ROGER MILLIKAN Race Report Master’s 35+
By: Michael Easter
On Sunday, all of SOCAL cycling showed up for Roger Millikan or so it seem. In fact, I neglected to pre-register and was wait listed at day of registration and was told to return 15 minutes prior to the start to see if I made the start sheet. So there I am, thinking I am so cool in my new Stars and Strips Skinsuit that I just received an hour earlier, and I may not even make it to the start line. In an effort to not miss my chance, I chose to warm-up on my rollers next to the registration tent. As promised, the registration folks began calling names and handing out numbers to those riders on the wait list. They gave out ten numbers and I was number 12 on the list….bummer.
More than “bummer,” I am totally pissed, pissed at myself for not pre-reregistering and honestly a little pissed at the Cat 3 rider who stood next to me pinning his number and proceeded to tell me he was just doing the Master’s 35+ as warm up for his Cat 3 race. Lucky for me, my team mate Armin Rahm/TIME-VELO Pasadena (Winner of the 45+ race) gave me his number. Unlucky for me, it put our team down one strong rider.
We had are pre-race meeting, which went like this: “Hey Rudy you attack, if you get caught, I will attack, then let’s repeat that until something sticks.” Really there is not much more to it, Rudy and I believe we are two of the fittest riders in the group and our best option for a Win is out of a breakaway.
To the start line we go. The usual admonishment from the official and the whistle goes. Rudy and I stuck to the plan, attack, attack, attack. Unfortunately, are efforts were only good enough for a 3rd Place. Why?
First, you have to look at the course. The course was square, fast, super wide, with corners you could pedal through, and it provided no benefit to an attacking style. This begs the question, “Why did we attack and not sit in and wait for the sprint?” Rudy and I don’t have the luxury of a 17 man team like Charon, which can chase every move and deliver us to a 100 meters sprint. Even if we did, Rudy and I are more all-around bike racers than sprinters, meaning you are just as likely to see Rudy (National Road Champion) and me winning hilly road races as we are flat criteriums.
Second, the “others” in the race, a term not meant to be derogatory, but a simple term to describe everyone else that is not on Surf City or MRI. These are your free-lancers, small shop teams, recreational races, and of course the Cat 3’s who need a warm-up. The “others” can play a huge roll in criteriums, more so than a road race where variances in fitness levels can limit their roles. In a criterium, “others” with limited race experience will chase down breakaways for the simple enjoyment of having a productive effort in the race, which does little to improve their chance of winning, but more to make their mark on the race, maybe even feel like they got their monies worth. I bring up “others” because several times I would look back to see who is chasing and it would be an “other.” This makes no sense to me, “others” should look to follow moves, not bring them back. “Others” should force the big teams (Surf City) to chase back the moves. That style of racing would improve the “others” chances of a higher placing, because it would fatigue more riders from the big teams.
Third, MRI. MRI had good numbers in this race, but seemed to lack some critical depth in fitness to contribute to promising breakaways (granted it is early February). MRI also seemed a bit disorganized, which is rare when DeMarchi and Paolinetti are racing. Several times I saw less experienced MRI riders closing gaps to breaks that they should have left to Surf City or even attempting to bridge to a break they were already represented in, but instead creating links between the peloton and the break. Those mistakes only benefit Surf City’s strategy. Having talked to DeMarchi, who is always critical of team tactics, he will have those kinks worked out. On a side note, to those who asked why Paolinetti was wearing his Nationals Kit in the same race as me, here is the answer. Paolinetti (45+ National Champion), out of respect for the 35+ category approached me before the race and asked me if I had a problem and If I did he would wear his Team colors. As shocking as this will be for some of you, I told him no problem, you should absolutely wear it. I told him that, because I know how it feels to wear that jersey and be proud of what it represents, pain, sacrifice, and commitment. In fact, I love seeing Paolinetti, Matt Carinio (Art’s Cyclery), and Rudy (TIME-VEO Pasadena) wearing their kits. It is good for their team sponsors, their team’s moral, and an excellent display of SOCAL’s cycling efforts at the 2012 Nationals.
Fourth, is the Surf City team who has stepped up this year to field a large team that can burn riders just to catch my sweat as they sit on my wheel attack after attack. As angry as it makes me, you can’t fault their strategy. Keep the race together, keep the pace steady, and deliver their rocket (Charon) to the front around 100 meters and it’s a guaranteed win.
Fifth, and lastly I have to be critical of my mistakes and shortfalls as much as I want to be mad and pass blame for loosing onto the course, the “others”, MRI, Surf City, and Cat 3’s warming up. So I will fall back on a phrase that has got me through all my sporting endeavors, parenting three kids, the Marines, my current work assignment, and the disappointments that come with bike racing. The phrase came from my dad, who used it to encourage me as a child competing in team sports. Before the game my dad would pull me aside and say, “Son…Never, never…?” and I would reply, “Give up.”
Thanks Doug Knox (TIME USA) and Hrach (Velo Pasadena) for your support this year. Also, thanks to Brandon Hale at Cycling Illustrated for allowing us Master’s racers to still think we are something special.
If you are still reading, I have challenge for you. If you are a 35+ Cat 1,2,3 and believe you can out sprint Charon, I will secure you a spot on the TIME-VELO Pasadena Team. Auditions are being held every weekend at a SOCAL Criterium near you. Come find me before the race and I will give you a pre-race motivational speech. See you at the races.