This race is famous for it's bad pavement and, in stretches, complete lack of pavement. It is also known for being, hot, exposed, and for having long straight stretches at the final that tax the weary brain. I can now confirm all the above is true! What a great race. Nothing comes right up my alley like putting miles of dirt/gravel roads into a road race.
After deliberating all week, I asked around and read race reports and decided to go ahead and ride my regular race bike with 25 mm tires. That was my setup at Madera and, though I got the snot hammered out of me by the road, it worked out well as I didn't flat when so many others did. But I ran out of time in my week to swap out my tires so I ran with the 23's.
Heading out, the pace was fast but not too taxing. Riding at the front was pretty easy and there wasn't alot of pushing around up there. Then we crossed hwy 20 and the potholes began! I dodged, bunny-hopped and bounced for a few minutes when I saw the opposite shoulder was smooth gravel. "Why not?" I abandoned the pavement and was rewarded with a nice smooth gravel shoulder. It was much faster than the potholes and I found myself shooting past the nose of the pack. Unfortunately, that only lasted about a mile then it was back to pothole management with the rest of the pack. I found it much safer and easier going in the front five guys and so there I stayed.
One thing you read alot about on this race is the plethora of water bottles all over the road bounced out of people's cages. I was laughing to myself about the time I passed the fiftieth bottle in five miles. We caught the 45+ cat 4's just before the climbing began and all hell broke loose as guys realized they could get lost as the fields combined. But I had my own worries as my body went into the red zone immediately as the road tilted up. Slowly and with all too much familiarity, the pack spit out it's unworthy climbers and I was soon enough among them left to toil in the heat all by myself cursing my inability to go upward as fast as I want to.
The climb dragged on and I had a real problem with it. If a climb isn't steady or has anything to break my rhythm, I'm toast. It was plenty steady enough but the potholes just destroyed my ability to sit down, zone out and suffer.
Over the top and down the other side banging over potholes and placing my bunnyhops strategically I passed a number of stragglers.
This is getting pretty boring so I'll just say the rest of the race was a haze of heat and cramps and grouping and dropping and sitting in and surviving. I drank a ton but was still having trouble with calf cramps. Just before the feedzone, I caught a guy and he gave me an "electrolyte pill." I put it in my mouth to be polite but as soon as he took a pull I dug it out and flicked it into the weeds. Last thing I want is to be vomitting on the road out in the middle of nowhere in that heat. All the other climbs were on smooth pavement or on smooth gravel and I really did alot better there catching folks and passing. There was one 45+mph descent and I passed three guys there. I don't know why I'm descending so much faster and more confidently now as an old guy than I did when I was young. Oh well.
The last fifteen miles was a real drag. Luckily, I grouped up with four to seven other guys (the number changed as guys got picked up and dropped) and it made the flat ride into the headwinds more bearable.
In the end I was just happy to finish this race and happy to not get a flat and happier to be able to hold onto wheels and dig DEEP to not get dropped over the final windy sections. I can motor right along in the flats right now, it's just the climbs that are kicking me in the butt. But then again, that's not really a new story for me...
I think I was 7th but I might have been 4th if I read the results wrong and the 45+ guys were mixed in there. Pretty sure it was 7th, though. Boy, divide a field size by two, add or subtract one and there's Roy. I'm not complaining, though.