told him I was coming up and he’d have let me get the win, but I didn’t want to risk Gil catching back up (plus the fact that I was way into the Hojo zone and talking was simply not possible).  I’m extremely happy with my result and also happy to see Chris get the hat trick at this race.  He was definitely the strongest guy in the field and totally deserved the win.  Not to mention that the whole team put in a huge effort to make it possible for Chris and I to stack the podium.  I’m really looking forward to working over the field next weekend at Berkeley Hills and have even more motivation to lose weight and be at the top of my game for Mt Hamilton and Pescadero.

Ken G


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