Monday, May 21, 2012

Two for Two

The dream season continues. Back to back wins on dirt and now back to back wins on the road. The Capital City Criterium has been pretty good to me over the years. I won my first ever race there as a junior in 1984 (13 yrs old), and then won it again after it had been moved to the Haymarket in 1993 (22 yrs old). Now, 19 years later, I honestly can't believe I won it again, and on my CX bike no less, crazy.

The Team rode an amazing race. We were active all day. After a 30 minute delay I thought Kent and I had it locked up after he joined me on an attack. We stayed away for a good 5 laps or so before we were finally brought back. After that, it was all I could do just to recover and get set up for the bunch sprint.

With 5 laps to go I found Jay and a quick "Stay on my wheel" was all that was needed to set the wheels in motion. Bryan went for a last ditch prime that softened the group up and we were all good until 1 1/4 laps to go, when the pace dropped dramatically and Jay and I were swarmed by riders coming up from behind. I managed to find an opening and get to the outside of the first corner and got back up to about 10th wheel. A few turns later I was up to 7th, and a view of about 5 Kaos guys in front of me. Jared Berger was setting things up for Joe McWilliams with Jordan Ross behind. With two corners to go I'd made it up to Jordan's wheel, dove to the inside and found Joe. As we turned into the final turn, Joe dove inside Jared who abruptly sat up as I barely squeezed by him staying on the wheel. I hoped that I had enough to get by Joe. I had his wheel and left it late so I could maximize my jump. As I bolted past a quick glance under my arm and I knew I was clear. Arms up.

1993 Style
2012 Style
Day two saw us out at Pioneers Park for our annual circuit race. I like racing there but the finishing climb has never been good to me. There's something about the gradient that just doesn't fit into my power band. The plan for the day was simple, attack and counter-attack. At the whistle, Paul Webb was the first to go. The bunch brought him back and then Jay escaped with Lee Baumgarner. Kaos, wasn't about to let those two ride away so they chased and right before the catch at the top of the descent I attacked. I had the benefit of a nice downhill to build a gap. I saw a blue jersey behind me. Wasn't sure if it was Joe or Jared? As we rounded the hairpin corner I took a good look back and found that it was Jared. I thought this might work so I drove hard up the finishing climb to try and establish the gap.

About a half lap later or so, Travis Furman (Flatwater) came across and the break was established. I got a little concerned when I looked down to see we still had 50 minutes to go. This was going to be a long day of riding hard. I made little surges on the hill before the buffalo each lap in hopes that the group would slow in that section and we could gain a few seconds. All was good until I found myself struggling to stay on each time up the hill. Both Jared and Travis seemed to be going much better than me on the climb. Enough so that I wasn't very confident in finishing off with a win.

My break came when a chase group got away containing both Jay and Lucas. At this point I wanted them to come across. But behind Jay had other plans, not wanting to drag Lee across. I made the most of it, skipping a pull here and there until with 3 laps to go the chase started losing ground on us. The gap went from 17 to 40 seconds in one lap. It was at about this time that Jared and Travis' climbing tempo was dropping too. Were they spent or saving it for the finale? The pressure of the final laps was killing me as the entire team and their efforts behind were counting on me to win, and I couldn't figure out exactly how I was going to do it.

The climb to the finish is a long one, the later you leave it, the better off you are. Travis put in a small jump before the final hairpin and then a full on move at the base of the climb. Jared and I had raced here too many times to be drawn into a move this early and we both stayed calm behind. As expected, Travis was cooked a third of the way up the climb as Jared and I sat on. I felt like I was about to get boxed in against the curb so I jumped and gave it everything I had in the hope that Jared couldn't come by. A look under my arm and I could see I'd distanced the two behind. Arms up.

I can't thank the team enough, they probably have more confidence in me than I do but self doubt can be a heavy motivator. To win your hometown race is always special, but to do it two days in a row is even more special. I've done a lot of road racing since that first win in 1984, and I've rarely ended up at the pointy end of the race. You have to take these wins and enjoy them for all they're worth, they just don't happen often enough.

Leading the break on the descent
(Photo: Adrian Olivera)
Belgian Style, no one else in the picture
(Photo: Adrian Olivera)
No photo with Miss Nebraska this time (sad face)


Fred Hinsley said...

Congratulations (good work). Very enjoyable read.

paulhaskell said...

Good work Mark and thanks for posting the recap. Very cool to hear about the team support - good group of guys. Hope they were rewarded in true Belgian (beer) fashion.

MG said...

Great write up Mod, and awesome performance. You put your cagey veteran status to the test and it came up aces. Good show old chap... It truly is an inspired season for you.