by Eric Johnson
The Rosena Ranch masters race had all the makings of a great race and it didn’t disappoint: celebrities, speed, drama, and, for me, a solid finish.
Only one fresh teammate from my SPY-Giant-Ride team bellied-up to the start of the race with me today. The rest of the team was our 45+ legends, who (only an hour prior) hammered out an impressive win of their own. Our plan today was simple, Josh and I knew our best bet in a field of larger teams was to let Helen’s and Monster Media play out their hands, and watch Surf City if it were to come down to a sprint. We would work in breaks, but we knew we would have to be particular as we only had a few matches to burn.
The race played out much like we expected. Riders attacked for the duration of the race, usually with a significant player in the mix. If Rudy Napolitano, Adam Livingston, or any number of the MRI team were in a break, the larger field chased. We always seemed to catch on the fast downhill. It was pretty easy. For the first three laps, my teammates were active working to get in breaks or bring groups back. But after lap three, we realized the finish was going to end in a sprint and so we became even more particular about efforts. Josh and MMX (Michael Marckx) are stubborn, aggressive riders, so they kept pushing breaks, but I was happily taking advantage of drafts and gathering myself for the last lap. I knew I’d need it.
The final lap was the best. Crossing the finish for the penultimate time, I bridged to a group of six or so that I felt had solid chemistry. We had a gap, but as with all attacks that day, it failed. The chase caught, and another smaller group went off. We wouldn’t catch this group until the final hill. As we ramped up speed descending the hill, I could tell the group was tiring. I was feeling the efforts I had just given as we crested the little bugger of a rise approaching the turn around, but there was no swarm or movement behind me. Guys were spent. Around we went, towards the little doomed break. As we approached the hill, we slowed to swallow the exhausted riders and I took advantage of the pace to move up. Now the front group was moving, and I maneuvered to catch MMX’s wheel. With that, I gave him the word, and we were off, moving just faster than the quickening group. MMX took me up and dropped me at about tenth wheel, just about half-way up the hill. I settled in for a moment and noticed the drama unfolding on the inside gutter. Most notably, Chris DiMarchi and Charon Smith led five riders single-file ahead of the wide pack.
Everyone was watching these few riders, just watching and waiting for the race to happen. This was my chance. I knew I could hold an effort for a long time and I knew I couldn’t beat Charon in a drag race if he went first, so I attacked off to the right. I heard a rider announce my attack and I imagine all hell broke loose behind me (I like to think that). All I knew was that for a time I was winning, and it would be my race to lose–nothing would be left about. I sprinted for an eternity and saw a few riders catch and pass me, but most didn’t. In the end, I caught a couple that passed me, earned 5th, and–just like the best glasses on the market–I was Happy.
As for the drama: the line crossing, the disqualification? I saw a lot of line crossing. I saw stars-and-stripes do it the first time on the first lap, I saw the race winner do it, and I was surprised that guys didn’t learn when it happened on the first lap, because sometimes it didn’t seem to happen for good, cautious, reasons. Race officials were on it today, and I have to hand it to them for following the rules. Did Charon cross the line first? You bet, he rode well the whole race without a huge team on a course not suited for him. But, because of the rules we all agree to, he didn’t win. And so, SPY will take fourth (and an extra 20$) and I’ll look forward to another race next weekend. Today was a great day. I’m stoked with my team, our efforts, and our finish. Thanks to SPY Optics, Ride Cyclery, and Giant Bikes for making this all possible.