My teammate George Smith and I made the pre-Easter trek to Copperopolis to see how we would fare on the hills and bumps. We lined up at 11:30 under partly cloudy skies with no undershirt or warmers. Perfect.
The first climb comes quickly at Copperopolis, and I didn’t like how sketchy the run up to the climb was last year. So this year, I planted myself at the front of the group when we staged, and I stayed in that position for the first 10 minutes until we were well into the climb. My goal was to go hard enough to create a separation with a small number of guys, including George.
That’s how it played out. George made the selection along with Steve Archer and 64 year-old Joe Lemire.
A few other notables (including Rob Anderson in his world champion kit and Michael Vetterli) didn’t quite make it and were about 30 seconds back when we crested the 15-minute climb by the reservoir. The four of us got together and started rotating through. We worked well together all the way around the reservoir, over the climb before the crazy descent, and then back to the main climb.
I haven’t been able to out-climb or out-sprint Steve Archer (who by the way is an awesome break mate) for years. But for some reason I had fantasies that today was different. Don’t know why, though, in retrospect. So when we hit the main climb, I first tried to ride Steve and Joe off my wheel. When that didn’t work, I started a series of attacks. These really hurt. I would go hard for 30 seconds, get a gap, sit down and try to keep the pressure on, and then I’d look back and Steve would be towing Joe up to me. George, unfortunately, had dropped off.
I repeated this effort four times, and each time Steve clawed his way back to me with Joe on his wheel. Finally, we reached the top of the climb and started working together as though the climb and my attacks hadn’t happened. I couldn’t see George anywhere behind us, so I continued to work, although perhaps I didn’t look closely enough because Joe said he had seen the characteristic yellow helmet. And George said that for a while we were in sight.
I tried once more on one of the rollers before the final climb to escape, but with the same results. Finally, near the base of the climb I attacked again and got a decent gap. This time Steve must have waited until enough of a gap opened up that he was sure Joe wouldn’t make it across solo. And then he attacked Joe and came up to me. This is what I assumed happened, because I had my head down and was going as fast as my tired legs would take me up the hill when Steve arrived about 300 meters from the top. We crested and worked together until the descent, where I let Steve lead me down the hill and across the flats to the finish.
Steve was still in front of me at 200 meters when I stood up and sprinted around him. Too early, for sure! Steve once again clawed his way to my wheel and started to come by me at the line. We threw our bikes, and apparently I pipped him. I wasn’t sure who had won until well after I had finished.
I rode back to the finish and watched as George easily won the sprint for 4th ahead of Anderson, Vetterli, and Freund.
So first and fourth for Marc Pro-Strava in our kits like Easter eggs. They gave me a stuffed bunny for the win, and a large T-shirt.