(photo by John Olson of Arts Cyclery)

Race: Original Merced Criterium

Length: 45 minutes

Course:  A 0.9 mile loop of flat city streets: three 90-degree turns, and a narrow loop around the Old Courthouse. Good to Fair pavement, some botts dots/reflectors, especially on the wide finish straightaway. 

Category: Masters 35+ 1/2/3

Written by: Scott Cox

Teammates:
None - definitely did not expect anyone else to join in on this one.

Team Goals:
- Save energy for a bunch sprint, but also watch for a break with Ben Albrecht
- Win

I’ve never done this race before and I thought I might do it to get in some racing before Chico that I missed out on yesterday.  I have to say I was also very motivated to race in the fashion the team did yesterday - full of confidence.  I had a chance to see the peloton roll by (more than once) on my walk of shame and TMBM looked relaxed and focused.  You guys looked in control and I 100% expected you to win.  You could just see it and it was awesome.

After getting home, I replaced my cleats, checked my tires, packed up my bag, and sweet talked the new Venge to be ready in the morning if I woke in time to make it to the race.  My cat, Eddie, helped and woke me at 4 am, so it was settled.

I checked pre-reg and saw Art’s Cyclery (2) and Global CTI (4).  I only recognized Ben Albrecht from Art’s and knew to watch him for a break, but was hoping for a bunch sprint to practice positioning and timing.  A light drizzle started about 30 minutes out from Merced.  I was determined to not let the wet pavement and slightly technical course get in my head.  I had time for a good warm up and the rain stopped right before the start with ~20-25 riders.

We started off and Global CTI was intent on a break.  I did not know their ability level, so I waited to see what Art’s would do.  Art’s chased and CTI tried a few more times, but it looked like they lacked the strength to pull it off.  A CTI rider and a Defensive End sized guy got off the front about 15 minutes in.  The CTI rider was dropped and the mammoth was out front solo by about 15 seconds.  A few of the stronger riders put in some pushes and a selection formed of 6 of us, including Albrecht and Howie Long.  Three of us were willing to work and the others were sitting on so Albrecht put in some big efforts which resulted in our break sticking.  I’m guessing the peloton threw in the towel as we did not work together particularly well.

5 to go and cat and mouse started.  A few guys put in some digs, but no one was going anywhere.  1 to go and we were heading into the little tight loop around the courthouse and I was 4th wheel with Albrecht behind me.  I’m guessing that was about 600-700 meters out and the pace dropped to a coffee ride.  I could feel Albrecht getting twitchy and figured hesitation kills and jumped to make sure I did not get caught up in the loop.  I got a pretty good gap on the others, but Albrecht was ready and on my wheel.  He came around me at the final turn and held on for the win.  Looking forward to Chico!