Saturday’s stage one of the Coast Ride started early with the 5am chirp of my alarm clock. With sunrise another two and a half hours later, there was lots to do even before the sun met the horizon. Namely, coffee, unpacking and repacking my already packed bag, purely out of nervous habit, another slurp of coffee, which segued into the first 5km neutral roll out to the team hotel in Mill Valley. The team meeting quickly ensued in typical pre-race format — riders kitting up and downing the last bits of maple fueled energy for the day — and more coffee was enjoyed.
The standard start to the day is down by Crissy Fields at Sports Basement at 7:45am. This being an early season race for team inGamba, it was decided that we would put in some extra mileage and throw in a few dummy attacks across the Golden Gate Bridge. Furthermore this allowed us to practice deceptive head-fakes, as we threw team photographer Jim for a loop and rode the opposite side of the bridge than was previously decided. Despite it being the perfect spot for an early morning team photoshoot, at least the sunrise over the SF skyline was stunning.
To really put an authoritative stamp on the start of the race, we forewent the casual coast down the hill to Sports Basement, because by the time we arrived at the end-of-the-bridge intersection to either turn left and go to down to the start or turn right and continue up along the race route, we saw a handful of large groups already throwing down a German toaster worth of wattage up the hill, therefore it behooved us to do the same rather than descending purely to then immediately ascend the same roads. No harm, no foul, the race referee didn’t mind at all.
From here, a flurry of attacks started the day with an inGamba team member in each of them. The lumpy topography of the Presidio, Sea Cliff, Lincoln Park, and Outer Richmond really indicated who had legs for the day ahead. Jay and Mark along with their handy henchman John were continually in the early moves protecting our team captains for the aggressive finale. In addition to skipping the first uphill mile of the course, our second tactic of the day was to send David H. up the road in the car, so that he was cruising casually when the peloton caught him. It worked flawlessly, without a single member of the Coast Ride outside of team inGamba noticing the clever ruse.
Approaching Half Moon Bay, it was apparent that this is the first weekend of nice weather in all of 2017 — traffic was out in force! Forced far, far to the right, there’s an unfortunate abundance of detritus fanatically loitering in the road thanks to the previously two weeks of #Rainpocalypse. Ergo, with Manuel Cardoso and yours truly, Ted King, ticking off the mileage at the front of the peloton at a furious pace, it was only a matter of time before the peloton smashed into one of the enormous boulders patiently waiting on the side of the road. (Enormous = roughly the size of a grapefruit.)
The peloton shattering magnificently. I faithfully waited and gathered my cadre of teammates — the venerable Eros Poli, two time Portuguese national champion Cardoso, the spry Biele, the two-wheeled professor Nathan, and rouleur Andrew R. — before pulling our fallen brothers Canadian Chris and team captain for the day, João, back to the field. We ripped along for the subsequent ninety minutes towards Davenport. Along the way we picked up Jonathan who played yet another tactical move and only started the race in Half Moon Bay in an effort to save his legs for the coming days. Savvy. An additional anecdote of the day was witnessing good friend of inGamba, Tony fascinatingly break his chain while producing literally just seven watts, and the loyal Jim sacrificed his chain by donating it directly to Tony’s drivetrain. Rare is the day that I have seen such selfless teamwork.
Around about this point we rolled into Davenport and were greeted by the cordial inGamba staff. Not only were delicious lunches awaiting our arrival in the, ahem feedzone, but we found a chain and Jim could join the fray, fresh as a daisy. The sun was out, the breakaway was well within the grasp of inGamba’s hardworking domestiques (the breakaway was eating lunch across the street in a far inferior, adjacent parking lot), and the temperature was a good twenty degrees north of the 37° at the race start.
I’ll zoom through the finale because once lunch was adjourned and the peloton rolled out, there’s not much more to report. Sure, there’s still half the day to go, but once we sped through Santa Cruz, Tony and Cardoso lit an absurd pace and somehow only I made my way into the resulting breakaway. Far outnumbered by my foes, I still have nothing but confidence in his group of twenty sprinting towards the finish in Monterey. At this point, it felt just like one of the eight Tours of California from my previous professional career. Even though I knew that I had strict instructions to protect our captain João, I knew that he was well supported with a half dozen inGamba teammates with him and that he would genuinely want nothing more than for me to go for glory.
Hell hath no fury like a bike path scorned, so even though I was towing along this group of nearly two dozen on the undulating, sinuous turns of the Seaside to Monterey bike path, I unleashed a ferocious seated sprint and took the stage one sprint by a hair.
Stage one, success.