Modesto Road Race, 45+ Cat 4/5

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Sacrifice and Believing, Keys to Winning the Modesto Road Race

Field: Masters 45+ 4/5’s
Field Size: Officially 42
ChristianCycling – Hammer Nutrition Team/Result:
• Serge Plasschaert, 25th
• Ken Obata, 32nd
• Dan Schaefer, 1st

Report by: Dan Schaefer

During the chit-chat rollout of a recent Sunday morning, Darryl Smith (aka “the commander”), was describing the Modesto Race Course with adjectives such as “flat,” “windy,” “corners,” and “hammer.” I was not amused. Four words that my slender frame and mental fortitude don’t find amusing, at least not in aggregate. I have a vivid memory of Darryl hammering on North Livermore Road, turning into a cross wind that flings me into the shoulder, crying (to myself) that I just want to go home, and immediately being dropped during my first “First of the Month” summer wind-fest club ride many years ago.

When I heard that my wife and 10-year old “I’m going to be an inventor” son were headed to the Bay Area Maker Faire, I decided to sign up for Modesto with no expectations. I kept to my pre-race week training with rest on Monday (lots of stretching), 1 hour Tuesday rollers, 1 hour with four 30 second zone 5 hill intervals on Wednesday and another 3×30’s Thursday, zone 1 (flat with small ring) on Friday, and then an hour with two 90-second zone 5 efforts on Saturday. By Sunday I am feeling undertrained, weighty, and nervous…just like every other race.

We had a good team turnout with Darryl and Duane Bolt racing the 45+ 123s; Sam Paik, Rich Beeler, and Mike Creamer in the 35+ 4/5s; Serge, Ken and I in the 45+ 4/5s. Our main competition in the 45+ 4s would be from Cushman & Wakefield whom have ridden strong and been active all season lead today by Rob Lytle with a team of six, and with FunSport Bikes who had 9 riders. The other teams all had one to three riders.

As we lined up for the race, Serge suggested the strategy for the day “stay near the front.” Then we were off into a headwind. The first lap started slowly and then the speed ramped up as we headed down an open field section where there was no hiding from the cross wind. At the end of the lap I was mid pack and decided I needed to move up before the open windier section. As I neared the front of the pack a BBC rider and a Navy rider broke away, I eased onto the BBC rider’s wheel and we had a gap. I knew not to work too hard, and, after a couple of pulls and a few minutes off the front, the pack reeled us in. After that there were several other attacks, most didn’t get more that 10 second advantage.

Cushman & Wakefield tried to get the FSB riders to work with them to create a break but either the FSB riders would chase down the CW guys or they would block so hard so as the field would surge around them. By one hour into the race I needed a nature break. We caught and passed the smaller 35+ 4’s with Mike, Sam, and Rich. A lap later they caught and passed us again chasing a breakaway.

Finally during the fourth lap two CW guys broke away. The pack didn’t chase. 10 seconds, 20 seconds, 30 seconds, 45 seconds. Near the end of the lap we caught one, leaving the other dangling at 20 seconds until he reentered the fold. Now I really needed the port-a-potty with my bladder screaming. I was surprised to see 2 laps to go when we passed the finish line. My hands were numb from being in the drops so much, my legs were starting to feel heavy (pre-cramps) so I was increasing my Hammer Electrolytes Extreme capsules although I couldn’t bear to continue to drink. Near the finish are neutralized (third time in the day) to let the 45+ 123s go by with Duane near the front and Darryl mid-pack.

By the start of the last lap, the pack was getting antsy with riders swarming towards the front. Rob Lytle attacks on the backside and holds a 15 second lead for half a lap. With a closed course it was much easier to make it to the front if you weren’t afraid of going out into the wind. Serge and I were in the front five or six only then to be churned back as riders swarmed from the outsite. Then, I see Ken moving towards the front and am encouraged that he is still in the pack.

One kilometer to go I move up the right side before the final left turn. I know that I will be on the wind side after the turn but I know that those wanting a draft will want to be on the left side. I had decided to follow the Zoca rider’s wheel as he appeared to be the most aggressive throughout the race. After the turn the pack hesitates.

No one wants to pull. CW have no strong riders left. Funsport with a ton of guys aren’t organized.
One guy goes gets knocked into the shoulder but recovers. I hear Serge coming along side “jump on” he calls. I obey as he hammers from 250 meters out. At 150 meters I sense he is slowing and jump (into the wind) sprinting for the line.

It can’t come soon enough….I should be really be in a larger gear…rider on right and left….LUNGE!
I had no idea if I had come in first, second, or third. All I could think of was that I had to get to that port-a-potty near the start line.

After my mind was able to think again, I thought I got second as I was losing gas at the end and the other two were accelerating. Serge’s leadout was amazing with full and complete sacrifice for me. [It reminds me of another that is the full and complete sacrifice for me and each of us personally in the race of life – the perfect leadout to make us right before God, we just need to believe.] By racing into the wind, Serge disrupted the already disorganized sprint. I just had to believe and finish well!

Ken, Rich, Sam and I along with Tony (Fremont Freewheelers) whom we carpooled with waited 45 minutes to get the preliminary results. I can’t tell you how it felt seeing my name on top…the video showed inches separating first and second. We had to wait another 30 minutes for the results to become official and to collect the victor’s spoils: a composite nut ‘trophy’, tee-shirt, bottle of wine, and a little cash and the first time ever on the podium!

We celebrated afterwards with Pizza (my first in months) and storytelling. All in all, a great and memorial day with great teamwork and friends to share it with. Thanks for Serge and Ken for the race teamwork, and you for sharing in my joy!

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