San Dimas Stage Race
by Erik Johnson (SPY)
This race is always a must for SoCal racers, and many others who travel from all over the country. The stages are demanding and the competition doesn’t get much better. To finish well in any of the stages is substantial, and so my finish in Sunday’s 35+ criterium was celebrated, even though I finished 4th.
Sunday’s criterium began with just less than fifty racers. For some reason, this year’s numbers were low in the masters field. Couple this with a challenging time trial and fast road race, and we were left with only a few dozen of the best racers around. At the starting line, stars and stripes and state champion status were not uncommon. What seemed to be lacking was pack fodder. My teammates (Ryan Dahl and Peter Anderson) and I knew we would need to ride aggressively for breaks and regroup to help get me to the last corner if it ended with a sprint.
The race started quickly and carried on with blistering speed and frequent attacks. Because Charon was racing and because MRI didn’t have the overall lead, we figured MRI would be using their numbers and strength to keep it fast, make up time (if possible), and get Kayle to the final turn before anyone else. Because the Time riders were leading, and generally savvy racers, we knew they would do their incredible part to counter MRI and keep the pace high as well. We were right, and both teams gave their best.
SPY rode well. Peter, Ryan and I all kept our eyes on efforts up front and each got into some breaks hoping we could help one to the line. At six to go, Ryan and I thought we had bridged to the winning break. The break was about seven or eight strong and seemed to have the right amount of teams represented. MRI, Swami’s, and Helen’s were there, and I figured that we at least had the majority of the field looking to keep us off the front. Nope. We apparently had the wrong guys. After three laps, we were pulled back and MRI attacked with a Helen’s and a Time rider looking to keep clear. Again I jumped, but this would be the last of the failed breaks the pack would allow and we were reeled in only a few turns after our attack.
For the next lap, I sunk back and tried to recover for the sprint. The pack was humming along and with one to go I was pretty far back. I made an effort at the line and found Peter. Almost as if he could feel my presence, he gave a quick look back, saw me, gave the “follow me” gesture, and we were gone, moving up the outside towards the front. At the incline, I noticed MRI and TIME were up the road, just slightly off the group. Peter pulled me up and around the pack, and at the middle of the descent towards the final turn, we were nearly on the leaders. We railed the final turn to find a slowing Rudy and an MRI rider looking to create a gap for their sprinters. They did. At the turn, I jumped and passed riders to slot into the gap, but I wasn’t going to make up much ground after that. The top three had been determined at the turn, and I rolled across the line clear and happy with my finish of fourth, Peter’s of sixth, and the strength of my small team.
Ryan, Peter, and I would like to thank SPY, Giant bikes, and RIDE Cyclery for taking such great care of us. Thanks to Cycling Illustrated for keeping us all informed and continually stoked with this sport we love.
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