I had a general idea of the course layout but still wanted to pre-ride it before the race. I had planned head over sometime during the week but that never happened. No worries, I'd have plenty of time prior to our start on race day to get in a couple of laps......Not! At some point during the morning races things got off track and races were running about 15 to 20 minutes behind. To try to get back on schedule racers were directed to stage as soon as the last person finished the prior race. Well, I guess I'd be getting educated in a large pack at race speed!
I took a quick look at the competition as we were being ushered to the line. Along with the usual suspects and a few strong Canadians I also noticed Kenny Williams over to my left. I'd already line up with him a few times already this year but didn't really pay much attention. Not the case today. I was pretty sure he wasn't just going to take a back seat in this one! It was also nice to see Jeff Dunn back in the mix after his crash down in Arizona.
We had good numbers so our plan was to launch one or two guys off the front right from the start. Since I was clipping in for the first time here I decided to sit in for a few laps so I could get sea legs. It's not your typical downtown style, crit. It started out with a quick little S-turn quickly followed by a 3/4 trip through a round-a-bout. It then flowed downhill into a wide sweeping left hand curve. There was one little "juke" before heading into a nice little climb. Still climbing we turned right through the first quarter of another round-a-bout where it finally leveled out and took us down the long run out to the finish. Throw in a few carpet covered obstacles and some slippery moss sections and you've finished the .8 mile loop. During the first couple of laps when we started up the hill I thought my rear tire was going flat. It turned out that I was actually sliding around a little bit on the moss. Not good! While I was still getting comfortable with the course the the rest of my teammates were already taking turns attacking off the front. I think I started making my way to the front towards the end of lap 3. I had made it to about 4th wheel when I noticed we had two guys just off the front with a small group. As soon as they were brought back I made my first move. As soon as we were brought back John jumped. Things seemed to be going well. We seemed to starting or covering every attack. (except when Kenny went solo for a while) It was keeping the pace high and the pack was constantly strung out single file.
Unfortunately we did have some bad luck. Mark went to attack on one of the early laps and had his rear wheel slide out. Not sure how he kept from hitting the deck. The near miss coupled with the fact that he had a bad crash here before made him decide to shut it down. Nikos wasn't so lucky. He was in a group of six that got away and he lost his front wheel in the moss and went down. I think Gary Brown and Robert Valez went down as well. John had been riding super strong up front for most of the race. At some point his saddle loosened up enough to cause it to almost fall off. He was able to finish but really couldn't do much after that.
There was not an easy lap during this race. You could catch your breath little during the downhill section but the climb up put the burn back into the legs . With three to go no one was off the front and everyone started trying to put themselves where they wanted to be for the finish. I pushed hard on the climb to get myself up near the front. The pace was really picking up and we were all strung out on the downhill section. It made it harder for other guys to make up ground and I was able to hold my same position going into the bell lap. Anthony Dixon (Audi) started on the front and was driving the pace. Martin (Farestart) was right on his wheel. Kenny Williams (Slalom) was sitting third followed by Greg (Farestart), Erik (Olympia Ortho) and then me. I was in good position to try to lead out teammates but when I looked back I looked back none were near my wheel. Just as I turned back around I saw Martin look back. He must have noticed that Greg and Ryan were right there so he made the first hard move. We were flying into the uphill section. As we rounded the corner we were all basically in the same position. Kenny jumped right out of the turn and that was all it took. No one was going to catch him. I put my head down and drove as hard as I could. I was able to cross the line in 5th and was super stoked!
great video of our race by Phil Machino, forzavelo
all images by Denise Phillips