As part of the newly established Off The Front Omnium, and thanks to a good sized cash purse for the event, the Hanford Criterium was guaranteed to be fully animated by the top placed riders of the weekend. Going into the day, Jack Maddux (Hot Tubes) led the omnium by 4pts with a total of 43pts. Blake Anton (Clif Bar) and myself were tied for 2nd with 39pts, and Chuck Hutcheson trailed a just a few points behind with everyone else in close succession. I knew that after yesterday’s efforts, a good result in the criterium today would ensure a podium spot for the omnium.
Unlike this year’s Milan-San Remo, where temperatures neared freezing and rain dampened the peloton’s sprits for the day, racing in the Fresno area treated us with some fantastic weather throughout the weekend. Sunny skies, and a light breeze made for some great racing conditions. And thanks to my Personal Best Zelios sunscreen, I was able to enjoy the sunshine and avoid brutal sun burns.
The 75-minute race started out aggressive, with attacks coming left and right from Jack and Blake, with two Marc Pro riders finding their way into every move they could. Eventually, a group of three including Jack, Chuck, and Josh Cox would get away with more than half the race remaining. Everyone, including myself, made every attempt to bridge up to them, but to no success. Blake Anton put in a serious attack and rode solo off the front for a good 20-plus minutes. With about 15 minutes left in the race, the group of three had caught the back end of the field and quickly made it to the front of the peloton and began to drive the pace, trying desperately to get off the front again and leave his former breakaway companions behind. Their efforts got the field moving along fast enough to catch Blake, and soon after that I found myself in a 4-man breakaway with about 7 laps to go.
I put all my chips into that break, and- after taking a quick swig of my Osmo Active Hydration drink- I drove it as hard as I could to establish an advantage over the peloton. With 3 laps to go, we lost one the riders, but had about 20 seconds on the field- I knew they weren’t going to catch us before the end. The two I was with were Nick Baird (Integrity Racing) and Xaf Houwers (Kanjers voor Kanjers Cycling Team). I took a few good final pulls heading into the last lap, then rode the back with half a lap to go to watch the two riders I would take to the line.
Into the 2nd to last turn, Nick put in a hard attack from the front, railed the corner and kept it going into the final turn. Xaf closed the gap, then started his sprint out of the final turn, and I jumped around him 120m to the line and took the sprint for 4th, which gave me enough points to keep 2nd place in the omnium.