Ward’s Ferry RR is a 70km road race consisting of 4 laps on a partially closed circuit out by Sonora. It’s got a total of about 1550m (5000ft) of climbing that comes from a number of small climbs throughout the circuit and one 6km undulating climb that has the gently uphill finish line somewhere in the middle. It’s definitely not a pure climbers race because there is very little steady climbing, some shallow sections that favor the powerful, and some screaming downhills that require good descending skills to stay in the mix.
breakfast: Cereal medley with berries, yogurt & milk, half a banana, orange juice, hotel room coffee maker coffee.
pre-race: Half a Bru bar, SIS isotonic sports gel/drink, 2 sportlegs capsules
race: 5th of 31 in M35+ 4
post-race: chocolate milk, ½ banana, half a muffin, leftover cereal medley with berries, yogurt & milk, rest of the OJ (basically anything I could get my hands on)
lunch: Giant veggie burrito, wet style, chips, and a Bohema at Cocina Michoacana in Oakdale
This is a great race. It’s some varied terrain that tests you in lots of different ways and tends to make for great racing. Last year I made it into the lead group of about 12, but got tailed off and didn't figure in the finish. This year I was determined to do better.
A good sized group lined up for our 8:25 am start, and while it originally seemed like a bummer that there was no 45+ Cat 4 field (only this 35+ /4 ), having a nice sized field was the upside of having to duke it out with the younger guys. From past experience I knew that in spite of the early morning chill that had a lot of guys in arm warmers and even some vests, we'd be plenty warm pretty soon, so I was just wearing my new Jakroo kit, not even sporting a base layer. That turned out to be the right move as folks were either sweating it out or messing with taking things off soon into the race.
There were a couple of regulars from other road races that I recognized in the group. Alan Berardo the guy who won Early Bird RR after blowing past me on the descent, Tim Joyrun, John Ensign the guy I chased through the valley of despair at Pine Flat RR, and Angus Murray a CA Technologies guy I'd raced against a number of times.
The opening laps were uneventful except for the guy who went into high speed wobbles on the very first descent (Alan said he'd had that happen when really cold so maybe shivering plays into the the shimmying), and shouts of 'Peacock!' at the bottom of the second descent as a 6' long peacock (3 ft bird, 3 feet tail) sauntered across the road just in front of the group. Alan, who is a really good descender, started lighting up the downhills, at one point stringing everyone out into a line even as he was nonchalantly stuffing arm warmers in his pocket. I'm sure that between the ups and downs we shed a good third of the group in the first couple laps, but I was up in 5th wheel or so and not paying much attention to what was going on at the back. Tim, Alan, Angus and a couple Raley's guys, one Kovarus guy, one big sprinter and and two small climbers were the general makeup of the front of the bunch.
After the first descent of the third lap, in a medium climbing section, a move from Alan, Angus and some other guy went hard. A blue guy (Raley's I think) came around to chase and as I jumped on his wheel and shifted up I dropped my chain high side and took a second to get it back engaged. I won't say that if I'd been able to jump with the blue guy that together we could have caught the escapees, but maybe just maybe. As it was we managed to split off a chase group of about 10, including most of the aforementioned riders, and now had to decide what to do. One guy kept saying “let them dangle, they'll tire themselves out" but I knew Alan had taken a move like that all the way to the finish at EBRR and wasn't so sure. To make matters worse, I wasn't really clear if there were two or 3 guys up ahead (D'oh, should have just asked someone).
We chased medium hard, always keeping a pair of them, Alana and the CA guy, in sight, but only once close enough for me to contemplate a never launched solo bridge. I did my bit to keep the climbing fast and the downhills ripping; only the sprinter guy was able to do the same descending pace which surprised me since amongst our club I'm not exactly a fast descender. The Raley's rider and the Kovarus rider did most of the hard work on the flats and gentle rises. Somewhere in second half of the last lap Alan distanced the guy he was with and things started to get confusing. We were picking off a lot of stragglers from other fields and occasionally in my oxygen deprived confusion I'd think we were coming up on the escapees only to find out it was somebody from another race.
At 1km to go there is a small but leg breaking rise and our group started to jostle about. I got a bit boxed in so did not come to the top of it in the best position and had had to dig deep at the top to get around some folks. A little pooped, I grabbed a wheel and tried to get a breath before the final 200m uphill sprint to finish. Unfortunately we were coming up on all sorts of guys and they all decided to join in the sprinting fun. Unbeknownst to me we had also caught Angus the CA guy from the 3 person break (the other two finished solo well ahead of us). I went with everything I had from around 150m but could not catch the guy just in front of me, who in turn could not catch the CA guy so positions 3,4,5(me) came across within a bike length.
With all the confusion and hypoxia I thought I was more like 7th and who knows they may have screwed up the results. We'll probably never know because even though I cooled down on road and rollers, went back to hotel to shower and have a snack out by the pool, packed up and checked out; the results were still not there when I went back to the race. They were giving out prizes to folks on the honor system, but I had no idea if I was in the money (or rather t-shirts) so just gave up on waiting and headed home.
Now for the good stuff.....
On the way though Oakdale (scene of the very bad Javi's Mexican and Raley's pseudo-Peet's post Knight's Ferry debacle) I noticed a quite packed Mexican restaurant called Cocina Michoacana and figured that would be my target for the way home. It did not disappoint. Not only do they have a vegetarian burrito that already comes stuffed with guacamole and served wet style, but the beer selection includes my preferred Mexican beer Bohemia:
Obviously it was an attractive choice because halfway through my meal another post race pair pulls in and it's Chris Williams who was at my hotel along with a junior who won the Cat 5 race. A burrito as big as my head, a Bohemia, and some folks to chat about the race with. Quite a nice way to end a successful day out on the bike.