Crit season is upon us and, well, so is this awesome Junuary weather. I'm not going to complaining. I see the 110+ temps on the East coast as well as the insane wild fires ripping through Colorado so complaining about a little rain doesn't seem right............Except, when we have a crit to race. If you're someone who loves racing crits in the rain you're either one Bad Ass Mutha or your mom dropped you on your head when you were an infant.
Once again, the weekend forecast didn't look good. My race was only 35 minutes long (lame) and I didn't know if I was willing to pay $40 (more than a buck per minute) to drive to Tacoma and race (Not) in the rain.
I had to drive down to Fife to pick up a part for our RV so I threw my bike and gear in the car, hoping that the weather would clear by my 5:00pm start time. Denise wanted to go with me but I told her not to bother. I was pretty sure I'd be just making a quick round trip. The drive down didn't give me any hope. When I arrived in Fife it was pouring. There was no way I was going to race! I left the store and somehow I convinced myself to keep driving south. Teammates were texting left and right saying that they decided to bag it. We have three more crits in less than a week so why race one in the pouring rain. I made my way to Hwy. 16 exit and what do you know? It stopped raining! I drove west for a few more miles and the road were drying out. A few more miles and I was at the new venue located in the Proctor district of Tacoma and the roads were completely dry. It still looked like it could rain but I decided to go register and hope for the best. The weather just got better and better.
The crit had been located right in downtown Tacoma but I think it was moved to the new location because Tacoma Bike is located there. On paper the course seemed really short at just over .4 miles long. It was a standard four corner course with a slight uphill section on the back side. Corner three was where I figured all the photographers would be stationed. There was a round-a-bout that made the corner a lot tighter than the others. It came after the incline but transitioned into a 1 block downhill section so it could get dicey at high speeds.
We rolled to the start and for the first time there wasn't six to eight Garage guys lining up. In fact, I was the only one there. Old Town was the only team that had a significant number of guys. We had a handful of out of out of state guys in our field that I didn't know but they looked like they ate crits for lunch.
The out of state guys started the attacks right from the gun. After one trip through corner three I felt comfortable although even taking the best line through put you right up near the outside curb. After a while Jeff (Starbucks), Travis (Apex) and I got in a break with one of the out of staters.
I think he started the break but didn't do any work once we got free and clear. He never pulled through even after Travis yelled at him repeatedly to do so. He sat on the back and as we rolled through for the finish of a prime lap I was in front. I figured whoever was in front would just take the prime but this guy sprinted ahead of us, took the prime and quickly dropped to the back. Totally lame! We eventually got caught and more attacks were mounted. Nothing really stuck but it was at least keeping the pace fast.
About half way through Rob(Olympia Ortho) and Scot(Bikesale) took off and got the biggest gap of the day. Each lap their lead grew a little and no one seemed to want to do anything about it. I was hoping Old Town would get their train going but they never did. I finally shot off the front and made an effort to bridge. I was out on my own for three or four laps burning matches left and right. Just about the time I thought I was going to blow up I noticed I was closing the gap a lot faster. I decided to forge on. Once I caught them I planned to take a quick breather before rotating in with them. The only problem was I think they were a little gassed as well and the pack caught us a few laps later.
I sat in for a couple of laps to rest. Before long the clock was stopped and the lap board was up. I recovered really fast and quickly move back to the front to mark attacks. With four to go I looked around and with Jim(KR) and Rob(Olympia Ortho) and the out of state guys I wasn't sure I wanted to be in a drag race with them down the home stretch. I decided I was going to get up to third or fourth wheel and fight to hold that position for the final laps and hopefully finish strong.
With two to go the pace really picked up. I worked hard to hold my position. We came through the start/finish for the bell lap and one of the out of state guys attacked. Here we go! We were strung out single file and I was ready for the sprint. Just as we reached corner one he sat up and we all headed into corner two completely stacked up. As we negotiated our way through the turn I saw everyone looking around at each other trying to decide what to do. I made a split second decision to attack hard. I blew by the field and yelled at Jeff to get jump on but I don't think he heard me. I took a quick look back and was surprised that not a single person reacted. Holy Shit, no turning back now! I put my head down and gave it everything I had. I reached corner three and took a really aggressive line. I knew the rest of the pack was driving hard so I didn't even think to look over my shoulder. I was just going to hope for the best.
Worst case scenario would probably be 4th or 5th place. I flew through corner four and jumped out of the saddle. I still had a little left in the tank but it was a long way to go with the whole pack breathing down my neck. It seemed to take forever but pretty soon I realized I wasn't going to get caught. I took a quick look back and sat up. I just won my first crit ever! I've won plenty of road races and finished in the top five on several occasions but never a win. I was super stoked!! I was bummed that I told my wife not to come. After a victory lap I raced to the car and call her. He was both overjoyed and mad at me at the same time. She was going to come with me for Sunday's crit. I was glad I made the decision to keep driving south.
all photos by Kirsten Reed
all photos by Kirsten Reed