Pine Flat Road Race - Cat 2 - Words by Kyle Beikirch
Course starts with an out and back on some rollers along the lake, then continues along the lake then flattens out in the middle of the race. Then a bit of false flat for a while with some little bumps and ends with two climbs. The first is Wildcat with is a 3.5 mile climb then a rolling decent and finishes with a pitchy 1.2 mile summit finish.
Field was a little less than 30. Big Orange from SoCal had 6 or 7 riders. Dolce Vita had Alex, Trevor and myself. The plan going into the race was for me to cover early breaks and to have them save their energy for the final climbs since they are better climbers. Plus I had raced the day before at Cantua and they were both fresh. I would say ⅔ of the field also did not race Cantua. The morning was kinda chilly and was really undecided on what to wear. I went to the start line with arm & leg warmers, vest, and full finger gloves. Just as the P/1/2 field went off I decided to ditch the leg warmers.
The race started off pretty uneventful. I stayed in the top 8 the entire time during the out and back keeping an eye out for an early attack. Vegan Athletic and DNA swapped turns setting the pace on the front and was happy for them to use their energy to be in the wind. There was only one real attack on the back section that got more than a few seconds that was started by Vegan Athletic. I immediately followed and stuck onto his wheel. When he was done with his pull, I looked back and there was only about a 3 second gap so I just sat up. The group rolled along the lake and I threw my vest to the side of the road as we past the start line.
Once we got to the flatter section, some action started to happen. People would put in digs but would never get more than a few seconds but I made sure to stay at the front just in case something dangerous went up the road. A Big Orange guy rolled off the front by himself and no one reacted to get a few second lead. Since they were the big team there, I thought this might work and bridged up to him. But he ended up not being very much help and seemed to be a ruse as another Big Orange rider from the group countered as we were caught. This guy would end up slowly building up a gap. I wasn’t overly concerned as he was a solo rider and didn’t look to be that strong. Knowing we had two big climbs at the end. He would need to get a few minutes lead to ever make it to the finish alone. Up a little ramp, I wanted to go at my own pace so went to the side for a clear path and ended up going a little faster than I anticipated. Got a few second gap and decided to roll with it over the top of the little hill. Once it flattened out I wasn’t gaining time, so gave up on that little effort.
Big Orange did a decent job of blocking the chase which made Trevor ancy. I saw him move to the front to help take pulls in which I immediately get up beside him and tell him to get to the back and save his energy and to leave it to me to keep an eye on the break.
As we get closer to the climbs I tell Alex to stick on my wheel so that I can pull him to the front to be in good position to start the climb. There were a few small ramps before the actual turn onto the climb and people would go hard up them but I would stay with them in case a split happened.
We hit the first climb and the pace ramps up. A few people pop off but most of the group is still there. I can feel the earlier efforts in my legs. Alex is right next to me and tell him I’m not sure how much more help I can be. I hang on the back of the group for a bit. The first part of the climb is stairsteppy and in my mind I tell myself I have to dig deep when it goes up and recover quickly on the flats and the short downhills. Putting in a little bit of extra effort to stay with the group and draft saved my race. On one of the very shorts downhills, I put in a little extra effort to move back to the front so that I don’t have to waste energy later going around people falling off.
We hit the steady part of the climb and that is when a lead group of 5 slowly create some distance. Good news is that Trevor is one of those 5! The rest of us are shattered down the road and all just going at our own paces. I find myself surprisingly the 2nd rider after the lead group. I just pin it to threshold and go up the climb steadily. About 4 of us go back and forth passing each other on the climb while one guy in the chase gets about a 15 second gap on us. I didn’t do a great job of recon, so didn’t exactly know where the top of this climb was. Once I saw a group of people standing on the side of the rode that looked like a crest, I assumed it was the top (luckily it was) so put in a little dig and went over the top solo with about 10 seconds to the solo rider ahead of me and about 30 more to the lead group. There were two riders behind me by about 5 seconds.
Going down the decent, I notice the two guys behind me are closing so I ease up and get on their wheel. I want to recover as much as possible, so I skip my pull and the other two guys didn’t seem to mind. We eventually catch the guy ahead of us as we get into the rollers. I notice up the road there is a solo rider. Unfortunately, I can tell it is Trevor, although I’m not sure the rest of the group realized it was my teammate. So now my goal is to keep this chase at bay so that Trevor can keep his 5th place. So the group wants to do about 30 second pulls to try to catch Trevor and even attempt to get back to the lead group. So I slot in second, and then when the guy pulls off, I take lead but don’t go hard. I think everyone is tired at this point, so no one reacts to this. Eventually the guy behind me pulls around and then I slot in right behind him and do the same thing over again. I keep on doing this about 3 more times, and is working like a charm. Yea, we were closing in on Trevor but only very slowly. In the process of slowing down our chase, we also picked up 3 more riders for a total of 7.
We hit the final climb and the 1k to go sign and I see Trevor has enough of a gap to make it to the finish by himself unless he completely blows up. My attention now returns to my own result. Luckily for me, with my blocking, I haven’t put in a hard effort since the top of the last climb. 2 riders immediately pop at the base of the climb dwindling it down to 5. I try to stay in the top 3 without being on the front though. 1 one rider tries to slowly pull away and only gets maybe 2 seconds on us. He pops with about 400 meters to go though. There are 4 of us left as we hit the 200m sign. The pace picks up and another guy pops. At about 150m another rider goes, I follow his wheel, the 3rd guy cant match so now it’s just 1 v 1. I just dig deep and stay on his wheel and then with about 50m to go I empty the tank and pull away from him easily. Good enough for 6th place and 2 upgrade points.
Super happy with the result and way better than I expected since I had raced the day before and had done work earlier in the race. Also again, really happy how we raced as a team.