Saturday, April 19, 2014

Copperopolis Road Race (Troy)

April 19th, 2014 – Milton, CA
2 x 21m loops
9th, Cat 4 M45+
Krag Rasmussen
They call it the "Paris-Roubaix" of California because the potholes in the road resemble the cobblestones in old European towns.  Robin & I still like this race because of the hard climbs and the scenic setting.
We meet up with Teammates, Shayne & Charity Marshall.  It's a beautiful day as we prepare to start the 42mi race at 11am.  It's 2 loops of very rough rural roads with a big climb and descent each loop.  I feel confident that I can do well because I'm good at climbing and descending and I don't mind the bumpy roads.  I'm not good at breakaways and sprints.  I'm picturing cresting the climb on the 2nd loop with a few other guys and then working together across the top and down to the finish.
Robin, Shayne & I pray before the race.  We look to God for safety as the bumpy descent brings with it risk of bad injury.  Shayne's 35+ group goes.  Now my 45+ race starts with about 25 of us.  I meet a friend, Krag Rasmussen, from early triathlon days in the Bay Area.  Other than him, I don't know anyone else.
The roads are bumpier than ever.  I stay way back.  Up the first big climb everyone's going pretty fast until the last mile.  I end up in front, focused on lifting my legs and being efficient.  The pack is together but I crest first and that makes me more optimistic that I can get away with some others the next time around.
A Cushman-Wakefield guy, Jim Forester, comes alongside and says, "you don't have your team. Do you want to work together?"  I'm feeling great and agree, but am surprised that he meant right now.  We pull ahead and rotate pulling and get a gap.. but the pack quickly catches us and Jim & I make a deal to do it again the 2nd lap.  Great, I have an alliance :)  Now I hope I don't get "voted off" because of it.
Some guys take a wrong turn in the farm area so the pack slows up and waits for them.  The pack continues to go very slow all the way around the top.  I pull faster periodically to see if other guys will work but the group is pretty set on saving up energy.
On a short climb before the big descent, the pace picks up but I stay calm and crest in 2nd position.  I pass the leader and now have the descent to myself.  Everything going as planned.  Until my chain falls off because of the harsh bumps.  I'm able to pedal to get it back on but loose a couple positions.  Flying down the hill I get back in front but loose the chain again.  I realize I'll have to keep pedaling the whole way to keep the chain on.
The climb through the finish always makes the end hard.  We coast through town and start the 2nd climb.  I want to get water from neutral, as I brought only 1 bottle (bad idea) but someone grabs it just in front of me.  After he drinks 1/2 of it he asks if anyone wants it.  I hesitate before saying yes and it's too late.. he tosses it.  Oh well.
The climb is hard.  I'm really getting tired.  I envisioned pushing it and breaking away with others, but now I find myself wanting to do no more work than necessary.  Robin & I were just talking about the discomfort that is a part of racing, when you have to go to that painful place and it's scary to face it, but you do come out the other side.  I remind myself now to go where it's most uncomfortable and God will restore me later.  I start pushing more.  Soon I'm leading the climb again.  I feel like I could easily blow up but I stay focused on good spinning and it works out well.  And at the top I do recover and feel restored. Thank you, God!
I look around, though, and don't see Jim, my alliance, to make any move with (turned out he flatted).  Of course part of me doesn't want to make a move because I'm tired.  The group is going slower than ever.  I take a turn at the front and watch 2 guys make a medium effort break.  I let them go hoping they'll get away and then I'll break to catch up to them.  The pack stays behind me not making a move.  But the 2 off the front start looking back and slowing up.  Inside I'm saying, "Go, Go!  Get way out there".  But they end up coming back.
Then there's a gradual hill which I attack hoping to get over with a couple others.  Over the top, I look back and see 1 guy!  "We got a break, let's go!"  But then I see around him and the entire pack is right on him in a single line.  That didn't work.
Later, a small guy, 2 others and myself try an attack.  We get a small gap but then we break up because 2 guys pull too hard and gap another.  Plus the pack is smart.  They don't do much work but they immediate bring back any real threats of a break-away.  We turn West into the head-wind.  The pace slows even more.  Again, myself and another guy surge to see what will happen.  After a couple pulls the pack catches and goes by and I almost get dropped!  It surprises me how tired I am that I almost couldn't hang on.  That's it, no more working until the final climb before the descent to the finish.
The small guy takes off!  Alone, into the wind.  Pack does nothing.  Someone says, "Poor guy, no one can stay away in wind like that."  Another says, "He's not a threat, he doesn't time-trial much".  His short legs are spinning like crazy.  He comes back a little and then surges ahead farther… and then, after a short rise, he gets a big gap!  I'm really impressed and only wish I had legs that could sustain a solo effort like that.
Getting near the final climb.  I'm tired, but still confident I can get to the front on this hill.  Suddenly 4 guys attack the hill, catching me off guard.  I react but find myself 6 or 7 back, not able to match the speed.  They're dropping us!  Another guy tells me, "Come on! We can do this! We can make it happen!"  I admire his enthusiasm when I can barely muster an slight, "ok".  He's a great example of how we should react in tough times.. be positive even though deep down we feel hopeless.  I push as hard as I can.  Eyes closed sometimes.  I stay on his wheel but that's all I can do.
Finally, over the top, I get some energy back and do some pulling to share the work.  Into the steep technical sections I pass another guy but also get pashed by someone in the chase pack that caught us.  Far ahead the small guy is still leading, with the pack of 5 chasing.  And then myself and another guy.  And then the chase pack of about 10 more.   It's a crazy bumpy, descent.  My chain falls off again but I massage it back on.  The other guy and I work together.  I'm so tired but I look back and see the pack coming.  Gotta go, gotta push.  The final rise before the finish.  They're bearing down on us.  The other guy is giving me a good pull but I can barely hang on.  I dig deep.  100m to go.  A flyer off the chase pack catches me and goes by.  But we're able to hold off the pack and I finish 9th.  The little guy that went off the front.. finished 2nd!  Wow, that hurt, but what a great workout.  Thanks, God, for keeping us safe, and helping me through those painful moments.