Sunday, April 20, 2014

Copperopolis by Matthew Sloan 35+ Cat. 4s

Bob gave a good detailed account of the course and terrain. I love courses that sort the field out. This was definitely one of those. The bumpiness wasn't a problem. I relaxed as much as possible and let my body shake it away. Being a regular mountain biker was definitely in my favor for this course.

Thirty plus riders lined up at 11:00 for the start of two laps. It takes all of 1/4 mile to hit the first section of rough country road. There were quite a few strong looking riders in the field. One rider, Chad Richards, pipped me on the line in the Chico road race. He is a good climber, so he was definitely on my radar. Unfortunately for him, his chain got twisted when it jumped from the large to the small ring and got caught in the front derailleur. The chain made an annoying, clicking sound as it jumped between gears on the rear cassette. This became the sound track to the race as Chad amazingly stuck it out with us.

On the first of the climbs, a Wente rider lead it out hard. I was expecting people to attack off that kind of pace but that didn't happen. What occurred was the field got split. By the top of the climb we were down to fourteen. The Wente rider wanted to breakaway, but I told him all we were doing was dragging everyone with us. The pace didn't slack throughout the whole race as different riders would go to the front and work. I think they were trying to breakaway but they always did it from the front so nothing ever stuck.

The downhill section was pretty hairy. On the first lap we all came through unscathed. Again on the first hill of the lap, the Wente rider pulled hard at the front. We lost another four. We were down to ten. His teammate and a couple of others kept it hard until the final climb. I lit one match during this phase of the race. We were going into the wind and I casually edged over to the left and pulled away. I turned around and saw I had a bit of a gap. I pushed a bit harder but the eventual first and second placed guys, Aaron Yevuta and David Kirkbride, reeled me back in sharpish. Those two had been added to my radar back on the first lap. With one match burnt, I decided to sit in. This is what I had been doing for most of the race apart from a couple of easy pulls on the front - just not to look like a total wheel hog.

With the second of the Wente riders on the front, an interesting thing happened. A bird managed to excrete onto my right arm. Now, in England, or at least the seaside town I grew up in, this is considered good luck. Probably, something to make children feel better about all the pigeon poop that comes down from the heavens. As soon as I was pooped on, a hare (large rabbit) came shooting from the side of the road and ran along side us and in front of us for about 30 meters. I definitely felt something good was going to happen. Am I superstitious? Perhaps...

When we got to the final hill for the second time the other Wente rider, the climber guy, went to the front and pulled us up the hill again. This stretched us out a bit. A rider with a  black kit with a spine down the back of it, hit the downhill really fast. The first six had a gap on me but I knew I would make it back on the small rollers at the bottom. A rider just in front of me went to the outside left of a right turn. It was off camber. Unfortunately, he skidded on the gravel and went down terribly. His bike flew to the right and close to me. Fortunately, he was fine. (I saw him receiving treatment for road rash at the finish.) I maneuvered past his bike and continued the decent. On the first of the slight uphills I caught the first five.

I was eager to make an attack. I waited until the downhill section just past the 1 km sign. I used my momentum to give me a small lead going into the last 200m. Unfortunately, I was caught with about 30m to go. Perhaps, I went to early but 3rd place with such strong 4s felt good. I wasn't expecting too much from the day, considering the reputation of the race and the climbing, so 3rd and five upgrade points felt, and continues to feel, very good indeed!

Next week Wente! I need to eat salad every evening this week! Wish me luck with that.

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