The UC Davis Road Race course was very unique, consisting of 8 short, 6-mile laps with some small rollers towards the middle that would clearly have no appreciable effect on the race’s outcome. Similarly, while I imagine that wind could have been a significant factor on another day, and perhaps this is what UC Davis had hoped for, the air was relatively still. The pavement, while somewhat rough and gravelly in portions, was also not something that would enable strong riders and teams to break the field.
These characteristics all notwithstanding, however, the course was made challenging by the sheer narrowness of the roads. As in most road races, we were confined to one lane (besides the race finish, thankfully – take note race organizers). However, on this course there was seldom any shoulder, meaning that literally no more than three riders could comfortably ride side by side. Add the four tight, gravelly corners per lap and the twisty “bottom leg” (the course was effectively a rectangle) and you’re going to have a very interesting race. Positioning, a well-documented weak point of the Trojan offensive, was to be almost the sole dynamic.
As expected, more than 20% of our 40-something man field was made up of Davis riders. Most other teams brought somewhere from 3 to 6 riders, and with 4 from USC (Karl Tingwald, Jim Yuan, the newly upgraded Justin Eagleton, and myself), we would not be left out of the proceedings. Even before the whistle sounded to signal the start, all eyes were on the Davis squad in anticipation of the inevitable onslaught. We were not let down.
Interestingly, however, it was not Davis that began to force the proceedings altogether too early in the race. It was one of only three riders from Santa Clara that attacked again, and again, and again. Of course, Davis was unwilling to let any break go without one of them in it, and no other teams wanted to see a break go that had Davis and not them; so it took a full lap for something to stick. Ultimately, it was a small group that got away, with one Davis and the Santa Clara rider who were soon joined by a rider from UCLA (and perhaps someone else that I’m forgetting).
Now, the race was interesting. While most of the riders and teams in the field were stuck without anyone up the road, it was utterly impossible to organize a chase on such a narrow road and with all those Davis riders taking up space. As the race wore on and we entered the 5th lap, the break’s advantage exceeded a minute and a half. At this point, they had become black specks in the distance, only visible on the long, back straight.
Since other teams were failing to mount any sort of real chase and since my teammates were nowhere in sight (I blame the difficulty of moving up on those roads), I began to panic and put in a couple minute-long, lung-blasting efforts. I wanted to both make up some time and spur some sort of reaction from everyone else who was just watching the race ride away from them. Seeing this and knowing that I was supposed to be saving my legs for the sprint, Jim immediately came to my rescue and rode right past me in a blaze.