By Dennis Pedersen
I really like these road races; partly because Fort Ord is just a 45-minute drive from Santa Cruz, and partly because the race categories are so friendly to a Category 3 Master like me with several options of when to race.
I picked up Nils so he could race the Elite 2/3 race at 12:30. I warmed up by sitting in my car and reading a book during Nils' race (which he won!) while I waited for my 2:00 race start. I then donned my brand-new Spokesman Bicycles kit, Giro Air Attack helmet (with scary-looking visor!), ate a gel, filled up my water bottle and lined up at the start.
My training this year is focused exclusively on track sprinting with my longest priority race being somewhere around 50 seconds, so I have low expectations for other races I enter. But this 4.3-mile course on rolling hills has no long climbs and is just 60 minutes for my field (5 laps) so I felt it might still work OK for me.
There were only about 15 racers in my field, which is fun because you can really keep an eye on the other riders and force them to work rather than let them sit in a huge draft. The race started out rather slow, much to my delight, and was mostly slow the whole time. The pace was painful on the short, steep sections, but never for very long so I had no trouble at all.
A guy from Steven's Bicycles (a team from the Fresno area) attacked, I think with two laps to go, but we caught him at the top of Eucalyptus. Then his teammate went slowly off the front as we started the last lap... so I'm told; I'm embarrased to say I didn't notice. Anyway, he ended up somehow crashing into a bush at the side of Eucalyptus Road while riding by himself. Poor guy broke his collarbone I learned later.
Bob White (Bicycle Blue Book) obliged with an early sprint on the right of the long straight, and Erik Salander (Peninsula Velo) followed him. Both are fast, but I resisted the urge to follow them. Instead I drafted a bit longer, but made sure I had an opening to the front. I then rolled after them into the last two turns, and attacked all-out as we exited the last turn. This slingshot effect allowed me to pass the two guys still ahead of me at a fast pace and amass a big enough lead that gave me the win. 1st place went to this track sprinter! Which makes me wonder about the value of some of my past training, but that's another story.