Written by and GoPro Video: Dana Williams
Date: July 30, 2016
Teammates: Matt Adams, David Allen, John Funke, Chris Hobbs, Scott Cox, Oli Ryan, Rob Amatelli and myself
The plan: Two or three guys mark early moves, with our two designated sprinters being attentive. If there was a break then we wanted to make sure one of our riders had a good chance of winning from it. If it came down to a sprint then I would be sweeping Scott Cox wheel.
Course: 4 corner rectangle that goes slightly uphill between corner 4 and 2 and slightly downhill between corner 2 and 4.
Conditions: sunny and mid/high 80's
This was one of the teams target races of the season. Not only is it the best criterium in NorCal but our team title sponsor, Mikes Bikes, was the event organizer and sponsor. All the main NorCal teams (Specialized, Peets, Lange Twins, Squadra, Stands and Thirsty Bears) had strong representation. Also of note was SoCal’s top sprinters, Charon Smith.
First priority was the team meeting. We came together in high spirits and ready to race, each on our Specialized bike of choice. I for one know my Equator Coffee caffeine buzz was in a full effect. To add to our excitement, Matt Adams was donning his 2016 National Criterium Championship kit, compliments of Capo Cycling Apparel, for the first time. And I’d say he was looking dam sexy.
The race got underway and it wasn't long before attacks started to fly. Thirsty Bear strong man Aerial Herman, who eloquently slipped in at the front of the pack just before the race started, soon took a solo flyer and got up 12-15sec gap. It was a brave move on his part to say the least, but was brought back in a few laps. For the next 20 or so minutes there was a constant shuffling at the front, with nothing really sticking.
The break that ultimately got away was initiated by Jason Boyton as we came up to the start/finish line. In the following video, you can see him accelerate up the left hand side at 13:20. Within a few seconds, wily veteran Jeremy Cottel of Team Specialized accelerated up the right side to join him. The good news for us is teammate Chris Hobbs saw this from the front and jumped on it. Jan Weissenburger was towards the front and was next to join the group. Teammate Rob Amatelli was alert, saw the move forming and followed chase. We had two guys in the break so it was looking good for us. Next to go across was Charon Smith. He likely sensing the growing numbers up the road accelerated just before turn 1 and latched onto the back of the run away train. The final guy to join the party was Sean Henderson of Lange Twins, just as I rode around turn 2.
If one didn’t know the strengths of the riders in the break, it could be said that our team had an advantage because we had two strong guys in it. But the fact that went against us was that three of the other guys, namely Cottel, Weissenburger and Smith, were sprinters, while our two guys (Hobbs and Amatelli) were roleurs. Watching the video, I kick myself because in hindsight I should have been more aware of those going up the road and chased either Smith or Henderson.
For the next 12 or so minutes, the gap between the break and chasing pack stayed around 15-20 seconds. During this time neither group was really cooperating and working together. Back in the chase, my teammates and I realized we were at a disadvantage in the break so decided we needed to bring it back. In the following video, this is evident at around 1:15, where four TMB riders are lined up and chasing.
We continue to rotate. Fast forward to 3:20 into the video and Dave Allen finishes his final pull. Oli then takes over and does a strong pull, finishing at 4:15. Then Adams takes over at the front and leads for over a lap, getting us just past turn 1 with just under three laps to go. A rider then comes over the top of me and zig zags a bit, creating a little confusion. There’s no time to waste so I over take him (5:50) and go to work on the front. As I cross the finish line with two to go, I can see the break up the road. I keep on the gas. Half way down the back straight away the break is within striking distance. I stand up and dig deep to accelerate and close it down. As we enter turn 3, Dan Martin comes by and closes down the final meters. We arc through turn four and Dan keeps pushing up the start/finish straight. He rides right through the break and to the front, just as the bell is ringing signifying one lap to go. The break realizes they have been caught.
Teammate Chris Hobbs, also nicknamed the Donkey because of his selfless hard work and strong lead out efforts, does what he knows best and takes the front through turn one. Dan Martin is on his wheel and I'm slotted in behind him. Needless to say, I'm gasping for air and doing all I can to hang on. The hard effort I put in took its toll. In the back of my mind I admit I was questioning whether I'd have enough energy for the final sprint to the line. If I didn't then I was hoping a teammate or two would be able to salvage something.
Hobbs keeps on the gas down the back straight away, averaging over 600W for 30secs. Just as we are about the enter turn 3, Dan Martin delivers a blow, which ultimately would be the winning move. He jumps hard to go by Hobbs. In that split second my brain said 'GO' but my legs say 'NO'. A gap formed, which wassn't good, especially at this time of the race. I did what I could to keep momentum going forward. We speed through the final turn, Dan still with a couple bike lengths on me. I stand up and begin to sprint. Two thoughts cross my mind; first, I need to dig deep and keep pushing to try to close the gap down, and second, how many riders are going to fly by me before the line as my legs seize up. The line is getting closer and the gap is closing. Nobody is coming by. I begin to become a bit more optimistic. But then within 20-30m of the line, Charon Smith flashes by me on the right, hot in pursuit of Dan. It ends up a photo finish, with Dan taking the win by 4/100th of a second.
What a fun race! A big shout out to all my teammates for the hard work and effort, and to Team Mikes Bikes p/b Equator Coffee sponsors and suppliers for the continued support.