Berkley Hills RR
45+ Cat 4/55+ Cat 4 combined
52 mi: 2.5 loops around San Pablo Reservoir
Great course with three (about 4%) climbs each lap, finish line at the top of the longest one (1K), “Papa Bear”. Chilly day, perfect for racing in my opinion. We had a very small group of the 45+ guys with only 7. The 55+ were 17 for a total of 24 rolling together on the road. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect with this combo and group of guys. I didn’t recognize anyone except Jim Forrester(55+) who I’ve only ridden with on a few occasions in road races. He climbs well so I thought he’d be one to link up with later when things begin to “happen”. I didn’t recognize anyone in my category, but I knew the first lap would be the shake-down to see who was who on the hills. Boy, was I wrong. Don Pontes rolled away in the supertuck position on the first long descent not far from the start. I did not even see him slip away and out of sight. I must have been further back in the field or didn’t recognize him amidst other riders on the open road/bike lane. Amazingly, he got a good gap by the bottom of the long hill and stayed away the entire race for the win! Only Jim mentioned to me that he was up the road. No one else in the group said or did anything about him getting away – really? I wasn’t sure what to do. Was this true – a guy in my group was up the road?
We rode on at a good clip. Same scenario (a little cynicism here), 5 guys doing most of the work at the front, others just watching in the wheels as long as possible. I still do not understand the satisfaction one can feel “racing” that way. Anyways, we rolled on, the attrition naturally played out, and the group was whittled down to eight after the first loop. I was not at my best as legs were still heavy from last Sunday’s 133 mi BWR. The second lap I was really starting to have doubts I would be there at the finish during the first of the three climbs. A small gap quickly developed at the bottom. Six guys were starting to ride away about half way up at testing pace. I knew it would be impossible to get back in if I wasn’t in at the top. Time to go in the red. I and the guy behind me clawed and clawed to latch back on to the last wheel just before the crest. A small personal victory at that point. I Could enjoy a short respite before the next shorter climb and get a gel in me before then. That helped. Pace wasn’t so harsh and got through hills 2 and 3 of lap 2 without going into the red again.
The final half lap, which included the 3 main hills was where it would go down for the eight of us still intact. We passed the start area for the final time and proceeded to the long down hill. Scott Wilson got a gap by the bottom, maybe 50 yards. He kept riding on the flatish/roller sections after the descent. He looked strong. I decided to bridge as I did not want to be complacent like it seemed several guys were becoming. No one riding hard enough to close it down. Wouldn’t or couldn’t, I don’t know. But I decided to jump across as my legs were feeling a bit better by then after a Stinger Waffle and some “down time” on the long descent. Not good, but better. No one followed. I got across and beckoned Scott to keep riding with me. He said he would try as long as he could. We took turns on the rolling twisty, tree-covered lane well enough to keep the gap and out of sight of the guys behind. A gentle tailwind helped. I knew if we reached the first hill we’d have a chance for a podium spot. Finally got to the first long drag with the gap still there. I rode it out at a sustainable pace at upper limit of threshold; Scott lost contact with me not long into the hill. I rode alone at top threshold to the final hill, picking off stragglers from other categories to help set mini goals for myself. Reached the final climb and could see the white officials’ tent at the top. In and out of the saddle, time to leave it all on the course. Second place secured. I was hoping it was the win, but I found it to be true Don won when the results were posted. He earned it. To ride that course alone for 2 laps is impressive. Strongest guy one for sure. He got a nice BHRR Champion’s jersey, Knight wheel, and bottle of wine. I got a bag of about 15 gels and a bottle of wine which I gave away to Scott (fourth place) as I abstain. And that was that. - John Hawkins