Just one week after making the trip with Willie down to Manhattan Beach and taking on the pros, we were at it again. After getting off work on Friday, we hit the road with about a ten hour drive in front of us. This time it was just Willie and I along with his dog Travis. It was a long drive that included a stop at Wild Cherries Coffee for some Marc-Pro Strava Blend coffee along with some crazy wind and rain, and we finally arrived at my sister’s house around 2am Boise time. We tried to get some sleep and woke up Saturday morning looking forward to another NCC crit.
The temperatures were expected to be in the triple digits, so we went for a ride in the morning to open up the legs before it got too hot outside. After having lunch we took some time to just chill out and relax before the 8:15pm start time. My sister only lives a couple miles from downtown, so after getting kitted up for the race, we just rode down to the course. After warming up for a bit and searching for some ice to put in our bottles, we were ready to go. This is basically a flat 4 corner, .5mi, non technical course with the finish about 250m from the final corner. Our race was 90 minutes, and at the start the temps were still in the 90’s. Hydration was going to be key, and I think Willie and I both went in a little dehydrated. I did carry three bottles even though I was basically down to two by the time the race started. With over 100 riders in the field, getting to the front early was imperative. From the gun the pace was fast and both Willie and I did everything we could to move up. With most of the pro teams well represented, the fight for position was crazy in the first 50 spots. This made for a very fast, sketchy race. There were several crashes up against the barriers that Willie and I narrowly escaped. Some riders attacked the field to try and get a break going, but no one ever made it that far ahead. United Healthcare controlled the front for most of the race and they showed why they are the best criterium team in the country.
With about 10 laps to go, I was positioned around the top 20 and Willie was right behind me. I was feeling pretty good at this point, but that is when UHC really began to push the pace. A couple of times I was able to move up right behind the UHC train, but for some reason kept getting shuffled back. There were a lot of really fast guys fighting for that same spot and I was wasting a lot of energy keeping us up there with a chance. With 3 laps to go, UHC upped the pace again, and since their fifth fastest guy is as good as most other teams best, it became almost impossible to move up. I was in the top 30, but I lost Willie and I was pretty much maxed out. The last two laps are pretty much a blur, and I did everything I could just to maintain position until the finish. I tried to sprint out of the last corner, but I don’t know that I accelerated much, if at all. That has to be the fastest race I’ve ever done and I learned a lot in the process. Crit racing always comes down to positioning and with a race this fast, it’s about positioning at the right time. Don’t waste energy fighting for that wheel in the top 10 with 10 laps to go if it’s going to affect your ability to fight for that wheel when it really matters, going into the final. The results from this race weren’t great, with me finishing 28th and Willie 42nd, but we made it to the finish with all our skin intact and it just motivates us to get better and challenge ourselves even more.