The pressure was on. Three years in a row—with Tyler, Shawn, and Chris—Mike's Bikes won Mt. Hamilton and this year I was hungry for it, big-time. With a strong start to the season with respectable 2nd, 3rd, and 4th place finishes, I was ready for a win.
From the first 5 minutes of the race, I could tell everyone on the team wanted the same thing; from Tyler and Aria tirelessly covering moves, to Max and Roman protecting me near the front, it was a good feeling. It only got better when we turned up the heat on the 3rd pitch to shake some of the sprinting talent from the group (still ~25 at this point) and really sort out the contenders. With Aria in the early break, then Nate covering the counter when Sean Bennett went for the KOM, all I had to do was follow wheels, much to the chagrin of our nemeses on the road.
When we crossed the top in a group of ~8, Roman and Aria were in a 4-man chase not far behind. I had 2 options: sit in and wait for them, or use the descent to our advantage to gain a gap which would potentially force the other teams to chase. Of course I did the latter, and it worked swimmingly. When I was caught about 10 minutes after the descent, Roman had joined the group, which was again down to 7 or 8. All of a sudden it looked very similar to last year, except instead of Chris in the driver's seat, it was me. The pressure was on more than ever now - I was feeling good, the guys were riding for me, and I had to get the win! Well, long story short - we did it. Nate and Roman tirelessly attacked and covered, forcing the other contenders to burn valuable matches, and allowing me to mostly sit in. Nate hauled us in like a freight train for the last kilometer, and Roman did a perfect leadout from 500 to 200m. At 200m I launched like a rocket and never looked back. Never has a race finish felt so good! Relief, joy, and excitement all at once - I was proud to continue the TMB legacy at Hamilton, and of course thrilled to notch a big RR win against some worthy adversaries.