Day 1 - MID Road Race This was first big race for the team and we didn't know what to expect. The field looked strong on paper, but I was confident that we would be able to mix it up with the big boys.
We all settled in nicely, got comfortable. It became clear that a break wasn't going to stick, so we all saved up for the field sprint. However, there was a break before the last time up the climb, it was pretty large and Riggs was in it.
Then for some reason I attacked and went solo for a few miles heading into the climb (poor form). I maintained good position on the climb though. Then along the last stretch, Bissell had control with Kelly Benefits parked behind them.
Then my teammates took control and threw down right next to the pro teams. First in line Shawn Rosenthal, battling hard to gain some respect for Mikes Bikes. Behind him, The Viper (Jim Wingert), who managed to get to the front through the mess, something he doesn't enjoy, but I was very thankful to have his help. Next in line was the young gun, Johnny P, sacrificing his sprint for the team! Following this powerful train was Andy G and myself, with James Laberge sweeping behind (with a derailleur that had been broken so that he was stuck in his 14).
The sprint came faster than we had expected and we actually had too many guys left at the end. I felt that it was time to jump and only got halfway into my sprint before it was over. I bike threw a Cash-Call Mortgage kid, Lee Muse, for 4th. Andy G finished in 6th, Piasta 11th and Shawn 12th. A great start for TMB!
Day 2 - Merced Boosters Time Trial
Simple day, get aero and ride fast. Time Trialing is my biggest weakness. I tried to stay smooth and suffer. Today was an improvement, I did not have an amazing ride, but I didn't do terrible. No one on the team was completely happy with their ride, but overall it wasn't a terrible day.
Day 3 - McDonald's Downtown Grand Prix
Crit days are my favorite, the pro race is always in the afternoon and so that means plenty of time for a relaxing breakfast, coffee on the porch of our sweet Ranch. We had an amazing host house this year, thanks to Jim Cunningham, and I was very thankful to be staying in a house opposed to a motel 6. We rode to the crit and my legs felt pretty awful, but I was confident that once the adrenaline hit I would be able to turn them on. My parents had also decided to drive to lovely Merced to watch me race and I wanted to put on a show for them.
The race started and Cal-Giant took control, they had the race lead with Evan Huffman, but the pace they were setting wasn't too daunting. I made my way up to the front and then from there on out I took every opportunity I got to attack them. I was hoping maybe if I got off the front with another “nobody” they might let me roll, but I was also just having a blast on a technical course that I really enjoyed. In the process I took 3 primes and many laps off the front.
Then with about 12 laps to go Bissell took control and the fun and games of attacking were over, the pace was notched up. I did my best to recover for the sprint during this time, and also try to find our sprinter for the day James Laberge, who had done an amazing job all day surfing the front and conserving energy. With 5 or so to go we had 4-5 MB riders near the front, but it was difficult bordering on impossible to set up our own train and get organized.
Then with 3 to go a crash through the last corner took out Andy G, and caused a bit of a split in the field. I was still near the front with Eric Riggs and Laberge. At 1 to go Laberge blew up, I blame myself for not getting up closer to him to protect him from the wind more. That left Riggs and I for the sprint, with the Bissell lead-out men blowing up left and right it was chaotic at best. Riggs managed 7th and me 8th. Another day with 2 in the top 10 for MB = a good day.
Day 4 - Almond Blossom Road Race
This is one of the toughest days of the race, mostly because it is the last day, starts at 8 AM and its 120 miles. Team MB had a pretty good grasp on what would happen though and we were confident that it would be a good day. With Bissell firmly in the lead, they were going to let a break go after about a lap and then ride tempo for the next 3 laps, reel them in and then it would be a mass field sprint. This is what we imagined would happen and it did. So my job was to sit in all day, conserve, which was easy to do on my amazingly fast Zipp 808's. Eat lots of food, so many Clif Bars, and drink lots of water.
We had a few guys designated to go for the early break even though we were pretty sure that it wouldn't stick, Jim and Piasta were hungry to go give it a shot, and Rosenthal was also designated to follow breaks even though he was less than interested to actually end up in a break. But alas, we missed the break, which wasn't an entirely bad thing, more men to help at the end!
The break was brought back a bit sooner than I had expected on the last lap and attacks started going left and right. Luckily early on during the last lap Shawn and Johnny P had gotten to the front and started fighting for a spot for our train, so I was able to easily jump on their wheels and stay safe. Then the attacks started going and our guys were doing well covering and starting some attacks, particularly Andy and John. Then along the back stretch with about 4 miles to go the yellow jersey started following some breaks as his Bissell team had disintegrated from the front and at this point I began to follow some moves as well. Nothing got much ground, but I found it easier to sit on the back of breaks then fight to be in the front of the field.
Then we made the left turn onto the final stretch with about 2-3 miles to go and the final battle got seriously sketchy. I threw elbows and chopped some wheels, saw my teammate Shawn go off road fighting to get up to the front to help me. Then at the final roller Strava was leading the group and pace began to slow, and James Laberge hit the front and kept the pace up to prevent me from getting swarmed. The ability of Laberge to be up there at the end and fight through the chaos was super impressive given the length of the race and this being just his first year out of juniors. With about 400 meters to go I sat third wheel, a Kelly Benefit Rider leading, with Ken Hanson in 2nd wheel. Then Logan Loader hit it hard around our right side, Ken jumped and I followed. I’m kicking myself for not jumping first because I had the chance, but I hesitated and waited for Logan to go. However, this was still the biggest result of my career so far.
I can’t thank my teammates enough, the confidence and willingness to ride for me in the past few races has given me the opportunity to do well in these races. Without them and our amazing sponsor I would be nowhere near this podium!
Check out a great picture of the Podium.