I had a decent excuse for missing the Chico Stage Race with my second child being born and all, but Strava guilt and race reports from friends had me itching to pin another number on. After getting the blessing from my wife, I decided rain or shine I was giving it a rip at the Red Kite Criterium in Livermore. With my trusty Specialized Allez from Kinetic Cycles and Race Rim 50’s on the roof, teammate Chris F. and I headed over to the East Bay.
Before lining up, Chris and I surveyed the course to check out the wind, corners, and gutters. There was a strong head wind on the back stretch, a cross leading into the finish, and a strong tail with a short sprint to the line.
As soon as the race started Chris and I got to our preferred positions in the field. Me near the front expending nervous energy, Chris picking daisies at the back waiting for the finish. I knew with 2-3 laps to go Chris was going to be ready to go. That’s the benefit of riding and racing a lot with a friend and teammate.
You can trust that when you talk about a plan, they’re either going to execute or blow up trying. That’s about all I want out of a bike race. To ride with good teammates who are committed to either winning or losing, “participating” isn’t what our team is about.
Break Up The Road
With about 3-4 laps to go a group of 3 is off the front with a solid 15s on the bunch. With 12 CBRE teammates in the group and a handful of other teams outnumbering Chris and me I’m not feeling any responsibility to go after the break.
With 2 laps to go and a 15s gap still holding I’m starting to feel more pressure. Chris rolls to the front right on schedule and asks if we should get it. In my head I’m running the options.
If Chris successfully brings it back right now we use our best asset before getting close to the finish. I quickly mutter “let’s wait, let’s wait” and we settle back in the pack trying to coax other riders to contribute to the chase.
I’ve been lucky enough to coach Chris for the last year and I know his power numbers better than I know the birthday’s of my family members. Chris has huge power over the 45s-1minute range. He can bring this back in one lap, I know it, I know it.
Pulling It Back
With one to go and the group of 3 holding onto a 12s gap, Chris hits the gas going through the S/F. With the strong tail-wind we open up a gap to the field with a Cycle Sport rider (Christopher Monestier) catching my wheel. As Chris is burying himself in the headwind section I’m running through my options again.
I have to catch the break before they make the final right hander to the finish or I’ve got no chance. As we approach the cross section I jump hard off Chris’s wheel hoping to dislodge the Cycle Sport rider. I can’t shake him, he’s right on my wheel.
If I try and close the gap alone to the 3 up the road I might not have enough in the sprint. If I sit up and convince him to pull through, the lag in speed might mean we fail to catch the break before the corner.
I don’t know if my poker move is smart or stupid but I sit up and he immediately comes around me as we’re charging toward the three up the road.
As we’re approaching the corner I carry all my speed and shave the inside curb as the 3 in the break and the Cycle Sport rider with me go wide and spray to the left of the road. I’m going all-out to the line but I’m thinking it’s too short to catch the final guy in the break. I’m gaining on him but the finish seems too short with the tailwind.
I’m getting closer and closer until I’m pretty confident I get him with a few inches to spare. I end up taking first with the break going 2-3-4, the cycle sport rider in our chase taking 5th, and Chris riding his huge gap to the field for 6th.
After the race I can’t thank Chris enough. Without his commitment to bury himself on the last lap there’s no way I’m able to take the win. Racing with a teammate committed to winning or losing, there’s nothing like it. We celebrate with sketchy Mexican food and talk of aero wheels then head back to Sacramento plotting out the next race.
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