Sunday, February 18, 2007

Pine Flat (!) RR Report

First of all Mr. Leibold, you must do something about the name of this race. Does this look "flat" to you???

This is Pine Flat reservoir in the foothills east of Fresno, which is the backdrop to the Pine Flat RR. All groups do the same course, riding ten miles up the canyon, then all the way back down into the San Joaquin valley, before returning rudely back up into the mountains for a hill-top finish. It's only 62 miles, but it always feels more like 80 or 90. At least it's not like the old days when it started and finished in Wonder Valley Resort and did a lap around the course (two for the pros!) Despite having done it six or seven times in the last 20 years, I still can't remember the intricacies of the finishing hills. When you're suffering, it sure is nice to know where the tops are! And by the way Mark Be-Lukie, if you think that hill is comparable to Casitas, you're nuts. I don't need no stinkin 23 for Casitas, but I sure used it today!

OK, a quick summary of this 27-hour trip, starting (where else) at the beginning...

We departed SB in a caravan of four vehicles carrying 13 guys (average age: ~44; average weight: too much). A quick dinner in a Paso Robles Mex hole-in-the-wall treated by Brad (thanks again man!) and before we knew it we were in Fresno. Judging by the aroma, they're feeding the cows a tad too much corn. Our hotel was some no-name, rent-by-the-hour, highway 99 dump that I'd never stay in with Gina, but seemed oddly appropriate for 13 middle-aged dork bike racers. What the hell... we were gonna be out by 5:30 AM anyway.

Caravaned to the race and arrived pleasantly early. It's so much nicer to be early and have almost no reg line, and more importantly, get to the potty before the masses when there is no waiting and TP aplenty. BTW, for those not so early, how do ya like the pressure of using a one-holer in front of a line of 15 people who all watched you go into the stall, and half of whom checked their watches when you entered and probably again when you flushed.

The races:

p/1/2 -- A small turnout unfortunately--someone said 17 guys--but one Eric Wohlberg's presence guaranteed it wouldn't be social. Actually, small fields often make for harder races, but not as motivating and/or satisfying. This one was weird and frustrating. Wohlberg attacked about ten times in the first five miles, always causing a flurry of activity, and then his eleventh attempt stuck with both Andres Gil (homeboy from Stockton who works with my highschool good bud Steve Merideth) and Jesse Moore of CalGiant Strawberries. That sucked because we had two more Strawberries in the group (inc. John Hunt, a well-known motor) who now got a free ride. For the next 4o miles we had them within a minute or so, but the chase was never consistent enough to close it down. It's amazing how little it takes to poison a chase. We had ten guys who all *should* have been putting in turns, at least token turns, but some never did, and others would start skipping pulls and sitting on. Once you're down to only three or four guys coming through, who can blame them for turning it down after a couple rotations. I confess to being one of those that stopped trying hard after the first hour or so. I don't know Kevin Klein, but I vaguely remember respecting him when he was in SoCal, but dang if he didn't sit on the entire time. He doesn't strike me as a guy who would race for 4th in a 17-man field. Maybe he's not feeling hot--I'll give him the benefit of the doubt. Anyway, once the race headed back into the hills after the valley, Wohlberg shed his barnacles and motored away for a solo win. Both of the other two guys said he did 90% of the work anyway! Our group started attacking each other and it got pretty uncomfortable for a bit. In a moment of group apathy, Hunt rolled off and then Klein came to life and jumped across and they started motoring. Five of us crested the big hill about 30 seconds behind them but again we had a Strawberry hanging on and a pretty uncoordinated rotation. Five of six places were up the road for good, and by now eight of us were together going for that last tee-shirt. Down in the valley, Leibold came charging past us in his van, screeched to the side of the road, and quickly put out the 1 KM sign. Thanks, I was wondering when that finishing hill would appear! Junior stud Grant Van Horn jumped right away and got a nice gap and was soon followed by a Strawberry and a Lombardy's dude. I slowly mowed them down but couldn't quite reach Grant before the line. I'm glad Grant got the last place because he worked his butt off in the rotation, and even chased back on after stopping to pee. He earned that 6th-place tee-shirt! Not sure about 2nd through 5th, but I think Strawberries got 2nd and 3rd, and Andres and KK got 4th and 5th. Your reporter was 7th.

The 3's -- SB was represented strongly here, with Chicken Ranch, Corey, Eric Forte, Blinger, Ron Takeda, and Steve Smith in a field of 40-50. In an uncharacteristic and bold move, Eric attacked early in the race and was away with one other guy for the next 50 miles. The two of them went over the steep hill together but another group was slowly catching, and in that group were Matt and Corey, and surprisingly they were doing the work. Not sure what was up here, unless Matt was feeling like superman and was worried Eric would get outsprinted. And just behind was a third group coming up strong with Blinger and Ron. From what I could tell, they all just about came together at the bottom of the finishing hill (1 KM to go) at which point Matt realized his front tire was low, so he said F-it and attacked. Three guys came past--in order, an Australian, Eric, and of course, Corey. So, SB nets 2nd, 3rd, and 4th. Blinger, Steve, and Ron were up there too, probably between 10th and 20th. Not sure I have the details right--I'm especially curious about the intra-team chase--so if anyone can clarify for posterity, please do.

[add edit: I just read Matt's race report and better understand the decision to motor up to Eric. He was solo by the time they started the descent into the last valley, and a bigger group was coming up from behind. Odds are that Eric, Corey, and Matt would all have been caught by the bigger group if Matt and Corey hadn't bridged up to him. Bringing two guys up to Eric still had the better odds: 3 Chicken Ranchers & only 2 competitors. How could they have known the Australian dude would uncork such a kick at the end? That's one of the myriad things so cool about bike racing--all the variables and on-the-fly decisions, and you never know for sure which is right!]

35+ 4/5--A few of our crew in this one too. Not sure how the race unfolded but Coach Doyle snagged a 2nd, Pops got 4th, and Dano was top-10 too (I think). Good work boys!

The mini-van race home -- We established beyond any doubt that the Sienna has the superior motor and is much more studly when it comes to pulling, but the Odyssey is like your typical crit rider who cheats and slices-and-dices in the last-lap traffic to pull out the win.


Merkeley Bike said...

Nice Job! Glad to hear all your guys did so well. Sounds like you held your own in a small but tough P/1/2 field.

We had a great time in SB. The weather was incredible. Maybe we'll see you on the road next time we're in town. Until then, see you at the races.

Kirkpatrick MacMillan said...

good report.

Olaf Vanderhoot said...

Klein is git.