Race Report: Sea Otter Classic Road Race
A midday start meant that there was a little heat for this race, with my Garmin later telling me that the average temperature for the 52.8 miles of racing was 93.4 ℉. It was pretty useful that there were seven laps of the course which meant that we would pass the feed zone which had neutral water seven times. I think I hit a new record and drank 6 bottles in this race.
The closed roads in operation for the entire race were a nice touch meaning that moving around the field was somewhat straight forward. The first 20 miles saw lots of attacks. Nothing was getting much space. I’ve said it before and will say it again- I have no idea why amateur racers chase a lone rider who has a gap of 20 seconds, who still has 40 miles until the finish, in temperatures over 90. Have at it champ- knock yourself out!
Jump to mile 21….After one too many of the concertina-inducing surges that left me having to pedal harder than I wanted to, I decided to move to the very front of the field and get to the first 5 positions. As I did this, there was a full-gas surge up a sharp incline. I followed wheels until I ran out of wheels then popped behind the guy in first position. I sat there for a hundred meters then looked back- there was a pretty big gap. I had little intention of making much effort and whilst basking in the slipstream I noticed that the wheel I was following was hammering as hard as he could. It is then that I spied that there were two guys who had somehow managed to sneak another 50 m up the road. Again, I wasn’t convinced that I would do too much so I sat there watching my break companion pedal like mad trying to bridge.
His effort to bridge wasn’t half bad and after another mile we were only about 30 m away from the junction and by which point another rider from the field had somehow made it up to us. Oh well, why not?- so I just took a quick turn and made the junction. As I did, we hit the hardest part of the course, a steep half-mile climb that must have averaged double digits in gradient. The climb must have been enough to put off the field; by the time we hit the top there were 5 of us with no chasing pack in sight. The break-away seemed a little easy, so for the first few miles I pulled through but didn’t go full gas. As our time out front increased I realized that the peloton was not close and with five of us, this was the move of the day.
Jump to mile 42…On the final lap I attacked on the steep climb which was about ten miles from home. I was caught after about 5 miles solo and had only managed to lose one of the break. Now were were a group of 4. Well, that didn’t go to plan.
Jump to mile 49…The final few miles were a climb- the race had a summit finish. I set the pace steady on an earlier, easier section at the head of our little group. This managed to dislodge a further rider- leaving us with three. One of my remaining companions surged. It wasn’t too hard to follow and when he eased up, I added a surge of my own. I wouldn’t say an ‘attack’ per-se, but I maintained his intensity level when he faded. The rider who had made the effort could not respond and dropped from the now two of us at the head of the race.
Three of the other guys in the break (when we were five strong) were regularly skipping turns and as I had no choice but to keep the move going (as I was racing without a team mate in the field), me and one other rider who continued to pull (the guy who surged on the climb) had to take up the extra work. I tried to go solo a little over ten miles to go as I knew I was the strongest in the break but didn’t want to drag the group to the end if they wouldn’t work but I succeeded in losing only one companion and got caught 5 miles later. This led me to where I was now, one final companion on my wheel as we hit the 1 km to go sign. Which, incidentally, I both love and loathe in an uphill finish. I love the fact that the torture is almost over. I hate the fact that on a gradient of double digits, 1 km takes an age to cover. At this point, my remaining competitor, who had not contributed too much in the final 15 miles, came round and ever so slightly lifted the pace. I wasn’t in a great state and it took every ounce I had just to get on the wheel. As the final meters slowly ticked down, he put in a final push and it was all I could do to not implode. I slowly lost the wheel, nothing left to respond with. I crossed the line 8 seconds behind- 2nd place. Pretty frustrating.
The course was tough. Although only 53 miles of racing, the 93.4 ℉ temperature and 4,900 feet of climbing made it a challenge. I later checked my race data- did I quit on that final climb? Why didn’t I follow that final surge in the last 200 m? My heart rate at that moment of 200 BPM answered my question. I was trying, really hard.