Possibly the best weather of the season greeted the riders for today's downtown crit in historic Mt Holly. This has been the site of an annual invitational pro 1/2 road race for several years; today marks the first year race promotor at large (pun intended) Kenny Mills included amateur events.
The course was excellent, a longish 1.3 mile 4 turn crit. You have a long, very slightly uphill run past the start/finish; a rising right hander then down a long straight to a slightly tricky 90 degree plus right that throws you onto a short fast smooth downhill. Another right and a long, bumpy stretch to the fourth right and 400 meters to the finish line. A slight head wind made the finish a little tough.
The race was run on time (40 minutes) then converted to laps; which seemed to work real well. The whole day went real smooth. We had riders in the 4/5, 3/4, 45+, 35+, and women's events.
First up were the Cat 4/5's with me, Caleb, Dirty Dave, Otto, Big Dan,, and Richie. Looked like around 35 starters. We lined up, the whistle blew, and it was on! The first lap was pretty pedestrian as riders felt their way around the course, but it didn't take long for things to heat up. These short, fast crits eat me up as you don't have too much time to recover. Caleb was doin' most of the work at the front for us. I told 'em to stay near the front and keep the pace up. He's strong as a bull and has the ability to ride on the front and still sprint. I ride near the back and can't sprint (bad combination for a bike racer). Anyway, the race seemed to get progressively faster and seemed to be over with very quickly. There were numerous break away attempts. Big Dan was off the front chasin' down one of the breaks for about a lap. The most serious attack came from a Century rider who was gone for about three laps; when the pack decided to catch him, they reeled him in very quickly. With three laps to go the pace settled down; I was actually feelin' pretty good and figured I might have something left for the end. Figured wrong. On the last lap a kid in a yellow jersey (kind of appropriate, since he won) made a hard attack and the whole field strung out single (double?) file and I was sittin' at the back pedalin' full out and gettin' nowhere. This is a bad course to get behind on, it strings out in the corners and by the time we hit the last straight prior to the last turn I was too far behind and my race was over. Fortunately the rest of the team was smarter (and fitter) and were at the front. I was pushin' for all I was worth and watched one by one as Ed Murphy, Wayne Povey, and Nick Piccone ( all my buddies from Peddler Shop) went by. Then I saw Jimmy Lex comin' up on me and two Beacon riders. Jimmy's a great guy and a decent rider; but I knew he hadn't been racin' at all this year (he has twin girls and just added a newborn daughter this spring) ; so I managed to salvage some slivering shred of self-respect by holding him and the Beacon guys off for a very weak 24th place finish. Meantime the real racers on the team managed to fill out the top ten with Dirty in 4th (havin' a great year), Caleb in 5th (time for an upgrade to Cat 4!), Richie in 9th ( no doubt aided by the slight uphill/headwind finish), and Otto in 10th (100% back!). Big Dan was in with a solid 14th. Nick from Peddler Shop gave me an out; he asked me if I sat up at the end to save something for the next race; I may be slow, but I'm honest: " Nope, I sucked today and you all kicked my ass!". I'll be back next week!
Next up was the 45+. Sometimes I can pull off the back to backs with-out any problem; but not today. I kind of knew I wouldn't be able to hang. Three laps in and I was done. We had Dennis and Mark in there against the Mambos (you know how this one's going to end), Peddler Shop, and a bunch of Cat 2 and 3 Masters. At least I got to watch a good race. Keith Davies (Mambos) and Vladimir Borokov (Somerset) got away with a Bike Kyle rider and put a half lap on ther field. With the rest of the Mambos controlling the field this break was destined to stick.The Bkie Kyle guy fell back, Keith stuck it for the win with Vladimir behind him and several other Mambos in the top ten. Dennis and Mark rode real well just missing the top tencoming in 11th and 12th. That makes two 11th's for Dennis riding against the best Masters in the area his last two races. Good Job!
So far the races had been very fast and it was a sure bet the 3/4 would be fast. We had a fresh Ryan and a slightly cooked Richie and Dave in there along with Ronnie Short. The first coupla laps looked blistering with 30 mph+ the norm down the straights. Richie got cooked early ( still feelin' it from the 4 race). Ryan went out on the first break, but it came out. About half way through two guys got away; Toby Weatherall ( used to ride for Beacon, down in Maryland on Kelly Benefit now) and a big, strong kid from Kestwick. He was pullin' into the wind up the front and Toby was pullin' in the back. Ryan and John Nyman (Peddlers) attempted to ignite the group and at one point it looked like they might start to close it down, but the group was uncooperative (or cooked?) and the break stayed away. Keswick looked like he might take the sprint to the line, but he took a quick look at 50 meters to go and Toby pipped him at the line for a really nice win. Ryan came in for 8th place and Dirty got another nice finish (top 15?).Ronnie hung on (doesn't he always?) finishing just off the back of the main bunch. Mark Costa from 3d, another friend of the family, got a nice top 15 also.
For probably the only time in my life I was looking forward to watching the women's race (did I just say that?) 'cause Caleb's wife Beth was in there. This was an open race, so you had some pretty serious girls in there including Betty Tyrell sportin' her latest National Championship Jersey. I knew Beth was a little nervous; I wasn't. She's a very strong rider. The race spilt up pretty quickly with five women off the front and they were haulin' ass! At one point Trish Carnila made a great move to bridge up from about 300m back and bring the lead group to six. Beth was in a group of three, a Somerset rider and Karen Bechtold of Peddler Shop. Betty was back in another group of three and didn't seem too interested in chasing. And that was pretty much the race. The break of six stayed away and Beth (much to everyone's surprise) showed she's got some speed when she easily out sprinted her group for 7th place ( exceptionally nice!).Betty dropped her group for 8th.Beth's gonna rip the balls off ( can you do that in a women's race?) the Cat 4 women in the State Crit. And yes Beth, you WILL BE doin' that race.The Captain has spoken, let no man(or woman) undo what the Captain has ordained.You'll look good in a State Championship Jersey.
Last race of the day (other than the pro's) was the 35+. Mark started, Mark attacked and went off the front, the pack attacked, Mark went off the back. That's about it for the 35+ coverage as none of the rest of us cared to make a donation and start that one. The first three laps looked insanely fast until a six man break got established, then things shut down. Mark Light won with Richie Ross and Dave Hudson in 3rd and 4th.
So a good day of racing on a good course with perfect weather. This one will be on my "must do" list for next year. Next up we got Lakewood #1 (Tuesday night) and Lakewood #2 ( the real deal on Sunday the 29th). Lakewood Sunday will be a fast, heavily attended race; I can't wait!
Until next week, your "from the saddle and draggin' ass" reporter