I’m soaked, cold, and miserable, trying to close down a slight gap to the lead group. I’m on the wheel of another rider, getting pelted by the spray from his wheel, the winds, and driving rain. We pass a ranch, with mud on the road by the entry, and suddenly the stench of cow shit overwhelms my sense of smell (and taste). Ahh, such is bike racing in NorCal in the rain.
There are certain outdoor activities, hiking for example, that I like to do in the rain. Cycling is not one of them. No matter how you dress or prepare, you’ll be cold, wet and miserable within a few minutes.
Just needing a few points for a Cat 2 upgrade, I hatch an evil plan…attend Spring Hill in the expected heavy rain, and score a good finish in the depleted field. All the fast guys will stay home as they don’t need to ride in these conditions, right? Wrong.
I arrive, and roll up to the parking area. Parking guy says, “lot is full, you’ve got to head up the road.” I’m thinking, dude, are you kidding me? It’s friggin’ raining, nobody is supposed to be here, and the place is packed?
I head to the start and the announcer asks us to line up. Suddenly about 30 guys come storming (no pun intended) out of the reg tent…including most of the big guns with the Morgan Stanley (MS) team 6 strong. Huh?
First lap is mellow at the beginning, then on the back side of the course the fireworks start. MS dude makes repeated attacks and the group chases — to the tune of 34mph on the flats. Wind and water everywhere. Brian Fessenden (MS), says to me, “we’re going to remember this one for a long time.” Right on.
Second lap I make it over the climbs in the early part of the lap at the back of the front group, which is down to 12 now. But I know I’m weak. Second time around the back stretch, I get gapped and can’t close it down. I work with one other guy from Victory Velo (VV), with him doing about 70% of the work. We’ve got no chance of catching back on. They’re going 34 mph again through these flats, we’re going 26 mph. We pass the aforementioned ranch. Uggghhh.
I struggle to the finish, and get dropped on the finish climb. With nothing left in the legs, I can barely turn over the cranks. Probably a 12th place finish, no points. Fine for my second race of the season, great training, epic experience.
Days like these remind me how tough it is for professional racers. They have to race in these conditions regularly. We have a choice. I know what mine will be next time.