The Cyclepaths/Wild Cherries racing team had good representatives in several races:
- Paul McKenzie, M55+123 (13th)
- Jesse Miller-Smith, Cat 3 (7th)
- Ben Ragains, Cat 4 (DNP)
- Glenn Rawlinson, M35+123 (42nd)
- Conrad Snover, M35+123 (28th)
Copperopolis…always a good time. Just finished my ski race season with last weekend’s 45 Km Gold Rush. Finished 5th in age group with a broken binding. Kind of like finishing a bike race with a broken spoke and the tire rubbing on the chain stay. Anyway, figured I’d go to Copperopolis knowing I’d get dropped on the first climb but wanting to assess my fitness and training plan based on where I stand next to the top guys.
Usual fast start heading to the first climb. Amazing that there were 40 guys in the M 55+1,2,3 field. Climb starts and I’m in there holding near the front but working. Made it over the climb near the front which was inspiring, except for the fact that about 25 or so other guys did too, so it wasn’t that brutal. Around the lap and up the smaller second climb, no problem. Down the incredibly bumpy descent riders were in my way, note to self that I can go much faster through here on the second and final lap.
Last lap up the big climb is much faster, and I dangle at the back of the front group and barely make the cut, down to about 15 guys now, then few more latch on after the climb, maybe 20 now. My friend Kevin Keenan floats off the front and nobody wants to chase. I’m hoping he can stay away but the windy flats won’t help his solo effort. The group could work together, do 10 second pulls and catch him in a few minutes, but that’s not how it goes in road racing. A series of solo attacks happen, riders trying to bridge to Kevin, and hence a bunch of surges in the pack. None of them work but we catch Kevin before the final climb.
I get gapped on the final climb and get down the descent as fast as possible. At the end it’s an easy sprint with a few stragglers. I just get by fellow Truckee racer Paco and finish 13th. Mark Caldwell takes the with with Truckee’s Peter Taylor second. I’d rate my overall performance as very good considering I’ve barely been on the bike. Just need about 6 weeks on the bike and I should be more competitive out there. Another good time at Copperopolis. Great authentic Mexican food in run-down downtown Stockton with my brother Doug and wife Deanna (who also raced) on the way home.
Copperopolis lived up to it’s reputation as a rough and challenging Nor-Cal classic. We had just under 50 racers in our Cat. 3 group. On the first lap the group pretty much chilled and kept a medium to slow tempo the whole 20 miles. On the second lap I felt it was time to spice things up a bit so I put in a small attack on the main climb which I thought would draw some guys up and create a break away group. I was wrong, I ended up solo on the front for about the next 10 miles before 3 guys finally bridged the gap. We worked together pretty well for about the next 50 miles and created a gap of about 1:45 on the field and that’s when things got ugly for me. With about 9 or 10 miles left in the race I could feel my BONK meter light come on and I was in big trouble. The other 2 guys in the break basically just rode away from me and I was left to fend for myself. I knew I still had about a minute on the field so I gave it my best which I found out was not enough only a half mile from the finish line. I ended up putting in a weak sprint for 7th and was rewarded with one hell of a training session although I would have preferred a tacky Velo Promo shirt and more points.
Copper was, as always a tough race. Luckily, this year, the race blew apart, and I was on the right side this time. Not so lucky, was the part when my rear wheel decided to blow apart. Such is bike racing, “Dude, I was feeling great, totally could have won. And then….”
More than most, this year I made significant changes in my training plan—now it was time to put this plan to the test. Last year, 9th , this year?
- Mismatched wheels.
- Overslept and Conrad had to wake me up—a first in the 10 years I’ve been racing with him.
- Remembered my bike: I sported my new Scott Addict R1
- Remembered all necessary gear.
- Remembered all nutrition and was lucky to have some provide a hand-up.
- Cup of coffee and a bowl of granola.
- Forgot my legs at home.
Large field for this race—almost 70 total toed the line. A real who’s who of the masters racing community. Let the games begin…
Lap 1: Easy climb then pain and cramping ensued within 30min. Hide, stay at front—all said I probably still did too much work. I need to move back and relax even more.
Lap 2: Felt horrible from the bottom, felt worse at the top. Almost dropped then recovered. At the top of the climb I was the last guy in single file of 48. ½ lap later I moved up in the windy flats then bridged to Innes—“Billy, I don’t feel well. Legs are bung but I’ll give it hell until they seize”. 15min off the front and the rhythm felt good—until I cramped again and the downward spiral began. We were caught and I was quickly shelled out the back after I missed a shift. Conrad gave me encouragement as he passed. I politely responded “I’m done”.
Lap 3: Recovered and found a solid cadence again. Saw Kyle Glerum and we chatted for a few until he stopped for a teammate. I continued for the next 1:15 solo and then full leg seizure at the base of the final small climb. Dismounted bike—it felt like someone had a voodoo doll and I did the voodoo dance on the side of the road for a few minutes. Re-mounted and rode to the finish. Parked it at the car with a smile—but the little demons inside my head were stirring and engaging in serious discussions.
First race in a year and it felt like it. The silver lining, my Scott handled the course with ease. A bit more “feedback” but confidence inspiring in every corner , maneuverable and very stable at speed.
I’ll end with…
- Need to find my legs
- They can give me so much joy
- 42nd place blows.
For the last few months, I’ve been trying to motivate, but after only managing a small handful of rides and not a single session on the trainer, I decided I needed a kick-start to the cycling season. Last weekend’s TT was a good start, but beating myself up on a solo race against the clock is a HUGE distance away from the fun of bumping elbows in a mass-start road race.
My flight home from a conference in Savannah on Thursday was delayed to the point that I missed my connection and was unable to get to Reno that night. The only option was a late arrival into Sac: Lisa agreed to pack the car for the weekend and my next week’s business travel then pick me up, and Glenn/Kristi agreed to put us up for the Easter weekend. I was planning a short ride on Friday to remind myself how my bike works, but rain, work, and the Rawlinson family had other plans.
Glenn and I have been racing together for 10 years, ever since I beat him handily running 400s on the track for triathlon training (I’m sure he remembers it the other way around, but this is my blog…). He had no interest in racing Copper, so I just showed up at his house with my bike and plans to race, and that was the end of it. Good friends/training partners/racing partners are priceless.
The race was fun. I saw the familiar faces from last year, and managed to chat with friend Chris McGovern who made a nice Cameo. I managed to stay with the group until the beginning of the third lap, which pleased me since I was hoping to make it until the second. Five of us formed a small group and rode together until the end. I didn’t contest the sprint, since I didn’t see the value in sprinting for 25th place, but then I remembered too late that it’s ALWAYS good practice to race for the result; oh well.
The next day in the pouring rain, Glenn and I flogged each other on a 90 minute training ride. We froze and got soaked, but rolled into the garage with huge smiles on our faces. I like bike racing so much, I think I’ll race next weekend!
The 3 hr drive home took 5.5 hrs in a monster rainstorm then blizzard. We had 2′ of snow on our deck when we got home, but I just put it out of my mind as I drove back down to the airport the next morning. Yes, I was missing an awesome powder day, but after such a terrific weekend with great friends and my awesome wife, I didn’t mind.