Copperopolis Road Race

Promoter: Velo Promo

Course: A rough, hilly and windy 22 mile loop of rural country roads. Don’t believe the race ad that says the course is a 20 mile loop!

Course Description: All roads have rough surfaces unless otherwise noted. The start is in downtown Milton. Don’t blink. The course goes about a quarter mile and turns left onto Rock Creek Road. Rock Creek descends slightly, crosses a creek and then starts slowly climbing up to the feed zone. After the feed zone the course continues gradually climbing for approximately two miles where you come to the steepest climb on the course. This climb is only about a quarter mile long, but it is brutal. At least it will be by the end of the race. Before the steep section there is a stretch of road that has been repaved. The difference between the rough road and smooth road is amazing. I found myself shifting up a gear, going faster and finding it easier on the smooth section. Quite a nice respite.

At the top of the climb, the course continues undulating gradually upwards until you come to Salt Springs Reservoir. The course goes past a trailer park where the road changes to a wonderfully smooth surface for the next three or four miles. This section along the reservoir is mostly flat with a few rolling hills thrown in. Now comes the strange part. Rock Creek Road turns off and now the course is on Valley Road. Valley Road goes through what looks like some farmer’s driveway, takes a short twisty dip, crosses a cattle guard and puts you on Salt Springs Road. Salt Springs Road is flat, but very exposed to the usual cross wind. After crossing another cattle guard or two, Salt Springs Road tilts up ever so slightly to the intersection with Hunt Road where you will turn left into the usual head wind. Hunt Road is flat for about four miles and then crosses a series of short fairly steep rollers. After a couple of miles of that, Hunt Road starts climbing back over the ridge that you crossed on the way out on Rock Creek. This climb isn’t very steep, but on the last lap you’ll think it’s L’Alpe d’Huez. The descent is fast, rough, and twisty. Be careful through here. At the bottom it is about two miles to the finish over some more rolling hills. The finish itself is at the top of a small hill. After the finish there is another section of smooth road for about a mile and a half back to Milton Road and the start area.

Distances: Five laps and 110 miles for the Sr. 1/2/Pro’s. Catagory 3’s do four laps for 88 miles, and Sr. Women 1/2/3 and most other senior groups do three laps for 66 miles.

Road Surface: Mostly poor narrow roads with lots of patches. There is one stretch of excellent pavement by the lake that is about three miles long.

Gearing: This is not a race to prove your manliness with your gearing.  In recent years I’ve used a compact crank with a 36×27 low gear.  I like it a lot and it allows me to stay in the saddle to conserve some energy even on the steepest climbs on the course.

Facilities: There are plenty of portable rest rooms. Please use them! This and other races are always under threat of being cancelled because of riders relieving themselves in inappropriate places. There is NO food or water in Milton. The nearest store is in Farmington which is fifteen miles away towards Stockton on Highway 4.

Weather: In early April the weather can be quite nice, though cool in the morning. It can also pour down rain, so come prepared. The wind usually blows from the west and picks up as the day goes on. This means that there will be a fairly strong cross wind on Salt Spring Road. It also means that there will be a head wind coming back on Hunt Road to the finish.

If you suffer from allergies, this is prime pollen country with all the grass. From experience, I would recommend that you take your allergy medicine BEFORE the race. If you take it afterwards, you’re pretty much wasting your time. Of course, be sure to use a USOC approved medicine so you don’t get tagged for drug control. 🙂

Feeding: The feed zone is on Rock Creek Road about two miles from the start area. It is on a gradual hill with plenty of parking. I usually start the race with three bottles and skip the first two opportunities for feeding at two and twenty-four miles covered and get feeds at forty-six, sixty-eight, and ninety miles. Using this method, the feed zone is usually pretty calm by the time I need a feed as a lot of riders have dropped out by that time.

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.

Race Advice: Remember, just because you can get up a steep hill in a certain gear doesn’t mean it’s a good idea. Save your legs and use an easy gear as much as possible. This race is won AND lost by slowly beating the riders into submission. Save everything you can for later in the race when you’ll need it.

In the pro/1/2 race it is not uncommon for a break to go in the first few miles of this race. Other riders will join in the following couple of laps and the winner of the race will be gone before half distance almost every time. It seems like this would be a race to be patient in and perhaps that is why the early break almost always succeeds. It should be noted that a number of those riders in the early break will get dropped , but not all of them.  If Levi Leipheimer is in town and shows up, all bets are off.  The winning break will go when Levi wants it to go! 🙂

A good place to make things happen is either on or just after the steep section of Rock Creek Road. Another good place to go is in the cross wind on Salt Spring Road.

It is not uncommon for less than twenty of the 100+ starters to finish the Sr. 1/2/Pro race.

Lodging: The nearest lodging would be in Stockton 25 miles away.

Corrections and additions, please email me!

Kevin Metcalfe


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