Truth really is stranger than fiction.
My first California Road Race did not turn out like I had planned at all. I signed up for the Cat. 3s to race with Blinger and Gabe. The morning started innocently enough, except that I ran out of French Roast coffee beans and was forced to use some Italian Roast coffee beans that I don't really like. Carson Blume had graciously offered me a ride to the race and we enjoyed good conversation the entire way. Life was good, except for coffee bean situation.
My race was scheduled to start at 10:35a.m. At 10:30 a.m., they called the group up the line. I was number 264 and I looked around and saw numbers 232, 240, 248....."OK".
The official was quick and mentioned the yellow line rule and that we were racing 7 laps. "No we aren't" I said to myself. "The flier said 6 laps." Oh well, I'm sure he just got it wrong. "Hmmm.....Blinger and Gabe better hurry up, we're about to start." A few moments later, we started and a few moments after that, the attacks started.
It was fast. Very, very fast. The attacks didn't stop either. I was in the mix and actually made it into a break and we were riding away from the group - until a couple of guys intentionally sat up, causing a split in the break. I didn't have the gas to bridge the gap, so I went back to the group. There were a dozen or so more attacks made by guys who wanted to be in the break but by then, I was in the red and I could not respond. Then we hit the climb. I'm sitting about 6th wheel at the base and "BAM!" - guys are flying around me. I'm clawing, scratching, and doing everything I can to stay with the group. "Man, this is the fastest Cat. 3 race I have ever seen" I said to myself. Suddenly, I am now at the back, or what was left of it. 15 or 20 guys were dropped on the climb. Not pretty. "Where is Blinger and Gabe?" I thought to myself. I asked the guy next to me if there had been a crash on the first lap and he said: "No."
The next lap was more of the same: fast, fast, and more fast. At this point, I realize that I don't have the legs. These guys are really strong and I am in trouble. I cannot believe how much faster the Cat. 3s are here in California! A lap or so more (I can't remember, my brain was oxygen deprived and was not fully functional), I look over at the guy on my right and he has tatoos all over his face and I remembered thinking "that was weird". Then it hit me! "Oh hell, I've seen that guy in VeloNews!" Uh oh! A couple of seconds later as if on cue, Ben (Platinum rider, we talked before the race) drifted back, looked at me and said: "I thought you were racing the Cat. 3s." I responded: "Yeah, I thought I was racing the Cat. 3s too!"
Well now, it was obvious at this point, even to me, that this was indeed NOT the Cat. 3s. "What to do, what to do?????". "Well, I'm here, I might as well hang on as long as I can." Sometime later (I truly have no idea...) we catch the Cat 4s. It was ugly. Our lead car took us around the Cat. 4s - IN THE FEED ZONE!!!!!!!!! The Feed Zone is the most dangerous place on Earth on a normal day, but this was insane. About that time, a white pickup truck (why is it always a pickup truck?) was coming the other direction, horn blazing, and he wasn't slowing down. I truly thought I was going to die. It was pure chaos. We were able to merge into the Cat. 4 group, but then we had to extract ourselves and by then, the guys in the front punched it up and over the climb. I chased, and chased, and chased. and chased some more. People were everywhere. It was pure carnage. When I started getting very dizzy and my field of vision was narrowing, I figured that it was time to admit defeat. I hate getting dropped, I really do.
Four or five of us re-grouped and chased like mad men. The gap was coming down (wishful thinking probably) but when we hit the short steep hill between turns 1 and 2, it was clear that even if we caught them, it would be at the base of the climb and we would be so blown that it wouldn't have mattered......So, that was that. Shortly thereafter, the Cat. 4s caught us, we sat on the back with a big 30-50' cushion, and rode in. The funny thing is that the Cat. 4s were unknowingly "running sweep" for the Pro/1/2 race. Half a lap later, one of the guys that was chasing with me says: "I see a bunch more our our peeps....." I look up and indeed there was. By the climb, there was probably 20 Pro/1/2s in the Cat. 4 bunch. Too funny.
After it was all over, I was asked: "Are you going to race in SLO tomorrow?" To which I responded: "Not in the Pro/1/2s I'm not!"
Moral to the story No. 1: As my father used to say over and over and over: "Preparation is 9/10ths of the Conquest." So boys and girls, make sure you have the proper coffee beans for your espresso machine on race day! It can make a world of difference! :-)
Moral to the story No. 2: Apparently they will let just about anybody race with the Pro/1/2s! heck, I don't even thing registering is required!
I love a good story, even if it is "on me." I'm still shaking my head over the comedy of events today. Oh yes, a truth really is stranger than fiction!
P.S. - I like to think that I am at least of average intelligence. But then again, only two weeks ago did I figure out that the Chicken Ranchers are a bona fide, U.S.A. Cycling-sanctioned club!
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