Friendly rivals: Erik Salander, possibly others
Brought the lighter bike with 50/34 12/25 gearing and afterwards kind of wished I had brought the aero wheels with the 11/23 gearing in back.
Had a heavy training week with 1000 TSS in the prior seven days, chasing Steve Stewart, Darrel, Chris and Randy Denton around on my road bike on Saturday probably did not help my freshness much, either, as I was literally wheezing to get in enough air just to keep up on one of the longer hills on Saturday.
Woke up late and rushed to get everything together for the 75 minute drive to Vacaville. This tardiness did not matter because when I got there I had time to register and change clothes and take a few laps while they did course setup as it looked like they were putting last minute touches on a course that has not been used in a while. The two laps revealed a technical, twisty, and sometimes narrow and sometimes wide open course with one small hill that could easily be ridden in the big ring while in a group.
Got a nice schwag bag with a bottle, Jelly Belly sampler, coupon for Pearl Izumi and a frisbee just for showing up.
The hill did not feel bad to this non climber, especially since the race flyer said it was bigger than the hill at Santa Cruz - it felt a tiny bit longer than the finishing straight hill at Santa Cruz and much shallower - the descent was a little tricky as there was a 90 corner at the bottom leading to a road that had a very high crown that led to a bit of reverse camber when turning with a nice apex.
Laps for the first race of 4/5's were taking about three minutes so this mean our race was going to be about 51 minutes but since the 4/5 start was delayed about 20 minutes they started taking one lap out of events to get back on schedule.
Think there were about six Owens Health riders in different color jerseys. This is important because when one got away, some of the riders blocking for him were wearing different jerseys.
On the first lap I found myself off the front at the gun with only a few pedal strokes. Got to the base of the hill and no one seemed interested so I hit it hard and opened up the gap quite a bit, on a flat course someone usually covers first lap attacks quickly but no one budged. I was more interested in trying lines while having the freedom to choose them from the front of the pack. Softpedaled a bit after the descent and the group caught me quickly on the front stretch. Nothing interesting happened for the first half of the race and the pace up the hill felt hard but doable, and it *seemed* like many people were struggling or at least slowly pedaling a big gear while I thought I was spinning a smaller gear.
At one point a rider that was tenth wheel to my inside on a corner leading to the hill, suddenly countersteered (when no one else in front of him required this) and he forced me to either brake hard to avoid hitting him, hit him, or go off the course outside the hay bales and I chose to go outside the hay bales, and we exchanged a few choice words. I had enough of that and stomped on the pedals a few times and got to the front by the top of the hill and stayed near the front for a bit.
Erik and one other rider slipped off the front only ten to twenty meters away. From my vantage point it appeared as though they were increasing their lead with every turn. I didn't want to chase Erik down, but he was dropped with three to go and the Owens rider was solo off the front by about thirty seconds and out of sight. At that point, there was no way we were going to bring him back so we were racing for second place. With two to go, since I thought I was much stronger than most riders on the hill, I attacked on the hill and got about five seconds on the pack. Not much but there did not seem to be a concerted chase so I put the hammer down. I knew in the technical spots I would have an advantage over a larger uncoordinated group, unfortunately, these occurred after the finish line and before the hill so I only could use them for one lap. The next time by the hill the pack was the same distance behind and going up the hill that felt easy when I was in the pack felt like a slog while I was time trialing by myself - the data reveals I was in a bigger gear the last time up and really should have downshifted instead of grinding a bigger gear that was good for the solo flat parts. Thought of giving up, but every time I looked back I could see a gap, growing smaller with time. Did not have anything in me to sprint and was caught on the line by the first four riders in the field.
last five minutes of race, including attack on hill with 1.5 laps to go:
On the one hand, I'm slightly disappointed as my five minute max is higher than Pnorm, on the other hand it was like doing a VO2max interval at the end of the equivalent of the Dunlap TT.
In any case it really hurt at the end but I should have pushed through that - and I can't wait to try it again.
Result: 6/23 - T-shirt!