On the local road race scene, it had been a rough season. Race after race, after near misses and blowouts, we couldn’t figure out how to win a road race.
It was a testament to how good the NorCal scene has become, and especially how strong our rival team, Mike’s Bikes p/b Equator, has become. So you could say morale within out team was low. Even lower when Mike’s Bikes swept the podium at Mt. Hamilton Road Race the weekend before. We needed a win, and there was Pescadero Road Race on the horizon, the emerald jewel of NorCal classics.
Our director Phil Mooney and I started brainstorming a strategy for the race over a week before. In past races were building our strategy around a couple riders with a shot of winning in the final of a race. Last year in August, we did something similar with Willie Myers, and we won almost everything that month. Similar strategies this spring weren’t panning out, so we had to try something different.
We gathered by my weathered Prius in the parking lot of Pescadero High School and I dispensed the plan. I have been in two breakaways at Pescadero in years past: one went on lap 1 and was out front until the last lap when we were caught, and another time I went in a breakaway on lap 2 that went all the way to the finish and I got 2nd that day.
“We’re all going for the break today,” I told the guys, “We’re doing the musketeers strategy. All for one and one for all. Anyone we send up the road in the early break, we’re happy with.”
We rolled out under overcast skies and as soon as the moto-ref waved the flag to start at Mile 0, Reese Levine of Mike’s Bikes attacked. I looked to Torey, “Go with that.” He did, and at the time he had little idea how long his day was about to be.
Two other riders joined and they rolled out of sight. Over the second of the two climbs on Stage Rd, which winds through bucolic coastal hills, another attack went, and our puncheur, Sam Bassetti followed. Another Mike’s Bikes rider, Craig Fellers joined the move, along with Tom Salveson from Cycle Sport-Specialized, along with a few others. And they were out of sight.
All of Mike’s Bikes climbing firepower was riding beside me in the field. The matchup we had up the road was probably the best we were going to get in our favor. It helped that Torey and Sam were about to both have breakthrough rides.
We followed everything back in the field, as a mysterious race played out up the road. Mike’s Bikes wanted to get someone across to the breakaway, and they were going to blow the race apart in order to do it. Sometime after lap 2, Roman Kilun strung out the field single file on the first climb of Stage Rd, and then Colin Daw laid down a leg breaking attack over the second climb. I followed and sat on, and the field slowly regrouped. A few minutes later, Daw and Cameron Piper attacked together, and our guy Sam Cerruti blew up just trying to shut it down initially, so Ryan Moore and I traded massive pulls to try to bring the two back to heel. We hit the course’s signature climb through the redwood forest, Haskins Hill, and Ryan kept the two in check until we crested and I made a push to finish it off. I knew that the hardest part of our jobs was probably over. Another team can only throw down so many gnarly attacks. Eventually, despite our best efforts, Roman Kilun bridged up to breakaway.
Here’s what we didn’t know: The first breakaway up the road with Torey in it, had never been caught by the second group with Bassetti in it. In fact, Torey’s break had whittled down to only him. So the situation up the road was Torey, solo, with a two minute gap on the small chase group of Bassetti, Tom Salveson, Roman Kilun (Mike’s) and Craig Fellers (Mike’s). Bassetti was sitting on, taking a free ride. When Joose, who had been covering everything with us told me that was the situation, we were exuberant in the peloton, but we didn’t dare hold our breath.
Eventually Torey was caught, and as the winning breakaway neared the feed zone climb outside La Honda, Sam Bassetti unleashed an absurdly hard attack over the climb. Craig Fellers clung to hi wheel as they started the final climb up Haskins to the finish.
But Torey, inexplicably, still had some fight left, as he rode after Sam and Craig through the redwoods, teeth bared, man-pony in full effect, and mustache fluttering in the wind. With Torey gaining on the two, it was up to Craig to keep them out of reach, so again, Bassetti followed, until the final rise toward the finish.
“I just put it in the big ring and went”, Bassetti said after the race.
Bassetti 1st, Fellers 2nd, and an insane 3rd for Torey. It was a very good day.