We planned a long break down in San Diego and it was a perfect excuse for some training in good weather and at the end, slip in a 3 day stage race in Murrieta, California with my elder brother, John. Here is how the event unfolded…
Stage 1 - Individual TT
This was a short stage, only 4.1 miles long, rolling to start with and then uphill for the final mile on a "well kept" but unpaved road.
We got there fairly early to ride the course and more importantly test the off road climb. We quickly found out that "well kept" had been highly exaggerated, coming off line was treacherous and dangerous. Small boulders littered the road along with deep, eyeball rattling ruts with the only safe-ish place being the sand on the far right. This meant taking each of the corners extremely tight otherwise you could end up being thrown from your bike quite violently which I nearly found out when practicing. It seemed you would lose time by attacking this climb and bike positioning was far more important, it got better towards the top where gravel lined the road.
Although short, this would be challenging and exciting due to the different nature of the course. My plan was to hit the paved section hard, recover up hill and empty the tank for the last 500 meters and it worked! I placed 1st, earning 20 points and the lead of the GC but what a strange feeling it was - overjoyed at the win, but it seemed like there was no glory. You just wait to see if your time is bettered and you obviously can't celebrate as you cross the finish line!
Stage 2 - Criterium
Both myself and my brother had never raced in a criterium and with 6 right angle corners over a 1 mile course it made it fairly technical. We were also both in good positions in the GC and both not sprinters, so limiting our loses and sitting near the front was the aim of the game.
The race was 35 minutes long and as expected it was fast and frantic with a number of crashes, popped tires and everyone fighting for position. Coming to the last lap I managed to find myself in a strong position in 2nd wheel going into turn 2, but the rider in front overcooked turn 4 and went skidding across the tarmac causing some panic in the peloton.
With us entering the back straight, a powerhouse with thighs the size of tree trunks went shooting buy and with two corners to go and I felt I had to go for it in the hope I wouldn't fade. 200 meters to go and one rider went past, then another and I was clinging on and with only 50 meters left I was expecting the rest of the field would come screaming past in a frenzy of extortionate speed which would leave both of us outside the points. But to my astonishment and surprise I finished 4th, with John 5th! I had managed to keep hold of the GC, going into the final day - a 40 mile rolling road race of 11 laps, but only by a solitary point. All we had to do was finish ahead of Festina from San Diego Bike Club (SDBC)…
Stage 3 - Road Race
Looking at the course profile we felt the rolling course suited us and was ripe for a breakaway. Moment Cycles approached us and an alliance to suite all parties was made - I would secure the overall GC, John would finish on the GC podium and Moment would win the stage. The plan was sound - after 7 laps the Moment team would up the tempo, force some gaps in the peloton then sit back enabling myself, John and a couple of Moment guys to get in a brake. We were desperate for it not to be a sprint finish and felt it suited us if we went longer.
It was cold at 7.30 am, very cold, but it would warm up soon towards a sweltering 30 degrees and as we rolled to the start line the commentator let us know the state of play with Festina requiring 2 points to secure the GC.
Gently we all rolled out, but within 5 minutes the first crash happened with someone hitting someone else whilst climbing out of the saddle, I thought this will be a long day if this carries on! And for sure it did, a rider inexplicably cut me up which almost ended my race and half of the peloton, with his side swiping, erratic move my front wheel was taken from me, my back wheel lifted into the air but somehow to my relief I stayed upright!
As planned on lap 7, Moment sent some guys to the front and the tempo was upped, but it wasnt us that made the break and instead of chancing it we sat back thinking they had broke too early and would never hold out. Little did we know though, that the 6 man break formed themselves into a strong unit and organised themselves well. Their lead steadily grew lap by lap and with time running out, Moment and ourselves were the only people interested in bringing the break back and with no other help from any team the break deservedly succeeded. The peloton was therefore left to fight it out for 6th place onwards.
Going into the final four corners, the sprint started early with SDBC getting Festina into a good position, with the rest of their team (as predicted) blocking my way around I lost his wheel. After fighting passed I had caught up by the final corner but by then I had used too much energy and was unable to contest the sprint. I managed 8th, Festina 6th and the GC was his and SDBC's, no win for Moment and John secured 4th in the GC. All of our targets missed, from the high of winning Stage 1 to the low of this. But, I would by lying if I said I would not have taken this result before the race started!
On the positive side, the two of us, Team Newsome outscored SDBC over the 3 days of racing, the biggest bike club in San Diego!