A bit overdue, but here it is. The E4 field got the whistle at 7:45 and we were off. By this time in the season, most of the faces in the peloton were familiar, and I could tell this was a very strong field. The course is no picnic either.
The race starts through the town of Pescadero and upon exiting the town, there is a preme sprint, which in hindsight I should have contested, but I’m not terribly upset for not doing so. The road then begins to undulate with two hills on Stage Road – one just over a mile and one just under. From there, the course hits Rt. 84 into La Honda followed by a right turn on Alpine and another right soon after onto Haskins Hill. We would do 1.7 laps of the course, finishing on top of Haskins the second time through.
I didn’t have any issues on Stage Road the first time as we all made it over as a group, and most importantly, we made it down without any crashes. However, the day before the race, I put on new brake pads and forgot to go over them with some fine sandpaper, as I usually do. As a result, any braking I was doing before the turns produced an incredibly high-pitched noise. I felt very non-PRO.
In any event, so we made it down the two twisty descents with no problems. A few miles into the flat section on Rt. 84, I heard a crash behind me. I’ve trained myself to focus on only that which can immediately affect me, so I never turn my head to see crashes that are behind me, but I think everyone was okay. Few miles down the same road, Michael goes past me on the left, I turn to see a gap behind him, so I get right on his wheel and we make some forward progress in the peloton. I’m sitting an inch from his wheel, no gaps, no spaces and I have maybe a couple inches off the double yellow line.
As we’re moving forward, a guy on the right tries to move into my spot. If I had more room on the left, I would have moved left, then pushed him back after he realized that was not an empty space he was moving into. Hell, he would have known that had he bothered to turn his head. I yelled out, “watch out.” Instead of smoothly returning back to his spot (after turning his head to make sure it was still empty), the guy jerked right, then bounced back into me and we locked bars. At that point, there were two possible options, both of us go down (or more), or one of us goes down – I did not want to be that one – so I pushed off with my hips, turned my bars slightly left and accelerated to unlock the bars. Sounds of carbon hitting the ground were left behind me. I don’t believe anyone was seriously hurt in that incident either.
As we were approaching Haskins, I was in the top five hitting the climb and felt great through about half of it. At some point, I saw myself sinking back to about 15th position and didn’t have any difficulty moving back up to about fourth or fifth. But around the 1k to go mark, my juice ran out and I watched the field slowly pass me by. I figured that perhaps if I can just catch the tail end of the group, I would be able to hand on with the field, but that was not the case. Bummer!
Oh well, they were not that far ahead, there was a chance to catch back on. I worked with Ryan from Davis Bike Club on the descent – meaning I took his lines. And as we hit the bottom, we joined up with a few more guys.
By the time we hit Stage Rd. the second time, there were 10 of us working in a rotation to catch back on. Then Dom spotted the field about .5K ahead of us and set a very hard pace up the first bump on Stage. As we crested, it was only Dom and I, but a few others from our group caught up on the descent. By the time we crested the second bump on Stage, it was just five of us and the field was again out of sight.
We continued to work together and saw the field once more, as they apparently slowed down before tackling the final climb, but again were not able to bridge. Another time up Haskins and I was done. I ended up 38th out of 64 guys in the field, catching the tail end of the main field about 200m from the finish line – this just shows how close we were.
It’s not the performance I was expecting out of myself, but other than the not-so-great finish, the race had a lot of positives and a very important lesson learned. Oh, and I had fun!
First, I felt 10 times better on this course this year than the last. My times on all the climbs were better (Note: my Stage 1 climb time from the race last year is still better, but this year I did them both with the same speed of 16.1 mph, last year I slowed down to 11 the second time) and I felt stronger going up Haskins and I was about 2mph faster. So as far as tracking fitness progress over the last year, there’s definitely a lot.
Second, my descents this year were also much better than last and I didn’t lose any time on those as I did last year.
Finally, I was able to figure out what I really need to work on (in addition to everything else) to be a better climber on hills like Haskins. I don’t have issues with power climbs like Stage Road, where the pitch is gradual and low (under 6 percent) and I can mash out a lot of watts for a long time at a low cadence. But when the time comes to hit something that’s 8+ percent, the same lower cadence ends up costing me a lot of matches and I just pop, like I did on Haskins. So now I’ll be making a strong effort to incorporate high cadence drills into my hill repeats, to hopefully train my body to become more of a spinner than a masher when it comes to hill climbs. I’ll see you next year, Pescadero!