2018 Snelling Road Race - Elite 3 - Words by Sean Brandt and Trevor Gilmore
Jonatan Jatombliansky, Kyle Beikirch, Trevor Gilmore, Marcello Pederson, Alex Braunstein
An 11.7 mile loop of narrow country roads northwest of Snelling, CA. Starting with a long neutral (sketchy, cold) rollout from the Park. Course consists of several small hills, several sharp turns, excellent to pave-like pavement. Course is closed to oncoming traffic, both lanes available. Sort of a big P-shaped loop. Same course as past 30 years.
2012 - DNP; 2013 - 62nd; 2015 - 23rd ; 2016 - 43rd; 2017 - DNP
Sunny and very cold (35° at the start)
Get 1 of 4 different riders (Trevor, Marcello, JJ, Kyle) on to the podium/win
Send multiple riders up the road in breaks, organize for field sprint if the breaks don’t stick. We would start with Trevor on the second lap, Marcello to follow on the catch of that break, then Jonatan for the serious late break move. If those failed, we would work for Kyle in the field sprint. Alex and I would play domestique duties - chasing things down, or slowing things down as needed.
We noted that Sunweb and Mikes Bikes also had about 6 guys, a handful of other teams had about 4 guys, and a couple of strong riders here and there. We’d want to pay attention to moves with these teams represented.
Trevor got 4th in the winning break of 4; I came across the line in 38th after sitting up with 1k to go.
Snelling is an interesting race for me. I’ve clearly never had a decent result to speak of, and yet I LOVE the race and do my best to make it every year. Perhaps because the parcours is more my style, probably because it’s the big, sort of official opening to the road racing season. It’s certainly not the frigid temps and the earliest “day of” drive of the whole season. We rallied a legit number of Cat 3s to the race and we agreed on the plan outlined above.
After the very long, cold, sometimes sketchy rollout, the race usually “hots up” right away. It certainly did this year. Attacks started pretty much from the whistle. Dolce was doing a good job of covering attacks - Trevor made a very early stab with one or two riders, Alex and I were closing gaps, and and the field was not letting anything get away. It seemed as though everyone had the same idea as us, go figure. Our plan was actually to keep the race together on the first lap, since we thought it would be too early for a serious move to stick. But it also felt like we might need to rethink our strategy. Jonatan moved up and added to one or two attacks, earlier than planned, but it was crazy that first lap! That’s pretty much how the first lap played out, with nobody getting any sort of serious gaps - maybe a solo rider here and there would prize out some seconds before we chased him back down.
The second lap started pretty well strung out down the long straight of Keyes road. I was removing glove layers because it started to warm a bit, and I found myself guttered near the long end of the tail of riders. Jonatan and another teammate scooted up to me when it slowed a bit, so the race must have stretched back a bit further than I knew! We rolled toward the front of the group and could see that Trevor, right on schedule, had gotten a gap with a Sunweb rider. There was actually another two off the front between us and them, with maybe another straggler in no-man’s land before the front of the peloton. It looked like the second two might join Trevors group (which they did). I got to work at the front to begin disrupting any serious chasing that might ensue. I ditched my vest at the designated jacket-barrel the race organizers had kindly setup for the cold start, and settled in for some work.
For me, the next lap consisted of either: (1) Messing up the rotation, or (2) chasing down small groups of riders trying to get off the front. It was fun. Mikes Bikes had missed the move and so they, at times, threw one or two, maybe three guys up front to chase. I would sit off the back of a 3-4 man rotation and then every once in a while take my turn at the front with a high cadence soft pedal. Sometimes Mike’s would throw a guy off the front, along with another two-man team in pink, and so I’d chase them down, making sure to drag the field with me. At this point it was still a matter of keeping the field together so that we could launch our second attack.
On the third lap Jonatan came forward and said “We’ve lost Marcello”. At the time I thought maybe he had a mechanical, or, because I felt like I was working pretty hard at the front, maybe he got gapped off the back. Marcello is a beast and I should have known better. Unfortunately, someone had hit him from behind and he went down pretty hard. Lots of road rash and a broken clavicle. Heal up brother! At this point, we were into lap 3, and so I started working more seriously to destroy any sort of serious chase in the hopes the break would stick. Trevor had a gap of 2 minutes at one point in the third lap. When we heard that from the moto, the field got a little more serious about a chase.
Over the course of the 4th and 5th laps the field shaved off about 30 seconds of the leading group of 4. Jonatan and Kyle were helping keep an eye on things up front. Jonatan was there to watch for a serious late-race counter attack, and Kyle and I reprised our roles from the week before, messing’ up the rotation. On the last half of the last lap it was clear the break would stay away, so we started to get ready for the bunch sprint for the last podium spot. I was thinking two Dolces on the podium would be sweet. I did my best to chase a few late attacks. After closing the last gap with just over 1km to go, I was pretty well spent. With the pace heating up, and super tired legs, I pulled up and over and let the group duke it out, feeling like my job for the day was complete. Jonatan was up front leading the group, and Kyle was right there in the mix. As I rolled across the line Jonatan was walking his bike across - having flatted with meters to go! Trevor had apparently broken a shifting cable and was stuck in a super hard gear, or super easy gear, I can’t remember. At any rate, he made a fantastic effort to stay with the break in the finale, finishing fourth.
Great fitness and lots of luck is needed to win a race. Both Trevor and Jonatan had great opportunities to win/podium respectively, but had untimely issues with their bikes. My view is, if you can get yourself to that point in the race where you are in a position to win/podium/etc., I view it as a success. In those last seconds of a race, so much often depends on following the right wheel, or making a split-second decision that makes or breaks a win. I find that last few percentages of the race between winning and a podium spot, or being just off the podium, come down to a roll of the dice.
Racing with (strong) teammates/friends is fun. It’s always fun to have a strategy involving other teammates, and to be able to more or less execute on that strategy with super strong riders. And the fact that they’re your buddies gives you that little bit extra motivation to lay it all out there.
I’m starting to embrace the role of ‘race captain’, helping direct tactics on the road rather than going into each race looking for a result for myself. The fact of the matter is, the winners of the last two road races are essentially my sons age. For chrissakes I’ll be eligible for the 45+ field next year! I have 8 years of racing under my belt and can share some lessons with the boys. I’ve never been the strongest guy in the race, but I’ve always felt like I can read a race pretty well. I think it’s going to be a fun year!
Snelling according to Trevor Gilmore:
Marcello, I hope you have a speedy recovery. I’m sorry you had to experience a horrific crash. Let us know if there is anything we can do.
I notice my front tire is flat while riding to the start line. Thankfully Jonatan is right near me, and a stranger happens to have a tube and tire pump in his car. We both swap the tube quickly, and hop on to the neutral field after the gun went off. Given the large team presence (Mikes Bikes Development, SunPower, PenVelo, us and some strong smaller teams like Olympic Club), our plan was to attack hard and initiate a break. If that didn’t work, we protect and lead out Jonatan and Kyle for the field sprint finish. My role was to attack on the first 2 laps; then Marcello would take over for laps 2-4. On lap one, there were several attacks, but nothing stuck. As promised I attacked hard on the first “climb”, but was caught immediately. Mikes Bikes, Olympic Club and Sun Power did the same. To plan, our protected riders were sitting in the 60 person field, as to not burn matches on meaningless attacks.
Starting on lap 2, I start noticing some people’s legs are not moving as fast, and some gaps are opening up on the “climb”. The field is jockeying for position – the attackers are moving to the front, while the protected riders are sitting in. I moved forward, observed for a bit before attacking. “Make it count!” as Marcello would say. I notice Madden Titus from SunPower, a turbo diesel freight train of a rider, is moving forward. Which means he will attack. We have a cross wind at this point. I get on his wheel, let him lead me out and counter attack up a small false flat. He manages to stay behind me, and we form a break on the field. I look back, and the break it sticking. It takes us a while to start working together in a meaningful way. After about 5 minutes, two guys bridge up to us – Stefen Creason from Data Drive Athlete and Creighton Gruber from Team Swift. At that point we have enough horsepower to maintain a break…as long as we work together. Madden and Stefan take long pulls, while Creighton would skip pulls. I admonish him, and he says he is “trying”. I figure he is better in the group then if we drop him, since he is a climber who can help us the hills. Starting on lap 4, the moto tells us we have a 2 minute gap on the peloton, with a solo chaser 1 minute behind us. We continue to motor on (I was at threshold the entire break, and achieved a PR of cranking out 320 watts for 60 minutes, and 309 for 90 minutes. Might not be impressive to fast guys but it’s a first for me!). Halfway through the last lap, the moto informs us we have 1:30 on the field. So they are closing in on us; however we only have 6 more miles left to go. So unless a mechanical happens, we have this race. Then, like clockwork, my rear derailleur cable snapped. I was stuck in the biggest gear, and struggled to keep up with the break on the flats, spinning 65 rpm. But I hung on. I could not contest the field sprint since the finish line was on a hill. So I passed the finish line at probably 1 MPH (given my big gear) but got fourth! Thanks again to Alex, Kyle, Jonatan, Marcello and Sean for your hard teamwork and shutting down attacks in the field. It was a tough day out for our team (Jonatan flatted in the field sprint, Marcello had a bad crash) and I’m glad we were at least represented on the podium. I was not expecting my attack to stick, and am still quite surprised at the result. This is the first race where I’ve initiated, and kept, a break!