Thought I had crashed out for good did ya? It does seem like about this time a year, I do suffer tremendously from some crash and either end up with something broken or a major ailment. This time around it was just serious fatigue and the end of good fitness. Unfortunately it started and stayed with the North Carolina Crit Championships in Salisbury - our races of all things. From there I took two weeks off and forgot I wasn't suppose to drink that much beer, eat that much ice cream and not do anything but walk Cooper. And then... get this... my come back is for Blood, Sweat and Gears. Call me crazy, but call me slow and pained too. My worst showing at BSG and probably my last. I knew I couldn't climb but somehow I needed to validate it. I did do some swimming and running while on vacation - does that count?
So we fast forward a few weeks and I feel like my fitness is coming along, but no real way of proving it other than the booty loop, BikeSouth, Plantation and Orr Road - all crap simulation races.
I am then excited about the Lexington Criterium because it is flat, fast and not technical, but I do have some ghosts of past that haunt me as I was dropped there last year and reminded of that last week. The team is locked and loaded to roll. Race starts, I go straight to the front for prescence and take the groupo around twice before the attacks start going. I even took a little dig myself and pulled across a couple of guys for a lap or two, but there is too much horsepower, too many teams and too much muscle to flex this night.
KJohnson counters me and gets away. Not sure how two Clif Bar guys wind up in the break - still puzzled on that one, but he pulls across Harkey and that is all she wrote. We set tempo, chased things down, even chased each other down - taking a little a page out of the Preferred Parking playbook. Our team timing wasn't impressive and our results were average for CM, but we had all had some time off from racing, other than cookie rides. Even the rain didn't slow the finish, but Keith got 2nd and I believe The Judge ended up 2nd in the field sprint, 4th overall along with other top 10 results from the team in a combined 35/45 race.
Two days later was the road race with a Sunday start time of 3:15 and a heat index well into the upper 90's. A short to medium race on a pretty easy course, although I would beg to differ any time there is a hill involved. We knew the ominum, the players, points, guys to cover and a general strategy, but it rarely goes to plan. Gordon jumped first, but gosh it was too early and I jumped with for a mile or so and back we come - thank goodness. A few attacks but nothing serious or threatening. About 8 miles in at the first hill, I start setting a tough tempo to see what gives and of course here forms the break.
Ric Masset comes across and accelerates hard up the hill. I follow. We have Jim Mead in tow. And then Craven comes across. A pretty good group although we could have used one or even two more. Craven is the strongest in the group, but we are all working together for a lap and a half. We extended out to just over a minute on the field and then that started coming down quickly, probably due to the multiple CM attacks. It was 20 seconds at one point. RJenkins comes across solo and when he attacks, I light it up for a mile or two and almost cook myself (i have a bad habit of doing that) and then we rotate. Mead takes us up the first hill - solid effort. I take on the second and am really trying hard to save Ryan from making as much effort until later. Unfortunately it was probably my dagger. About three or so miles up the road, JP is coming across solo. Ryan tells me to jump on and give it 5 minutes hard effort. I have about 30 seconds left in the tank and his momentum and power put Mead and I off the back. Deja Vu from an early Greenville race. As much go and desire as I had in my mind, me legs wouldn't take me there even after several attempts to get to the back of that break. I am still surprised Masset got on it but it was only because he stopped taking pulls and rode like a coward once Ryan got on. He cetainly didn't represent Preferred Parking well regardless of his result. I know the likes of Stiehl, Botting, Morgan, Vigna and I doubt those boys would pull such a BS move. It is what it is!
I knew that break was gone but didn't realize how strong Craven really was. He was the ultimate break partner though. He never skipped his turn, he rotated well and never said a word even when Massett and Mead were skipping pulls. Come to find out he has quite the history on the pro circuit back in the day. Not to skip ahead, but he pulled off a great win over JP.
Back to the pack we go, I sit in for a couple of miles, recover somewhat and start making my way back to the front hoping to continue contributing to the team effort and trying to get Charlie off the front. I get right beside Keith who is setting a great tempo starting the first climb and I am ready to start stretching it out when one of my spokes breaks off and the wheel starts rattling. My day is over. No wheels in the truck and the team didn't talk about team wheels. I am now a big fan and spectator of the Carolina Masters Cycling Team. Dressed, hydrating and sitting in the shade at the finish line here comes Craven and Patterson. Craven takes it pretty good - excellent finish and well deserved since he rode from the original break, matched Patterson's surges and attacks and kept enough in the tank to finish strong. And then about 45 seconds later after sitting in for the last 20 miles or so, Ric gets the best of Ryan at the line.
The pack is almost 4 minutes behind and they were absolutely on fire... flying. Of course Frahm takes the field sprint but The Judge does enough to take first in the omnium. Great job team as Keith and Derrick put in great tempo to set the stage and keep any attacks minimized. Mock Orange missed out. POA only had one representative and didn't see Outspokin at all.
I believe the team enjoyed the post race beverages more so than the race. Derrick didn't hold back as he unloaded a cooler full of cold and imported beer. We also enjoyed the humor of one team or individual protesting Patterson's attack - that he attacked over the double yellow line. We consulted counsel and have no comment at this time. But we would advise that instead of protesting, just come across to the move. :) All is fair when upright and amateur.