Folsom Masters 35+ 3/4 Report by Chris Flower:
A non-technical course that’s close to home and a high body count (78!) for ample drafting is a race recipe that I can truly appreciate. As noted in a previous write-up … I’m a lazy bike rider. If there is a race (or group ride or recovery ride or Zwift sesh) where I can get away with not working, I’m in. However, when it comes to racing, I try to trick myself into thinking that “lazy” is really just conserving energy and racing smart.
With that successful mindset, Nate and I exchanged countless “strategy and planning” emails in the week leading up to the storied Folsom Winter Classic Masters 35+ 3/4 Criterium. Counter to the “lazy” approach, we agreed that the two of us would just attack over and over and over until we established a break or until 4 laps (give or take) were left in the race. Basically … have fun and make the race tough. If we failed in encouraging a break to roll away, we planned to link up with a few laps to go and work our way to the front where Nate would deliver me to glory. We had checked out the wind and knew there would be a slight tailwind finish, so Nate’s goal was to ramp up the pace and drop me off about 50 meters before the final corner. From there, I’d generate enough speed to hold off the field. Then success, greatness, and the spoils of victory would rain down on us.
The plan was in place, the weather was amazing, and the race was on. I took a flier after the first lap to open up the legs and see if anyone was interested in some early race action. Sadly, no one tagged along and I was off by myself for a few laps with 15 seconds on the field. Knowing there was no shot of soloing away for the remaining 40 minutes and that any additional energy was wasted, I sat up and re-engaged the field (return to lazy). Shortly after that, Nate countered and took a couple guys with him. Once he was caught, he countered himself. Then he got caught and he countered … while he was away this go around (or maybe during one of the other dozen attacks he made) he elected to attack himself and push a gap out a bit only. I’d throw a move in here and there when Nate was brought back, but either the wrong mix of riders or a total lack of riders led to a failed break each time. Oh well…
With 4 laps to go, real racing was finally upon us. I rolled to the front and found Nate to let him know we were linked up, then proceeded to camp out on his wheel. Unfortunately, I quickly lost his wheel and found myself shuffled toward the back. Instead of battling in the scrum for a front wheel, I sat in near the back until the last lap or so. As the final lap was nearing, I found myself way too deep in the field. Knowing Nate was sitting up at the front waiting to execute the plan, I burned several matches and took any free ride that would get me toward the front as quickly as possible. Coming through the first turn, I could see Nate setup perfectly in the second position and I took advantage of some gutter space to get on his wheel just as the leader peeled off. It was very well timed and I gave him the green light to hit the gas … and hit the gas he did. The legs were hurting from the effort needed to reach his wheel and as we approach my jumping point, I knew I was in a bad spot. So, like a good teammate, I yelled at him to keep going and like a better teammate, he did. With the pace plenty high, we hit the final turn 1-2 and I jumped to hit the sprint with all that was left in the tank.
Nate’s lead-out was a thing of beauty and perfectly executed (proof in video form shown below). Sadly, I wasn’t able to take full advantage of it and missed the win by a partial bike length. The legs just didn’t have the jump they needed and I will regret it for years … maybe longer. Amazingly, Nate’s lead-out was so fierce, he rolled in for third after having been on the front of the field, full gas, for the last half of a lap. Lunch money won, a handful of upgrade points earned, we took our places on the podium, and started to prep ourselves for the next race. Here is a video of the last lap of the race.
Hang on for the ride.