Carrie Edwards on her way to winning the Pro/Expert field. Photo by Nick Gaetano.
Bike Monkey provides us with a steady stream of fun grassroots events, but SoNoMas adds some new ingredients: national-caliber competition, a large prize purse, and a wild, memorable course.
The competition: you probably already know Levi Leipheimer won it, but it is worth pointing out that Levi crushed both the current and previous national XC champions at Leadville a few weeks ago. Also present was Christopher Jones, a national-caliber road and cyclocross pro, and our local boy-wonder Menso de Jong.
The course: riding a single 30-something mile loop around the south arm of the lake was really neat, and the terrain on the back stretch is wild and beautiful. The course is not particularly rocky, but the endless succession of loose corners meant that bike handling was still key. The start/finish was on the immense lawn near the visitor center, and was a great place to hang out and enjoy the free beer post-race. It didn't hurt that the weather was perfect.
I don't know why Carlos didn't publicize the prize money more, but he put up a total of $4,500, with equal amounts for men and women. Levi donated his entire $750 to the Friends of Lake Sonoma. Fast ladies take note: there were significant cash payouts all the way to 10th place, but there weren't even that many women in the Pro/Expert field. You could have gotten paid just to show up!
For a lot of the summer I've only been riding 2-3 times a week, and rarely for longer than two hours. Because of this my endurance is terrible: in longer races I'll start well, only to disintegrate after the two-hour mark as people swarm past me. So I was approaching this event with a certain amount of dread and a "damage control" mentality.
I lined up a few rows back, and was happy that Levi started at an easy pace up the road. By the time we neared the bridge we were still at a talking pace, but a gap had opened to the main group behind us. Miguel made a signature attack just after the bridge, which of course triggered the heavy hitters to stretch things out and establish position. We hit the dirt in a polite conga line, with me sitting around 11th. From there it was a wild roller-coaster of pain: up and down, up and down. I traded places with Clint a few times before he hammered off to eventually finish 4th. I had quite a few white-knuckle moments during the first third of the race as I picked bad lines on rutted downhills and unexpected technical bits, but came through OK after some ungraceful high-speed dabs. At that point I still had Shane in sight for a while, but he was well away by the time I dropped down to the lake. I rode alone for perhaps the next hour, but finally passed another rider around nine miles from the finish.
A little while later I saw Roger (a.k.a. The Godfather, a.k.a. The 50-Year-Old Who Always Beats Me) just 30 seconds up the trail. I was convinced I would reel him in, but he was feeling chipper and I was carefully coaxing my legs above an abyss of cramps at that point, so he vanished into the distance.
The last stretch of dirt seemed to go on forever, but finally it was onto the pavement, where CHP and a course marshall where stopping traffic so we could blow through the stop sign at the blind left turn. Down the main descent I tried the 'sit on the top-tube' technique, which seems to be pretty aero. It puts your knees close to the front tire though, and I discovered it is easy to loose a little skin if you aren't careful. Thankfully that little tire-kiss was my worst injury of the race.
I finished 9th, which I was happy with given my recent performances. Carrie Edwards put in an awesome ride to win the Pro/Expert women, and Morgan placed second in his age group.