Sunday marked my first MBGP and I was looking forward to the day of racing. Cooler than expected temperatures were chilly while standing still but perfect while riding so when 10:20am came around for the 35+ it was on!
Monster Media/MRI had a large team presence at the race aboard our Masi Evoluziones fielding 12 riders for the start. Many on the Monster Media/MRI team have raced MBGP and have even won this race in the past so there was plenty of quality experience and tactical advice. As the race started then progressed, it was business as usual with our team getting the pace going and keeping it high. I learned quickly based on the course and the breeze that it would be very difficult for a small break to stay away and it would take the right combo of riders who are willing and able to drive a break on this course, which would be hard to come by.
Teammate Kayle Leo Grande and I monitored the race, and besides some brief attacks here and there, kept our noses out of the wind as the team kept the pace high and sent riders off the front. Big Karl Bordine was throwing out the attacks as well as Chris Mac forcing other teams to chase. While this was happening at the front, other team riders seemed like they wanted to follow either Chris DeMarchi or myself around like puppy dogs or spend their day trying to get in the middle of our trains. Nevertheless, 50 minutes seemed to fly by on the fun, yet challenging course that doesn’t have much flat nor straight sections of road.
As the race was ending, it was evident, barring something drastic, a field sprint was how it was going to finish. This presented some strategic challenges; the wind was making it very difficult for anybody to hold a super high pace on the back stretch to the last corner, which made an effective lead-out physically very difficult. Our team did an amazing job on the last few laps keeping the pace high and strung out, which is exactly how we wanted it. We approached the last lap with the team lined up picture perfect with the power being put down at the front with Kayle and myself sitting in perfect position approaching the last half-lap. With DeMarchi burying it at the front heading for the final corner, a rider attacked and made it to the front just before the corner with Kayle and myself in tow. As we entered, he was either running out of gas or talent as the pace started slowing in the last corner. Unfortunately for us, this slowed Kayle a bit, but I carried speed around the outside of both putting me into the wind for the final stretch. Now in front, I buried my head and started clicking gears making my way to the inside shortest line to the finish line. If only it would have been 15 meters shorter I would have held off the hard charge of Charon Smith as he was following the double yellow around overtaking Mike Easter and I just before the line. I felt great and ended upsecond with Easter in third. After the race, I did some quick recovery at the tent with Zoot compression and MRI products to get ready for the Pro/1 show only a few hours later.
Pro/1 Manhattan Beach GP
I love racing these NCC races because the pace stays fast, there is a selection that weeds off those that are not having a good day and for the most part everyone can ride their bikes very well. I felt like I needed a little redemption after ending up on the ground at Dana Point earlier this season heading into the last lap in good position and this was just the place to get it.
The most difficult part for us was trying to figure out who in the MM/MRI six man squad would be the protected rider for the Pro race since all six of us were more than capable of performing well in the event. Our team consisted of Danny Kam, Jaime Paolinetti, Chris DeMarchi, Karl Bordine, Kayle Leo Grande and me.
There were plenty of strong riders in the group with teams like United Health Care, Team Optum p/b Kelly Benefit Strategies, Cash Call, Full Circle, two from Elbowz Racing and Gaimon of Kenda/Five Hour Energy. Although very difficult on this course it seems like some were pushing for a break like Cash Call as they were missing their missile sprinter Justin Williams. Cash Call, Marcotte (Elbowz Racing) and Gaimon were all attacking at points in the race to get away but all it took was a few of the other teams with big sprinters to shut that down. My team did an amazing job following the attacks and we always had somebody in the big moves putting us in good position. More than usual, there was a lot of the rear of the field overtaking the front when the paced started to slow or attacks were brought back at times in the race making it difficult to stay towards the front and in good position. It was constant re-shuffling.
Eighty minutes is a long time to be riding at 29 mph on this course and entering the last ten laps it started to take its toll on a number of riders, with small gaps forming as the pace would surge. Again, the goal was to stay out of the wind and try to put ourselves in good position. It was becoming apparent this race was to be decided in a field sprint and with two to go the teams were at the front including ours keeping the pace high and left the field to scramble to get in position. The last two laps were fast, fun and its incredible how much contact is made between riders fighting for position and no crashes happen, takes me back to my downhill racing days. Fortunately my legs were feeling good and I knew from my first race that the last hill on the back to the finish was a place I could make a last ditch effort to move to the front. We hit the hill with Marcotte now taking control of the lead-out and I launched from probably 20th into the wind and moved myself into the top ten when a rider in the train made the mistake of letting a two foot gap open, which I quickly stole. On the final stretch entering the corner I was in a position to at least make a good showing for our team. Just like the first race of the day, it was all out to the finish crossing in ninth and my teammate DeMarchi in 14th.
To top off the event was the Kid’s Race in which Brody; my not quite 2 year old competed in his first race aboard his run bike. I was a proud papa as the look of determination on his face and obsession with his bike is hitting very close to home. I am thinking as a family, MBGP is going to be on our schedule for many, many years to come!