Friday, February 5, 2010

Old Cazadero Grasshopper, Krishna's Report

I started near the front, but was well within the body of the giant
dragon that rolled out of Occidental, accompanied by the mesmerizing
sound of hundreds of knobbies buzzing the pavement. I'm still nervous
riding inside a pack, and twice I cringed when I saw tires touch ahead
of me.

Once we hit Moscow I was watching for breakaways, and bridged up to
one containing Levi and Miguel, but it was swallowed by the pack
before we crossed the river. I had let myself fade too far back by the
time we hit Duncan Grade, and red-lined pretty hard passing an endless
clot of people. I barely connected with the lead group by the time we
started heading downhill, and was glad to be on a mountain bike for
the rocky and rutted sections.

There were six of us at the base of Old Caz: Levi, Shane Bresnyan, Jim
Hewett, Roger Bartels, Aren Timmel, and myself, desperately clutching
their coattails. No one else was in sight. Aside from Shane, I knew
all of these riders by reputation. Aren and Jim are among the usual
suspects for the top step of the Pro podium at races like the Napa
Valley Dirt Classic, and Aren won the overall Grasshopper series last
year. Roger is 50 years old and still races XC at the front of the Pro
category. He is known in Sonoma County as The Godfather. And me? I was
trying to keep from cramping and throwing up.

Levi started pulling away soon enough, and Shane went with him. Jim
pulled ahead on the descent trying to bridge up, and got close enough
to see Levi and Shane in the distance at the creek crossing, but
shortly after we were four again. From there we worked together, with
Aren organizing us into an efficient pace-line along the river and
patiently coaching me into a smooth rhythm.

When we reached Bridge Haven we saw other riders for the first time: a
half dozen or so were closing in on us. They caught us just as Willow
Creek began climbing, but this is when the pace quickened again. As
soon as the climbing began in earnest it was clear Jim was in charge.
Things started to get quieter behind us, and to my surprise even Aren
faded back. It was a strange sensation: Jim and I were talking to each
other, just riding a solid tempo but not really pushing it, yet
everyone else was gone.

At this point I could have made an attack, but there were two
problems: first, I didn't know where I was going, and second, Jim was
looking solid and would likely be faster than me on the descent as
well. So I ended up working with Jim on the descent and trailing him
to the finish, about 3 minutes behind Shane and Levi. I'm pretty sure
Levi was riding just fast enough to stay warm the whole time-- someone
who can drop the peloton in major stage races would have had no
trouble sinking us like stones.

On Sunday I was planning to do another race, but barely managed to get
out of bed.

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