I had the impression that the field was quite strong. No breaks were allowed until the very end of the flat laps around the reservoir, when somebody took off and nobody wanted to chase as we were approaching the last climb (despite having a minute and 10" on us at the base of the climb he got caught almost immediately). There was one scary crash, but overall just a fast paced (26-27 mph average) pack in the flats, with the expected uninterrupted series of attacks and lulls. I wasted some energy to my nervousness riding in a fast, tight pack (hands constantly on the breaks) but felt like I saved energy as much as possible.
I was constantly keeping an eye on the two NCNCA guys in the field I knew (and ranked # 1 and 2 in the field based on USACycling points): Cottell (the 2014 road and TT district champ, this year winner of the Cascade classic stage race, Hamilton, Berkeley Hills, Wente...) and Dapice (a skinny climber who had just taken second in the P12 at Challenge, and who had given me more than one minute in the Diablo hill climb TT...). Cottell attacked hard right before the final climbs, but got caught. I positioned myself quite well at the base of the climb (3-5 wheel), and we went really hard for the first mile, blowing the field apart immediately.
At the end of the first climb I was still solidly in the top 5, in a pack of about 10. Somebody attacked hard, and I hesitated to follow amd kept riding steady, thinking that with the second final long climb it would have been dangerous to red line at that point. Big mistake. The leaders settled in a pace close to mine, but I could not close the 30" gap. The wind got stronger and stronger, and drafting was a big factor, so I definitely should have dug deeper and stayed with the leaders. Ah well. Too bad somebody passed me inside the last km, and snatched the last top 10 slot, putting me in 11th place, within 2 minutes of the winner. Dapice finished in the lead group, 6th, while I gapped Cottell, who finished about a minute behind me.
Overall, great racing experience. First RR with full road closure, which made a big difference on the descents, where I was feeling surprisingly very confident. The race really was about not leaving anybody break away, and the final climbs, but there was extra spice (e.g. the first hard climbing mile). Very well run event, and it was a blessing to have Jim around, who fixed a major issue with my crank arm before the start and gave a thorough check up to my bike.
|Jim helping me with a key issue in the crank arm, and with a final thorough bike check-up.|
|The start/finish line|
|The leaders' group approaching the finish line|