I had a blast at the Levi. I showed up early and ended up in a pretty good spot in the staging area. Just like in previous years, you still have to catch up to the lead group and somehow it seems like you have to pass thousands of riders. The lead group was a few hundred and rolling along pretty fast, I was working my way up to the front on each hill or lull. I probably had 200 riders in front of me and 300 behind me in the front group followed my another 7,000.
Then on the Graton hill, Lucas Euser who races for the United Healthcare team gives it the gas and the group gets strung out. I feverishly start passing people and there is a big gap by the time I get to the top of the hill. About 50 riders form a chase group and we seem to be making good time but we cannot see the break of about 50 riders. After another 10 miles we hit the Kings Ridge climb and two guys ride away from the group. I join them but they have no interest in working together and they both soon tire out and I end up spending most of the ride passing guys that are cooked from trying to keep up with Lucas Euser, Neil Shirley and Brian Finnerty ect…
I thought that I would have a really hard time staying motivated after missing the break. Chasing down the two guys on Kings Ridge ended up being all that I needed for motivation and I stayed pretty motivated for most of the ride. This year I finished in 5:09 which is slower than last year’s 5:05. Last year I was with the fastest riders until Kings Ridge and had more people to ride with until later in the ride. I still had time to enjoy the scenery and I had forgotten just how amazing the scenery is in that part of Northern California. I heard that they may change the route next year, I hope they don’t change the 100 mile course. It is a difficult and dangerous course with lots of cattle crossing, steep descents and hazards. They had two riders that needed to be air lifted. I heard that one went off a cliff and that they needed a helicopter to get him out because he was so far down the mountain and it was too steep to carry him back up to the road, I was told that he was recovering and lucky to be alive.
This year played out differently than I expected. Neil Shirley was the first finisher the last two years and he was the first finisher of the Beverly Hills Fondo last weekend and that Fondo had something like 11,000ft of climbing with super strong competition. Neil was the 6th finisher this year, there was a group of 4 pro riders that finished together for first and Neil finished several minutes behind them coming in solo. Lucas Euser ended up in 9th place coming in solo, I finished 12th.