Memorial Day Weekend is a time for remembering those who have served & sacrificed to protect our freedom, a time for friends & family and a time for RACING! For me this meant I was in the Bay Area participating in the Mount Hamilton Classic Road Race.
For those of you who don't know Mt. Hamilton is the big mound of dirt shadowing the east side of San Jose. The road up and over Mt. Hamilton is an incredibly thin & sinuous strip of asphalt (see photo of Navigation Screen for evidence). The actual Mt. Hamilton Road Race is a point to point race consisting of two different starting points, one on the San Jose side and the other at Isabelle Creek on the downhill side. Luckily for me, my race started a Isabelle Creek. Why lucky? Because this Chicken was flying solo this weekend meaning that once the race was over I'd be riding the course in reverse, uphill and against the wind to get back to the car. I was indeed a lonely Chicken.
As for the race itself, the course climbs steep and quick from the start followed by an even steeper and tighter descent. I was concerned that the first hill would break the group apart and I'd get caught in failing traffic in the middle. And since it was starting to drizzle, I was also concerned about the descent from a safety perspective. So I stayed in a safe position up front. There was one guy who broke away, but he didn't look the part so we let him go with no concern. Once the road flattened and straightened out we rode past the break and it was clear he was done for the day. The race started to take shape on the backside 3 mile climb. Not surprisingly, the big group started breaking up into several distinct groups with about 6 of us rolling over the top in front together. Unfortunately, with the exception of one other rider, no one was willing to work to maintain or grow the gap allowing the second group of about 12 riders to reconnect a couple of miles downhill. A couple of the late short climbs/bumps dropped a few before the course began heading downhill for the final 8 or so miles. This technical descent would drop a couple more and the constantly turning road made it difficult to pass. Coming around a turn with less than two miles to go I could see that the rider two in front of me had lost the wheel in front. The guy in front of me apparently saw the same thing and we both were trying hard to get past, but the rider falling off was all over the road. Finally, I had a seam on the inside and took it. I was in full-on chase mode, but running out of runway. I re-connected with two turns to go and before the bridge that precedes finish in about 11th position. On the way out that morning, I had noticed that there was a broad shoulder after the bridge. I decided to make good use of the early morning reconnaissance passing 6 riders comfortably on the inside and feelin' good. Now 4th wheel with 200M to go I jumped on the pedals and noticed that the front three guys were all on the same San Jose Cycling Team. The guy in 3rd yelled "Flyer" as I started to pass and he started pushing me further outside while the guy in first moved hard left to the yellow line while the guy in second went uncontested for the win. The guys that blocked me caused me to "touch" the breaks ("wuss") allowing a few riders to pass putting me across the line in 7th place. Less than 20 yards separated the top 10 riders. While a little frustrated by the block I was impressed with the way the San Jose guys worked selflessly together to get the win. All in all it was a blast! I was happy that I had made the long drive up to race. That is until I remembered that I had to turn the bike around and ride back up to Isabelle Creek.
Suffice it to say that I had a lot of material for the Memorial Day BBQ. Hopefully next year, I won't be doing a Chicken Solo Act and I'll get to do the full up & over course.
To see photos of the Mount Hamilton Course click the following link: http://www.flickr.com/photos/26685879@N05/sets/72157605292543460/show/. For a description of each slide click the bottom of the the photograph.
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