Merced Cycling Classic Hilltop Ranch Road Race
by Adam Switters (Mike’s Bike)
This was probably my 8th or 9th time doing this road race. I’ve it in the juniors, the 2’s, and been top 10 in the pro race. I like to think I had a pretty good idea how the road race was going to play out: break goes on the first lap, leader’s team rides tempo, big pack sprint. Turns out that I was wrong…way wrong.
Team Mike’s Bikes p/b Incase had been having an up and down race. On the first stage, our sprinter and I had been caught out in the 2 crashes within the final 3km, but we still put 2 guys in the top 20. We managed to put me and Roman Kilun in the top 25 of the TT (not good, but not bad either), and we finished just off the podium with a 4th in the criterium.
Our goal for Sunday’s road race was to infiltrate the break and set up a lead-out for the finish if it all came back together. The hardest part of the race was the 1st mile. People were getting dropped right away and it never really slowed down. In fact, we finished the 120mi road race in 4 hours, 12 minutes (a 28.6mph average). Breaks would go, but just as it seemed the elastic was going to snap, one team who missed the break would weld it all back together. Bissell even tried the classic “let’s all stop for a pee break” as a move started going up the road, but even with race leader Phil Gaimon pulling off the road, riders were still attacking.
Around 2 1/2 laps into the 5 lap race, a break of 10 riders with most teams represented got 30 seconds up the road. Just as it seemed it was gone, Optum hit hard over the top of the Bissell train and the race came back together with 2 laps to go.
Coming into the last lap, it became obvious the race was going to come down to a field sprint. We were hoping to set up our sprinters Daniel Holloway and James Laberge. We lined up behind CashCall and were waiting for some of the other teams to start ramping up the pace. On the rollers with 5k to go, Kirk Carlsen attacked and riders started going backwards. I covered a few gaps and came out of the sweeping downhill corner with 3.5km to go in around 8th wheel with my teammates a little farther back. As the leaders swung to the side, I got pinched to the curb right as Roman flew up the other side of the field and hit the front with our 2 sprinters in tow. Daniel would end up opening the sprint only to be passed by a flying Dion Smith (Full Circle) and Ken Hanson (Optum/Kelly) at the line. Daniel did hold on for 3rd, capping off a good week for Mike’s Bikes p/b Incase.