Thursday, August 20, 2009
1997 San Ardo Road Race - Ancient History
The motel is booked, the plans for sending the boy off for the weekend are made, the training has sort of led me up to this weekend and I'm just watching the clock waiting for the San Ardo Road Race to begin...
There's certainly nothing special, epic or unique about the San Ardo road race but it's a race I put on my calendar back in January as a "must do." But why? Well, pull up a chair and be prepared for a boring ancient history lesson.
1997 - Roy
In January of 1997 I pushed the boulder off the ledge that began the rockslide that moved me (back) to California to be with Kris and that history is known (and if it isn't then it goes like married-eleven-years-with-kid-and-mortgage). When I finally located to Cali in April, I hit the ground running looking for as much racing as I could. The Madera Stage Race went well as a first California race but everything kind of went downhill from there. In Crits, no one would work in breakaways. The only crit strategy was to chase down ANYTHING that went off the front and then sit up and wait to sprint. Well that didn't work for a flyer specialist like me. Then in all the road races, it was the same lame chase-any-break mentality. The pace in the flats was pathetically slow while everyone waited to do their racing on the climbs. It was really lame for a diesel motor flat land rider like me and by the end of summer I was very discouraged with the California racing scene. Every race I was either pack fodder after getting chased down on breakaway attempts or was miserably far off the back after getting destroyed on a climb (hmm, sounds kind of familiar to how it still is...).
But then there was San Ardo. For some reason, I pretty clearly remember the drive to the race and what I ate and drank that morning. When the race started, I rode the pack for about ten miles and realized it was one of those lucky days when my legs were really good. So I did what I wasted most races of my youth doing, I attacked! Flying out of the pack I found myself on an easy climb with another fellow. We rode well together and enjoyed a very long flyer. We lasted something like 30 miles off the front together before we finally saw the pack catching up. We agreed to back off and when the pack caught us I remember feeling surprisingly fresh. Mostly, I think I was just happy to find myself on a road course that didn't have a miserable climb on it to kick my ass in.
On the last lap, I saw too many big legs again and took another flyer with ten miles to go. It was a good move but no one went with me and so it was totally suicidal. I was caught on the turn up to the finish and was able to stay in the pack and finish 28th (amazingly the results are still online!). 28th is not exactly a great result but it was not DFL, like many of my races that year so it stuck in my memory. Mainly the wasted tactic and the idea that if I had been more patient and dug in on the field sprint stayed with me all these years.
By the time the race rolled around in 1998 I was shoulders deep in helping organize our wedding and couldn't even think about racing. As it turned out, Madera SR 1998 was the last race I did until late last year and I never got a chance to do San Ardo "right."
So that's it. It's simply one of the races that I remember being able to not only survive but thrive. Maybe it won't be the same at 40 as it was at 28 but I can't wait to find out. Been waiting 12 years, in fact.