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Adam O Hits Cali for Cantua and Pine Flat Road Races

Published by HPCCycling on 24 Feb 2015

New Hosmer Chiro/RPM Mortgage team member got his season off the an early start. A road trip down to California's Central Valley allowed him to kick off with a couple of road races to stoke his season's fire.

Words by Adam Oliver

Riders: Adam Oliver

Cantua Road Race: Flat, Furious, Breezy

It’s the first race of the season for me, a time to brush off the cobwebs and see how my fitness is progressing. My original plan was to start the season off at the Chico Stage Race on February 28, but thanks to some fortunate spur-of-the-moment plans, I got the opportunity to kick off with some low-key events in the Fresno area that could ease me back into the racing scene. Coming off 12 weeks of base training and not having my heart rate over threshold in months, I wasn't expecting much. Regardless, I was going to give it my best shot and see what Californians are made of. I was invited on this trip by two of my good friends and training buddies John Morehouse and Austin Arguello, who were kind enough to fit me in the back of their packed car.

We left at 1 p.m. on Friday and drove nonstop for 9 hours to a tiny little town 45 minutes from the race called Los Banos -- which literally translates to “the bathroom.” The next morning we woke up, ate our oatmeal and shoved off for the race. My legs were stiff and sore from the long drive and big weeks of training I'd been doing leading up. The race was very small, with only 13 guys signed up in the pro1/2 field. Of those 13 guys, 7 had a teammate or more in the field.

The race was a pancake flat out-and-back with a slight stair-step uphill finish. It was on relatively smooth pavement and no shelter from wind. As the race got underway two riders from represented teams got away, just after I had finished following an attack. Little by little, the represented teams would attack again and again. Austin and I would have to try to chase until two groups of two got away.

As we headed into the stair-step climb I attacked with Austin right behind me. I was able to split the remaining field. Only Austin and a represented rider were able to follow. After we hit the turnaround I began the longest time trial ever. We descended the finish climb with just Austin and I taking pulls. After about sixteen miles in a cross/headwind, Austin and I brought the newly formed group of 6 to within 15 bike lengths. That's when the rider sitting on attacked us and bridged up to the group. After that Austin and I knew we were screwed.

The group began to accelerate and Austin and I did our best to stay within reach. Unfortunately Austin flatted and I was left alone, gassed, with a big gap to close. I put my head down, and gave it everything to stay within range, but it wasn’t enough. Thankfully the group popped a big dude that was the size of Aaron Coker, which gave me someone to work with. He and I traded pulls for the most of the second “lap” before finally catching back up to the group of six.

At that point I was done. I had burned the whole friggin' match box: sandpaper, cardboard and all. We hit the stair-step rollers as a unit and knowing that my best bet was to head out before the sprint, I decided to just hit it hard and see if I could pop a few guys off before the real speed started. I only popped one guy with the surge, and I rolled in for a sub-par 8th. But, considering I spent about 35 miles with my nose in the wind, I’m pleased.

Pine Flat Road Race: It's Anything but Flat

Sunday’s Race was the polar opposite from Cantua. A short 100-km long race with a whopping 4,500 feet of vertical accent and a hilltop finish. I was tired from chasing in Cantua, so I decided to just sit in today and wait for the two big climbs that shatter the race every year. But even sitting in isn’t an easy task.

The road around Pine Flat Lake is very narrow, and very windy with many blind corners and cattle grates, which forced me to stay mentally focused the entire time. Luckily I came off the descent still in the main field and got to the base of the 15-minute climb.

I was hoping I would feel good, but unfortunately the climb wasn’t really a climb in my opinion. For about 10 of the 15 minutes the climb was really ascending rollers which signals death for someone like me who hasn’t trained their top end yet. The last five minutes of the climb are super steep but thankfully steady. I was dropped right before the steep part but I continued to charge, picking off four riders before cresting over it for the descent and finish climb.

My weight is a double-edged sword; while I can float away from most when the road points up, I descend like a feather. I was thankful to hang with the field. The race finishes with a killer-steep, 2.5-mile climb, and then a quick descent into the final five-minute finishing climb. When the bunch hit the base of the first climb, I immediately tried to settle into a rhythm but found it difficult thanks to all of the surges of the peloton. As the climb continued, people eventually started to drift off the back and I began to suffer badly. I couldn’t stand the surging and, with the hard efforts I had done the previous day, I lacked the snap needed to stay in the group.

After about 10 minutes the elastic broke and I was dropped. I didn’t give up though -- put my head down, settled in and ended up catching and passing a group over the climb. The descent was narrow, rough and windy; I did my damnedest to stay with the four guys that came over the climb with me, but I was struggling. We hit the final climb and I just said "screw it, maybe it’s steep enough to ride them off my wheel." Nope. I could hear them pant and suffer but they suck with me and all four dropped me in the last 100 meters for the 6th-place battle. That meant 10th for me.

All things told, I came away from this California forray with positivity and a list of things that I need to work on before the Tour of Walla Walla.

-Adam Oliver

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