Here’s a quick recap from our team’s trip to the Madera Stage Race – this weekends DDA roster included Casey, Eric, Nate, and me – Curt.
Our team’s hopes in the “race of truth” hinged on Eric Brickler, who’s racing with one good arm (“to make it a fair fight”) – and Casey Fallon who’s ramping up for the Chico Stage Race in a couple of weekends. The two of them laid down solid efforts and landed just outside the top 10 (11th and 13th respectively) in a full 75 man field. Nate and I did less well, but remained in remarkably upbeat spirits all the same – really well done Nate and I.
Needing a fair amount of time to land in the top 3 in GC, we decided to do what we enjoy best and just race our bikes in the crit. This crit felt a little like a P/1/2 race where there’s this constant aggression until a break get’s established that’s agreeable to the field, only this field was pretty disagreeable and that wasn’t going to happen. The whole race attacks would go, get caught, then the counter would come – for 60 minutes this went on, making it easily the most difficult race we’d done all season.
Somewhere in the midst of the relentless attacks, Eric shows his incredible race savvy and unleashes his killer sprint to land a time bonus prime that moves him into the top 10 in GC. Again, all with only one good arm.
Finally with two to go Casey put in a perfect move, got a gap, and put the bit between his teeth (his words, no fake british accent used). The pack was caught trying to determine who was going to chase this down, I love this moment in races. If this wasn’t a stage race where teams had a clear pecking order established by GC, I think this move sticks. As the bell rings for the final lap though, the teams start to organize and the chase is on. Casey holds it until the back straight, but a motivated field of 75 is too strong and we all settle for pack finishes.
Again, we’re here to race – especially Mr. Fallon, who may be the most impatient racer on the planet. Within 5 minutes from the time the race is on, Casey’s in a break with four others. Twenty minutes into the race, the race moto informs the docile peloton the break has three minutes plus.
The words, “Three minutes and *muffle, wind, muffle*” instantly transform the chatty peloton into a raging pack of snorting man-beasts capable of super human feats – and for the next 45 miles I stand in awe of the sacrifices racers make to claw back the break.
Heading into the final lap, Casey and his break-mates get caught. Eric immediately puts in several digs to try and get separation, but the testosterone fuel this pack is running on is potent and nothing’s going to fly away without a major fight. Finally the race turns onto the cobble of an old farm road for the fourth and final time and we settle into the pack for the ride to the finish.
If you’re in good position, this is where something can get away and it does. Three guys slide off the front a couple miles from the finish. We’re not in good position to cover and have little choice but to sit in and hope they get caught. As we head around the last bend the center-line restriction is lifted and the rollers begin. Patience is a virtue here because the rollers reward the racer who times his move just right and can carry momentum across the finish, but this same patience kills the packs motivation to chase the 3 man break up the road. Everyone is trying to nail the timing, and no one wants to put in work and kill their chances.
Through the last two rollers there’s a couple of uphill crashes, the seas part, and I find my way onto a wheel that takes me to 2nd in the field sprint and 5th overall in the RR.
In the GC we do pretty well, we’re here to get some points for our guys and that goal gets accomplished. Eric receives the final points he needs to become a full-time CAT 3 domestique and Casey snags enough that he’s knocking on the door.
The biggest accomplishment however is the one Nate Dunn achieves, competing in his first race since receiving a life saving liver transplant in August – Nate pack finishes the hardest crit we’ve done all year and followed it up the next day by doing work at the front of the pack to allow the break to get a huge advantage in the road race. Rampant rumors of a bearded man reppin’ a DDA kit ripping the bike trail appear to all have been true. Awesome job Nate!
Finally – Since the day this team was formed Nate’s perseverance through rough days and absolute refusal to allow any of it to affect his attitude has served as an inspiration to all of us. Understanding what he’s gone through, what it’s taken to come back and race competitively, all of it – is beyond me. Getting the chance to forget all of that and discuss the infusion of morality into video games, the state of mobile device payments, race tactics, and of course the charmed life of Pierre – all made for a very normal weekend. The type of normal weekend we’re all very thankful to be able to have. On to the next one..