I am not sure why this race is called a criterium. The laps are long, there are no free laps, and traditionally crit riders suck here and climbing road racers do well. It is also way harder than any race needs to be.
This year the weather was not as hot as it had been in all of the previous years I have done it, but it was still uncomfortable. The race starts on a downhill, hits a chicane like hard left hand turn, and the heads up. The beginning of the up is not to bad, big chain ring even although I dropped into my small ring here to save energy. It continues up and then goes right (except if you are the dude who went straight on the first lap and crashed himself out this year). Here it gets a little steeper and I am pretty sure this is where Rand Miller (auto correct says “Man Driller”) pulled the plug (on the first lap also). It goes left again and then right again, getting steeper. At this point on the right there is a beer feed. Then the course flattens for 3 seconds and then kicks up past the water feed – and the sprinkler.
Nate Freed emailed the team and told us about the secret location to park. He said there would be plenty of spaces. I plugged the address into my GPS and drove to that location. He was right, it was empty. It was also like 5 miles from the course, so I drove right past it and found parking a block from the start.
Before the race I warmed up on some hills with Justin Rossi, Nate Freed, Art Rand and Nick Schaffner. They dropped me pretty easily and I was getting kind of concerned about how I would fare at the race. To make matters worse, I hit a pothole and my front race wheel was wobbling from brake pad to pad. I think someone offered me a sewup, but I have always been suspicious of glued on tired on hot days in a race with a fast hard turn after a decent. I chose to ignore the wobble
When I rolled up to the start line, Rand was there, awkwardly not looking at me. I turned to him and said “hey!” No response. He asked where I was the day before and said “I really missed you man.” The way he said it made me feel weird and he was staring creepily forward. Suddenly he broke his ‘I love you Chuck’ dreamy state, got all tough, puffed out his chest and said in his deepest man voice “If you would have showed up I would have stomped you.” Luckily that was the last time I saw him.
I was hopping to get called up, but there were no callups – and the field was about half of its normal 100+, so positioning from the gun didn’t matter for the first time I have ever done this race. At the start , the race anouncer said I was an OK sprinter, that I was out of my element and that he expected me to suck.
The first 5 or so laps were extermely uncomfortable and fast and I think I went beyond my credit limit into oxygen debt. I was pretty neutralized, hurting up the hill and recovering somewhat on the down.
Some breaks went, but came back pretty quick. Probably the most dangerous was one with Jesse Moore of Cal Giant and Roman from Kenda. I think Kirk Carlsen (who has been riding exceptionally well all year) brought it back with the help of Hagens Berman’s Jonathan Hornbeck and McGuire’s Rob Evans and Livestrongs James Oram. When the dust settled, there was only about 15 of us left.
During some lap after the 5th, Roman and Paul Mach from Kenda decided to bitch slap the field with a show of strength on the downhill and then up the climb. I tried to cover them hoping the field behind me would crack and we would just roll away. I think everyone was cracked too.
We were all in groups of 3s and 4s pedaling pretty slow slowly coming back together when Steven Leece (Cal Giant) attacked over the top of the climb. The only rider who had anything left in the tank was Paul Mach and the two left the remnants of the field, hand in hand, like lovers across a prairie into the sunset never to be seen again – until they lapped us of course.
The rest of the race I spent covering attacks (that never seemed to end)on the climb while getting heckled by fellow Sacramento River Riders, recovering and lapping riders. There were only a small handful of us left that did not have a bunch of teammates, so I was desperately trying to go with everything that had a Kenda or a Cal Giant rider because I really didn’t have the energy to pull anything back – and I suspected everyone else was pretty trashed too.
The last three laps were the worst. Everyone who had anything left seemed to be throwing caution to the wind and attacking up the hill. With two laps to go I lost contact with the group, but caught them by bombing the decent. On the last time up the hill I never got a chance to get out of my big ring and crested the top cross eyed. I ended up behind the Livestrong kid sprinting down the hill. We were about 5 back going over the top and were just weaving by everyone. At about 300 meters we were of the front side by side spinning seated and sprinting. I think he sat up with about 50 meters and I ended up 3rd, went partway around the course and projectile vomited for a few minutes. My body was not happy with what I put it through that last lap.