This weekend’s race was probably one of the strangest, but most rewarding of my amateur racing career. While I’ve raced for about 6 years, I’ve had very few successful days on the bike when it comes to results. A lot of my results have fallen short of my aspirations. This year, I set 2 goals. One was the CCA Criterium championships, and the other is the Iron Hill race in PA later in the year. So, for me, getting to North Charleston was the goal.
This would prove to be a tough thing. I trained differently this year, and somewhat smarter, but with less mileage. This is contradictory from what I’d done for the last few years, but I was hoping that I’d get some results from it. In the past week, I’d won the Ride to Honor Gran Fondo in Spring Lake by out sprinting a local racer that competes in the Master’s category (Craig Collie) and I thought I would be in good shape to race the CCA Crit Championships at the next weekend.
I was torn on whether to race both Saturday and Sunday because of the distance, and not taking my family with me to the race. I was trying to see if I could room with teammates, but very few were going to go for both days (turns out none went) and very few were going to go for Sunday (only Terry Slack). Not realizing a concern about the weather, I spoke with another racer from another team and asked if he was going, and he mentioned it may rain on Saturday. “UGH” I thought. Crits can really suck in the rain, especially if there are tough, fast, tight corners. And I figured maybe Saturday wouldn’t be for me and targeted just Sunday. On Saturday night, I got a call from that racer on another team, and he said “Man, it was 80 degrees and sunny today. You should have been there.” I walked around the house almost kicking myself because I knew I could have been in the breakaway that won the day as he explained. So, I had to put all of my efforts in Sunday’s racing. I was registered and going to drive the 7 hours on Sunday to go race my bike.
I woke up around 4:30am on Sunday ready to get in the car and get going. I got to the race venue around 8:40am, plenty of time to relax and prepare for my 10:10am race. I went to the bathroom, changed, took my time setting up my trainer at the outside of the barriers on turn 1 to watch some of the other races and start to warm up. I have a great warm up routine that hasn’t let me down, and proceeded to go through it. I was done in about 18 minutes before the start of my raced, so I pulled my bike out of the trainer, got my helmet and proceeded towards the start/finish. The race official told me that there was too few participants in the Masters 35+ race, so they were going to move our race to the 11:25am start of the Masters 45+/55+ race. I was delayed. And that sucks. The masters national championships being in Winston-Salem this week have caused many of the top masters racers to not race here. Warming up and having to wait is horrible, but a smaller field would give me an opportunity. I wasn’t sure I’d have a good race, but I found some friends, road the course for awhile (15 miles) and tried to focus on the task at hand. “WIN THE DAY”
When the race began, I knew the racers I needed to mark. I wanted to stay towards the front for obvious reasons, but the guys I needed to mark weren’t at the front. I hoped after about 20 minutes of HARD racing that they had fallen off, but alas, they were towards the back of the pack and still with the pack. So I figured I’d stay in the pack, not react to any major accelerations unless they went.
By the time the finish came, I was ready to pounce. Once of the 35+ racers went off the front with one lap to go. He went hard, and had a lead of a good 50m by the time that we hit the start/finish as he met another rider. I dug deep and went off the front to lead the chase for these 2. We caught those 2 riders as we were half way to turn 2, so I knew I only had to really watch for another competitor. As we hit turn 2, I noticed that rider on my wheel, and I hit turn 3 as hard as possible (between turn 2 and turn 3 was a pretty good headwind). I had a gap on him as I hit turn 3, and sprinted with everything I had left and beat him by around 2 bike lengths. I was a regional crit champion. Wow. All these things go through my head. I need to thank my wife, my family, Hawley’s Bicycle World, and the great members of Cross Creek Cycling Club for the opportunity to race and compete at this level and get the result I did.
Now, the funny (not so funny) about this story is that I hadn’t raced with a teammate yet, and Terry Slack was driving down to do the Cat 4 race with me after the Masters 35+ race. So as I got done with the Masters race, I met up with Terry, got prepared, and we started the Cat 4 race. Our plan was to let Terry go for prime laps, like free beer from a local brewery, and I’d sit in and see what I could do for later in the race. On LAP 2, there is a wreck. And guess who’s behind it. Terry. He’s driven all of this way (3+ hours) to race for about 5 minutes, get behind a wreck and end up getting pulled. I felt so bad for Terry. I saw him about 10 minutes into the race on the side of the road and confirmed he was ok. After that, I waited for the next prime lap (knowing I wouldn’t last the entire 40 minutes) and heard that they were giving away some beer on the next lap. I debated, event through the first turn, if I would even make an attempt at the prime, but after the field sat up and I got a gap going into the last turn before the start/finish, I couldn’t let up. I gave everything I had and almost cramped up, but I was caught just before the finish. As I came around Turn 1, Terry was there and I made the universal sign for “I just blew up” and he laughed. The day didn’t end as I ad hoped, but I also had a better day then I could have dreamed of. Thanks to Terry for coming all the way to race with me for only a few minutes. I appreciate you bud.