Snelling RR is the first big spring classic in Northern California. It attracts huge fields and is run on a fun course that closed to traffic but open to Bees (they are out pollinating the Almond groves at this time of year). The course itself is a rolling one with pavement that varies from good to nasty but never as bad as Copperopolis and it throws in sand on the corners just to keep you awake. The weather can also be a huge factor on this course and I have ridden it in the rain, with huge floods, frost and of course wind. This year was the windiest I have ever encountered on the course but the temperatures were mild and the course was bone dry.
I have lost motivation in a big way with mass start road racing and I never feel that comfortable cycling in big groups any more. I entered Snelling just because I always enter it but as the race drew near I felt less and less like actually taking part. My enthusiasm was not helped by having to get up at 4:30 am to drive out to the course after a really bad nights sleep.
My group had a full field of 100 riders and our race was to be 5 laps (63 miles). I think the rain free winter has allowed a lot of people to get a lot of training in as the whole field looked really fit. I arrived a little late to the start and found myself at the back of the huge group. In the neutralized section out to the start there was a lot of nervous braking and swerving going on and due to the narrow roads there was nothing I could do to get up near the front. I wasn’t really concerned about being at the back as I had resigned myself to taking it easy for 4 laps then trying to put in an attack in the last 5 miles.
Unfortunately when we were given the flag the hammer went down pretty much straight away and the first section along Keyes road had a very strong crosswind from the right. The bunch immediately strung out with everyone hanging in the left gutter so it was incredibly difficult to get any shelter. Pretty much from the start people started letting gaps go at the back of the field and I had to use too much energy to close the gaps. I also suffered from the elastic effect out of corners and had to sprint hard to keep in touch. After only 1 lap into the race I was suffering in a way I have not experienced in a road race for years.
The second lap was the same story as the first and I was still rather stupidly hanging around to close to the back and having to work far harder than I should to get out of the wind. Along Keyes road the entire field was in a single line for a while grovelling in the left gutter. Being at the back I noticed that we were shedding riders at quite an impressive rate. On lap 3 up the little climb before the nasty crosswind section on Keyes some people let a gap go and I noticed too late. I chased really hard but simply could not close the gap and I thought that was the end of my race. Fortunately another few strong riders had also been caught out by the split so we worked together to chase. I really didn’t think we had a chance but after an epic 3/4 lap chase we finally rejoined the lead group (probably down to 35 riders by now).
I had burned up way too many matches in the chase so my only thoughts were of survival on the last lap. The last lap was a little easier pace but it was peppered by people putting in attacks. I found it hard to respond to the changes in pace so I ended up drifting towards the back again. On the last climb just before the turn onto the really bumpy section the group split again and I got about a 10 meter gap (sat too near the back again) to the main group and I simply didn’t have the legs to close it. I tried chasing hard on the Roubaix section but I new my day was done and ended up riding in on my own in 27th place. This was a really good competitive and safe race and its a pity I wasn’t firing on all cylinders.
2012 Snelling was the hardest CAT 4 race I have ever ridden and I think there were a few reasons for that. Firstly my negative attitude caused me to ride like a muppet and end up having to work much harder than I needed to. If your mind isn’t in the game on a windy day you might as well take an early bath. Secondly I have been suffering from a downward spiral of form since the beat The Clock TT and an inability to get to sleep of a night. I felt physically and mentally drained after the race but didn’t really suffer from any muscle cramps or other ailments. I really am a person that does not do well on lack of sleep and it makes me wonder if I will ever be able to ride the longer endurance races.
On the way back home in the car my back tire exploded. I am glad this didn’t happen in the race.
I have to get my act back together for next weekends Death Valley Double Century which I am going to ride on my Musashi recumbent. Due to my packed February schedule I have only ridden 47 miles this month on the moose which is not the best preparation.