On Tuesday night I attended the “Over the Hump” series opener. Cannondale has a big presence at this race series; and having a close relationship with Cannondale (my definition of a close relationship is living with the rep), resulted in me being there. When I get a chance to race a Flash Ultimate, which costs more then what I earn in a year, it’s pretty much a no brainer that I’m stoked to be there; even though my mountain bike experience is far past limited and I haven’t been on a mountain bike in 6 months. So I was really banking that the motocross skills I seem to think I have from racing for 12 years were still there, and just getting beack from the UCI Tour of Gila pro stage race, I thought the speed could be there for me as well.
I was running late to the race from getting off work, and had to pin it to Irvine from Temecula while eating Carls Jr. on the way. I felt like I was racing. I showed up to see my Flash Ultimate waiting for me under the Cannondale tents with so much steeze it was a moment where I kind of felt pro; Peter Sagan being there with us helped out a bit also. I stripped down, threw my new spandex on, and headed out to look for a quick lap recon. The course looked good with one good climb off the start then some single track, add in some dirt roads, more single track and oh ya I was primed up ready to go. I finished my warm up only to see everyone already lining up. I cruised to the front of everyone and lined up in the front row to wait for the start. As I was sitting on the line I was going through my check list to make sure I was dialed. I looked around to see a bigger turn out then I thought. I felt a gran fondo feel as I looked behind me because every class would start together which only means one thing; lappers lappers and more lappers after a couple laps. Considering myself a “roadie” I have absolutely no idea who these fellow racers are in spandex other then Johnny O’Marra, who everyone knows is a bad dude times ten, and Brandon Gritters, who I watched cleaning up the cyclocross scene in the pro class as I worked at a booth eating cheeseburgers during my off season. I figured positioning would be key off the start because after about 500 meters it leads into a single file shoot into the climb which leads into more single track.
5, 4, 3, 2, 1 and watch out we were racing. A team put two guys on the front to drill it – so I was cool with this and moved over on anyone fighting for those wheels, I won. When we came into the climb I moved around those two racers and hit the climb on the front. As I started to get settled into the climb, none other then Johnny O comes by me like I was some Fred out there lolly dagglin. I moved onto his wheel and the hurtness began. We crested the top of the climb and hit the descent to come into the single track with only me, Johnny, and of course Gritters. Gritters and I were both racing pro and Johnny was racing expert, so his victory lap began the first lap. Once we hit the single track, I realized my mountain bike skills were hurting a bit and I started to lose some time. Once we hit our flat beach section I was able to throw it down a bit and caught back on. I looked behind me to see a chase group of about 10 and Johnny, wanting to wrap his day up quickly, went to the front and drilled it as I sat on with no complaints. Our first lap was quick with nothing much to write home about besides that it was fast. Coming into the second lap we pretty much established we were going for the win. We kept the pace up trading pulls enjoying our brief moment of a clear course. Heading out of the back section Gritters took the front to lead us through the slick flat off camber section. Gritters felt like this race was getting a bit boring and decided to hit the deck with me and Johnny, almost using him as a speed bump. After this we hit the single track and Johnny decided to show me how to ride and put some time on me with Gritters chasing. Going into the end of the lap, the lappers felt as though it was their turn to make our race more complicated, which is always nice. Going through the start finish for our third lap the three of us rejoined as though we missed each other a bit, so cute. Hitting the climb the third time, Johnny kept pinning it with me on his wheel, and Gritters started to get gapped. It was at this point I started to think how I was going to take the W in this race because I was still feeling good on the climb and thinking that was where I was going to make my move on the last lap. Once we hit the climb we went down the descent and I moved to the front for the single track so I wouldn’t get gapped off again like some Fred, and set my own comfortable pace. We rode the rest of the lap pretty conservatively, just trying to survive the lappers so we could throw down on the last lap. Coming into the fourth and final lap I quickly realized I wasn’t going to win any sprint with these guys and nobody was getting away through the single track other then me off the back. Approaching the climb Johnny sat up and came back to me with a cute little smile saying “okay its between you two guys now that I’ve pretty much just owned the Experts”; I added that last part. I knew I would have to hit it hard from the front on the climb because on such a narrow climb, add in the lappers, a sneaky attack wasn’t going to happen. Sitting behind Gritters, he happily handed over the front to me which was perfect for what I wanted to do. We came into the climb and I hit it as hard as I could straight, head down, bobbing and weaving through lappers. I crested the top of the climb, sucked it up and just kept going on the down hill. Luckily, I had on my Deft Family gloves, helping me hold on because there were a few moments where I didn’t think I was going to make that bottom corner. I did. Going through the single track all I could do was yell “on your left, leader coming” (so pretty much move over pull up a lawn chair and just watch). That didn’t happen, so I just kept yelling, which seemed to work, even though I probably now have more people that would rather drop kick me then give me a good job. Half way through the final lap, from the corner of my eye I saw that I had a good gap on the other two so I was starting to feel as though I could pull this off. The last part of the lap was more of a blur, mainly because I couldn’t see anything with the sun in my eyes; wearing my Spy Optic Screws pretty much saved me as I could faintly see that the lappers just kept on coming. Coming into the final single track I was able to make it through safely adding some more yelling to my fellow spandex racers and I made it through cleanly. Approaching the finishing straight I figured out I had this one wrapped up so I sat up, crossed the finish line, popped my collar and put a wrap on the first Over the Hump race.
I have to give a shout out to American Interbanc Cannondale, Spy Optic, Deft Family, Hagens Bernman Cycling, Steve Kwait, The Bike Shop Temecula, and my coach Ben Day for keeping me in shape. My night of glory was finished and I headed home to get some sleep so I could wake up and get back on the road bike for some miles, come home cut the grass, then head to work to keep the amateur cyclist dream going. Next week I’m sure I’ll go back out to do it again and wear the leaders jersey so it’ll be nice not being a marked man at all.