Downtown Chico Criterium
Weather: cruelly hot
Teammates: Rob MacNeill
Placing: Second of 33
There’s something beautiful about a fitting end, don’t you think?
Regardless of the absolute outcome of a story–be it happy or sad, inspiring or
depressing–a fitting end brings closure and completeness to the tale. So often
in life, stories simply end, with no particular flair or elegance…but not
Were I to write a completely fictional account of my final race of the 2009
season, it would be less fitting than reality. Therefore, I’ll forgo
embellishment and tell the story as fate would have it.
I grew up in Chico, a lovely college town nestled against the Sierra Nevada
foothills north of Sacramento. I spent many a summer afternoon on the very
streets comprising this year’s Criterium course, so naturally the race appealed
to my sense of romance. Ah, to win in my hometown would be sweet indeed.
However, it was not simply nostalgic childhood memories that made this year’s
Criterium significant. By the time the final race weekend rolled around, the
Webcor Elite team had–through determination, talent, and a $^%*load of
racing–dragged itself into second place in the NCNCA BAT standings, only eight
points behind the CalGiant juggernaut. Let’s be clear: the BAT is a completely
flawed metric, a reflection of a team’s success in local races alone, but it is
a competition nonetheless. When given a chance to best your rivals, regardless
of the metric, I recommend you go for it. Crush their souls.
And go for it we did.
By “we,” of course, I mean Rob MacNeill and I. For those of you who have not yet
figured it out, Rob is my alter-ego; he doesn’t really exist. I know it’s hard
to believe at first, but think very carefully: we’re the same exact height, we
look identical on a bike, and our initials are R M. Rob’s the short-haired,
quiet, calm, cool and collected side of me; I’m the loud, long-haired, fiery,
out-of-control, brash side. Together, we’re working toward world domination. But
Our team’s standing in the BAT meant that we needed only a fourth place finish
to release the four-year CalGiant stranglehold on the district. Though not an
easy task by any means, Rob and I never shy away from a challenge. We arrived in
Chico ready to “throw down.”
As if on cue, Patrick Briggs (CalGiant) appeared at the start line on this
stifling afternoon, complicating the calculations; as one of the fastest
finishers on his team, Patrick was certain to score points in this race. Oh, the
drama and intrigue!
The Chico course suited our style perfectly: narrow at times, fast, and with
plenty of rapid-fire corners to stretch the field out and make the weak-minded
suffer. Can you say breakaway? [Insert evil laugh]
The race started fast and, in spite of the heat, stayed fast. Andrew Talansky
(Amore e Vita Pro) was primarily to blame, as he seemed discontent with speeds
below 28 miles per hour. For the first ten laps or so, he would attack, and I
would follow. We would be caught, and we would go again. Alas, my legs felt
god-awful, and after nine straight months of racing they faltered badly.
Talansky attacked with Mike Cordova (Chico Corsa) and the two held a small gap.
I chased, trying desperately to bring them back, but it was all in vain.
Talansky quickly shed Cordova and set about lapping the field while I doused
myself with water, an attempt to wash away my shame.
But now the race had changed form: Talansky was gone, and I found myself in an
incredibly disorganized chase group containing local hardman Kevin Speacht (a
mentor from my early days in the sport), a pair of Chico Corsa guys, a Safeway
rider, Patrick Briggs, and Colin Samaan (in a newly minted Wells Fargo kit).
Around and around we went, as is customary at criteriums.
With only ten laps remaining in the season, and the chase group growing more and
more unruly by the minute, I became anxious. Colin Samaan attacked, and everyone
simply watched him go. Infuriating, perhaps, but perfect. I let the gap open to
about 10 seconds, then bridged with all my might.
The two of us worked well together, and the chasers soon faded from view. The
usual elements of breakaway riding appeared–pain, lactic acid, sweat, thirst,
hatred, excitement, fear of being caught–but I hardly noticed. Talansky may
have beaten me (and handily, I might add), but I wasn’t about to finish my
season without a fight.
I attacked Samaan with half a lap to go, wary of his fast finish, but he clawed
his way back to my wheel as we entered the final corner. I collected myself for
a brief moment, summoned my inner McEwen, and started my sprint. Thankfully, I
beat Samaan to the line and took second place.
Yep, second place.
Briggs finished fourth, sealing the BAT victory for CalGiant by a meager five
points. Webcor finished safely in second place, nearly 300 points ahead of
Oh yes, second place.
An unofficial calculation brought my season-long points tally to 154, which
ought to be good enough for second place in the BAR classification behind Kevin
Fancy that, another second place.
Finishing in second place from a breakaway is my signature move: off the front,
close enough to victory to taste it, but far enough to ensure my place in the
annals of mediocrity. As I mentioned at the outset, there is beauty in a fitting
end, regardless of the outcome. To show up in my hometown, at the final race of
the season, and to so perfectly replicate my signature move–netting three
second-place finishes all at once–is a beautiful thing.
Tactics: F (Does constant attacking even count as a tactic?)
Style: F- (Flatted a tubular on Saturday, raced on mismatched wheels)
Teamwork: F (Alter-egos are technically considered doping)
Finish: C (2nd is the new DNF. 1st place is all the rage these days)
Overall 2009 Season Grade: A (I convinced frumpy old Bruce Wilford to buy white
sunglasses and white shoes this year; it’s my greatest cycling achievement yet!)
Now, for something entirely different. At the last team meeting, I mentioned to
a few of you that I’ve started blogging. So, if you’re interested in knowing
what goes on in my caffeine-crazed mind during the off-season, welcome inside:
And so it goes: another season in the books, another collection of stories to
share with friends, and a pair of tired legs to rest. It’s been my best season
yet, and I have a lot of people to thank.
Thanks to the Elite team for their support, their hard work, and their
commitment to becoming a powerhouse in the district.
I’d also like to thank the Alto Velo club as a whole. I’m grateful for all the
cheers, smiles, laughs, and support that you guys provide. It really makes a
difference in the way I race, knowing you guys are out there rooting for us. I
enjoyed getting to know each of you this year, and it’s been fun to watch you
succeed in your races. Rest up, train hard, and get ready for next year!
As always, I want to thank every one of our sponsors. We would not have been so
successful without your support.