BHRR has been a thorn in my side since the early ’90s. The first year I did it, a guy crashed in front of me when a large road bump knocked his bars out from under him, and I went down hard. I spent a week complaining about how some eejit who couldn’t handle his bike made me crash. The next year, I hit that very same bump, lost control, and crashed myself and a few others behind me. The next week, I heard a guy in my field talking about how some eejit who couldn’t handle his bike had made him crash at BHRR. Karma. Or something.
I didn’t return to the race again until 2011, and got 10th. In 2012, I thought I could win, but got 3rd. I skipped road racing last year, but came into it this year not really knowing how I felt. I’d done four races this season with pretty mixed results, mostly riding to support stronger teammates. At Snelling I gave Dave K. my wheel when he flatted. At Copperopolis I hoped to help Jay, but I just got dropped. At Wente, I felt good and maybe helped Jay a little. At Cat’s Hill I was nowhere, and Jay soloed for a great win. I was tired and ready to be done with this road racing stuff when I lined up for BHRR.
The course starts with a generally downhill, rolling section of San Pablo Dam Rd., makes a right and starts gently climbing back up Bear Valley until you hit the Three Bears climbs. Mama Bear is about 3-4 minutes of climbing, at about 8%, a false summit, and another minute to the top. A short decent, then Baby Bear is about a minute of 6%. A couple minutes’ descending and Papa Bear starts. Again, about 4-5 minutes of climbing at 7-8%, with the race finish at the top. To complete a lap, you descend back to San Pablo Dam Rd. and repeat. If you find yourself on Bear Valley Rd., check out the road signage as you pass the Jewish cemetery. Right at the entrance to the cemetery, there’s a standard road sign saying “No Outlet.” Cracks me up every time.
I felt strangely uncertain about how I felt the first lap. Maybe hungry? Maybe nervous? Maybe tired? Maybe really fresh and strong? I stayed hidden in the pack, between 10th and 20th wheel. I ate a Clif Bar just to do something. The climbs didn’t seem that hard, so that was good, anyway, and I couldn’t find anyone I thought seemed really scary strong. I just stayed out of the 10 mph headwind and waited. I also ate about 4 packets of Chocolate Outrage Gu. That would have repercussions for my popularity later in the day, but it seemed like a good idea at the time.
Final lap. I decided I felt good. I let other people work into the headwind down SPD Rd. When a couple of doomed attacks went off, I let others chase. I figured Cushman-Wakefield and Pen Velo both had several members in the field, so let them chase. Eventually they got smart and each put a member in a break, but it didn’t stick, thanks to SJ Bike Club chasing. So we headed into the final climbs all together. A guy from EBVC who I hadn’t seen all race suddenly appeared at the front, looking steady, so I figured he could be strong. A few others I’d seen finish well this year were also there, so I just decided to keep my eyes on them and wait. My friend and competitor from cyclocross, Rene from Pen Velo, set a strong pace on Mama Bear, making me a little nervous, but it turned out he left it all there. EBVC guy started to have trouble holding the wheel so I stopped worrying about him too much. At the top of Mama, the pace let up slightly so I took advantage to get myself to fourth wheel for the climb over Baby and descent. There I sat, 4th or 5th wheel, at the base of Papa, monitoring for early attacks that didn’t come. I sat behind a SJBC strongman, Geoff from Cushman, and next to unattached Glen and EBVC guy. They were all pushing bigger gears while I spun madly at about 105 rpm. One by one, guys dropped off, until there were only maybe four ahead of me, starting to ramp things up. I decided I’d better gear up and stand up, and as I did, the final push began in earnest. I shifted up two more gears and put my head down, passing EBVC, then Glen, then Geoff and another guy, but I couldn’t catch SJBC. He was even pulling away from me a bit at the line, so I was second across the finish. However, the race was mixed with M45+ 4 and M55+ 4, scored separately, and it turned out SJBC (Mark Beckstead) was 55, making me the first 45+ 4. So… a win! I didn’t get to throw my arms up, coming across second, but I don’t think I could have anyway.
My prize? A giant jar of local honey, plus enough cash to pay for wine at dinner last night, and some new friends from the peloton. And being all smiles, all weekend. If you made it this far, thanks for reading!