"I’m 90% sure this race is going to end in a breakaway. Lets make sure we stack the break, pay attention to the riders you’re with, and don’t be afraid to hit the reset button and change the dynamic of what’s happening.”
As Adam Switters is giving the marching orders for the soggy, rain soaked 2014 Cherry Pie Crit I cant help but think, “I’ve never had teammates… I have no idea who anyone is, and jeez dude, what’s with all the big words? Like ‘reset' and ‘dynamic'.”
Admittedly… with only one year of bike racing under my belt, nearly every trip to the line starts with the thought, “will throwing up behind that bush help calm the nerves… or will it ruin my already ill-prepared race nutrition?” The great thing, however, about stomach churning nerves is that by the time you calm yourself… you’re already racing.
As the whistle blew, and the race began, it became quickly apparent that the original race strategy of “ride conservatively for the first 1/3” was out the window. With a field composed of 7 Team Mike’s Bikes Riders, the incredibly talented Hagens Berman U23 team, and random ones and twos from the other bay area squads; Team Captain Adam Switters attacked on lap two signaling that this was going to be a 60min dog fight between the teams.
As Hagens Berman responded I pounced on the free ride across the gap to Switters. The breakaway group organized, and Adam and I realized the viper pit we were standing in. Out numbered with 3 HB riders to our 2 TMB, Adam made the call to even the odds. We slowed the pace to wait for another TMB riders to come across the quickly expanding gap to the 5 man breakaway.
Tensions grew while Adam and I continued to make the rotation feel like sand in-between gears and the already aggressive HB riders answered with relentless attacking during their power play. Twenty minutes into the race another TMB rider Brandon Trafton crosses the gap to even the odds 3v3.
With the glossy, rain soaked roads keeping everyone on their toes, I launched an attack through the 180* turn and down the hill. Pushing hard through the off camber right-hand corner at the bottom of the hill I jumped back out of the saddle and continued accelerating around the backside of the course. Turning in to the wind I caught a look over my shoulder and only one rider had come across the gap with me, the absolutely remarkable Adrien Costa of team Hagens Berman.
Adrien and I continued the next twenty-five minutes like a well oiled machine. Trading pulls, working together, and further distancing our two man group from all in pursuit. With Adam, Brandon, and Reese Levine now in the first chase group they were able to protect the gap Adrien and I were creating and look for a free ride across, should the opportunity arise. Beautiful team tactics.
The final laps counting down and the gap to the first chase group hovering around forty-five seconds, it was clear that Adrien and I were racing for the win. With three laps to go Adrien launched an attack. I quickly jumped to his wheel, rested for a moment, and then pulled through. With two laps to go… boom, Adrien flew over the top again and I quickly marked his wheel. As we entered the last lap, the bell ringing and the announcer screaming, Adrien makes a final dig. This time jumping on the hill he quickly scampers up to and through the 180* corner. I reconnect to his wheel as we fly toward the treacherous first corner and on to the back stretch. Adrien is swerving across the road like a track racer trying to coax a change in position but I don’t budge. We slow to a crawl as we turn back in to the wind and toward the finish line. Still swerving trying to change our order we enter the bottom of the finish hill. 300m to go… Adrien staring over his left shoulder waiting for the inevitable attack. 200m to go… Still no movement. 100m to go… Adrien looks down for a second and I launch to his left and up to the finish line. Accelerating toward the line I throw my hands up in celebration and the young Hagens Berman rider crosses, head hung low, 15m back.
I’ve heard the phrase, “Hindsight is 20/20” hundreds of times before but never have I been able to look back at an experience and take so much learning, so much understanding forward as a result. For me, the experience of racing the 2014 Cherry Pie Crit is the prime example of understanding what it means to be a part of a team. Looking back at my personal racing history I’m quick to realize that the two man group that selected the winner would have never survived if TMB was not represented or if my team did have the confidence in me to close the deal. This is truly just the beginning of what will be the most successful season that Team Mike’s Bikes p/b Equator Coffee has ever seen. Period.