I gotta be honest. I didn’t really want to race today. I remember the day before I told Max I wasn’t going, but I got a phone call from Daryl at about 9pm convincing me to race, so I gave in. Later that night I picked up a trainer from Adam and he gave me the lowdown on the course. “Last year everyone miss anticipated the sprint on the hill and gassed out. I dropped from 1 to 26th. Time your sprint on the hill and you’ll be good.” It seems like every race that I have listened to my peers, have been a good one. James Little, a good friend and an amazing mechanic gave me advice on my first race and I took third.
Adam’s advice paid off big today. The Whitnall criterium was my fourth crit race and first one with hills I have ever done. I was kind of nervous because I don’t have much confidence with hilly courses. Being from the midwest doesn’t really help. The day started at 7am with breakfast at Flying Saucer. When leaving, Andrew, the owner, offered me a cup of joe to go and I declined. He heard me talking about the race and started telling me about when he used to run, and this one coach that drank a tall black coffee before marathons. What the hell I thought, and I took the coffee and headed out.
I grabbed my shit and picked up Al and Daryl. Rachel, aka the support team, was riding shottie. We arrived at the race about an hour before start. Brean was already present, having done the masters race, and Mike Morell, Max, Ben, and Bradley were en route. Al, Daryl and I signed up, and as we turned to grab our stuff we saw the rest of crew. In typical fashion Brean was anxiously waiting for the rest of us as we arrived within seconds to the start. The field was 87 deep and the officials quickly realized they had over registered, and thankfully so. I am sure the six of us were in that group of late additions. As always the officials did their dance and explained everything, telling us to be careful, and some other stuff that I can never really hear because I am too busy trying to keep down the nausea or planning how to get up to the front. I always get a kick out of the nonchalant fashion in which the officials say go. “Ok thats the rules, again everyone be safe and go!”
The course was a 1.1 mile loop with 2 climbs and one intermediate climb into a 30 mph head wind. The climb would have been nothing if the wind wasn’t as unforgiving as it was. The start finish was at the end of the last climb and the beginning of the first and fastest decent (at one point Daryl said we cracked 36 mph going down hill). xXx was out front with about 6-9 strong. I took advantage of the first decent and threw down into my high gears and blazed it up to about 8th. I look around for my guys and I see Bradley cookin’ in the front, Mike Morell close by. Since I didn’t really get a chance to warm up and check out the course, I was using the first lap to see how things were. I figured with the headwind and the hills that no one was really going to break and go balls out form the start. I was trying to keep it cool in the pack this time and not burn out. Sometimes the hardest thing is stay cool when the wind is screaming past you and you see your colors ducking in and out of everyone else. Left side, Cuttin’ Crew jersey goes flying by. It’s Al! I jump up and follow suit.
Al is known for breaking away, so I figured I should probably keep close, just in case he is ready for another one. He gets some people to chase and he peels off at the top of the first climb. It was a nice hard attack. The race is staying pretty fast and everyone is cranking away. Enter Bradley Gates. Its kind of frightening how fast this kid is for his age. Bradley flies out front and does a a huge 2-3 lap pull. A handful of guys go on the chase and I can surely contribute that to tiring out some of the field. Just before halfway through the race as we are passing the start/finish, out of the corner of my right eye I see Al getting pushed into me. OH SHIT! was all that was running through my mind. Two or three riders had gotten squirrely and knocked into Al. As I saw them pile up into my right side I leaned into them and I all I heard was the clinking, scrapping, and smacking of cyclists. Fuck!, I hope I didn’t mangle one of my teammates. Mike Morell whips up the right side and calls that he is with me and I asked if Al was alright. As we came around for the next lap, we saw Al jumping back in. The guy’s a fucking trooper.
The rest of the race continues on and I am starting to feel it a bit. I was sitting about 15 back for the last 1/3 of the race with Mr. Morell. Now Mike was saying he didn’t really help me out but just seeing my guys is all I need some times. I had been making mental notes on the sections of the race where people were slowing and where I could accelerate. I was starting to realize I am a much better climber than I had thought. I was moving up so quickly on the hills when everyone was bunching up and tiring themselves out. I decided to not be a superstar and let the bunches happen, just staying right with them.
“3 laps to go!” I hear someone yell, which was complete bullshit, it was actually 2 laps to go! I still can’t apologize enough for giving Mike the wrong lap count.
We crack the start/finish on 1 and I notice everyone getting jumpy and speeding up. This is it! Man, I am getting all worked up just thinking about it now. I am nervous because I am still like 15 back and the line is getting strung out up front. We hit the first hill and everyone is out of the saddle and busting up to the gradual windy climb. Some are starting to show fatigue. As we get to the top, I am hearing Adam’s voice, “stop for a hot dog at the next Dairy Queen”, no that’s not it, oh yeah “don’t go too early and you’ll be all good”, and I am thinking if I am going to do it, it’s gotta be now! I break off the left side and go! Down the the hill and flying through that right turn, I am moving through my harder gears.
GO GO GO GO GO GO GO!!!!!!! is repeating over and over through my head. As everyone dies half way up the hill I am going faster and faster. I am flying by people and I see the line. My legs feel like a machine and my chest is exploding with a cosmic-like glow. I am coming around the outside and I graze shoulders with the rider that took 3rd (I believe his name is Ken). Holy shit I am gonna fucking win!!! I scream YEAAAAAAAAA!!! and throw my bike so hard. If I wouldn’t have been gripping for dear life, I am sure the bike would have just shot through taking my legs along. It was so freaking close. Someone asked who took it. I said I think I did. We get back after a cool down lap, and review the tape. Luke from Tuscadero approaches me and says I got him by the width of a tire. If I would have gone a second later, that’s exactly where I would have been, second. Snip snip!
Stan revealing his tricks to Dr. Morell and The Talented Mr. Gates