Sunday, April 12, 2015

Copperopolis 45+ 1/2/3s by Matthew Sloan

Copperopolis Road Race
45+ 1/2/3s: 3 laps: 63 miles 

This is thought of as a Northern Californian Monument. Often referred to as the Paris Roubaix of Northern California, it's definitely a tough race--a war of attrition! Apparently, over the years some of the larger pot holes have been filled in but many of the roads remain extremely bumpy. The hardest section of rough road to deal with is on the stair step climb. When someone attacks here it's hard to respond. It's difficult to have a good rhythm in the first place.

I contemplated doing the Elite 3s race for all of about five minutes. With an extra lap and lots of skinny climbing teenagers to contend with it was easy to press the button on the computer for 45+1/2/3s.

We started out at a good pace. The first time up the hill was steady. Attacks began once we hit the plateau. Nothing stuck and we were all together on the final climb before the nerve racking, twisty and turny decent that takes you into the finish on the last lap. Someone attacked on the climb and I found myself chasing back on the decent. The rider in front of me was a slower descender; unfortunately, he let the gap get bigger. It was too dangerous to pass him. I made a mental note--be closer to the front on the next lap so as not to waste energy bridging back up.

On the second lap I grabbed a bottle in the feed. I was contemplating not taking on the bottle because the climb is right after but I knew I would need the liquid. It would be great to have the feed zone after the climb. It would certainly help someone like me. Going into the stair step climb, I was in the back third of the peloton. This was a mistake. As riders attacked on the final steep section I got gapped. Fortunately, I was with three other riders. We worked hard to get back on. With some effort we caught the main group. This was a small victory which I celebrated quietly within myself.

At this point there were a couple of riders off the front. The pace became stronger as teams worked to bring the break back. On the final climb before the crazy descent I made sure to move up. Going over the top I was nicely placed in the middle of the peloton. I took the descent well and was in the top five going into the long bumpy section that leads to the feed zone. With a hundred meters or so to the feed zone, I went into the lead. I wanted to make sure I grabbed a bottle. The opportunity for two attempts would be worth the effort. First try, I grabbed a bottle, another little victory. I rode a decent pace on the front but let a Pen Velo rider take over for the climb.

I knew if I started the stair step climb towards the front I would have the length of the peloton to drop back and still remain in contention. The final steep section came sooner than I would have liked, doesn't it always! Digging as deep as I could--disgusting but true, I actually puked--I got dropped off the back. The gap wasn't too big but eventually even the following motor bike went past me. One of my mottos for life is Churchill's, "Never, never, never give up!" I didn't. I dug deep, got into a big gear, and used all the power I had to get back on. I got back on! It felt like winning. This time I did exclaim, "Two victories in one day!" Robert Pasco complimented me on my good work.

So now I was back. On the kind of territory that suits me well. One rider came up and asked me "Who's off the front?" I responded, "I don't know, I'm just happy to be back on the back!" I sat in and rested up. Three riders were off the front. I didn't even consider trying to bridge across. I didn't see the move when it happened as I was bridging back up at that point. A move to try and bring them back would have taken it completely out of me at that point. 

There were some small attacks from the group but nothing stuck. When we came to the final climb I was expecting attacks that I wouldn't be able to cover but the field must have been feeling it. I easily worked my way up to the front. My strategy was to descend on the front. I could take my own lines at my own speed. A few of us traded positions but I remained top three the whole way down. 

Last year as a cat. 4 I was further back on the descent. As I caught the group on a slight rise with 1 KM to go, I slowed rather than pass the group using my momentum to get a jump on them. This year I decided to go early. I took the speed from the descent and went with about 1.5-2 KM to go. It was too early. A bunch of guys worked hard to bring me back. I sat up with 750 to go and got on a Pen Velo wheel. I breathed hard and attacked with 200M left. Again, I was the man with the target on his back. I got caught before the line. The guy I had been eyeing as the wheel to follow for the sprint won it. 

I finished 8th overall. A bit of a tactical error in the final 2 KM but you never know unless you try. I am looking forward to next year. Perhaps, I'll hang back a bit; maybe I'll have the legs to hang on the climb and get in the break? Who knows...
Leading the attack to bridge back on!

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