Weather: Uncomfortably warm
Teammates: James Badia, Bruiser MacNeill, Neil Harrington, Matt Beebe, Jeff Williams, Justin Fraga
Finish: 5th of 75
I travel quite a bit. I’ve been to 48 of the 50 states, and I bet that if you randomly generate California GPS coordinates, I have been within 10 miles of that spot. However, I have never entered the town of Lodi before today, a remarkable feat considering I’ve lived in CA my entire life. Though I would not have guessed it, Lodi has a quaint and vibrant downtown, and I would stop there again if I was in the area.
You may have noticed that I tend to enjoy criterium courses in general, but this course was “sick,” to use the vernacular of my generation. The main drag of downtown Lodi is neatly cobbled with bricks, and the criterium course managed to hit every inch of them. Half of the figure-eight course traversed the cobbled downtown streets, with corners narrower than Andy Schleck’s forearm, while the other half meandered through exposed roads wider than the age gap between Bruce Wilford and I. Add a dash of wind, and a few cement parking-blocks that jutted into the course, and you had the makings of a true crit-lovers course.
Justin and I, the scummiest of crit-scum that I know, were naturally excited at the prospect of such a race. That is, until we saw the field. No less than three National Criterium Champions showed up (Bahati, Hansen, and Holloway), as well as Sayers (Giant), Gerlach (Amore & Vita), Ramsay (Mountain Khakis), Chris Jones (Team Type 1), and all the other crit-scum amateurs in the district. The start-line looked NRC-esque, besides the fact that I was anywhere near it. Regardless, the gun went off and we were racing.
I attacked. I don’t actually remember when, but it was very early in the race. I was with Chad Gerlach and Brandon Gritters (Kahala-LaGrange), and the three of us worked quite well together for an eternity (15 minutes). Just when the suffering began in earnest, Chad yelled “Get used to it boys, we might be out here for another 60 minutes or so!” Very motivational, or depressing, depending on your mindset.
This is where the “WHAT THE HELL?!?!” part of the race comes in. 30 minutes into the race, the three fastest sprinters bridged up to our move. Bahati, Holloway, and Hansen magically appeared in our midst, and it was rather disconcerting. I guess they felt disconcerted as well, because the break fell to shambles, and we were caught by the field in short order.
Justin attacked. Rob attacked (bleeding from an early crash). Badia attacked. Neil attacked. Clockwork, ladies and gentlemen. Clockwork. Plenty of good work by the team as a whole.
Then Daniel Ramsay attacked solo (he’s actually patented that maneuver), and I watched from about 10 wheels back as Chad Gerlach wound up a bridge effort, and then let it fly.
Now, P/1/2 bike racing is not nearly as chaotic as it may seem from the outside. This was the winning move of the race, and it was no secret. Both Chad and Dan could have worn baggy T-shirts that said, “I am going to attack you and win this race solo, you ninny!” and the outcome would have been the same.
I tried to jump across to the duo, but I could not get there. I spent 3 laps in no-man’s-land chasing before I was swallowed up by an unforgiving field. A quick shuffle of the deck, and then a Lombardi rider (Evan Huffman, I believe) was flailing away in no-man’s land. By this time, Gerlach and Ramsey were nothing more than a mirage on the scorching pavement, ethereal and impossible to reach.
I attacked again, bridging to the solo Lombardi rider as quickly as I could. We were joined by Chris Jones and Mike Sayers, heading into 5-laps to go. Sayers was not working, but the other two were taking pulls, and I decided to drive the pace as hard as I could. Some might argue that I played this move stupidly, but after spending so much time off the front already, I figured I would just finish the job. Finishing in 6th place would be better than being caught by a field containing best sprinters in the nation.
Sayers attacked as I finished a hard pull with 1/2 lap to go, taking Jones with him. Huffman was trailing off behind, so I hunkered down and tried to at least LOOK fast as I suffered to the finish. I rolled across in 5th place, with a remarkably large crowd cheering me all the way.
Thanks again to the team, to Keith Williams for wheels and support, and to Lodi for a great event.
Time to grade the effort:
Finish: C- (I finished 3rd of 4 in my group. Weak.)
Tactics: A (It stands for Attack an Absurd Amount.)
Teamwork: B (Rob’s purposeful first-lap crash failed to take down the major players, but it was well-executed nonetheless. We’ll get ’em next time.)
Style: A+ (My Williams 58’s looked so good, they got a callout on the PA system. Thanks Keith.)
Overall: F (Apparently, the Pro thing to do on the podium is to grope the podium girls, but I just put my hand in the air. I’ll learn someday.)