Déjà vu - something overly or unpleasantly familiar. During my first season last year I hated seeing the Stairmaster climb on the back stretch each and every lap. I got dropped within the first two laps and I got lapped before it was all over and done. So what happened this year?
Going into this race I didn’t have high expectations. Due to injuries I had been off the bike for almost five months and given my performance the day before at the Twilight Criterium (congrats to all my team mates who managed to get 2-6 for us) I was just looking to once again survive. I ran into Nate before the race and we did some warm-ups on a climb that was similar to the Stairmaster. All in all, it was a great sunny day for racing with low temps, little wind and a field that was manageable (18).
The race started out as I figured it would, first few laps at a decent pace with everyone trying to feel out who was going to do what. With only 18 riders, I figured that no one would “really” push the pace and let the hill due the attrition. Somewhere around lap 3 Nate got up towards the front with another rider and they got slightly off the front. I decided to hang back so that the group wouldn’t chase, which they didn’t for about another lap. But when they did, the whole field took off after them and we quickly brought everyone back together for pretty much the rest of the race.
Somewhere around 4 to go, I figured that I needed to be up more towards the front if I was going to do well and possibly assist my teammates. I decided to make my move on the long down stretch – which was kind of a misstep on my part. While the thought was that I would recover on my way to the front, I keep forgetting that I sometimes descend like “The Juggernaut” without trying to. What this means is that with three-to-go I found myself crossing the line 2nd wheel and then pulling the field in 1st wheel towards the Stairmaster down the backstretch.
Needless to say, I wasted too much energy on the pull and had to back it off big time that lap. The group launched the final attack after the climb on two-to-go and it was good to see that Nate was up there with them (he would get 2nd in a sprint finish). On the final lap I managed to pick off a lapped rider and the position before me in my final sprint, but that was about all I had left in the tank.
So in the end I took 14/18. While it doesn’t sound admirable, it was a world of difference between last year and this one. But then again like they all say, any given Sunday right?