Sunday, April 11, 2010

Spring Hill RR - 35+ 3/4 Race Report

The last couple of days has been a siesta off the bike. Nothing like a little tickle in the throat that turns itself into a head cold. It was bad enough that I was fighting off crud developing in my lungs. So after a few days off, I woke up and thought, "Hey, it's a really stupid idea since I'm not healthy, but let's go race in the wind, cold and rain." Watching Paris-Roubaix at 5am will do that to a fool (i.e. me).

Let's get to the action. A good size 35+ 3/4 field ready for 2 laps around the hills and rollers west of Petaluma. The spectators were brave, but there were more cows taking in the action than people. With no warm-up the opening climb right from the start line hurt myself and probably a few others. By the time we hit the second climb a few miles later I made sure to get to the front for the descent into a tight right-hand turn. Made it down the hill with a local on my wheel passing up instructions to me on the safest route to take down the bumpy road. It felt good to get the HR up since it was absolutely raining hard and cold. By this point I was already soaked. One a side note I did learn some neat tricks by watching what a few other competitors did to stave off the rain.

Not much happened on the rollers but a single Wells Fargo (WF) rider got off the front. With the largest team in the field (at least from pre-reg), I was content to let somebody else bring him back. Nothing was happening so Ramon took a flyer to bridge up but nobody wanted to join him. Eventually Ramon was brought back into the fold.

The gap up to the solo WF rider was shrinking but not very fast. After passing through the start line (the finish is midway up the hill past the start line) and getting over the first hill I found myself with a dropped chain on one of the rollers leading up to the second climb. Calmly I dismounted and fixed the issue, and caught back up with the pack at the base of the climb. However, there were some guys hammering at the front so I had to pick my way through the pack to make it to the leading group.

I hit the top and saw the lead pack was about ten meters in front of me and a lot of guys were falling off behind me. I buried my head and got back up to the pack and found Ramon's wheel. Down the descent again and on to the rollers. On the slowest roller two guys near the front probably crossed wheels and went down. The WF rider was still off the front and not much was being done to bring him back.

The first time around the loop I took note of how many times I had to hit the brakes while descending these rollers. On the second lap I used my momentum to push the pace as we came flying down on the water-covered roads. With fifteen miles to go we hit another roller with a fair bit of head/crosswind. I hit the gas and quickly found myself with two WF riders and a lone Victory Velo guy. Not the mix I was hoping for, but I was committed. I dropped the Victory and one WF rider. The remaining WF guy sat on my wheel and did the smart thing and stayed put. I knew he wouldn't pull through to help me bridge and I wasn't expecting it to happen. But as we got closer I could sense we'd eventually be working together to keep the three of us away.

With the bridge effort complete and now in a break of myself and two WF guys, it was game on! Just like Warnerville RR, but the numbers were reversed. We rode hard to get out of site and then began passing groups and dropped riders from previous groups. It felt good to go hard and stay warm because I know that if I was just sitting in the pack I'd probably shiver myself off the bike.

We made our way around the loop to the final climb. The WF guy who I bridged up to led us up the hill and then I came around. With about two hundred meters to go I pushed the pace and then tried to find an opportunity to shift into the big ring. Due to my shifting issues (I had dropped the chain to the outside a few times on lap one), I had to back off just a tad to make sure I had a good shift. I was completely cooked and with about forty meters to go the WF guy I dragged across came around and sprinted for the win.

As soon as I crossed the line I went straight back to the car and took off all the wet gear and got dry. I think I shivered for the next thirty minutes. Though only forty-four miles of racing, the combination of wind/rain/cold made it one of the hardest days on the bike. No way could I have done another lap.


Anonymous said...

Hey there, I am the "local" that was talking to you on that first descent. I raced with you last year up in Chico. Hey, I wanted to say good job at Spring Hill. That was a very smart move to bridge up to those other riders. There was a lot of chaos at that point; the crash and dropped riders from other categories. People were tired by then and took too long to react and waited for others to do the work. The chase group (that I was in) had about 3-4 guys that were pulling really hard, actually the pulls were too hard and no none else wanted to pull through. So, after several minutes of people just hanging on to wheels everyone just kinda sat up on that false flat before the descent to Tomales Rd. Personally I was just happy to have survived the day. It was nice to see that it turned into a real race in such tough conditions. Anyways, congratulations on a good race. Royce

Manley Man said...

Thanks Royce, good racing with you too.

I'm getting over the survival of this race slowly. I ended up coming down with an upper respiratory infection, but thankfully the antibiotics are doing the trick.