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ThirstyBears pb Akamai show true team effort to win Copperopolis 45+

Tom Lyons wins the sprint at Copperopolis 2016. Photo: Alex Chiu Photography
Tom Lyons wins the sprint at Copperopolis 2016. Photo: Alex Chiu Photography
Copperopolis Road Race
64mi (3 laps)
ThirstyBear p/b Akamai Lineup – Brenon Daly, Shawn Daly, Chris Phipps, Scot McLean, Dan Palmer, Tom Lyons
Field – 32
Three laps of rough road – a gradual descent to start the loop followed by a 4mi climb through the feed zone to the reservoir, a long section of flat and rolling terrain through the upper valley finishing with a 1mi climb and 3mi spine chilling descent. It’s about a mile from the bottom of the hill to the finish over a couple rollers with the last 300mi uphill to the line.
The main cast of characters in our race included Peet’s (Dan Bryant, Chris Ott, Dean LeBerge, Ron Reade), and Make A Wish (Bryan Hoadley, Cameron Birky, Todd Bell, Roger Martin). Individuals included Robert Pasco (Safeway) and Bill Laddish (Castro Valley).
Shawn and I took our customary spot patrolling the back of the peloton in the early miles. Soon Brenon, Roger Martin, and another rider got a gap on the climb and the initial break was set. By the top of the climb, we had gapped a handful of guys but everyone soon got back on. Right about then, Chris got a flat. We stopped and Dan gave Chris his wheel. This was the story of the race – how a teammate would take his whole Saturday just to ride for a half hour then give up his wheel, and his race. Dan is just getting back into racing after a couple years break – to do this for Chris was an amazing gesture and obviously what it means to have a strong team bond among the riders. Scot, Shawn, and I paced Chris back to a lethargic peloton. If nothing else, we felt like a pro team but it could have been a dangerous move leaving no one in the peloton. In the end, our quick reaction to adversity proved beneficial.
Peet’s was left out of the break so Dean LeBerge went to the front with very little help from others. It wasn’t working to bring back the break so Dan Bryant took things into his own hands. He led the chase from the end of the upper valley, over the hill, down the hill, and back to the main climb. It was fast and by the time he caught the break half way up the main climb, guys were hurting on the back.
There were only a few of us left (including Chris, Scot, and I) when we caught the break. Chris went to the front and kept the pace high. Brenon jumped on and after a short time I looked back to see the chasers 100 meters behind us. We went over the top with 45 secs lead and three ThirstyBears (Chris, Brenon, and I) with Dan Bryant in front. Scot was in a chase group of eight (Pasco, Hobb’s, etc..). Dan was a little reluctant to work with us but we agreed he would rotate but take shorter pulls. To which I suggested Chris do the same and let Brenon and I do the majority of the work to get the break established. We did that for a lap and our break grew to over 2:00 (maybe more – the moto wasn’t giving us much). Our scenario lended itself to a couple of interesting scenarios. We could get a guy solo off the front to try to win it that way. But that would require a lot of attacking since Dan has no weakness. Or we would have to wait until the sprint which is always a risky move (see 2015 Hiet Nieuwsblad where Ian Stannard beats three Etixx guys in a break). We did not want to be Etixx. We also knew we wouldn’t be Thirsty Bear going 1-2-3 out of the break from the Chico Stage Race Master’s Pro 45 road race.
Brenon Daly leads the break at Copperopolis 2016. Photo: Alex Chiu Photography
Brenon Daly leads the break at Copperopolis 2016. Photo: Alex Chiu Photography
Obviously our main play was to have Chris attack the main climb and see if he can get away there.  He tried. I even got in on the attacks there to help things but all it did was tire me out for the final steep pitch. Chris couldn’t shake Dan. This is where we took advantage of having numbers in a break. Brenon and I kept our pace reasonable and Chris just sat on Dan who did not want to drag Chris around the course for 15 miles. Brenon and I easily rejoined the two Stars and Stripes boys. And then over the next 10 miles in the upper valley, Chris and I attacked and counterattacked Dan over and over. And he kept coming back. I couldn’t believe it. I’m sure all of us wanted it to end at some point but we just kept doing it. And Dan kept responding. Brenon was struggling from the early break miles and recovering from his nasty illness (how in the world he rode as strong as he did, I have no idea!). He would get gapped on these surges but then come back to us once we calmed down. He attacked a few times too. Near the end of the valley I got gapped on a couple of Chris’s counterattacks and realized I should now just stop doing this and save it for the sprint. Chris kindly sat on Dan each time and Brenon and I got back on. On the last one, Dan probably should have just gone to the front and not let us back, but his prize for doing that was to drag Chris to the line. Just before the final climb, Chris asked me if I had a sprint in me to which I said “yes.” I think that convinced him not to hammer the last climb and change our plan to “leave it to the sprint.”
The pace was still high up the hill causing Brenon to drift back. I wanted to lead the downhill so I could see the route and also not get gapped by Dan. We got to the bottom and both guys came by me. Then Dan wound up on the front up the little rise before 1K. We almost came to a standstill. It was down to 10mph. Real track stuff. Dan, me, then Chris in that order. The perfect setup for Chris to attack. And then wham! From 10mph to 40mph instantly. I was ready and got low behind Dan able to coast some while he pedaled furiously to try to close on Chris. Chris gave the perfect lead out – he went as hard as he could for as long as he could without regard to the finish line. It took Dan all the way until the 300m mark to catch Chris. I followed Dan into the last turn and jumped hard to the finish. A very satisfying team win. And very relieved that we were able to NOT be team Etixx ’15.
Really impressed with how the 45+ team has raced this year. When everyone is there to race for the team result, good things happen. Sure makes this hobby of ours a lot of fun.
Tom Lyons

ThirstyBears p/b Akamai dominate the podium with Tom Lyons first and National Champ Chris Phipps 3rd.
ThirstyBears p/b Akamai dominate the podium with Tom Lyons first and National Champ Chris Phipps 3rd.

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