Promoter: Velo Promo
Race Web Site: http://www.velopromo.com/lees-ent.htm
Course: A rough, hilly and HOT 118km out and back on rural country roads, some of which are gravel and others that are making the transition between paved roads and gravel. They call Copperopolis the “Paris-Roubaix” of Northern California, but in my opinion, the roads at this race are worse. Much worse.
Course Description: The start at the high school in Williams. One of the awesome things about this race is that you can use the showers in the gym after the race! How cool is that?
After the neutral roll out the race starts out with about 20km that is pretty much flat and has a pretty good road surface. Being the central valley you should always be on the lookout for cross winds. The wind tends to blow from the North or South and this section of the race heads East. I haven’t seen the wind cause any major damage here but it can make you expend too much energy early in the race stuck in the gutter with no real draft.
At about 20km the course turns left onto Maxwell Sites Road and starts heading towards the hills. Maxwell Sites goes gradually uphill for a while. You’ll pass the feed zone where you’ll get your bottles on the way back and then at about 40km this race gets real.
The Sites Ladoga climb will separate the riders who might win this race from those who won’t. 5km at 7% will shake things up and leave you with a small lead group over the top. In a lot of ways this plays the same role as the Leesville Gap climb on the old course except that the pavement is significantly better on this road. Over the top you will fall into the familiar Leesville pattern of the front group hammering to stay away and the chasers hammering to try and catch back. So, from 40km in to the finish at 118km expect to be on the gas the whole way. That’s why this race is so hard.
The upper valley is a nice place to ride, but most of it is pretty hellish for racing. Expect about 20km (10km out and back) of bad road. Some of it REALLY bad. At the end of that out and back section you climb back over the Sites Ladoga (West) climb. It’s only 1.5km, but it’s 7% and you’ll be getting tired by this point. This is not a climb to make a winning move, but it is a climb where you can get dropped from your group and not see them again until they’ve eaten all of the watermelon at the finish.
The descent is just plain fun. This is how much fun it is. 🙂 (My team mate Dan Bryant leading, me making his bunny ears, followed by Josh Dapice (hidden))
The feed zone is at around 87km into the race. Get some bottles as it can be really hot from here on in.
Distances: Everybody does the same 118km out and back course. Be thankful that you weren’t here the first year Bob promoted it when the Pro/1/2 race did TWO laps of the old course. Not many finishers that day. I was lucky and got a flat on the 2nd lap. 🙂
Special note. In 2015 they added an extra 20 miles for the Pro/1/2, Cat 3 and M35+ 1/2/3 so that the race would be long enough to earn cat 1 upgrade points. They did this by turning around at the “town” of Sites, heading back for 10 miles, turning around again and then completing the course as scheduled. Also, the place where everybody turns around to head back to the finish was moved back a bit and most of the worst sections of road were avoided.
Road Surface: Mostly poor narrow roads with lots of patches. There isn’t much gravel road on the new course, but there is some in the upper valley. There are also a couple of stretches of crappy roads with pot holes and some stretches where it’s just really rough. Starting at around km 70 or so the roads are generally pretty good for the rest of the race.
Gearing: In this age of 11 speed I go with an 11×26 for pretty much all races except Patterson Pass where I use the 11×28. I’m on a 52×36 compact now, but in the past used a 50×36. I like having the low gear for the main climb up to Sites Ladoga Climb. If you go with the compact though, for the love of all that is holy DO NOT let yourself get gapped over the second climb. The descent is long and fast. It is fine with the compact IF YOU ARE IN THE GROUP, but if you have to close a gap you are doomed. I’ve used an 11×26 (10 speed) before but hated not having the 16 tooth cog on the flat stretches late in the race. You get stuck in that cycle of “the 15 is too big, the 17 is too small” Back and forth. If I was still on 10 speed I’d use the 12×27.
Facilities: The race starts at the high school in Williams. The bonus of starting at the high school is that you can use the showers after the race and for once drive home clean and refreshed. Bring your own towel, soap and shampoo. Also, for years I stopped at the Subway near the freeway to get a sandwich for my drive home. After all these years (like 20 or so!) it was my wife who took me to Granzella’s on our drive to Bend in 2011. I can’t believe that I drove past this place every year just to get a Subway sandwhich! Go to Granzella’s! You won’t be disappointed.
Weather: This is probably going to be a hot one.
Feeding: There is a neutral feed zone that comes around km 85-87. As long as you have good bottle cages and don’t eject a bottle on the rough roads, two bottles should be enough to get you to the neutral feed.
Rules Specific to this race: Bring durable equipment due to the rough roads. I used to say don’t bring light equipment, but now even my 1,000 gram carbon tubulars are pretty bomb proof. Consider your water bottle cages for this race. Make sure you’ve got cages that will keep a full big bottle from ejecting on rough roads. Tubulars are probably better than clinchers for this race because the clinchers are apt to get pinch flats from the pot holed roads. This might be a great day to pull out something like a Roubaix with 303’s and fat tubulars if you’ve got something like that in your stable. Or maybe a new pair of deep dish, carbon tubeless clinchers with about 80 psi???
Race Advice: Everything hinges on the main climb up Sites Ladoga. Somebody may get up the road before the climb, maybe even a small group, but 99 times out of 100 the front group from the main pack after the climb is the group to be in. They will catch any leaders in the following miles. Depending on how much it breaks up over the climb there may be some regrouping, but not very much.
The second climb out of that upper valley is not a good spring board to victory. You might be able to shake somebody out the back, but it’s too short and too far from the finish to get away. The descent is a fast, non-technical descent. Be careful of letting gaps open up though. I’ve seen guys get dropped out of the break on this descent so be careful.
The actual winning of the race happens in the last 10-15km. Even though this race isn’t all that long riders are always hurting as you get towards the end. Sometimes it’s the heat, but most times it’s just that this is a hard race. Basically once you get to km 40 on the way out you are on the gas all the way to the finish. At about 10km to go the course takes a quick left then right as you move from one side of the irrigation ditch to the other. After that seems to be when the successful attacking and counter attacking starts. This is a good place for somebody who can time trial and who can SEE the opportunity to attack. After a series of attacks there is often a lull because everybody is tired. THIS is when it is time to go.
For the sprint, take into account the wind direction. If it’s a headwind be patient, if it’s a cross wind try and stay protected while still making sure you don’t get boxed in.
Lodging: There are hotels in Williams.
Corrections and additions, please email me!