Sunday, April 6, 2014

TopSport Stage Race by Matthew

Saturday, April 5th, Road Race: Newton's 3rd Law

It must begin by saying our new team mate Rich Gellert had a flyer and won the combined 45+/35+ (scored separately) race. He can entertain you with the details.

"For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction." I have always held this law to be true not only on a physical level but on all levels of life. What actions must I take to get the Cycling Fates back on my side?! Last week I crashed out, this week, my Topsport hopes disintegrated due to a sliver of glass. It was less than 1/4" long and about a 1/16" wide at its thickest point. However, it may as well have been a sledge hammer for the the havoc it wreaked. 

We started the race at a moderate pace into a terrible head wind. Before reaching the end of the first lap. About two miles from the finish line. I felt my rim hit the tarmac on a corner. On the bumps I could feel the hardness of the road too keenly. I had a flat. I couldn't believe it. Without  the aid of support vehicles, I was forced to change my inner tube. I checked the inside of my tire and rim and found nothing. I got a floor pump from an official and pumped up the tire, but I was out of the race. Being a few minutes back, it would be virtually impossible to catch the group into the strong head wind. Even though I didn't need to - I would get the last person's time plus a penalty - I decided to finish the race. After 3 1/2 laps, I got another flat! Without another tube I was forced out. It was only on very close inspection in the comfort of my Angels Camp motel room that I found a tiny sliver of glass embedded in my tire. Beaten by glass!

I relaxed that night. I ate well - lots of carbs and recovery food. I stretched out and generally worked on brightening my mood. I wanted to hit the next day hard and "full of beans!", as they sometimes say in Britain.

Sunday, April 6th, Circuit Race: 8:03 a.m. 45+/35+ cat 4s combined

Got up nice and early! Prepared myself, mentally, physically, psychologically, and emotionally for the new day! I ate a small breakfast and drove 20 minutes to Copperopolis (a purposely built town square for the tourist industry:

I felt good. Bob Montague wished me luck and gave me some good advice: "Don't crash! Don't go down on the corners." I assured him that I would stay up for the whole race (I did!) and I wished him luck on his race. I warmed up a little with Rich Gellert. He was overall leader. He said he would do all he could to lead me out for a good sprint. Due to some unusual circumstances, we couldn't put our plan into action but we both finished well.

The circuit course was great. Good, fast tarmac with rolling hills. The start is in Copper Town Square. The course loops around the square,  onto Little John Road, where you go out 2 miles, do a u-turn, and come back to town. The finish is 3KM from the u-turn, about a mile before the town square. 

We started the race fast. "Energizer Bunny," as Rich called him, went out fast. He continued to make attacks during the race but they were unhelpful and erratic. At one point, I was feeling boxed in and wanted to stretch my legs. I accelerated away to see what would happen. A couple came after me but so did the rest of the group. I sat up, talked to Rich, and let someone else pull. There was one attack that Rich bridged up to. I hit it hard and bridged up too. As three riders we exchanged pulls for about a mile but the group didn't want us to get away. With Rich as overall 35+ leader there were a few riders who didn't want to see him get even more time on them. 

I settled in, working to stay in the top ten. Rich spoke with the 45+ rider, James Chao, who he broke away with in the road race. He asked if he would breakaway with me to get first in our respective categories. James and I planned to hit it hard on the final u-turn and pull away from the others. I am not entirely convinced he really wanted to do this because when the time came he didn't seem to fully commit (but I could be wrong, I know I didn't want to burn matches unnecessarily). 

When the time did come, it was a surprise to all of us. We had just gone past the finish line with the lap counter showing: 2 laps. We went through the town square and back up the road on the other side of the finish line. As we came past, on what we thought was our 2nd to last lap, they started ringing the bell and crying out, "LAST LAP! LAST LAP!" They had made a timing mistake. Well, that got everyone going! I knew I wanted to be in the top two or three through the hairpin. I kept that position with Chao in front of me. I pulled past him hard and he got on my wheel. I signaled and he came past me but not in full flight. The bunch was just behind us. I could see it was going to come down to a mass sprint. 

There were about five of us abreast with 2 KM to go. It felt a bit hairy but I knew I didn't want to go early, as I had in Chico, and lose it. With my senses on full alert, I rode hard but not flat out. At 1KM to go, a Pen Velo rider hit hard. I got straight on his wheel. He broke things up a bit, but I could feel other riders readying their sprint. As we came neared 200M to go, I went into a hard gear and started cranking it out, it was kind of a power sprint. I pulled ahead and really let rip. Unfortunately, "Mr. Energizer" (I am sorry to say, I don't know the rider's name) got me by about half a bike length, I came second, James Chao third. However, I was first 35+ to finish. This gave me valuable points towards my upgrade and consolation for having the mechanical in the road race. 

Sunday, April 6th, 12:14PM: Time Trial

After the circuit race, I had a little lunch with Rich and his friend, spoke with Bob about our experience thus far, and prepared for the TT.

Officially, they say it's a ten mile out and back course. My Garmin and others had it closer to 11 miles. It's not a very fast course, it's a tough one! Very lumpy, bumpy pavement with some decent little climbs thrown in for good measure.

I don't know my official time, but I think it was close to 28 minutes. I felt this was good for competing on my Venge with tt bars. I went out pretty hard, trying to keep Jason Chao in my sights. The 35+ started straight after the 45+. Being last in the GC, I went first. Jason was on a TT bike and eventually pulled away but there was plenty to keep me motivated. I could see slower riders in front of me and on the turnaround I could see my fellow 35+ racers chasing me down. I actually enjoyed the torture. My loaned, tt bars loosened because of the bumps, which was a little annoying but manageable. If I continue to do stage races and TTs, I will have to invest in the technology. It's not fun racing when one knows one is at a disadvantage.

This was a good event. I hope next year the officiating is a little more organized and that they have support vehicles. I also have to add, I wore a Specialized Evade helmet for the whole event and loved the aero feel of it. There is so much ventilation it almost feels like you're not wearing a helmet, nice one Specialized!

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