Not to be fooled. Just when I thought we’d cruise through the remainder of the Summers’ So Cal racing series with flat industrial park Criteriums, the San Marcos circuit race lurked behind the shady auspices of races named “Criterium” on the SCNCA schedule.
San Marcos is a 1.3 Mile circuit that covers the grounds of the Cal State University, San Marcos campus. With one big ring climb that false flats to the finish line, racers gain approximately 73’ per lap. To put it bluntly, racing a course like San Marcos hurts! The punchy hill climb up Campus Drive creates the eventual attrition that most circuit races offer up, and usually only the strongest survive them.
Team Monster Media/MRI had a solid turnout for the race, fielding riders in both the Masters 35+ and Pro 1-2 race. Team road captain Jamie Paolinetti held sermon in typical fashion beneath the team tent prior to the race to discuss the Masters 35+ race strategy. The plan was relatively a simple one; race the race as it unfolded and be sure to set up a break away and play the odds well, once our guys were in a break. Rarely does this race come down to a pure field sprint, so with our numbers it was important to cover promising moves and add guys to the mix of those moves as the race unfolded.
Lining up around 1 pm for the start, a large field stacked up to the starting line and already we were sweating from the warm temperatures. A light to moderate crosswind was blowing from the West along the backstretch on Twin Oaks Valley Rd that equated to a cross-headwind blowing in the opposite direction cresting the climb onto the false flat finishing section. Race officials gave the standard specials for the day and once the gun sounded, we were underway!
Immediatley off the line, Surf City Cycling/Sterling BMW’s Travis Wilkerson whole-shots his start and catches everyone off guard. As we veered into turn one, Travis was already flying wide open with a good sized gap and down the fast hill descending into turn two. Monster Media rider Phil Tintsman smartly covered this move going into the first corner, while the remainder of field was still wiping the sleepy’s out of our eyes. OK then, time to race from the gun!
Travis and Phil were quickly some 10 seconds up the road in earnest, as the field organized slowly to chase in anticipation of a difficult 50-minute bike race ahead.
Off the front for close to 10 laps by now, their gap had grown to just over 30 seconds. As we approached the Campus Drive hill, an OTR rider hits it hard and I jump with him. Quickly he’s opened a good gap from the field and I let him take us straight up the drag, telling him to open the gap more and I’ll then work, but we have to have some real estate on the field before I’ll chip in. He continued to drill it giving me a resounding “Yes” with his legs that he’s down to play nice and work. Looking back, I see Jamie smartly bridges up fast and he’s on board. The field did not react, or were slow to react, so we are now three riders chasing. Each time up the hill, our team Soigneur Paige is displaying split times on the white board as we turn into the first corner.
We’ve been chasing now for close to ten minutes or about 5 laps and Paige relays to Phil that we are in pursuit and he’s acknowledged, slowing the pace to allow our catch. The lead has been quickly cut down to about 18 seconds, so we should be attached within the next lap.
Playing the odds.
Rounding out of turn two along the long flat section of Twin Oaks, we can see that Travis and Phil are about 200 meters off so Jamie ramps up the pace and drills it out of the saddle, then I pull through and finish off the last half of the section into turn three and finally the OTR rider Brian Forbes takes the last dig as we attach to the leaders. We are now five strong, with three Monster Media in the move and I’m sure Jamie’s smile is wider than a Vegas Bookie.
The race is more than half over and we need to keep the pace up to maintain what’s now close to a 25 second gap on the field. The Monster Media boys are racing for the win today back in the field as well by covering any threatening attacks from the chasing peloton. That’s teamwork!
Riding upfront, it was clear that Phil was the strongest of our group, previously coming off a big weekend in Las Vegas where he was partying pool-side, his pulls up Campus Drive still seemed effortless, while the rest of us duked it out with our own cardiovascular systems. Just part and parcel for “Phil-thy” this 2012 season!
Up over the climb again and the lap cards are showing three laps to go. Holy shit, that came quickly, I thought. The adrenaline’s kicking in as I’m thinking about tactics and positioning. As we round the second corner Jamie swings out to the gutter side of the road and punches it down Twin Oaks. A perfectly timed attack from the breakaway group and neither the OTR or SCC riders respond. Phil and I sit on and roll through with the rotating riders, watching JP do what he’s always done for so many years- masterfully attack and ride away.
On to the last lap and I’m tired for certain, knowing from a previous 10 days off from any hard intensity while on vacation, I certainly do not have the sprinting legs to take a run against either Phil or Travis. Coming out of the third corner I give Phil the nod that I’m going to hit it. My motive was to get Travis to respond, knowing how well of an uphill sprinter he is and hopefully causing him to react to the possibility that second place may roll off if he doesn’t try and come with. A ‘softening him up’ if you will, before or on the last climb up Campus Drive. Just as planned, and smartly so, Travis jumps out and covers me and I take the group into the third corner and start hammering the climb, with legs about dead as wood and numbed. Phil and Travis duke it out over the crest of the hill and finally Phil kicks it in one more time along the false flat to come across 2nd, Travis takes 3rd and I roll in 4th with the OTR dude just off a few bike lengths for 5th.
Jamie’s already had a chance to wet and comb his hair back under the team tent, with an impressive gap to the line for a First Place finish! Great racing by the team and thank you for reading and the continued support!