Since the Wente Road Race I have been struggling with some back issues resulting from past crashes and alignment. For me, the Folsom Omnium started a week before after seeing our Team Doctor Kristin Wingfield. The days before the race were my first rides without back pain and I knew if that held up it would be a good weekend. This was my third season doing the Folsom Omnium. Three years ago I did it as a Cat 3. Despite finishing near last I loved it. The next year it was my first P12 race. Despite my lack of results in the past, it has always been a fun weekend. So after this introduction I will get to the point. This year not only was it a fun weekend, we won.
Time Trial We arrived at the time trial expecting a win even though James, Jim and myself haven’t done much riding on the TT bike at all (I had had one ride on it since Merco…). It was a pretty straight forward course, mostly flat with 6 rollers. We all went hard, Jim got 2nd (~10 seconds back) and I finished 7th (~35 seconds back). Either way, we were in great position for the omnium and I was stoked to have shaved 4 minutes off my time from a year and a half ago.
Tyler Dibble joined us for the crit. It would be my first race with both Team Captains and I was very excited for the opportunity. Entering the crit I knew a break could get away. It was windy and extremely easy to get out of sight. With Ryan Parnes in first we did not want to give up any of the preme points to him or anyone that could overtake Jim. The goal of the race was to either get me up the road with someone behind me in GC or set up to lead Jim out for the field sprint.
From the start it was really sketchy. I tried to get Jim into a safe position early on and as I got to the front Adam Switters attacked. Without hesitation Dibble chased. Strava bridged with me on their wheel and a few others. We were flying but Tyler and I didn’t work because Jim wasn’t up there with us. As soon as it was caught I countered with Chuck Hutchenson. We lasted for 2 laps before Switters bridged. When Switters bridged I sat on because he was 3rd on GC. Once we were caught Laberge countered for a preme lap and I sat up to see Jim and Dibble sitting in great position. After the preme, three riders got away including Strava, McGuire and Fremont. None of them were on GC. It was prefect, all the teams were represented and I knew there would be a hesitation to chase. Without hesitation I jumped in the first corner to get away on the crosswind section. I bridged and started pulling. I knew Strava would delay their chase because they had a teammate there, Fremont didn’t have the depth to bring it back and McGuire was all by himself. After 2 laps our gap was 20 seconds.
Before the race Dibble told me, “ You want the break to stick, but you don’t care if it comes back”. With that in mind I knew Strava would eventually start chasing, so I took advantage on establishing the break early. Even if we were caught at the end, I would at least have taken all the preme points from anyone who could pull away from Jim. After about 4 laps I heard 30 seconds. The gap seemed to staying right there. I was doing the majority of the work because I was in it for GC. I started noticing fatigue in the break and became nervous we weren’t going fast enough. Furthermore riders started skipping pulls and Fremont started sitting on. A lap later I heard Chuck was trying to bridge. Without hesitation I ramped it up and as a result dropped everyone but Joe from Strava. I didn’t expect him to work because Chuck was bridging, so I put him in the gutter. After 2 laps of that, I looked at him and said, “Chuck isn’t bridging and I have three sprinters in the field, lets work”. He listened and we kept working until the finish. I got every points preme, but as the finished approached we were losing time quickly. Joe was getting tired and I was all in for the overall. I pulled the last 2 laps, attacked into the final corner and won it. Forgetting about the crosswind I celebrated. It was not the most lovely victory salute but I haven’t had as much practice at this stuff as Laberge has.
I was happy, but became even happier when I saw Jim finish 5th. It was my first P12 win and my first Cycles Gladiator most aggressive/ best looking rider award. The crit was a great race for the team that set us up for the overall, but the circuit would be a new day.
Circuit In the morning, I decided to stop studying for my finals and look up results. I had moved into 1st overall and Jim was in 3rd behind Parnes. Our priorities for the circuit were to keep 1st overall, then move Jim into 2nd and after ensuring that, win the stage. At sign in I looked at the finish and was freaked out by the 320 meter landing strip I saw. No joke, you could land a 747 on that road. Furthermore, Ryan Parnes was in 2nd and that guy puts out a 2000 watt sprint and has facial hair. How was I supposed to defend against that? Dibble talked to me before and said, “You be a shadow, that’s it. You finish one place behind him and you win.” I took “Yoda’s” advice since it worked yesterday and I got that wheel right away and stayed on it.
Throughout the race I paid attention to his jump and every time he attacked I was there. On the third lap Parnes had attacked and literally every GC rider was up the road with us. I wasn’t working because I was isolated and they had to take the overall from me. Eventually Chuck attacked with Switters, but I didn’t care because they were too far back to take the overall. Eventually Paul Mach bridged with the field in tow and I drifted back as Parnes’s “shadow”.
I started hearing trash talk and just took what Dibble said before the race as literally as possible. I just followed. In the mean time when I got bored of at staring at Ryan’s ass/ huge claves I glanced up the road to see the team doing an awesome job at holding the race together. Jim was trying to find his way into moves and James was taking free rides to the finish. Dibble was either chasing stuff back or at my side calming me down as my voice cracked every other word (It tends to do that even when I am not nervous).
Two laps to go Parnes had flatted. At this point James got me on his wheel and kept me near the front for the finish. Things were getting hectic as Chuck and Switters break came into sight. I kept looking back paranoid that Parnes was going to get back on my wheel and jump me. James was doing an awesome job at keeping me near the front and we were talking all the way to the finish. A kilometer from the finish I saw Parnes made it back and I got right on his wheel. I took the final corner on the inside and first focused on not losing that draft. A hundred meters from the line I started coming around him and bike threw for the line realizing at the point if I crashed I would have enough momentum to carry me to the finish. It was close. Fourth through 14th finished within a few feet of each other. I was relieved to later hear I held onto first and Jim’s finish had moved him into second overall. Our main priorities were accomplished.
I can’t thank the team enough for this win. It really was a team effort, from our team doctor to James and Dibbles selfless work. I am so proud to be a part of this squad and cannot wait for more great results to come in the future.