June 27, 2009
Weather: Hell. Absolute hell.
Teammates: Justin Fraga, Fabrice Dubost, Rob MacNeill, Jeff Williams, Bo Hebenstreit
Placing: 9th of ~90
“It shouldn’t be too hot there, since the course is right near the bay.”
Yep. That’s actually what I said to Fraga as we cruised over to the Benicia Criterium this Saturday, and it is safe to say that I am no weatherman. I’m an idiot.
A healthy contingent of professionals, combined with the >100 degree heat and a technical course, made Benicia one of the more difficult races this year. The figure-eight course meandered through downtown Benicia, with a small hill and a narrow, choppy corner through a drainage ditch at the bottom of the course. I think the ditch was there not only to cause crashes, but also to collect the blood of those who crashed.
Our race was 60 minutes–a short criterium by P/1/2 standards, but its brevity was a blessing this Saturday.
As the race started, Justin and I were kickin’ it at the front. Naturally, an attack went early, containing Gerlach, Reaney, Zwizanski, Kilun and Murphy. It looked serious, but it was Justin’s turn to cover (I keep track on an Excel spreadsheet).
“Want to get that?” I asked Justin casually.
“Eh, OK.” was his response. Sometimes we just grunt instead of using words.
He went with the attack. About a half-lap later, the group had grown to 11 guys, including most of the major players in the race, and it was about 15 seconds up the road. We needed better representation, and it looked to be the move that might stick, so I bridged to it. Never mind the fact that we were only about 6 minutes into the event.
The break was quite disorganized, which always seems to happen when breaks are larger than 5 guys, but the field was complacent. We quickly got a 45 second gap. I knew the winning attack would come from this group of 12, and told Justin to rest his legs…he was stronger than I was and I hoped to help him get a result. About 45 minutes into the race, I finished taking a pull on the front and the Pros in the move decided it was time to go. Ugh. Why RIGHT then?
What had been a small incline on the front straightaway only laps before now loomed like the Alpe d’Huez. I tried to latch onto the rear of the break as John Murphy and Chad Gerlach drove it, and put myself as far into the pressure-cooker of pain as I could. A couple gaps opened in front of me and I was toast. As I incinerated in grand style, I prayed that Justin would fare better, prayed that I would remain conscious, and tried to recover for the remainder of that lap.
The lap during which you have been dropped from the winning break is quite embarrassing–spectators no longer cheer for you, except to patronize you with “Come on, you can do it…” and “Good try.” No, quite frankly, I cannot do it…isn’t that painfully obvious?
Anyway, after an eternity, I was caught by a chase group containing Floyd Landis, Steve Reaney, Mike Sayers, and our very own Fabrice. I died about six times attempting to hold onto the back of this group. I was nearly dropped every lap. We eventually caught Justin’s group, which was the second group on the road (Gerlach, Zwizanski, Murphy, Kilun and one other guy had lapped the remainder of the field). From my perspective, Justin looked happy as a clam, and I despised him for it.
5 laps to go. Normally, in crit-language, that means “FREAK THE #$%^ out.” However, on Saturday, the 5-to-go lap card read, “Just drop out, you sissy.” Screw you, Lap Card.
In the final lap, Fabrice kindly attempted to lead Justin out. Meanwhile, I sat a few riders behind Reaney, deliriously imagining ponies and fireworks and Smurfs. I was dizzy. Sayers, Reaney and Co. jumped to the inside heading through the final turn, and I followed, not because I cared about the finish anymore, but because Papa Smurf told me to.
I finished 4th in our group behind Reaney, Sayers and Andres Gil, slotting me into 9th overall. Justin finished 12th behind Floyd Landis and Kevin Klein.
I would like to thank Rob, Jeff and Bo for helping out in the pack, and generally being awesome. Special thanks to Fabrice for helping Justin and I in the second group. Finally, thanks to Steve Jones (and maybe others) for working the radios.
Finish: B- (only because I finished ahead of Justin. Otherwise D+)
Tactics: F (F is for Fabrice-hates-you-when-you-get-dropped)
Style: Inches of salt covering my chamois. How stylish do you think?
Overall: Seriously, Pro Badminton looks like more fun than this.
Thanks for reading,