With this year's 5k neutral start, probably due to new chipseal, it was a much calmer start than last year. The RR course starts with a small but steady 3–5 min climb right off the line. Last year the first 5 minutes were the hardest of the race, but this year it was nice tempo to the beginning of the downhill. The downside is that we had to stay behind the neutral car on the first part of the descent, which means we were riding our brakes. Probably used my brakes more in that descent than I have the whole year! After that, I think I prefer the chaotic start of last year!
When the nuetral ended, it was racing as normal and the rest of the descent was fast and fun like last year, hitting 55mph! Once we got to the valley floor, we did three laps around Pineview Reservoir. There were some initial attacks early on, one of which I jumped on, but me and the other rider were quickly caught. I mainly did it to stretch my legs. Then I just stayed towards the front of the pack, keeping an eye out for bigger breaks.
Two riders got away on the first lap, but the pack (primarily, two bigger teams) kept them at a 30–50 second gap. So the pace was fast but steady for most of those loops.
Into the third lap I stayed near the front, but not *at* the front, to cover any breaks before the climb. One of the guys doing some of pace-setting had a Go Pro. Here's me in about 4th wheel:
The gap to the two-person breakaway kept decreasing as we approached the climb. It actually got kind of frenzied, as people were racing to the bottom of the climb, a la, Alp Du Huez-style.
When we hit the climb, I was in the top half of the pack and stayed with the front group for about a minute or two. Then I dropped off the front a little and settled into my steady, hillclimb time-trial mode. I just rode a nice tempo, knowing that most people fade hard during the 30-minute climb. My strategy worked, because by halfway I was catching and passing folks.
I did see some excitement on the quick downhill section, about two-thirds the way up the climb. A rider about 300 meters ahead of me, overshot the bottom turn and rode off the road! :o The road was elevated at that section, so from my perspective, I just saw him ride off and disappear! It was like those Tour de France videos! But as I went by, I looked back and I could seem him scrambling back up, so I knew he was okay. Thank goodness!
I kept picking off riders the rest of the climb, almost making it to a group of six by the finish. I finished solo at 32nd place, just 20 meters back from that small group. Tad Hamilton got 14th for the day. My ride time was 6 minutes slower than last year, but it felt like a harder race, probably due to the neutral start slowing us down.