the wente vineyards road race took place in livermore, just an hour away from san francisco, in the east bay. I’ve had my eye on wente for quite some time now, since I heard from other racers that it was a great race. the cat4 race started at 11:45am, so I had a lot of time in the morning to get ready. sleeping in was nice for a change. I packed lightly, knowing it’d be much warmer out in the east bay. what I wasn’t expecting was the amount of wind there was. I spent the last couple miles of the drive drafting a big rig, haha!
anyway, I arrived right behind jason (de la paz coffee), and parked in front of him on the long stretch of road. there wasn’t any parking near registration, and there weren’t any open parking lots for racers. I jumped out of my car, threw on the front wheel on the bike, and proceeded to ride out to the reg booth. cars were stacked throughout the entire roadway, there were tons of people out there today. and besides the heavy wind, the weather was perfect – clear, warm, and not too humid.
2 numbers. one for the right side, and the other for the back of the jersey. it was a bit odd pinning the number to the back of the jersey, and I saw a lot of odd/funny number placements on racers that were coming in. some were mounted up high, near the neck. others were placed sideways, and to read them, you’d have you tilt your head sideways. and then I even saw another guy with 2 numbers on his jersey pockets, like how the proteam peleton pins their numbers. that one was the best I saw all day. anyway, I went back to the car to get changed, and to pin my numbers. after seeing everyone’s epic back number pinning, I decided it’d be cleaner and easier to read mounted lower, on my jersey pockets. it fit perfectly after folding the top and bottom white space…bummer it wouldn’t give my legs or lungs any advantage in the group.
time to line up. justin, jake, kevin (rhythm racing), zach, jason (in a freewheel kit), percy (also in a freewheel kit), jimmy (taleo), david (chica sexy, possibly cat3 now?), will (chica sexy), and a bunch of other people I’m probably forgetting were all at the line. we were roughly 60-65 riders deep, by my own estimate, but I could be way off. joseph and naveen (metromint racing) rolled up, just finishing their race. joseph gave us a heads up on the course: climbing, windy/headwind, fast descent, and more wind. sounds to me like my game plan would be simple – stay near the front, and always have a wheel on the flats and descent. after a brief talk from the race official about the strict center-line rule, we were off.
flat roads, then a right turn past a motocross course, a gentle climb, feed zone, and then the finish line (roughly 4 miles out from where we started). the pace was kept fairly moderate during the climb, but ramped up soon thereafter. there were a series of rollers on the backside of the course, then a fast descent, just like joseph had mentioned. the massive gusts of wind were a bit disheartening, and soon I found myself slipping back in the group. I caught back onto a wheel once the climbing started again, but it was short lived. the field split in half, and I was in no man’s land, fighting hard in the wind to catch a wheel that was barely 40ft in front of me on the final descent (of the lap). the road flattened out, and the riders were still just 40ft away. the rider that was pacing behind me was generous enough to pull me the remaining distance to the back of the pack. I would’ve never caught them, if I were just solo chasing, I’m sure of it. the wind was quite strong.
I looked behind us. the peleton had split in 2. we had completely dropped half of the group on the final rollers and descent, and were now roughly 25 deep. as we made our way through the flat section back towards the motocross course, and the climb, I rode along the outside of the group to get a spot near the front. kevin looked over to me, and said, “get up there!” right as the climb kicked. I figured I had nothing to lose, I had almost gotten dropped off the back of the group because of the heavy wind. I wanted to see how the legs were feeling, so I put in a fairly big effort at the front of the group. a long string of riders lined up behind me as we passed the feed and eventually the line. I lightened up the pace, and proceeded to take a break near the middle of the group. the legs were feeling good, and I made a mental note about the climb to the finish. positioning would be very important. mental sticky note. the final 90* right turn compressed riders into a small bunch, being near the front would be key.
on the backside of the course, kevin flatted out. this course definitely suited him, he was a strong climber and would’ve definitely been near the front of the group the entire time, just like copperopolis. we pushed on. I made sure to snag wheels on the descents and flats, the race was going well. several riders that had gotten dropped on the final descent caught back up to the back of the bunch, and we were 20+ deep, once again. the climb came, but I spun it out, saving my legs for the final lap. on the first descent, we were neutralized. there was an accident up ahead, no one told us what category was involved, or how many people. a helicopter flew overhead, ambulance and firefighters lined the road. the injured rider(s) were transported in the ambulance a few hundred feet up the course, and our race resumed after 10 minutes or so. our group was a little bit bigger now, since dropped riders riding in no man’s land caught back up. the other half of our cat4 group was caught up behind other categories.
the final stretch of headwind. just the final climb left. my legs were feeling like trash after stopping though, I didn’t have it in me to make a big effort at the end. the wind, heat, and race had sapped me. I was just hoping to have enough in my legs to hold on, and place with the pack. the climb came. I was near the back, but moved up near the middle. a barrage of attacks came from the inside. riders were lighting it up, and the final 90* turn hadn’t even popped up yet. but it was closing in. and that’d shut the door on anyone trying to be near the front. my lungs were on fire trying to keep pace with the front. then the turn came.
a small group of ~10 riders broke off from the front. I saw them leave the rest of us. now I’d just fight with the 2 guys around me for the finish. as the line came into sight, I big ringed it, passing them, landing somewhere in top 15. I was completely roasted. it was a challenging race, but I was glad to have completed it without getting dropped off the back.
how were the new wheels? they were BADASS. after running 36h 3-cross wheels for 8 months straight, racing on 20/20 bladed spokes was absolutely awesome. it was mostly noticeable on the flats and descents. the sealed bearings also roll extremely smooth. and even though they’re not top of the line clinchers or race wheels, they’re a massive improvement over my training wheelset.
time to rest for tomorrow’s 3/4 wente crit!