We drove up to Oroville on Friday night and after a few wrong turns made it to Challenge in plenty of time.
I really love this course, it's got a little bit of everything, small climbs, big climbs, medium climbs, fast descents and no flat sections. Due to a combination of a long drive and lots of vertical, the fields for this race have been very small and we only had 13 for the 35+ 1,2,3, but there were a few strong guys there so this wasn't going to be easy. Scott Cole attacked on the first climb and stayed off the front for about half of the first of 2 33 mile laps. Shortly after we caught him, the pace on the climbs had cut our pack down to 6 with Cole, Bryant, Fonseca, Levine, Foy and myself. With the t-shirt group decided, no one really pushed the climbs on the first half of the 2nd lap and we even stopped at the top of the climb so we could all get neutral water from Nate Parks who was manning the unmanned water station. (Thanks Nate!)
Bryant was asking me why I hadn't attacked yet and I told him that there was plenty more climbing to go. As we got to the end of the climbs, Foy fell back a bit then, just as we started the long fast descent on Marysville road (2 miles at -8% grade), I threw in a little surge and went into a tuck and managed to roll away from the group.
I can never understand the physics when that happens since I was definitely the lightest guy there by at least 10 pounds, but as the road flattened out I took a look back and had a good gap on the 4 remaining chasers. We only had about 15 miles left to go so I decided to give it all I had. I couldn't tell exactly, but I think I had about 10-20 seconds for the rest of the descent and on the small rollers, but Bryant was on the front and the group was closing in. I figured I'd be safe from all but Bryant if I could just make it to the base of the long climb before the feed zone. As I started climbing I could tell that I didn't have a lot of fuel left in the tank and Bryant had shed the other 3 and was gaining on me. I thought it was inevitable that he would catch me since he had come by me in the last mile or less of more races than I care to remember, but I kept pressing. Near the top of the climb I took a look back and he shouted something about working together, but I thought my chances would be better if I just kept pressing.
Dan was getting close as I made the right turn onto New York House about 4 miles from the finish and I got caught behind a slow moving SUV on the short fast descent. I was able to get around him, but I later found out that Dan actually ran into the back/side of the SUV when he unexpectedly hit the brakes, but thankfully didn't go down. I don't know how much that slowed him down, but he never caught me, so I finally got a win over him.
After Dan, Cole beat out Fonseca for 3rd with Levine 5th and Foy 6th.
I was too wiped out to get up at 5 to go to Dunnigan today, but I can sleep in and ride to the Giro tomorrow. Yea, no gas money!