Saturday, April 23, 2011

Copperopolis Road Race - Troy

April 23, 2011 - Milton, CA
42M (2 x 21M loop)
Victory Velo - Walter Gorba
Others - Jeff Braunstein, Vincent Hoffart
The day before we drove around this famed course. We heard the roads were rough but that still didn't prepare us for what we saw.. thousands of asphalt repairs, patches on patches, in a futile effort to keep the road flat. Like a colorful quilt it stretched for miles up, around a reservoir and back down (COURSE VIDEO). The scenery was beautiful and road was very less-traveled. But we were anxious about the bumps, cattle guards, mud puddles and steep descent. We practiced on the downhill. Tires at 100psi, bolts tightened, water bottles secured, seat bags removed… we held on tight to see how fast we could go over the bumps. It wasn't too bad, but I'm a bit of a daredevil. Robin, on the other hand, doesn't like descents so the added bumps made it nerve-racking. Here she was entering her first road race ever and had to face bad roads, tough competition, and worst of all… cattle guards.
Race morning, we show up right as the pros go darting by onto the sketchy roads. "Whoa, they don't even hesitate". This was impressive. Thankfully we saw some friends. Phyllis helped Robin sign up for the correct race and encouraged her. We both warmed up about 5 miles off the course when we saw a fast female rider. She asked, "Is this the bike course?" We saw her race number and gave her the bad news that she was a few miles off course. She turned back and replied, "Bummer. The worst part is that I was winning." We felt bad for her. Before our races started we looked for some bumps to practice on. In a demonstration for Robin, I rode across a cattle guard and immediately pinch-flatted. I fixed it and increased pressure to 110psi.
Lining up to race I'm glad to see Vince Hoffart, old friend, Jeff Braunstein, and new teammate, Walt. There's 15 of us in the 35+ 5's. We start and Jeff & I talk a little until a Precision Stone Racing guy calmly pushes the pace. I get on his wheel, glad to have the pull and find I'm handling the bumpy road well. I'm eager to stay with the lead up the 1000' climb. 5min into the ride, we pass the feed zone at the top of a rise and surprisingly see that the 2 of us already have a little gap on the field. This is good. But then as we re-group in a dip in the road, I get that soft feeling… I keep riding until I'm sure it's a flat. I pull off just as Jeff Braunstein attacks. He goes on to take the hill stay away from the pack for the next 15mi.
Meanwhile, I'm pumping, thinking about how these new Gatorskin tires keep flatting. I need more pressure. 120psi at least but that's hard to do with a little mini-pump. I inflate until the pump is hot and fortunately it looks like I got the pressure. It's a slow 6min tire change. Next time I need a cartridge.
Instead of being depressed, I'm motivated to ride as hard as I can and try catching a few. I climb well, gasping for air, passing some women 3's, and then tuck down to time trial along the high valley with the reservoir off to the left. I see some riders far ahead and keep hoping they my group. Then I see the huge 45+ 4's pack behind me. I hold them off for a couple miles. You're not supposed to use other groups as it's an unfair advantage, but I'm looking for experience and not to win anything. Negotiating potholes & cattle guards in the pack, and comparing my descending skills are things I want to practice. So I rest and negotiate obstacles for 3 miles and then take off on my own.
In a thrilling descent, I manage to stay ahead of the pack and really push the bumpy corners. Then I come through the finish line with 1 lap to go and they tell me the 35+ 5's are just ahead. I time-trial over to the climb again and am really feeling the fatigue now. I get water and ease a bit. The 45+ 4's are flying up the hill.
I catch the Precision Stone Racing guy and he says, "We're in 8th place." Which is surprising. He says, "Let's work together. I'll pull on the flats" and this sounds good, but at the top I have a big gap on him and take off on my own. I push hard on the 10miles across the top, into the wind, looking for the group in vain. But I feel great about my riding. It's faster than I expected. I see a guy walking who has no tools so I stop and give him my pump and patch kit.
I hammer the last climb trying to catch a rider ahead. Then descend in an eye-watering flash of fun and fear. Looking down, my front forks look like they're flexing, absorbing bumps, but it's probably my vibrating eyeballs. It's a crazy thrill. Trying to find the skinny smooth parts between the hazards. Afraid to go faster, but afraid to use the brakes at the wrong time. Zoom… onto the smooth road at the bottom and finally pass the rider from another group. It's just me but I practice sprinting for all I've got to the finish. No pack in sight but I raced against myself and barely won. Wow, what a thrill!
I see Jeff Braunstein and the others and catch up on the action that panned out far ahead. I was glad to have at least caught 5 guys in my group. But I'm really boosted about racing here next time. It's a great course for me.. bumps and all.
During the race I was praying for Robin to have a great experience despite all the fears she would have to overcome. I check back at the car to verify she didn't have to drop out after 1 lap. I'm excited she's still racing. At the finish I see 3 of her group sprint in… and there she is.. just 15 secs behind them! Alright, a great finish in her first race. I feel like we're both victorious and it's time to celebrate. I just thank God that He gives me so much to race for that I don't feel disappointed when things go different from plan. Sometimes different is exciting in different ways!
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