Warnerville Road Race

by Benjamin Holland

Warnerville RR, March 28, 2010
Course: 3 laps of 17-mile loop, A few rolling hills, 1-mile of gravel/dirt/sand road (mile 14), long uphill finish
Weather:  Sunny, slight breeze, 60 – 70 deg F
M35+4B, 20+ racers, CSC – 4 racers
IC3 racers:  Carl Canaparo, Larry Upthegrove, Ben Holland (me)
Place:  2nd

Results »

Race start was delayed due to a tragic pre-race setup fatality. Pray for Jeremy Regalado’s family and the folks at VeloPromo.  It just shows how we never know how or when our brief lives will end – we need to be right with God now because a later opportunity may not happen!

Pre-race prep went well aside from hearing the news about Jeremy.  Larry, Carl and I met to make plans and to pray for strength and a good race.  Larry gave his usual words of wisdom about the gravel road and positioning.  I presumed that because there wasn’t much wind, and that the course was relatively flat, that our group would be together at the finish like Cantua RR.  Carl agreed to try to be the leadout man, but Larry was wary that due to the length of the finishing hill, that it was simply going to be drag race to the finish.  As it turned out, the mile of gravel road is what defined the race.

After a 3.5 mile promenade, we started racing.  In the first lap, there were several weak attacks, and one guy that kept riding off the front, but would get caught after a few miles.  Larry, Carl and I were all vigilant and were watching the CSC guys closely.  Finally we hit the gravel road – what an experience!

You enter the gravel road while exiting from a left hand turn into some pretty loose gravel.  Then, it’s 500 hundred yards, to a 90 deg right hand turn, another 300 yards to a 90 deg left hand turn, another 200 yards over some train tracks into a 90 deg right hand turn, 200 yards to a 90 deg left hand turn, and then 400 yards to pavement!  If you are lucky there are some tire tracks to follow, but occasionally these lead to some severe pot holes filled with gravel and sand. If you strayed away from the tire tracks, you were in slippery no-mans land.  The turns were all very loose gravel and sand.

I entered the gravel mid pack and immediately was fighting for existence.  Initially, I was just keeping pace, but losing several positions at each turn – I didn’t want to fall!  I started feeling more comfortable on the straight sections and layed down the power.  I could see the group breaking up and a small group of racers leading the charge.  On the last straight stretch, I powered up to them and as we entered the pavement, it was clear we had a gap.  We were 5 in the break:  3 CSC, 1 ?? (big guy!) and me.  So at mile 14 we had a separation from the field and began a rotating pace line.  The CSC guys got yelled at by the big guy to work.  Finally we all got into a good rhythm and we opened up a sizable gap.

The five of us stayed together through the gravel on the second lap.  This time I knew what to expect and powered consistently through the gravel, but still had to slow for the turns.  Prior to the start of the 3rd lap, I took a big shot of Agave and 5 Endurolytes, took a neutral (clear) bottle and topped up the fluids in anticipation of the last lap.  I still felt pretty good, but could feel the miles of intensity adding up.  We continued to manage the gap to the chasers behind and then set up for the last time through the gravel.

The last time through the gravel, I again powered at the front and it payed off.  First one CSC guy popped, then the big guy flatted, then by the time we got to the end, it was me and one CSC rider, Scott, with his CSC teammate about 75 yards back.  Once on the pavement, I kept a steady 250 – 300W for the next 0.75 miles to solidify the gap.  It was now down to just Scott and me.

We cruised side-by-side chatting about the race, training and fitness.  A few times he called me “brother” so I asked him if he went to church.  He replied no, not really, but that he thought he was a pretty good guy.  I replied by explaining that we won’t get to heaven by simply being good and that we are saved by grace.  I gave the example of a Venn diagram:  if God is perfect, and we enter into his presence with even one blemish, is God still perfect?  I then said that is why God sent His Son Jesus to die on the cross to take away all of our sins!  Truly a surreal divine appointment.

As we approached the 1km marker, we turned our focus to the finish.  At 200m I started to pick up the pace, he started his sprint, I tried to follow, but my legs cramped up so bad I couldn’t even turn the pedals.  I rolled across in second – it’s too bad, because had I not cramped, I feel I could have won.  I congratulated Scott, and then a few minutes later Carl finished very strongly.

A day of highs and lows.  I saw a former Cal Poly SLO Wheelmen teammate that I hadn’t seen in over 20 years, I’m thankful for the efforts of Carl and Larry, saddened by the death of Jeremy and pain being experienced by the VeloPromo staff, and hopeful for Scott’s salvation.

~ Ben

All photos courtesy Chris Griffin

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