Santa Cruz Classic Criterium has been running longer than I’ve been alive, but this was only my second time attending in four years of racing. What a great course! With more than seventy racers and all the local teams bringing their A-Game, we knew it would be a fast and hard race.
We made plans before the race involving breakaways, counter-attacks, and daring two-man moves. None of this materialized because Chris Riekert ended up heroically riding solo with a large gap for more than 50 minutes. H24MPS put their whole team on the front with ten laps to go, and it was clear they were going to drag him back.
A stroke of bad luck hit TMBEquator in the last five laps: three of us got flat tires. That meant that our leadout train was down to a couple powerhouses—Max and Roman. While I am not exactly a bunch sprinter, I was eager to try my legs up the hill against the fast guys. Roman and Max controlled the pace at the front for the last couple of laps, and kept me in the perfect position up to one lap to go.
In the blink of an eye, that position was erased as I was boxed-in coming through on the bell lap. Half the course was downhill and the last half of the course was uphill. Coming down the hill there is a hairpin, and at this point I was tenth wheel. I battled back up to the front along the river on the backside of the course, and after a five second rest through the final corner, saw the sprint launch right in front of me: Tobin Ortenblad. I used all my might to keep him within a bike length up the hill, a steep block before another flat block to the finish, but he opened a gap with a huge kick. I put my head down and spinted earlier than I would have liked to to try and stay ahead of the charging pack. At fifty meters out, I could feel a half dozen sprinters bearing down on me, less than half a bike from my front wheel. I had the wherewithal to slam down one more gear on my Sram Red 22 cassette to keep it close to a thousand watts for just a few more seconds.
Phew! I crossed the line just ahead of the bunch, third place behind two very solid sprinters and National Championship podium finishers - Eamon Lucas and Tobin Ortenblad. Not the win TMB has been looking for, but a result to be proud of all the same.
Next up for TMBEquator is Copperopolis, the one hundred mile war of attrition waged every Spring in the Sierra Nevada foothills. Following this, eight of the guys will be racing Redlands, our first NRC race of the year, and I will be switching gears to race Pro XC (mountain bikes - hell yeah!) at Sea Otter.