What better than to wake up at 4 am for the California version of “the Hell of the North”? This was to be my first Big Goal for the 2013 season and I was so excited to race that I woke up before the 4 am buzzer.
After my Peet’s fix, I met Scot and Alan at Marin Brew Co at 5 am for the 2 hour drive to Milton, CA. This must have been the warmest start of any Copperopolis race I have ever done over the past 12 years – no gloves, no arm warmers, no nothing extra weight. Speaking of weight, I finally got below 150 lbs in 8 years and with all the Tuesday Torture miles under my 28 inch belt I knew I was ready to race hard and compete with the best of the old farts in NorCal.
Arthur, Duane, Holger, Scot, and Alan were the other Hungry Bears to race hard in a field of 42 starters.
The first of three laps was pretty mellow. Duane got in a break early on, while Arthur patrolled the front for any bridge attempts. Holger got in a break next, which really gave the rest of us an easy task to follow wheels.
After the first lap we still had Scot, Duane, Holger, and Arthur showing some good team representation as we approached the main climb for the second time. This time, however, the pace was pretty intense and as we crested the top we were left with just seven. Former TBear Alex Osborne, David Passmore (SJBC), Mark Zimbelman and Cris Williams (Volo Cycling), Dirk Himley (Echelon), John Cavanaugh (PrimeTime), and myself.
Perfect team representation to keep things going smoothly, but sooner than later the infighting took over and the pace drop considerably. Nevertheless, we were able to stay clear of the peloton behind us as we approached the hill before the finish. Cavanaugh was cooked and somehow Zimbelman crossed wheels with his own team mate and went side ways instead of up hill.
One lap to go and 5 guys left and I’m feeling good.
Final time up the main climb I knew that I had to treat it as if it was the finish of the race – miss the connection and be left solo or dig deep and stay with the front. Dirk Himley did what he does best and put the hurt on all the others. Only Passmore was able to follow, while I got gapped by about five bike lengths as we went over the top. Had to dig pretty deep into the pain cave, but managed to get back on and off we went.
The final 10 miles was almost a stroll in the park as the three of us had built a huge lead. Once we approach the final climb before the bumpy and speedy downhill finish, nobody wanted to take the front. Ultimately, Himley drilled it and Passmore couldn’t stay on his wheel. I jumped across to get on Himley’s wheel halfway up the hill, but he quickly pulled off to the left to let me set tempo. I had little choice, thinking that 2nd is better than 3rd because Passmore was not that far behind. So I pulled Himley all the way to 200 meters and knew he was going to come around. I tried to get on his wheel but got gapped too much to have a chance. Still, 2nd is better than 3rd and if I have to take his word for it (“I owe you”) my day will come.
Dirk is a good guy, a beast, a competitor. He can be beat, but not today.