I spent the morning of Easter Sunday on this road, and it felt as endless as this picture makes it out to be. Instead of spending my time sitting in church, I found that this road was the appropriate path for me to do some searching. I was crushed by my struggles from the previous day at the infamous Copperopolis Road Race. My past few races prior to this had been some big events which were events that I had found myself making big leaps of improvement, but it didn't seem to show much on paper. Copperopolis is definitely one of my favorite races on the calendar, even though it has treated me badly the past few years. I had found myself climbing quite well at the Sea Otter and was confident and ready to do a good ride at Copper. Mentally, I needed to find a good result, after pouring myself into the bike this winter and giving this thing everything, I have yet to find a podium, which definitely wears on you, well definitely has worn on me.
With all that said, Copperopolis did not help me with my mental struggles. Our general plan for the race was to get someone up the road before the big attacks came from Ben Jaques-Maynes and Nate English, and save our guys Jesse Moore and Ozzie Olmos to try and follow these moves. So my goal was to get in a break. I was hoping to establish this break on the flat section before the climb, but as the race started one of the Strava riders decided to drill it for the entire section leading to the climb, which basically prohibited any type of attacking. I'm not exactly sure what Strava was aiming to do here, but they had a lot of strong guys at the race, so maybe it was just a pure show of intimidation and force. Anyhow, just as we hit the base of the feedzone section of the climb, the pace slowed, and I decided, aww I should go into my small ring and spin up the climb, to try and save my legs for when the real action happens. My bicycle disagreed with this decision, and my chain fell right off, I desperately tried to shift it back up as a few teammates pushed me for a bit, but it refused to cooperate and I was forced to jump off and pull the chain back on.
I peered up to see the field charging over the top of feedzone riser. I hoped that the pace would slow a bit so that I wouldn't have to blow too many matches chasing back on, as this was only the first of 5 laps on the menu. To the contrary, it seems that the pace didn't slow, as I was redlined the entire climb and could not catch. As I crested the top of the climb and began to put myself into a TT position, desperation running through my mind as I imagined not catching on and the terribleness I felt considering that I had woken up at 3:45 AM to be here. This is not how I had imagined the first 25 minutes of the race going. At this point the moto ref pulled next to me, and he smirked at me: "What's your number kid???" As if he knew my day was over and needed to know my number right now, as I was giving this everything that I had, and didn't have the time to take off my vest at this exact moment, if only he knew how I felt, maybe he would have thought a bit more about how this made me feel. Luckily I did remember my number and weezed out: "77" He then throttled his engine and revved on back up to the field. As I slammed my way through the left hand corner by the lake, I could see some hesitation in the field and saw that I would be able to catch back on, my day was not completely over, even though I had just burned a few matches so early into this thing. Just as I caught on, we were on a roller, somebody attacked, and I was immediately popped back off, but luckily my teammate Ozzie was fiddling with his powertap or something, so he was off the back as well, and after we crested the roller he came rippin up to me and pulled me back into the group.
I sat in the back of the field, legs feeling terrible, praying that a break would be let go so that I could have a bit of time to recover. Alas, it was not to be, BJM decided that a break wasn't going to go without him in it, and everyone else in the field wasn't going to let a break go with BJM in it, because that clearly meant that all of our days would be over. I suffered up the climb on the backside of the course, so I was at the back as we hit the nasty, rocky, copperopolis of a descent. And there, the field split, and I found myself continue to be redlined going into the second time up the climb. On the actual climb I felt good, but not great, and with the break that was already up the road, the group I was in split.
Over the top of the climb I could see the other half of the group about 30 - 60 seconds up the road. Ahead of that was a break of about 5 riders which was out of my sight. I knew that I needed to catch that other split on this lap though if I ever wanted to be anywhere near the front of the race again. So along the whole flat section I buried myself on the front of the group, and tried to inspire the other dudes in my group to also give it a go. Nearing the climb on the backside of the course, we were close, and I knew that if I wanted to catch them I needed to do it right here. So I hit that short climb with all I had, and over the top I was about 100 meters from catching, and through the whole descent I couldn't close the gap, and then over the finishing roller I kicked again and got excruciatingly close, but couldn't quite get their. Through the whole flat section from there to the climb I was only a few 100 meters off the back of the group, head down, screaming at myself to close the gap, I was beginning to crack though, I needed to get their, I needed some sort of relief. It's odd to have given this much into the race only 45 miles into a 105 mile race, but that's the kind of effort that was needed on this particular day. As we hit the feedzone climb, I began to lose faith that I would catch, I was near cracked. I had come here to win, not to just finish, that's the way that I had decided to race. Then I made the miserable decision to shift into my small ring in nearly the identical place that I had on the first lap, and boom, chain dropped again. I spent a solid 30 seconds, fighting through tears to reapply the chain, grease getting plastered on my white arm warmers.
I rolled through the feedzone, barely able to look at my dad, who had also woken up at 3:45, and driven me here, the middle of no where. Other than Redlands, this was the only other race he had been to, and I wanted to put in a good ride in front of him. I continued up the climb, and was passed by the guys in the group that I had been working with last lap. I was completely beat physically and mentally. I turned around and returned to the car. At this point my teammate Brandon Trafton was heading up through the feedzone, I switched wheels, as these carbon ones were no longer relevant and decided to ride another lap. The legs felt terrible, the head all messed up, it was not a good lap.
And this is what I spent my Easter morning thinking about. Trying to figure out how a morning with so much promise...
had become one of my worst days on a bike. And it seemed to be appropriate that I pondered the suffering that I had endured the previous day as I rolled down this perfectly straight road on a religious holiday. In school I have been studying Emile Durkheim and reading his book The Elementary Forms of Religious Life and in this book Durkheim talks about the use of suffering in religion, and in my paper that I wrote I spoke about the relationship between suffering in religion and in my sport, cycling.
In other words, the negative cult cannot be developed without inflicting suffering. Pain is one of its necessary conditions. So people were led to consider pain to be a rite in itself; suffering was seen as a state of grace that had to be sought and sustained.
Indeed, the way he braves pain is the best indication of the greatness of man.
The suffering they impose are not, therefore, arbitrary and sterile cruelties, but a necessary discipline in which man is shaped and tempered, in which he acquires the qualities of disinterestedness and endurance without which there is not religion.
And with all these thoughts, I made a left turn off of this road, into a nasty headwind, and the thinking was over, and the suffering began again. It seems, that there is no escaping it.