This past Saturday I woke up before dawn and drove to the abandoned barn that is Milton, CA to do the Copperopolis road race. I have a bit of a love/hate relationship with this race. I love the 5 lap, 105 mile course with one significant climb, but the race tends to hate me. I've done it 3 times in the P/1/2 category and I've made the winning breakaway each time only to have my bike break in one way or another. This time I came prepared, I put a hose clamp around my seat post to help keep it from slipping, I made sure my tubes were covered in talcum powder to help avoid pinch flats, and I even carried a spare tube and CO2 with me.
The race started off pretty slow and it wasn't until after the first climb that the attacks started. It became pretty clear early on that a break wouldn't go if I tried to get in it. Riding for a big team like UnitedHealthcare presented by Maxxis puts a bit of a target on your back. So when the break did get off with strong locals like Phil Mooney (Yahoo) and Steve Reaney (CalGiant) I just relaxed and waited for the next lap to put the hurt on the rest of the peleton up the climb. I attacked halfway up the climb and only 4 people could hold on to my wheel. There was some predictable hesitating at the top but eventually we started rotating pretty well together. However, Yahoo decided to put their whole team on the front of the main pack and bring us back, which didn't really make sense to me since they had their two strongest guys up the road with Mooney in the break and Tyler Dibble in my group. So we got caught.
Next lap, I went again, this time our break got a bit more of a gap. We ended up catching everyone who was off the front but also getting caught by a large chase group by the start of the 4th lap. Then everyone started at each other so I went again on the climb
At the top only local climbing phenoms Jesse Moore (CalGiant) and Nate English (Echelon) were with me, but they decided to look around instead of putting their heads down and riding and it allowed 3 Yahoos and Reaney to come back up to us. From then it was game on with everyone throwing down attacks. At this point I panicked a bit and tried to cover too many moves and missed the clearly dangerous combo of Jesse and Phil. Later Reaney attacked and bridged solo, when he went I expected the other two Yahoos left in the group to chase him but instead they did nothing. So the last time up the climb I again put the hurt on the group and got away with Nate. We quickly closed the gap back down to Phil and Reaney but Jesse had gone on the climb and still had two minutes. In the end we dropped Reaney but my gamble to attack at 500m to go failed as Nate chased be down and gave Phil a perfect lead out for second. Next time I'll have to remember that Nate will chase everything down and put more faith in my sprinting ability, especially after a hard 5 hour race.
But hey, at least my Kuota KOM and Edge wheels held up to the rough, punishing roads and I actually finished the race for the first time ever. Next year its going to be a win.