Written by and GoPro Video: Dana Williams
Date: July 30, 2016
Race plan: The 45+ and 35+ categories were racing together but would be placed separately. Two or three of my teammates were to mark early moves, with myself and fellow sprinter Scott Cox being attentive. If there was a break then my team wanted to make sure one of our riders had a good chance of winning from it. If it came down to a sprint then I would be sweeping Scott’s wheel.
Course: 4 corner rectangle that goes slightly uphill between corner 4 and 2 and slightly downhill between corner 2 and 4.
Conditions: sunny and mid/high 80’s
This was one of my teams (Team Mikes Bikes p/b Equator Coffe; also partnered with AchievePTC) target races of the season because it the best criterium in Northern California. All the main NorCal teams including Specialized, Peets, Lange Twins, Squadra, Stands and Thirsty Bears had strong representation. Also of note was one of Southern California’s top sprinters, Charon Smith.
My first priority was the team meeting. We came together in high spirits and ready to race. I for one know my Equator Coffee caffeine buzz was in a full effect. To add to our excitement, my teammate, as well as AchievePTC athlete (which I’ve had the fortunate of being his coach for the last two years), Matt Adams, was donning his 2016 National Criterium Championship kit (thank you Capo Cycling Apparel) for the first time. And I’d say he was looking dam sexy.
The race got underway and it wasn’t long before attacks started to fly. Thirsty Bear strong man Aerial Herman, who eloquently slipped in at the front of the pack just before the race started, soon took a solo flyer and got up 12-15sec gap. It was a brave move on his part to say the least, but was brought back in a few laps. For the next 20 or so minutes there was a constant shuffling at the front, with nothing really sticking.
The break that ultimately got away was initiated by Jason Boyton of Peets as we came up to the start/finish line. In the following video, you can see him accelerate up the left hand side at 13:20. Within a few seconds, wily veteran Jeremy Cottel of Team Specialized accelerated up the right side to join him. The good news for my team was teammate (and AchievePTC athlete) Chris Hobbs saw this from the front and jumped on it. Thirsty Bear’s Jan Weissenburger was towards the front and was next to join the group. My teammate Rob Amatelli was alert, saw the move forming and followed chase. My team had two guys in the break so it was looking good for us. Next to go across was Charon Smith. He likely sensed the growing numbers up the road and accelerated just before turn 1 and latched onto the back of the run away train. The final guy to join the party was Sean Henderson of Lange Twins, just as I rode around turn 2.
If one didn’t know the strengths of the riders in the break, it could be said that my team had an advantage because we had two strong guys in it. But the fact that went against us was that three of the other guys, namely Cottel, Weissenburger and Smith, were sprinters, while my two teammates, Hobbs and Amatelli, were roleurs. Watching the video, I kick myself because in hindsight I should have been more aware of those going up the road and chased either Smith or Henderson.
For the next 12 or so minutes, the gap between the break and chasing pack stayed around 15-20 seconds. During this time neither group was really cooperating and working together. Back in the chase my teammates and I realized we were at a disadvantage in the break so decided we needed to bring it back. In the following video, this is evident at around 1:15, where four of my Team Mikes Bikes teammates are lined up and chasing.
We continue to rotate. Fast forward to 3:20 into the video and teammate Dave Allen finishes his final pull. Oliver Ryan then takes over and does a strong pull, finishing at 4:15. Then Matt takes over at the front and leads for over a lap, getting us just past turn 1 with just under three laps to go. A rider then comes over the top of me and zig zags a bit, creating a little confusion. There’s no time to waste so I over take him (5:50) and go to work on the front. As I cross the finish line with two to go, I can see the break up the road. I keep on the gas. Half way down the back straight away the break is within striking distance. I stand up and dig deep to accelerate and close it down. As we enter turn 3, Dan Martin comes by and closes down the final meters. We arc through turn four and Dan keeps pushing up the start/finish straight. He rides right through the break and to the front, just as the bell is ringing signifying one lap to go. The break realizes they have been caught.
Achieve athlete and teammate Chris Hobbs, also nicknamed the Donkey because of his selfless hard work and strong lead out efforts, does what he knows best and takes the front through turn one. Dan Martin is on his wheel and I’m slotted in behind him. Needless to say, I’m gasping for air and doing all I can to hang on. The hard effort I put in took its toll. In the back of my mind I admit I was questioning whether I’d have enough energy for the final sprint to the line. If I didn’t then I was hoping a teammate or two would be able to salvage something.
Hobbs keeps on the gas down the back straight away, averaging over 600W for 30secs (I know this for a fact because he’s another rider I’ve had the fortune to coach for the last two season and therefore reviewed his power data file via TrainingPeaks following the race). Just as we are about the enter turn 3, Dan Martin delivers a blow, which ultimately would be the winning move. He jumps hard to go by Hobbs. In that split second my brain said ‘GO’ but my legs say ‘NO’. A gap formed, which wasn’t good, especially at this time of the race. I did what I could to keep momentum going forward. We speed through the final turn, Dan still with a couple bike lengths on me. I stand up and begin to sprint. Two thoughts cross my mind; first, I need to dig deep and keep pushing to try to close the gap down, and second, how many riders are going to fly by me before the line as my legs seize up. The line is getting closer and the gap is closing. Nobody is coming by. I begin to become a bit more optimistic. But then within 20-30m of the line Charon Smith flashes by me on the right, hot in pursuit of Dan. It ends up a photo finish, with Dan taking the win by 4/100th of a second. He was in the 45+ race, which is why I ended up 2nd in the 35+ race.
Another race in the books. Some more laughs and hard racing with my teammates. Back to work.