We came into the Merced Criterium hoping to improve upon the previous day's performance. We were hoping to put some of the main guns on the back-burners and let them work hard to catch an early break, before hopefully having the race come down to a field sprint for Daniel and James. Travis, Rainier, and Marcus did a great job covering the first portion of the race. Just after the 5th lap, I came around the field on the outside and hit it as the field swung inside. I immediately bridged to Willie Myers (Fremont Bank) and were soon joined by a rider in red, white, and blue. I actually thought it was a Leopard rider at first since I looked back and saw the blue and orange on the shoulder, but soon realized it was Ken Hanson (reigning US Pro Crit Champ). It seemed like immediately we had a big gap which would force the other heavy hitters to chase. The only problem was that Ken and Willie seemed to be super human that day.
On the mile long course, I pulled only about 200m each lap and was trying to conserve, and was managing to actually slow the break down, but with Ken and Willie driving the break, we rode out to an almost 40 sec advantage. With 12 laps to go I sat on the back and the other 2 riders didn't bat an eye (I think they expected me to do that). With me out of the rotation, the pace actually started to pick up the two of them really put their heads down. With about 5 laps to go, I realized we weren't going to get caught despite a hard chase from Mike's Bikes pb/Incase and I had to start thinking about how to win the race.
Hoping Willie would rely on Ken to chase me down, I hit the two of them hard just after 1 to go right after Ken finished taking a hard pull, but Willie dragged it all back together. Ken got on the front with a half a lap to go and began the long drawn out march to the line. i grabbed his wheel and he jumped out of the last corner. I waited and tried to come out of his slipstream and got about halfway around, but it was unlikely I was ever going to beat Ken in the sprint.
Thanks to a good leadout, Daniel was able to take a well deserved 4th place.
1. Ken Hanson (Optum/Kelly Benefits) 2. Adam Switters (Team Mike's Bikes p/b Incase) 3. Willie Myers (Fremont Bank) 4. Daniel Holloway (Team Mike's Bikes p/b Incase)
Written by Adam Switters