Mt Hamilton Road Race is another NorCal classic. Its a pretty unusual course since the race starts on a 20 mile climb and then has 40 miles of downhill, false flats and headwind to the finish line. It makes for an exciting dynamic between the climbers and all arounders. Marc Pro – Strava started the race with six riders: HD, Art, Jared, Matt M, Jon Teeter, and myself. The plan was to get some guys get up the road early, than have me bridge on the harder slopes near the top. The plan started perfectly, HD attacked, I countered, then he went again and everyone watched him go with only one rider for company.
On the second of three sections there were some probing attacks from the field with Jon and Art taking some good digs. Kirk Carlsen (Jelly Belly) attacked over the top and led down the short descent to start the final section which was also the longest and hardest of the climb. It was clear he was prepared to drill it at the bottom, but he dropped his chain. Thinking it would be nice to be sporting, Roman from Mike’s Bikes and I decided to wait for him to rejoin before starting to race the climb in earnest.
I attacked hard a few times but the group always managed to get back on my wheel, the climb not being steep enough for me to just ride off. However, about a third of the way up Matt Rodriguez of DBC countered and set a really hard pace for a few minutes which finally detonated the field. Kirk, Colin Daw of Mike’s, and I were the only ones able to stay with his surge of pace. We quickly caught the early break, but HD was still fresh from being able to ride his own tempo and slotted in to the group. Matt and I pulled the whole way to the top trying to extend our advantage and distanced Colin in the process. Kirk decided to sprint for the KOM prize at the top and took it basically uncontested, I wanted to make sure HD stayed with us and kept our strength in numbers.
We coasted down the descent and started trying to work at the bottom. We didn’t get organized quickly enough and soon saw three Mike’s Bikes guys right behind us. Evidently, Roman had ridden a steady tempo and then bombed the downhill with Colin and Chris Riekert in tow. His tempo distanced Jared a bit before the top and Art couldn’t follow on the super technical downhill.
So then we were left with three Mike’s, Kirk, Matt, and HD and I from Marc Pro – Strava in the front. We played games for a bit, but eventually started working relatively smoothly. I couldn’t think of a good plan for either of us to win the race given the situation and the headwind downhill to the finish, but Matt made the decision for me. On the last sustained uphill about 20 miles before the finish he made a big acceleration and started distancing the group. Acting on instinct, I immediately bridged from the back of the group and took a long pull trying to pull as much of a gap as possible before the hill ended. We crested with about 15 seconds on the group and got to work. However, the three Mike’s stayed organized and chased. We stayed off for about 10 miles, never getting more than 15 seconds, but eventually the headwind proved too much and we were caught.
There were a few more halfhearted attacks, but it was clearly going to come down to a sprint. Colin took one more dig on the final downhill with about 2km to go and I had to chase him down. Thinking the finish was further I didn’t panic and was closing him down relatively slowly. But before I knew it, it was 200m to go and I had just lead out the sprint for a kilometer. HD gave it a run and managed 3rd in the narrow sprint, I rolled in for 5th. Chris Riekert, having done a solid race, won handily.
It wasn’t the result we hoped for, but Mike’s Bikes really rode super well and took a very deserving victory.