Since only 126 of you (123 men) got to experience the topsy-turvy world of Napa, I thought I'd share a few moments. Don't worry, the RW&O is defunct. Not because it was not immensely entertaining to watch -- it was, in spades! But after a number of fields had run, I recognized a dynamic that was anathema to a guy who loves and promotes "Most Aggressive" racing. Still, the tactics were most interesting.
Here were some of the memories that will resonate from this unique race:
1. LAAAAAAAAAAAAAAABERRRRRRRGE!!!!!!!!!! This was a dream fulfillment for the LaBerge family. James wins his first-ever P12 race (not his last). Dean wins the 35's. Chris gets the podium. At home in Napa. Youch. (Have to mention that the night before the race I ran into James doing repeats on the course in full traffic).
2. The 45's race - by the laps:
4-to-go: Larry and Hunter have been off alone most of the race, but Hunter manages to fall down, get back on, and persevere. Saintly Larry agrees to tow him to 5th place and does. Then Larry soft-pedals and waits for the chase group to catch.
3-to-go: It's true. There was indeed an eight-man trackstand in the 45+ 1/2/3 race. It has to be a first ever. I was leading out the grupetto down the finishing straight expecting Larry to have used up 4th place. There he is, rolling slowly down the finishing straight. When I realize what he's doing, I and the six guys with me put on the brakes. Eight guys trackstand to avoid being 4th. With two teammates in the pack, I lunge forward and restart them, absorbing 4th place.
2-to-go: With Betonte, O'Rourke and teammate Nolan in the pack, Kevin is probably happy to take 3rd - even though Larry was apparently yelling for him to slow down and stay in.
1-to-go: Against all odds, Nolan somehow is allowed to cruise for 2nd place, leaving ....
Bell lap: It's Betonte and O'Rourke, Safeway's two Uber-sprinters, rounding the horseshoe together, sprinting for a lone prize, with all of their teammates watching at the line. Priceless.
3. The Poulidor Award:
Safeway's Michael O'Rourke made a play for the win in both the 45+ 1/2/3 race and the 35+ 1/2/3 race. He went mano a mano with Betonte in the first and LaBerge in the second. Second-best in this race truly was "hand-grenades" and "first loser." Pipped in both sprints means he isn't even placed. "D.N.P." Brutal.
Andrew Lanier of the Specialized Start-em-young Team was on a long solo mission to collect every prime in the 3's race. Then with about five or six laps to go, he chooses to lap the field solo -- which seemingly negates his advantage!! (Remember, there's a no-lapping rule). Actually, believing he was still the best of the rest, Andrew waited until the final lap to take his ultimate prize - the win. But alas, he was edged at the line and ended up with the primes, the Gladiator, and a hell of a story.
The interesting aspect: Andrew could have effected the same strategy by waiting and resting a lap, but he chose to lap instead!
A three-man break in the 35+ 1/2/3's: Larry Nolan - dozens of worlds jerseys in his closet. Chris Lyman - national time trial champion. Robert Pasco - climber extraordinaire. HUH??
The race bible says the two ubers are going to work Pasco over, right? But this is Wonderland, Alice. After an eternity of pulling Pasco around the track, the Specialized boys attack him savagely and leave him far behind.
The result: Nolan 5th, Lyman 4th, Pasco 3rd. Curiouser and curiouser.
6. Clean sweep - of his wheel:
In the first race of the day, the Elite 4's, Squadra Ovest executed the perfect plan. Their lead-out train took 3rd, then 2nd, then coming around the horseshoe for a pretty clear win, their final man solo-washes out his wheel. The only cherry on the Squadra sundae is on his culo. Great team riding, though.
7. Three Women
So we ran it as a points race and I went to get a falafel with my team.
That's all I have to say about that.
8. The Pros reverse my reversal:
There's a name for that in wrestling, right?
A couple of Mintys suggested trying a Win&Out for their race. After thinking about it, talking to the Chief Ref, and receiving unanimous support of the field, we changed it. Good plan.
The Win&Out is in fact a better mode for crits. Although lacking some of the irony and most of the tactics, it does reward aggression -- and we got it. The three men in the break gave us two big sprints and an epic survival, then two more big sprints followed from the pack. Five times the excitement, and aggression is amply rewarded.
It is a better format. The 53x11 gear in my brain is already spinning for next year ....
There were more stories and ironies. LOTS more. And in the end the RW&O at Napa will be a regional relic, a series of anecdotes told over burritos and beer with a shake of the head and perhaps a chuckle about what a Cycle Circus it was.
It's true, Stone Bridge School, the race's charity, got totally screwed by Rene/Colavita's incomprehensibly hairbrained scheduling choice, the unseasonably poor weather, and a promoter's zeal for novelty and distinction. Mea culpa.
We had no injuries more serious than minor road rash.
And I know that for years people will be talking about the wacky day in Napa when eight guys did a track stand in a crit.