Copperopolis. We’re back again. Though not for the circuit I mentioned in the earlier article. This was the Copperopolis Road Race. “Road” being used in the loosest sense of the term. This race’s gimmick is that it’s the “Paris - Roubaix” of Northern California. Look, I’m not saying this race is harder than Roubaix. I have no way of knowing that. And it probably is not. But the cobbles in Roubaix are peppered over a flat(ish) course with sections of smooth pavement in between, right? Well, imagine if you will, Trouée d’Arenberg and Mons-en-Pévèle met and had a bad egg of a child that smashed mailboxes and knocked over compost bins. That would be the section of road we had to ride over in Copperopolis. With no break, for 105 miles. Oh, and 8,000 feet of climbing. I lasted two laps. This is not my kind of race and I’m not quite sure why I went. Though I was happy to give the Murphy brother’s a ride, Evan smashed the field because they were marking his brother Kyle like crazy. Kyle (from what I gather) attacked on the first climb on the second lap and basically thinned the race out to ten guys. Two leaders, four chasers, and everyone else. He brought it in for fourth. I’ll probably never do this race again. But that’s exactly what I said last year.
Then, I switched my shift at work and raced the UC Berkeley crit on Sunday. A short course, roughly 40 seconds per lap. An uphill finish and a descent. So the course profile looks like the teeth of a buzz saw. You’re either going uphill or downhill. This wasn’t my best weekend. I also dnf’d this race. I lasted about 45 of the 60 minutes. Right from the gun we were going full sprint up that hill. Every lap. Every 40 seconds. Given it’s proximity to San Francisco we had a couple of friends to come out and heckle. Erica, Chas, and Chelsea hung out to watch our race after Erica’s race had finished.The Murphy brothers took the train up from the south bay and while we’re all huddling by the reg tent Kyle in passing mentions he wants to lap the field so he can sit in. Well he does that, with Evan and Willie Myers. The three of them lap. It was awesome.
So, now I sit here writing this in my room, under the covers, shades drawn, with a runny nose, itchy eyes and a cough. My immune system put up a pretty good fight these past few months but finally let its guard down on me. Racing this past weekend sure didn’t help either. I’m wearing sweatpants. Freakin’ sweatpants. If you know me, you know how much I hate sweatpants. Almost as much as flip flops, electric skateboards and velcro wallets. I’ve also never been a fan of pills. Even when I broke my collarbone a few years back I got a prescription for Vicodin and barely went through it. With the exception of an advil here or there I generally avoid that stuff. But, if there’s one thing I LOVE and one that’s abundant in this beautiful city is noodles. My version of medicine for this particular ailment is a giant bowl of phở with extra chilis and enough sriracha to kill a small horse. Try it. I dare you.
After a disappointing weekend of racing I was more than happy to use my illness as an excuse to take a few days off to head to Palm Springs for a few days for my girlfriend’s birthday. No bikes, no homework. Just sunburn, some whiskey, lots of swimming and maybe a hike.
It was a nice two weekends off.
I think it had been at least two and a half weeks since I’ve gone on a road ride. Usually to get ready for the fast evolving and growing track criteriums I go one shorter (90min-2.5hr) “road” rides with my track bike. Mostly to get used to slowing down without skidding and to practice accelerating out of u-turns. Rookie stuff mostly, but you’d be surprised at how many people show up to these races having never ridden a track bike before. I’m not surprised anymore by some people’s complete lack of prerequisite knowledge of how these bikes handle in general. More on that later.
— Cue sponsor plug — LOW Bicycles — not because I have to, but because Andrew deserves some massive credit. I am in LOVE with the bike that he has built for these very specific and niche events. Obviously, their popularity and growing success cannot be ignored. When Andrew and I started thinking about a track crit frame I told him what I thought would be ideal. This is my opinion only, not fact. The type of bike that made sense to me was (generally speaking) a slightly longer wheelbase and a higher bottom bracket to compensate for not being able to stop pedaling. More or less a road bike with 120mm rear drop outs. I don’t feel the need for the twitchy steering that I think a more traditionally angled track bike would give you. And yes, you can see in some photos, I’m running a road fork.
Coming up there was a three race series here in the USA. Mission Crit in San Francisco on 4/23, Red Hook on 4/30 and Wolfpackhustle Shortline in Long Beach on 5/7. A rare consecutive three weeks worth of track bike crits. I get the feeling (according to my instagram feed anyway) that there seems to be at least one track bike crit per weekend in the EU from February through October. So having three in a row (relatively) close to home was really awesome.
Okay. Let’s talk about Red Hook. Disclaimer; these are my feelings and thoughts.
We all saw what happened in both the women’s and men’s races. I cannot comment on what happened in the women’s field as I was in the cruise terminal on rollers warming up for my race. First off, the new qualifying rules. I’m a fan. Two riders per team per qualifying group. As someone who’s entered these events solo, qualifying was always a crapshoot and a gamble of who’s wheel to grab. Unless you’re crazy strong, your best time is usually set with at least two to three other people to help. The courses are short and obviously technical, not really giving a huge train of riders enough time to rotate through every person. I do not think this was a rule made to help one of the new teams entering this year who, coincidentally, had only two riders. What happened in my group was that I saw two strong riders from the State Bicycle crew, Addison and Josh (who were 1st and 4th at the Mission Crit the week before) and one other rider from the Aventon team. This is how I’ve always worked out qualifying. I identify fast people and we make a quick little punk rock agreement to ride our faces off for ninety seconds so you can get into the main race. Addison ended up with the fastest qualifier after our effort.
Once all the qualifiers were done we went back to the cruise terminal, changed out of our kits, ate some snacks, put our legs up and chatted about the new course layout, among other things. Also, my mom, aunt, sister and her boyfriend we in town spectating. With most of my family still living in the North East they’ve been able to come watch for the last few years, my mom of course, would bring snacks. A lot of snacks. Also, the last time my sister and her boyfriend came to see the race it was at the Brooklyn Navy Yards, the year I got third place. Obviously I was hoping for another dash of their good luck.
Well, turns out a podium finish wasn’t in my future. What happened next is well documented and probably published on every form of social media available. It even made it to the front page of Velonews. I qualified 67th and was at a point far enough behind the crash that I saw it happening in front of me and was able to slow down, if it wasn’t for the riders who were behind me continuing to crash, myself and plenty others could have gotten out of it no problem. But that’s not what happened. Ever find yourself standing in the surf with your back to a wave? That’s kind of what it felt like. I came to a near stop, next thing I know I’m on my side with twenty or so other people and bikes on top of and around me. I got myself out and saw my handlebars were bent about forty five degrees to the right and my saddle was broken.
Before realizing they were going to do a full restart when all of the ambulances were back on scene I ran, full sprint in road shoes, back to the terminal to fix my bike. Neil Bezdek happened to be there, he grabbed my bike and started fixing my stem and handlebars, while a spectator amazingly offered me their saddle to use for the race. After hearing we had about fifteen minutes to the restart, everyone slowly came back to the terminal to warm up. It was a chilly night for sure. We hear the announcement, “five minutes to start” and as I grab my bike I find there’s a slow leak in my front tire. What a night! With no time to change the tube I find a pump and blast my tire up to about 130psi and hope for the best. We find our way back out to the start and get ready for our second countdown. Right into another start line crash. I make it out of this one unscathed and we quickly line up for the third and final restart.
At this point myself and probably almost everyone else are wondering what are we even doing. What’s the point. It was obvious with the two nearly empty rows in front of me. Well the third time’s a charm. We start off okay and the race, as predicted, is balls to the wall from the start. I think my nerves were slightly dulled after all the drama, I settled into a chase group with a couple familiar faces (including Thibaud Lhenry, RHC Brooklyn’s 2013 winner) and we rode what we could. Our group was pulled with seven or eight laps to go. The results sheet says I finished 52nd. As far as I know, all the injuries sustained were relatively minor.
Personally, and I know I’m not the only one, I’m very thankful and grateful for Dave and other race organizers out there like James (Mission Crit) and Don (Wolfpack Hustle.) It’s impossible for them to control every single variable. They provide us racers with the venue. The means to show off our sponsor’s products. To get SICK photos. An excuse to travel. Without the work they put in, we wouldn’t have a stage to play on. I love these races.
And to be honest, nothing beats riding a track bike at freakin’ mach 10 at night in front of hundreds and hundreds of people yelling and screaming at you. Nothing.
See you in London!