My August has been centered around the Giordana Crossroads Classic for the last 3 race seasons. Although this is not my priority event, I'm always excited about the opportunity to race a 6-day stage race. It has 4 criterium races on different technical courses, 1 road race and a circuit race. It's the 1 or 2 times per season we professional amateur bike racers get a taste of what the Pros endure when racing all out for days on end.
Due to the cancellation of the ABRA criterium in Ligonier this year I was able to rearrange my schedule to accommodate racing 3 of the 6 days in North Carolina. I loaded up with teammate, and injured domestic, EJ Hubstenburger as my soigneur! These are my stories...
Day 1-Friday Night Lights in Statesville began without hesitation and full gas.
The L-shaped course had wide streets and allowed for full speed through all turns. It was the hardest criterium of the season and resulted in my highest power number of the year. I suffered more than ever throughout the race but made my attempt for escape with 3 laps to go. My attack was short lived as the group was in full case mode.The peloton began to pass me after 1 lap on my own and I managed to slip back into the lead out train in about 8th position. I felt I still had the legs for one more big effort. I thought this was going to be my win. We took the first 2 corners in a strung out line at full speed and I felt ready to launch. We headed into turn 3 and riders began to surge on the inside and outside. Turn 4 the rider in front of me rode wide and hit the curb nearly taking out half the field. I slipped from a top 10 position to the rear of the bunch in the blink of an eye. My result was barely a top 20.
Day 2 - The road race was a usual series of attacks. I started off early in the first 3km with my first attempt. I was quickly joined by 3 other riders and managed to create a 45 sec gap on the field. We were gaining seconds but the other riders were holding back their efforts. I knew they were not committed to suffering to the finish line so I eased my efforts as well. The group eventually gave chase to our break and we were caught somewhere around 12km. Our attack was followed by several other attacks that were quickly shut down.
It was obvious with about 10km to go that it was going to be a field sprint. I didn't mind this much as I fancy myself a better road race sprint finisher than a crit sprinter and my legs felt great. With about 3 km to go everyone was jockeying for position. We were riding so tightly that changing position was nearly impossible. I was nervous because I was sitting mid pack and couldn't advance. I was, however, road left so I knew that when the sprint lane opened in the last 200 meters I would have a clear line to the finish.
The final turn of the course is at about 2km from the finish. I seized an opportunity to use some off road skills and cut the inside corner over the curb through grass and managed to move into the top 15 while managing to keep position on left side of the road. The group was nervous going into the final 1km and I was no exception. There was a lot of rubbing tires and leaning into each other to hold position. The lead out began at 400m and we took off full gas. At 200m I pulled into the open sprint lane and started my charge for the line. I gave everything I had in the tank but I couldn't overpower the headwinds. I held on for 10th position. I had not counted on that wind being so strong. It was a great finish!
Day 3- The City Parks Circuit Race was hot and the stair-step climb over the Start/ Finish didn't make the race easy.
I suffered and from the looks on the other riders faces I knew they were suffering too. I started my attacks. My first attack was on the flat/bottom section of the course. I was quickly reeled in by the anxious group of Cat 3 riders. I allowed the group to push the pace again and took some time to recover. When I saw the group slow on the hill, several laps later, I attacked again. This time I was joined by 3 other riders. We managed to stay away for a lap and were caught by the main field. I was really hot and I was tired but decided to give a last attempt to escape the main field. My attack was immediately shut down and a counter attack was on the move. I had no legs to chase and the main group didn't have interest in chasing. Several riders stayed off the front so I figured I would rest and sprint for 4th or 5th place.
The final lap started very fast on a downhill into a 90 degree left turn. We were all single file until turn 3 when the lead out train eased the pace which allowed riders from the back to dive bomb into the turn. The group was 5 wide going into turn 4 and onto the bottom of the climb. Everyone started their sprint with a 400m to go surge. I was in mid pack and thought this to be ideal as riders would fade and I could give the final push with 150m to go. The group fanned out at about 300m and blanketed the road. I had no space to power through. I re-positioned my line and tried again to find a hole in the wall to sprint through but I could not. Game Over. My hope of a sprint win was over but I had the greatest time trying.
And that's what keeps me coming back time and time again. I have been blessed to ride this season with a great group of people. We have been blessed with a great group of team supporting sponsors. Thank you for all that you have done for us this year. We cannot compete without you!!