ok, i’ll admit it ~ the Hanford 35+1/2/3 crit was the most fun i’ve had in a bike race all year long (pix grapt from Gary at CVC ~ pre-emptive gracias, hombre).
The field was solid sized, but not ungainly. The quality of competition was superb, with nobody walking away in absolute other-wordlyness. The weather was like buttah and all the boys just seemed ready to suck it in. The vibe was … great.
And that’s maybe the draw to these “small-town” bike races … meaning, that this was a race that didn’t just “take over” a downtown for a day … instead, the Hanford crit (and it’s like in Visalia, Tower District, and to some extent Merced) turn out their town and invite you to take part in their enjoyment of an early spring day in farm country.
cool folks, warm trees, long mornings …
i guess that’s why the romantics dreamt of shepherds and herd’lers.
Fast starts and full-throttle action is what masters racing in NorCal is all about right now … and that’s just what we did at Hanford. Sierra Pacific started shooting their guns off early and in earnest, but the field was too big and too hungry for them to set the tone alone. CVC, ActionSports, SierraBikeWorks, those SLO-Nexus hammerheads and a slew of others kept the speed and motivations high.
A number of moves went and were swallowed up. Gentlemanly aggression was in full effect … and that is, by far, the hottest kind around. bottle that shit up and sell it.
Everyone appeared in agreement that a break was going to go off, and EVERYone seemed willing to toss grenades out in hopes of riding the destruction into the winning move. Hanford is a glorious course for stuff like that.
Last year me and bigBobNewman went ape-shitz for breakaways in the p1/2 before that bully Hanson dialed us back into reality. Bob and I were loving every pedalstroke out there last year and did our best to repeat this time with the proseys, but the race gives and the race takes away.
But this year’s masters crit was a straight-laced street fight with attack after attack rumbling off the front. Sierra Pacific was strong and definitely protecting well, but that moment in the crit when fatigue from the furious start did the inevitable settling into legs and some open mouths and wide-eyes were glancing about in hopes of a little respit when …
Brian Bosch thunderclapped out of the pack like a Norse warlord. It was like there were a couple of wolfhounds in front of him, snarling open a path for him to accelerate through. Brian had lined up at the back of the race and had let his men soften up the field dutifully, readying it all for his spear to be thrown down.
Thankfully, LUCKILY ~ i was glancing right and saw a milli-second soon enough to recognize the severity of Bosch’s move … ‘cuz when you see that kind of energy radiating off of a guy, that kind of grim determination and utter embrace of the pain to come … you move, NOW.
and i did. I put 100% into the pedals to whip myself up to speed and find his wheel. barely. and Bosch kept accelerating, and kept accelerating. the speed this brute kept pouring on was … inhumane. I had to throw forward strings of my very soul, and latch them in desperation to keep from falling out of his wake.
Bosch put in over a mile of speed that about crushed my will to live.
And then Dirk Copeland bridged across.
oy … who’s getting 3rd out of this group?
– – – –
Luckily there was a prime right after Bosch put in his herculean effort and Copeland matched him feat for feat. I told them i wanted no part of the split and they could go buy ice cream with it afterwards. I had to sit on those monsters for almost 2 laps before i recovered enough to start pulling.
(that made me train harder this week, oh yes indeedy)
And so we rotated. but, like i said … the pack was too hungry and too strong and a half-dozen more laps go by, and they’re licking at our heels again. I see that the group is sprinting for a pack prime and that their acceleration will put them within striking distance of our threesome. I toss some gasoline on the fire and stretch some speed for a quarter lap in hopes only a couple strong men will make it across and re-ignite our breakaway.
True enough, first starting the bridge is Bosch’s teammate TimmyGranshaw. It’s an acceptable loss to have him latch on, a guy who will work hard and not a pure sprinter. But then next potential bridger comes from Steve Gregorious … the big MorganSpinely sprinter who is extremely difficult to beat in any circumstances … and, i realize that is just too dangerous a man and so put down a hard effort to keep him at bay.
It works, but shooting out of the tip of the pack is the Laberge and he makes it across before any of us can do a damn thing about it and that seals the deal … break forged, hammer down.
We rotate well, each rider playing their cards. I luck into grabbing laberge’s wheel and do my best to make him re-accelerate after his pulls. It’s what we do … us, bombers … try and knock the wind out of the true flyers as much as possible, over and over again.
Of course Dean is generous enough to take it for awhile, but with 3 laps to go he snuffs me off his wheel and takes mine easily. I’m pretty content with it and we roll along chuck-wagon style to the finishing laps.
Now, I know out of this breakaway i’m a sure bet for … least likely to sprint his way out of a paperbag … but, sometimes you’ve just got to damnwell practice this sort of stuff to get better at it … so, i got out my notepad and perked up as best i could to see what could be seen.
No games were really played until after bell lap was crossed. Granshaw kept pace, but there was definitely a few eyes looking to see when the attacks would come. Bosch took the front early on the backside of the course, with Copeland slotting behind him, me, Laberge, then Granshaw. Bosch kept the speed strong all through the approach to the chicane and so the question had to come, “would he lead it out all the way?”
I could see Copeland doing calculations and i knew Laberge was happy at the prospects … but i remembered Fremont last year where Bosch lead it out, INTO A HEADWIND, for 600m and still wouldn’t allow anyone to overtake him, not even Scott McKinley (and we know how fast that freak is). I remembered Fremont and I said to myself, “hell yes, Brian … go for it.”
and he did.
the speed that Bosch brought us up to was fantastic. it was break-neck. Now, some of you may know what kind of a speed junky i am … and so, just trust me when i say … it was the kind of fun you don’t even get in cyclocross, at its most butt-puckering.
But, Bosch is injured from the Copperopolis fall and after the final turn, a turn taken at speeds right on the edge of slide-out … he succumbed to the pain and Copeland jumped beautifully away from us all. Copeland was just riding glass all day long and is a pleasure to watch on a bike. Learn from him, young afficianados.
As for me, I was just a deadfish for Laberge to come around with his sprint. I did my best to uncork some speed, but need to train more ‘cuz there wasn’t much parity there. All i could do was give a “that’s the man” nod to Bosch at the line and accept the lumps from the others.
good motivation to get out on that bike. just what an early spring race should be doing, i reckon.
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