Well this is my third time with this race and I seem to get worse every time I try it! In '97 I had a fun looong breakaway and then had enough legs to survive the field sprint. Two years ago I rode too hard and ended up cramping but still was able to spin in the field sprint.
Since this is a race that tends to get a little boring with everyone plodding along for 63.5 miles and then racing the last kilometer, I wanted to try to get a break going from way out. So I gave myself a 20 minute window to try that at the end of the first lap/ beginning of the second lap. I was hoping to get something going on the flat going into San Ardo and then stretch it and get out of sight on the climb and following rollers going out of town. Unfortunately NOBODY wanted to see that happen. I just can't get a grip on negative racing. Do people really enjoy a boring three hour ride followed by a field sprint? (I know I know it's more about racing and results and if you want fun go for a mtb ride...) That's just not fun racing to me. I attacked and counter attacked and counter counter attacked until I was crosseyed but I simply couldn't stretch the elastic. The biggest gap I was ever able to create was only about 20 seconds and I couldn't get anyone else to go. There were a couple people riding hard at the front but no one was attacking.
Sidebar: Attacking: Riding hard at the front is not attacking. Pulling hard and slowly ramping up to speed is not attacking. Generally any kind of riding hard at the front that does not create gaps is not attacking. If there is a rider with two or three bike lengths ahead and you want to make a breakaway you have to JUMP across that gap. If you ride hard across that gap you are only going to pull the pack with you. Now if only the only two or three other animated riders in yesterday's race would read that... Oh and another thing. If you are trying to get a flyer going with two or three other riders you have to share major efforts with those guys for a few pulls. If you let ANY other rider into that rotation you screwed up.
Anyway. Despite riding myself crosseyed I just couldn't get away. So I settled back into the pack for a 38 mile snooze. Pathetic (both that I couldn't get away and the negative racing in the pack). Oh, and while I'm whining can I just say how flipping frustrating it is to see CAT FOUR racers on deep dish carbon wheels, and $4,000 + bikes? Oh, and the pinnacle of this absurdity is that I finally saw a CAT FOUR racer on Di2. Let me repeat that. I saw a CAT FOUR racer with a $3800 Dura Ace electronic groupo on a $2000 frameset using $1800 wheels. My car isn't worth that much money.
So then we finally sniffed San Ardo in the distance and the pace went up. Surprisingly, I found myself near the front and in good position. I got swarmed a little coming into town but then worked my way back up the side and into decent position on the climb. I was off to the side maybe five wheels back when the rider in front of me (who I had earlier determined to be a strong finisher) jumped hard. I went too but then going under the freeway just before the turn my legs simply quit on me. I sat down and pushed as hard as I could through the turn and to the finish but pretty much the entire pack went by before the finish line came. I don't think I've ever faded that hard in a sprint in my life. It was quite shocking, really. I'm no stranger to going too early but usually I can hold it and scratch something out of it. But this was more like I put the brakes on. I mean EVERYONE had a sprint left in his legs.
Finishes like that really just make you want to hang up the bike. I did everything right in the sprint. Good position. Fought onto a good wheel. But I went too early and didn't have NEAR the legs to get away with it.
Well at least I had a near-four hour drive home by myself to replay it over and over... Luckily it was all vanquished by the time I got home and forgotten after a solid, yet wobbily, afternoon of swimming, hiking and playing with my boy.