2010 Merced Criterium

Merced Criterium
Merced, CA
2/28/10
Weather: Sunny, warm for February
Teammates: Joel Robertson, Tim Granshaw, Bo Hebenstreit
Placing: 7th (of 50ish)

This is my first race report of the season and, much like my form this time of
year, it might be a bit rough around the edges. Apologies.

I’ve been told that the worse I perform in bike races, the more entertaining the
resultant race report. That puts a lot of pressure on me, in both directions. As
you probably know, the P/1/2 squad requires the highest-placed rider in each
race to write a report. Therefore, it should be obvious that the best way to
obtain entertaining race reports is for me to make the winning breakaways, then
suck in the final sprint.

Well, I’m off to a good start this year.

Before I get into the race report proper, I’d like to introduce you to some new
additions to the team. Joel Robertson (ex-Sierra Pacific) is essentially a
really tall, nicer version of me; he’s a genuine breakaway whore extraordinaire.
Tim Granshaw (also ex-Sierra Pacific) is a great all-around racer with more
experience in the top ranks of cycling than the rest of our team combined; we
can only hope that he’ll offset my idiocy. It was my pleasure to race with
them–instead of against them–for the first time. Take note of those names, as
I’m sure you’ll be reading their race reports soon.

Alright, enough of that sappy bulls*&t.

The Merced Crit is run on one of the strangest courses I’ve encountered in my
career. Two of the longest, flattest straightaways in the history of cycling are
joined together by what could be described as an alleyway (at best) or a
drainage ditch (at worst). Choppy pavement throughout the course and a plethora
of botts dots make for an overwhelmingly Velopromo-ey experience. Admittedly,
this crit was less Velopromo-ey than Saturday’s Snelling Road Race, but that’s a
different story entirely.

Now, I’ll be honest with you. The Merced Criterium proceeded exactly as you’re
expecting.

Attack, attack, attack, riders yelling at each other, attack, attack, attack,
more yelling, then more attacks.

It’s funny, but the winning breakaway never forms when you expect it to; it’s
rarely when the race is particularly hard, or when there’s a big crash, or when
the strongest riders attack. The winning breakaway often starts like any other
ill-fated breakaway: a less than impressive attack, a few random chasers working
hard to cross the gap, and a few lazy riders looking around at the front of the
pack.

That said, as soon as the right group of riders assembles off the front, you can
tell. The same riders always seem to end up in the final breakaway, so there
must be some kind of formula to predict when it will go; I haven’t been able to
derive it. Maybe cycling really is an art, not a science.

After some solid racing by the whole squad for the first half of the race, fate
selected me as the guy who ended up off the front with Chad Gerlach (Team
Sufferfest), Collin Samaan (Wells Fargo), Logan Loader (Some French Team), Filip
Vanacht, Kevin Klein, Ryan Parnes, and Brian Bosch (all from
Not-as-Good-as-Google! Cycling Team). Nice odds, eh?

We rolled around the course for the next 45 minutes. I almost launched myself
over the curb outside turn #2 once after some overzealous cornering; that was
awesome. Other than that, it was pretty boring.

In order to distract myself from the menial task at hand, I passed the time by
staring at Loader’s cool new Oakley Jawbones, slaloming botts dots, conserving
energy, and admiring the dented top tube of my five-year-old Ridley frame.

With two laps to go, our break was in jeopardy of being caught by the
long-forgotten field, which would be embarrassing for everyone involved. The
speed quickened for about a lap before the typical cat-and-mousing began.
Thankfully, Samaan upped the pace heading into the final lap. One to go.

Failing my teammates is a skill I’ve been honing for years, and I finally nailed
it this time.

With half a lap to go, I attacked up the gutter, praying that the slight
crosswind would work to my advantage (and that my pudgy appearance would lull
the rest of the break into a false sense of security).

Nope.

I was caught as we headed into the narrow, high-walled drainage ditch, and
ultimately finished seventh (of eight breakmates) in the final sprint. Bosch won
the race, followed by Loader, Samaan, and Gerlach.

Sigh.

Alas, it’s time for the letter grades:

Finish: D (At least I beat the winner’s leadout guy)
Style: F- (I have an effing mullet)
Teamwork: A (Because Joel and Tim look so damn good in a Webcor kit)
Tactics: Shut up. (Yeah, you)

Overall: D (My only consolation is that this race was held in February…still
too early to hate myself for sucking!)

Thanks for reading.

2 responses to “2010 Merced Criterium

  1. You forgot the most important detail… Did you beat Parnes?????

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