See, I DON’T totally suck!

Yesterday’s time trial gave me some surely-needed confidence after a disastrous first couple days. To be honest, I hadn’t a clue where I’d end up on GC because it’s a national-level race and I’ve never seen or raced against any of the 55 guys in my field, but there’s still a basic guess of where I would fit in based on local results, power numbers, hours in the saddle, beating Jacques up climbs in California (that means I'm doing really well), etc. All that added up, for me, to mean a top 20 GC finish here at Gila. Alas, that’s not to be. But I still had in my head that I was worthy of being in that top 20. So, crit-time.

My publicly stated goals were twofold: 1) win a prime (of at least $50, I was thinking), and 2) get GoGo to announce my name at least once.

Gun goes off, and I’m near the back, relaxed, not getting too upset that the dude in front of me took literally 10 full pedal revolutions before he finally clipped in successfully. I’m in the cat 2 race, right?

Course is a square. Flat start/finish straight. Turn one puts you into the wind, on the slightest of rises, turn two puts you into a significant kicker, with a stair step downhill that carries you through the second kicker into turn three. Then it’s a big gradual descent into a fast turn four. Still windy out here, as apparently April is “the windy month,” but it’s also late in the stage race and this crit doesn’t mean anything on the overall, so I figured the peloton might want to just chill. I went from back of the race to front of the race on the big downhill, took a position into the 30mph turn that the guy beside me was more than happy to relinquish -- they don’t race crits out here -- and was then in the top 10. Easy as (eating) pie. Saw a dude off the front, so I figured now was as good a time as any to give it a whirl. Twenty-nine to go at this point, we hadn’t actually completed one full lap.

I bridged up to the guy off the front, and immediately flew by him. No help there. So it’s just me, off the front. La di da. I sure hope a couple guys, maybe Garrett and George, bridge up to me. Oh, hey, what do you know? First Garrett, wearer of some very killer chops, bridges up. Then George, who I learned after the race is in his first year racing, after doing pro motocross stuff. I had been in a small break with Garrett on Day two, very early on, that stuck for all of five minutes, and the other guy and I had let him take the bonus sprint for $50. So I made a point to win the first prime that was announced today. It was either $40 or $60, I never heard what any of these primes were, but I knew there was some decent cash up for grabs, so I sprinted for all of them. Ended up taking three early on, all quite easily, and this made me happy. But then our lead grew and grew. I’d have been content to go back to the field with $150 in my pocket and my name announced over the loudspeakers, my day was done. Alas, the peloton had no interest in us.

Twenty to go, and our lead is nearly a minute. Never dwindling, always growing.

Halfway point, 15 to go, and our lead is over a minute. Eventually a group of two chasers would leave the field, but they never got more than 45 seconds back. The peloton hovered near a minute the whole time, sometimes more. At one point I did the math and figured they’d need to take a little over six seconds out of us every lap in order to catch us.

In other words, we were the podium. And I had every intention of stepping on the top step.

We worked together real nice, and though one of the announcers would later tell me he and the others thought I was doing most of the work, that’s only because I was pulling through the start/finish straight every time so I wouldn’t have to pull into the wind after turn one. So I was not necessarily doing more work, and arguably was doing less. Especially after I decided for sure we were going to stay away.

So, how do we win, Liam? After beating both of them in three successive prime sprints earlier on, I got a bit excited to think maybe this would be my first sprint win. With five to go, I was hurting. But so were they. I decided to maybe give a nice dig on the hill in a couple laps, see if we couldn’t shed one of the guys, just test the legs out. So with three to go, things lined up and instinct took over and I nailed it at the base of the little climb. I’d felt the strongest of us three, so if nothing else, this would maybe weaken one or both of them more than it would me. I hear a very distinct, “We’ve got to stick together,” from George as I’m riding away from them. At that moment, I knew my test was actually the move, so I put my head down and pedaled hard. Certain victory was just 2.5 laps away. Very painful laps. It was earlier than I’d wanted to go, but I had no choice now. My gap to the two was at six or eight seconds, and they never got closer than that. With one to go, the crowd was roaring - really neat to have a crowd, and to have them really into the race now that it was in its final stages.

Took a look behind me on the downhill after turn three, the gap was still significant. Two seconds later I looked again, just to be sure my eyes weren’t playing tricks on me. Took it delicately into that final fast turn, knowing I’d done it. Pointed to the 2010 Club of the Year logo we’ve got on our jerseys just in case people wondered who we were, and gave a good salute as I came across alone. That’s redemption. I love bike racing.

Side note: as I was at the announcers’ booth getting my primes, GoGo offered me some food. That should have been my last goal! 3) Eat food GoGo offers you.