It’s the end of the season. Lots of guys are riding less and less, losing more and more form, and they’re less and less eager to pin on a number and race. It’s a shame, because I think Oakland Grand Prix is one of the most interesting courses on the NorCal calendar. It reminds me of the races at BC Superweek in Canada a little bit, because there is a decent uphill, a lot of corners, and a gnarly pinch point where the road goes from four lanes wide, down to one… Through a 150 degree turn.
Last year, our very own Willie Myers won the race. Only two weeks before, we executed a perfect team effort to get him the win at SF Giro, and he delivered a special sprint to seal the deal.
Sunday’s Oakland Grand Prix was also the State Championships (of NorCal). So no matter how reluctant any of our legs were, we were going to give everything to put Willie in the best situation possible to win the sprint. Especially since he won last year.
One thing you learn when you talk to experienced sprinters like Willie and Sam Bassetti, races are not always decided in the true sprint, the last 150 meters, but two corners before. Before many races, Willie will tell me, “The races is for that corner,” as we roll around the course during warm ups.
Based on my description of the Oakland course, you can probably guess which turn might not win the race, but certainly can decide whether you lose it.
So we’re racing, a breakaway went up the road and both Bassetti and Robbie bridged up to it. We were set. During the team meeting, I said that the perfect scenario is putting Bassetti in the break, and if it comes back, so be it… We had Willie waiting, fresh.
The gap between the field yo-yo’d pretty dramatically. One guy in the field would attack, rage for 45 seconds, and then sit up. Sometimes the break was no more than 4 seconds in front of us, but no one would attack and finish it off. We’d sit up, and the gap would be back at 15 seconds. I see this mistake in NorCal racing all the time these days. Guys wait until its too late to put in a move that impacts what is happening in the race.
Anyway, with 8 laps to go, everything was back together and we were setting up to to do a leadout for Willie. This means we’re all finding each other and amassing near the front of the race so we can communicate and work as a unit. With three laps left, Reese Levine from Mike’s Bikes put in a monster attack, so Nick Schaffner put in a big effort to try bring him back. When he pulled off, it was us and the entire Amain team together at the front. There were a few moments of hesitation, because it was hard to tell which one of our teams would really put down the gas. Reese Levine profited, and stayed out front for another couple laps before I decided it was time to hit the gas. With two laps to go, I came through the inside of the second corner and pulled us to the straightaway leading towards the gnarly pinch-to150-degree-turn. I started sprinting, took us through the turn, and kept going until the homestretch. It was pretty strung out single file, but because Amain had such good position before I hit the gas, they were sitting directly behind us and came by as I started to lock up. Joose took over and flew by me on my left, with Sam and Willie on his wheel, as Amain streamed by on my right side. 1 lap to go.
Rob Evans attacked at the top of the course before the second turn. Joose went full gas almost the entire way to the gnarly turn, when Amain went around with Sam and Willie behind them. Amain went full on, but Rob Evans still had a gap in front of them going into the final corner. Anthony Ferretti from Amain jumped, was second through the corner, and then Sam and Willie behind.
Willie came off Sam’s wheel, and sprinted in the concrete portion of the gutter, between Rob Evans and the curb, and kicked again for the line, passing Rob Evans and Amain’s Ferretti to win the race.
Such a sweet end to the season. Congratulations to Amain for the massive improvement this season, they show how a committed team that works together can get really good results.
Looking forward to the offseason and a well-deserved rest for all of the guys.