53 starters (E3=Cat 3 field)
max temp: 102
What an amazing race!
The day before the race I put on an 11-28 rear cog, knowing it would be necessary, as this starts off with an hour long climb right from the gun! Shifting seemed to work fine the day before; but as things like this go, 30 minutes before the start, my rear shifting was horrible. I spent my warmup time messing with it- eventually got it smoothed out, but it would be an issue the entire race.
My Mike’s Bikes p/b Equator Coffee teammate Ryan Jones and I carpooled. We knew the bullet points of the course, but as neither of us had raced it before we really didn’t know what was to come. Time spent tinkering with my rear derailleur meant that we started on the back row. Initially we didn’t think this was a big mistake, but turned out to be a poor decision. On the climb I bounced around trying to move up, surging more then necessary. I spent the entire climb trying to get into my second to last cassette cog. Turns out this was the ideal gear for the steady grade, as a result I struggled up the climb, surging constantly throughout the 1hr15min climb.
There were small attacks on the climb but nothing that I thought would stay away. Riders were ejected off the back, which I’m sure resulted in a long, lonely ride to the finish. At the 5k to KOM sign, Ryan and I were barely hanging on the back of the field. The pace kicked up and we slowly drifted behind to five feet back, to 10 feet, to 20. Ryan and I stayed together for a bit, but he faded back further. The group was fully out of sight not far from the top, and they were gone once the descent started. I knew I’d have to fly down the descent or suffer a lonely death in that valley. I passed a few riders, and a few cars, resulting in a top 10 on one of the descent segments.
I soloed for 5 minutes up the little climb at the bottom of the hill, then caught a straggler. We worked together for a few minutes to catch back on the group.
The group was slow and unorganized. There were rumors of some amazing time trialist off the front, but the group was unwillingly or unable to chase after. On the flat section of the course, I threw in some attacks to see if people wanted to mix things up, but nobody wanted to do anything.
I passed through the feed zone with my hand out, but there were no bottles to grab. I fully panicked realizing I had 25 miles left with two empty bottle cages. Riders around me were pouring water all over themselves, or dumping water out before the climb, and I was sitting there losing my freaking mind. Thankfully, I was able to find a kind soul willing to share a bottle.
At this point, my knowledge of the course was fully out the window. I wasn’t sure if there was another climb or how much further we had to go. I eventually learned the worst of the climbs were over – it was mainly 20 miles of medium to fast descending to the finish. At this point, I realized that my best bet was to to do as little work as possible to stay in a good spot in the group. The road got twisty, the pace kicked up, and it became harder to move up.
A SquadraSF rider, Sean Henderson, went off the front solo on one of the steeper descents, which at first seemed a little reckless. I was wrong, it seemed, for suddenly in the distance, I see some orange cones, and I even slowed up a little because I thought we were approaching a construction zone.
Suddenly, we’re flying past a 200m to go sign, and guys are all out sprinting around me. The road was quite narrow, and I got boxed in during the sprint. Despite this however, I managed to stay in there and finish 7th.
Never did figure out what became of that TT guy.