• 5,4,(ouch),3,2, but not 1

    Sierra de Montserrat Circuit Race, Loomis, California

    Short version:

    Breakfast: Cereal Medley with yogurt and berries, orange juice, coffee
    Race: 2nd out of 22 in  M45+/4
    Post-race: chocolate milk, banana, fig bars, apricots, 4-beer sampler, coffee & oat cake
    Dinner: Beet Salad, Grilled asparagus, 14” margherita pizza, glass of wine, double cappuccino

    Long Version:

    Course:  Same 2.1km (1.3 mile) course as the last two years. There’s 44m (145 ft) of climbing per lap, which doesn’t sound like much, but even in a race of only 45 minutes, that means you might do 530m (1740 ft) of climbing. The climbing is broken into two stretches, the lower one taking you up to the finish line, the second, a shorter steeper stretch, taking you up to the highest point where you then plunge down to a sharp left hander, descend past the the finish line on the other side of the road, whiz around a roundabout and start the climb back to the finish line. It’s pretty much either you’re going up or going down. They have the best course map I’ve ever seen at http://victoryveloracing.com/media/sierra_de_montserrat_map.pdf . I’ve pasted the strava segment of a lap down at the bottom of this report.

    The weather was pretty nice for my buddy Jamy’s M35+ race at 9:40, but started to heat up as I warmed up for my 10:30 M45+ depart. It was, however, nothing like the merciless heat they have had the last couple of years when the race was later in the summer.

    At the line-up it looked as if between the Body Concepts and Victory Velo teams they had about ⅔ of the total of the riders. I’ve never been in a field so numerically dominated by by so few teams. The only guy I vaguely recognized was Jeff Tanforan, a 55+ from Sierra Nevada who I just snuck past in the finale of Berkeley Hills RR. I’m sure I’ve raced against some of the Body Concepts guys too, but they all sort of look the same to me, especially when there are that many of them.

    They started our group of 22 from the new start location for this year, just at the left hander at the bottom of the first descent. I was kind of far back at the start and did not want to get stuck way back as people gingerly negotiated the roundabout, so move up pretty aggressively on the descent into it, then kept moving up as we did the first pass up the climbs, until I was in 5th wheel or so on lap 2 (when I finally started my Garmin). Things didn’t seem that fast, and even seemed downright slow at times, but nonetheless within a few laps there were only 5 of us in a lead group: 2 Body Conceps guys, One Victory Velo, and Jeff from Sierra Nevada. I was pretty psyched. Here I was in a break with representatives from the two biggest teams! Sure enough as we came out of the roundabout and could see the chasers, it was only the other independents driving the chase. The lap cards came out with 5 to go, and around then Jeff drifted off the back and we were 4. The chase group was losing ground and pretty soon we were nearly half a lap ahead of them and starting to lap stragglers.

    With 3(?) laps to go I put in an attack on the final steep bit of the climb, not intending to really get away, but just wanting to shake things up a bit and see if anyone would either jump after me or pop off the back. I crested the climb in front of the other 3 and bombed down the descent to the first left hander, setting up to take it at speed. As I was exiting the turn, the Victory Velo go shot through on a really bad inside line, crossed my bow from left to right about a bike length or two in front of me, and to my horror, kept going right off the road to my right into the hay bale lined ditch. The last thing I saw out of the corner of my eye as I passed was his bike doing flips in the air and hay flying everywhere. Now we were 3.

    We stuck together for the next couple laps, going easy on the left hander as they helped the VV guy who crashed (collarbone and ribs broken I was told). It was hard to tell which of the two Body Concepts guys was the one to watch, so I just figured I’d sit on them until final time up the hill and then try to put in a dig and solo from the top, down the descent, through the traffic circle, then take my chances on having anything left for the climb to the finish. Unfortunately that was also the plan of one of the body concepts guys. We had dropped the other one soon after the bell, but the remaining guy got a gap on me by the top, and I could not close it on the way down, partially due to running into lapped rider traffic on the downhill and through the roundabout. He exited the roundabout with maybe 5 or 6 bike lengths on me and I just could not close it in the final couple hundred meters to the line. The dropped Body Concepts rider followed in a ways back for 3rd and Jeff T. got 4th.

    I was very happy with a podium place, though of course wished I could have held on to really contest the sprint for the win, but what was actually the best thing about the race was just to feel really great, really strong on the bike. It honestly didn’t even feel like that hard of a race until we upped the pace a little with 2 laps to go, yet we shattered the field and lapped a good chunk of it. I think last year’s Wente RR ( the one with the mechanical nightmares ) was the last time I’ve felt that good during a race. Sure beats suffering like a dog at Mt Hamilton RR…..

    They had a pretty DIY podium setup so Jamy was able get a shot of the winner and I with our prizes ( That’s the big empty bottles in the picture.)

    “What good is a big empty bottle?” you might say; I sure did. Turns out they made an arrangement with a brewery in Auburn whereby we could get our big empty bottles filled with any beer they made ( the Hoptologist DIPA being highly recommended) so off we went to Knee Deep Brewing Co. out by the airport in Auburn. Since I wasn't likely to be back that way any time soon it seemed only prudent to sample a few of the other beers that were not coming home with me in the growler:

    After a tasty tasting like that, what I ate for dinner seems much less interesting, n'est-ce pas?

    - Ken Cluff