I decided to skip Sea Otter this year and since I hadn’t raced since Snelling for various reasons I signed up for the Red Kite on Sunday. Business park criteriums are hardly my forte or something that I focus so on went on a really long and hilly ride on Saturday (http://www.strava.com/activities/129604604) to properly prepare for the races that I will focus on in the coming weeks. But we didn’t too hard so I felt okay on Sunday.
Before the race Chris Morris, Tony Martinez, Jim Rademann, Brian Acord, and I gathered for a quick strategy session. Jess was busy announcing at the time. The gist of it was to ride aggressively and when it comes down to the inevitable field sprint we would try and keep it fast and try to set somebody up for the sprint. (Not me!) Chris Phipps is 45 this year and had other ideas. He attacked literally from the gun. That one came back but it was just the first of many. I made a few probing attacks and counters and got absolutely nowhere. Chris, Tony, Jim, Brian and Jess were very active too, but nothing was staying away. With about 25 minutes to go Phipps attacked again. I took off after him with a couple of other guys and it looked like we might get clear to bridge up but we didn’t cooperate and came back shortly. A couple of laps later I was able to sneak away and as I got half way across Chris eased up to wait for me. (Thanks Chris!)
My first impression of Chris some years ago was that he was a great climber. This was correct. But he also has quite a flat land motor as his recent TT results indicate. He was on good form on Sunday. Chris is a bit stronger than me right now and there is nowhere to hide behind him when he pulled in his aerodynamic tuck. That combination made my life harder and harder. We started out taking even pulls, but then I started having trouble when he pulled because he was going so hard and I couldn’t recover. My pulls got shorter and shorter. Finally on the back straight on the last lap he basically rode me off his wheel to stay away and win. We had enough gap so that I easily stayed away for 2nd. I guess if my life depended on it I could have dug deep and stayed with him, but it didn’t and I didn’t.
The tactical lesson for me I guess is that I should have seen it coming and eased back on my pulls fairly early on to try and save something for the finish. On the other hand, it’s the Red Kite crit not world’s and killing myself only to get second now will pay more dividends later when it counts.
Between the 45+ and 35+ race I didn’t roll around much and the start of the 35+ race was a rude awakening. I sat near for the back for the first 20 minutes or so to warm up and rest before moving up towards the front. Chris was active again, but probably working with the idea of setting up his team mate Jan for the field sprint. Around half way through though Jan crashed out. Again with about 20 minutes to go I got into a break with Chris, A.J. Kennedy (Vumedi), Trevor White (Vumedi), Dan Martin (Safeway) and Aaron Patterson (Pinnacle). Chris and Dan were particularly strong and again there was much pain.
After 6 laps to go though we saw 2 laps to go and then as we came around the race was stopped for an ambulance to take Jan away. He had hit his head and blacked out for a moment along with breaking his collar bone.
The plan was to restart the race with 5 laps to go and our group having a 13 second head start. During the break I went to my truck to drink some Mountain Dew, Tweeted (of course) https://twitter.com/nslckevin/status/455480507430494208 and had a chat with the guys. My idea was that Dean and I should trade jersey’s and he should do the last 5 laps in the break but we thought they might notice. Plan B was that I would sit on the break and Dean and the guys would kill it behind to bring it together and set up Dean for the field sprint. That made sense because there was no way I was going to win in that break. Both Dan and AJ are better sprinters than me and were both fresher.
I soft pedaled off the line to get on the back and again the hard effort after sitting around was painful. I had to work hard to slot onto the back. I took a couple of pulls where I was in the way more than helping but the group behind was not closing the gap. With 1.5 to go I stopped pulling. I would have preferred to take a flier coming into turn 3 on the last lap but tired legs and a headwind on that leg made that choice a non-starter. I wanted the sprint to start coming into turn 4 so that I could hit that turn at full speed (my jump does not really exist right now) in maybe 2nd or 3rd wheel. I executed that poorly and came around the corner in fourth spot gapped and there I stayed.
It was fun to be out racing again and I’m looking forward to Copperopolis this weekend.