Race Report – Topsport Stage Race – April 5-6, 2014
Topsport Stage Race is a wonderful race on some great courses. I did this last year and won the overall in the Master 35+ 4/5. So I was motivated to do well again this year. Pre-reg wasn’t doing so hot as many categories had only a few riders. The M35+ 4’s only had 9 guys signed up when reg closed. The organizer emailed us and decided to combine our Cat with the 45+ 4’s which had 21 guys signed up. So 30 of us would race together but would be scored separately. This would make for much more exiting and dynamic racing. I believe the proximity to the Sea Otter is why this race didn’t have more people sign up. Hopefully they take that into account for scheduling it next year.
The 57 mile, 6 lap road race was Saturday around noon. We lined up and I scoped the competition. There was a very fit looking 45+ Asian guy that seemed to be the one of the ones to watch. There were a few teams but nothing that had me worried. I knew, just like the weekend before at Turlock, I wanted to make this a very hard race. I had no intention of sprinting 29 guys to the line. I wanted to get in a move or make one happen. The course was rolling and twisty and there was a howling 20+ mph wind coming from the NW. The wind would make the race much harder and add to the dynamics as there were lots head, cross and tail wind sections.
There were a few attacks that I quickly covered. Each time in to the strongest head wind section everyone would sit up. With about 15 miles or lap and half to go one of the Victory Velo guys jumped and got a 20 seconds gap. We let him dangle in the cross/tail winds for about 4 miles. At the 1 km to go sign the road turns into a fierce head/cross wind section and there is a set of steep little bumps that hurt pretty good and was a perfect opportunity to attack and bridge. I went hard and bridged to the solo VV rider and we were off. I could tell he was tired from his solo effort as I pulled across the finish line and went into the last lap of 9.5 miles. A few minutes later another rider bridged up and the 3 of us started working together. There was a curious little fellow in the group that pulled everyone up to us a few miles later. I called him the energizer bunny. He wore a skinsuit, one of the new aero Giro helmets, and had every aero wind cheating component under the sun on his road bike (aero frame, deep dish wheels, aero bar and stem etc..) Apparently his skills were in the Time Trial discipline and so he slowly TT’ed back to us and dragged the group with him.
Back into the head wind section and easing up to recover a bit. Then at about 8K to go you take a right into a cross/tail wind very rolling section. The biggest hardest roller of the day saw a searing attack from one of the 45+ guys. I jumped on his wheel and we were up the road quickly. He started dying rather quickly and started pedaling squares. As he was drifting back to the chasing group I turned my head around and stared at the group coaxing someone, anyone to join me. To my delight the super strong Asian guy bridged up and with a nod of the head we were gone. BAM! 38 MPH hour pulls with a tail wind and not easing too much in the head wind section gave us a 30 second lead pretty quickly. I looked back a few times and saw the field shattered with gaps opening all over the place. My breakaway companion and I were perfectly matched taking long hard pulls and motivating each other the entire 8 KM to the line. We knew we had the gap and also the win in our respective categories plus a big lead on GC. With a 1km to go he led up the first roller into the headwind at 700m I came around for a pull up the 2nd harder roller. At 500m a sharp left led into the finish stretch which was a 3% downhill and then into the last 250m 4% uphill sprint to the line. Before the sharp lefty he jumped me and got a small 12 foot gap. We had a howling tail wind and we all know how hard it is to get back on a wheel in that situation. I didn’t have to challenge for the win b/c I had my category win in the bag but a voice inside me told me to go for it. With 400m I dug super deep even though I was fully at my limit. I kicked hard at 250m to go and did a perfectly timed bike throw to the line and got him by maybe a tire width!
I was the GC leader with a 31 seconds lead over the guy behind me and 45 seconds over third. I felt pretty confident that I could maintain this through the next day’s circuit race and time trial. I recovered well that evening with a wonderful Mexican meal and even better top shelf margarita!
The next morning our 75 minute circuit race started brutally early at 8:03 am. I was ready to defend the GC lead and primarily wanted to help Matthew Sloan win and get points towards his upgrade. I wanted to take it easy on the legs and get a good warm-up in before the TT. Well legs felt great and I did a bit more work than I should have. I chased some moves, got in a few short lived breaks, but in general kept it smooth and steady. Matthew took the win without help from me b/c I felt some twitchiness form the group and wanted to stay out of trouble.
The Time Trial was 2.5 hours after the finish of the circuit race. It was sunny and getting hot. The TT course is pretty brutal. Almost 11 miles of beat up, choppy pavement and several long rolling climbs. There were no spots to get into a pure TT rhythm and just let it roll. I knew it would be hard and my legs weren’t feeling too fresh during the warm up. The previous day’s breakaway effort, the circuit race earlier combined with over 2 months of racing every weekend, added up and I knew my legs were not fresh for the TT. But all I had to do was pace myself and hold onto the 31 second lead I had. Up to the line I went in last place with plenty of carrots in front of me. Bam I was off and settled into the pace I felt comfortable at. I normally TT around 180 BPM and I couldn’t get my heart rate about 174 BM so that was another indication of deep down fatigue. I couldn’t go deep into the hurt locker and force myself to normal TT pace no matter how bad I wanted to. I cam through with I knew wasn’t a super fast time but was happy overall in my effort.
Everyone was waiting at the town square for the final TT and GC results. It took what seemed like forever and during the wait 2nd on GC started conversing with me and telling me about his TT. He said he thinks he did a 26:01. My jaw sank. 26:01??? That is a ridiculously fast time. I did a 28:11 last year and a few of the strong guys I spoke with directly after today’s TT were thinking they did mid 27 minutes. So results came and I ended up 2nd in the TT at 27:27…which was 45 seconds faster than last years’ time. The GC winner did it in 26:03….which was 5th fastest time of the day out of the pro/1/2 and E3 and Master 35 1/2/3 according to the times they had posted. He managed to sneak by and take a well-deserved GC victory. His TT skills were mind blowing and there was nothing I could do to take the GC that day. Overall the victory in the Road Race was by far more significant for me that the GC win so overall it was a successful weekend.
I wanted to leave the Cat. 4’s with a bang. I have more than enough points for my 3’s upgrade which I will be submitting this week. It’s going to take me a while to get figure out how to be successful in the 3’s but I am very much looking forward to the challenge.