Harkening back to Bill and Ted, I made the journey to San Dimas for the sixth time to attempt to win this three-day stage race. When I told my wife I was going, she said absolutely that she didn’t want me to go because of what I experienced last year. Perhaps I overstated the speed and the feelings of danger…
Regardless, I decided to try again because the organizers created a separate race for the 55s instead of combining us with the 45s, which leads to too fast and too big fields for my taste. Fortunately, my wife is OK with me doing a few things she doesn’t want me to do.
STAGE 1 — Chaffey Auto Body Time Trial
The time trial is always fun and exciting for me. Absolutely no danger, and the weather the last three years has been great. The scene is awesome, with the pro team vans and canopies and juniors and women and men of all ages flying up the 4.25 mile course. I won this race in the 55s the last two years, but I had no expectations about this year. Lately, I haven’t been going as well as I’d like. My goal was to try to beat my time from last year (18:17).
For some reason, they assigned me–last year’s TT winner–second in the start list, and that was a bit of a bad break. After I passed my 30-second man, I had no rabbits to chase.
My time this year was 18:21, so four seconds slower than last year. Perhaps, I tell myself, the wind blew harder this year. No matter, the good news is that I had 14 seconds on Dan Swietlik, who took the GC from me last year because he’s a better criterium rider than me. I needed that time cushion.
Here is one of my favorite photos from the weekend. I’ve just finished the time trial, and I’ve pulled to the side of the road to suck air. See if you can find me.
STAGE 2 – San Dimas Community Hospital Road Race
I always feel rushed checking in, getting the yellow jersey, pinning numbers on it, and warming up for an 8:00 a.m. start. But having done it three years now, I had no problems and fewer nerves than before. I decided to race more confidently and aggressively than I have in the past here. Our race called for six circuits of a seven-mile course that is fairly technical with some curvey ups and downs, wind, and flat sections that cater to the sprinters. In fact, the finish is about 1.5 kilometer from the steepest climb, so any advantage a climber might have here is neutralized by the descent and windy flats.
It was an odd race. We were neutralized three times to let groups pass us, and we had one or two Cat 5s buzzing around us like flies most of the race. Annoying.
(One nice feature of the San Dimas SR is that they have climbing and sprinting competitions in addition to the overall winner. In the road race, they have two KOM sprints at the top of the one steep climb on the course, and with all the years I’ve done this race, I’m quite aware when the KOM points are on the line. So, I was able to win the first KOM sprint and finish 3rd in the second one. Combined with the points I garnered by winning the TT, I won the KOM polka dot jersey.)
Back to the race: In line with racing more aggressively, on the 4th lap at the base of one of the more gradual climbs, I attacked the group in attempt to do something spectacular. I was out maybe 10 minutes suffering and fantasizing. Not coincidentally, it was the KOM lap and I hit the base of the KOM climb alone and I thought I would win the second KOM, but two guys caught me and it was clear the rest of the group would soon. I hung on for third (and 5 points) and descended with the group.
As we went through the start/finish with two laps to go, they rang the bell and announced “One to go! One to go!” A minute later, the moto confirmed that our race had been shortened by a lap so that maintenance crews could check the integrity of the dam we were riding over each lap. This check was precipitated by a 5.1-magnitude earthquake the previous night that sure got my attention.
Here’s a shot of Mark Hoffenberg (the eventual stage winner) and me on that lap just past the start/finish.
STAGE 3 INCYCLE / CANNONDALE San Dimas Classic (Criterium)
We only had 25 minutes of racing on Sunday. All I had to do was make sure no one within say 30 seconds of me went off the front. They called out the jerseys and lined us up in prime position. Me first. Last year, I had fumbled clipping in and with the 45s I felt like I never recovered. So before the crit this year, I practiced clipping in several times. Perfect.
When the race began, not so perfect. I went from the front row to 20 back in 10 seconds as I floundered with my pedal. We went through three of the six turns on the lap, and already, Gary Shuey (sitting 3rd only 16 seconds back) was OTF with a Rokform dude. Ah, heck. Rokform/Rock N’ Road Racing Team is Mark Hoffenberg’s team, and he had four or five other teammates to help block. After a lap, I moved to the front and tried to bring back the two escapees. Fortunately, I received some help from Owen Thomas who took pity on me, and a few other strong riders who wanted a chance at winning. We finally caught the two escapees with a little more than two laps to go. At that point, I gave up some position and made sure I didn’t get close to any sketchiness. I came in safely with the group at 15th.
The organizers at San Dimas do a great job with the podium presentations, which last at least five minutes for each category and are officiated by an experienced and kind emcee. Nice to finally experience this part of the race from the top.