This was an important race of the season because of it’s history and the fact that our teams sponsor, Mike’s Bikes, was the title sponsor. The good news for my team is that we had a strong group of riders come out to race. The general plan was for a few guys to make some early attacks to put some pressure on other riders and teams, then have one or two teammates attack with 15-20mins to go, and if it all came back together then organize and lead out Scott Cox for the W in the 35+ and Funke in the 45+.
The day started off right. Chris Hobbs, aka ‘the donkey’, rolled up to my house right on time in our teams stylin’ new Toyota Sienna (part of Mike’s Bikes new fleet of vehicles). My kids helped pack up my stuff (ok, Hobbs did some work too), gave me high fives and waved bye as we rolled away, ready to go to battle. We picked up teammate Oliver Ryan and Achieve athlete Dylan Johnson (who’s just getting introduced to racing and would take on the role of team photographer for the day) hopped in at Sausalito. Next thing we know we’re rolling up to Mike’s Bikes Los Gatos. The first person we see is teammate, Achieve athlete and Mike’s Bikes President, Matt Adams, waving us into our VIP parking spot. Now we’re talkin’…no messing around. And we are even on time! Bikes come off the van and get set up. A quick visit to registration, pin on my number and get my ride nutrition and hydration (thank you ProBar and Osmo) ready to go. Our team meeting takes place, which includes a quick review of our plan and then we roll out for a warm up spin.
Time flies and the next thing I know the announcer calls our race to the start line and we are all ready to go.
B-A-N-G…..the start gun goes off and we are racing! I wasn’t sure what to expect with regards to the pace of the race, especially the main aspect of this course, the 23% ‘Wall’, of which we’d do approximately 18 times. All I knew is that it was going to hurt the legs and lungs more than once, and most definitely the last time up it.
On cue, two or three laps in, Oli put in an acceleration and got some space and was off the front. He kept the pace high and forced some of our competitors to do some work to bring him back. I was happy to see our guys close to the front, ready to hop on any free rides up to Oli. He got brought back and we were all together.
Not long after, teammate Dave popped off the front, again resulting in others working to bring him back. Unfortunately not too long after this, Oli was forced into the curb on the ‘Wall’, had to unclip and then run to the top and get back on his bike. He chased and was able to get back to the main group, but not before burning some important matches.
Racing continued at a good clip, with some hard accelerations at the top of the Wall. I recall one occasion where two Specialized riders (I believe it was Cottel and Buckley) put in a really good dig and strung out the field and at least twice where Chris Phipps was able to get off the front. The good news is my teammates were riding strong and smart at the front. Matt, Chris and Josh were covering everything. This definitely took the pressure off myself, Cox and Funke, who were saving our energy for the end if it came down to a leadout and sprint.
Fast forward….we rolled through the start/finish line and the lap card showed 2 to go. Teammates Chris and Matt were rotating on the front, with me close behind, Cox battling Stanko for my wheel, and Funke slotted in behind watching the action and fending for his spot. Next thing I know, Dave shows up as planned and moves to the front and takes us to where he’s supposed to. My memory is a little vague here, maybe due to the lack of oxygen and lactic acid build up, but an attack or two occurred at this point….possibly/likely by (insert Chris Phipps name here). The good news for us is Matt and Chris are on it. As we approach the final turn, I know that Cox, the guy I’m to lead out for the win on the next lap, isn’t on my wheel. Instead it’s Stanko. I for one would rather have him in front of me so I decide to play a little poker and let a gap open up to Matt and Chris. The gap grows fairly quickly. To my delight, Stanko decides to come by me and close it down. I jump on his wheel, with Scott and Funke in tow.
Ding…ding…ding…the bell rings for the last lap. Matts take us around turn 1 and 2. He moves over and….it’s Donkey Time! Hobbs keeps the pace high all the way to turn 3 and then happily moves right and let’s the fire works go off. Stanko leads us up the wall and attacks hard 2/3rd of the way up. From behind I hear Matt say ‘Go…go…go!’. I dig deep, roll up over the top, along the false flats and down into the shaded tree section, hoping Cox is on my wheel. Thankfully I was able to close down the gap to Stanko, but I don’t sense Cox right on me. It’s no time to let any gaps open so I work hard to stay on the ‘Stanimal’ back wheel. We roll across the top section and take the second last turn. At this point I have a quick flash back of my first time doing this race in the P12 field. I rounded this corner, further back than I wanted, and was able to move right and sprint by quite a few guys. This time I only had one rider ahead of me so I jumped out of the saddle, moved right and sprinted by Stanko. I round the final turn, having visions of him coming past on the inside, so put my head down and think to myself ‘this really hurts…but don’t give up. Keep spinning those legs as fast and hard as you can’.
The finish line couldn’t come soon enough. I could see Stanko’s front wheel under my arm pit, but the white finish line thankfully came first. And Cox was able to nab 3rd place.
Let me take this moment to thank our team sponsors for giving us the best products in the business: Mikes Bikes, Equator Coffees and Teas, Toyota, Specialized, Capo Cycling Apparel, Violich Farms, Smith Optics, Osmo Nutrition, Zipp, SRAM and Pro Bar.