Craig and his buddies in the
Sierra Express Racing Team often exchange brief summaries of a race or
recreational ride, mainly for commiseration and some laughs. Here's
Craig's for his race here:
For what it's worth...
On Sunday [race day], I stopped by Jim Roger's parent's house as I warmed up on Coyote Street for the big race. I wanted to remind them we were all thinking of Jimmy, who passed away on his bike last
January when he was hit by a car on Highway 174. When his mom answered the door we shared a knowing look and broke down right there in the doorway.
I didn't expect that at all. Jimmy's gone, and he's not coming back.
On Pine Street, I found Jim's wife Carolyn passing out cell phone stickers to remind people not to talk on the phone while driving, or eventually somebody is going to get hurt or killed
as Jim was. I put one on each shoe (they wouldn't stick to my jersey) and I've already got one on my cell phone, of course. I spoke to a family with Carolyn about how I used to drive-and-dial too.
Stupid. Driving tons of metal at inhuman speeds and thinking about the other end of the line instead of paying attention to what's right in front of me.
We all got stickered and I continued warming up. Carolyn is amazing.
At the start of the Master's race they called Peter Krogh and me to the line to represent Jim's friends and teammates. Carolyn said a few words and Jim's daughter attempted to as well, but the race was late and we rushed her a bit and were off.
Nevada City is a 55-minute tunnel of pain. No amount of training prepares you for the level of hurt dished out by racing up a 10-story building every three
minutes for almost an hour. I heard "Go Craig!" throughout the town, but I couldn't spare 5 calories to respond in any way. Spurred onward by friends and family, my world was consumed by the wheels I followed, and the rest went blank.
The crazy descent down Broad kinda makes the whole thing worthwhile, especially when passing riders at 40 miles an hour
through the corner onto Union Alley. The immediate left onto Commercial is the scariest, with a decreasing-radius turn that leaves you wondering just how far the bike will lean before it breaks free and skids into the hay bails.
Then the hills. Oh, those Nevada City Hills. I climbed sitting, standing, and finally waggling side-to-side.
Anything to find and fire an unused muscle. Hang on. Go fast.
Two or three riders charged off the front followed by a small group of five or so and finally the large chase group where I battled for position. I knew two or three riders in my Masters 45+ group were up the road. We had at least a half-dozen more in our midst, including powerhouses Larry Nolan of Team Specialized and Bubba Melcher of Team Clover.
If I lost contact with the group I'd be out of the top ten, struggling to finish, and finally lapped by the Masters 35+ and 45+ riders. With everyone yelling, "Go Craig!"
and my friend Jim Rogers on my mind, I just couldn't let that happen.
Riders swirled around in our chase group, falling backwards to reload, moving up to maintain position, and firing attacks to shed the weak. Moving up becomes ever more precarious as you're already over the edge and trying to hold something in reserve to cover the attacks.
Two riders attacked the backside with 5 laps to go. I let it open a bit wider and gassed it hard to bridge across and lose the pack.
I only managed to bring it back together. I didn't like the thought of trying to out-fox ten or so riders in our chase group to get a decent finish, but that's how it played.
In the final lap I remembered a conversation I had with Ben Jacque-Maynes last year after he beat Levi Leipheimer for second in the pro's. He reminded me that the downhill sprint is a bit like jumping out of a plane. Light riders hit terminal velocity and simply cannot pass, so it pays to go early if you outweigh the competition (Ben's opponent Levi Leipheimer weighed maybe 130 lbs).
I didn't have a scale handy, but I took my chances and went early. I gunned it hard right and passed the entire group just before East and West Broad Streets meet at the top of town. All I saw was empty road between me and the finish, wayyyy down Broad. Faster, faster!
I saw 45 mph on the speedometer the last time I looked. Faster! It's closer. Oh, so close. Nobody is coming. I'm going too fast.
I've got it. Faster! Yeah, faster!
Master's World Track Champion Larry Nolan was on my wheel. He's got 10 lbs on me and can time a move like a
Swiss watch. He knew exactly when to pull out of my slipstream to nip by me at the line, leaving me
for the third time with a fifth place overall finish in a row at Nevada City. If I hadn't
out-sprinted everyone else I could easily have fallen to 9th or 10th, but Larry's fourth place was in the money and fifth is, well, not fourth.
But, my friend Jim Rogers didn't get to race at all on Sunday. He won't race Nevada City again. I hope he looked down and smiled. Jimmy always reminded me that participation was the reward, and finishing a fine accomplishment. He knew the rest was just numbers and family came first. I got to ride like a madman on a beautiful Sunday.
How fast could I go? Pretty fast. Pretty darn fast.
I found my dad, mom, sister, wife, and son after the race and we spoke about this and that. We shared a moment.
Surely I'd won. Hold your family tight, and you've won, too.