My first race with Marc Pro-Strava was the Central Coast Circuit Race attended with teammates Art Rand and Jesse Miller-Smith. At the start of the Pro event in balmy Monterey, there was a little more than 40 fit racers.
We took a warm-up lap on the course and I got a little concerned about the hill, the strong ocean wind, not being comfortable yet on my new bike, my huge gut and my old age — 39. Other than that I was feeling great.
While riding the course, Art Rand said something about the dirt being crazy deep off the road and that last year, someone went off the road, sunk their front wheel in the dirt, then their whole bike, followed by their body — and they ended up having to send search and rescue to find him. I made a mental note not to go off the side of the road.
The officials said “GO,” so I went. I attacked from the gun and tried to quietly slip away, but when I looked over my shoulder everyone was there — and they weren’t even single file, just rolling along (probably talking) in a big bubble from one side of the road to the other. Great, not only did I not get a gap, but I did not even stretch the group.
Then we hit the hill and, pow, dudes were attacking. I began reassessing my situation from how I could win to how I was going to finish. I could see Art Rand up front with the very fast Rand Miller (2011 Norcal Criterium Champion) driving it. However, after a few miles I felt great and the sluggishness left my body.
When we hit the hill the next lap, I attacked over the crest and drilled it like I had just stolen a TV with the police chasing me. A group of about 10 guys formed and we rotated well. Guys kept pulling the ripcords to their chutes and floating back to the pack until there were only six of us left, including my new sidekick and teammate, Jesse Miller-Smith. The group behind had Art Rand and Rand Miller and will from this point on be called the Art-Rand-Miller group.
Our small group worked well together, but we never seemed to be going that fast, and the few times we did stop rotating, I attacked, they woke up and we started working well together — but the Art-Rand-Miller group was always visible on the windy, long, rolling back section.
At one point I could see Rand Miller trying to bridge from the Art-Rand-Miller group and was getting pretty close. Someone in our group yelled, “Screw that guy, let’s roll!” and he drilled it for the next five miles until Rand was nowhere in site. Maybe that’s not exactly how it happened, but we did up the pace and ditched the state champion.
With two laps to go, I attacked on the hill, took one other rider with me and was joined by Jesse Miller-Smith.
When we hit the hill, I let Jesse roll and looked at the other rider, who pulled us back up with no problem, but then started sounding like a kitten with asthma. I attacked next, got a pretty good gap and Jesse came across by himself. The only problem was the other rider came across a few seconds later. Jesse jumped again and got a huge gap. I zipped across over the top of the hill and we were gone.
Jesse was flying. I tried to pull through and he yelled, “I’m going to take it to the line and you take the win!”
I said “what?” like three times and never clearly got his response, but when I tried to pull through and work, he let me for a second (probably to make me feel better about myself). He then came around and continued leading our break. When we came to the last turn, Jesse sat up let me roll across the finish line in first.
What a welcome to the team!
— New team rider Chuck Hutcheson is the author of this week’s Marc Pro-Strava Racing column. For more information, results and upcoming events from the team, visit http://marcpro-strava.com.