Coming off of BC Superweek, I was looking forward to having the legs for a good result at San Rafael. They stepped up this year and joined the USA Criterium Series, which includes some of the hardest crits in North America. I knew the field would be stacked with the best criterium racers from our area as well as all over the country. I got to the race early so that Cooper could do the kids race and people were already lined up all around the course. I gave Cooper the option of racing the final straight with kids his age, or doing a lap and a half with the big kids. Of course he wanted to ride with the big kids, and even though he couldn’t keep up with most of them, he was able to ride the whole thing and had a blast as all the fans and announcers rooted him on. Riding with and watching him have so much fun is what this is all about and I couldn’t think of a better way to kick off the night.
With The Cascade Cycling Classic running at the same time as San Rafael this year, we only had 4 guys line up for Herbalife p/b Marc Pro – Strava at the start. Nick, Nate, Matt Chat and I went into the race with a plan to be aggressive and try to make a break if the opportunity was there. Unfortunately, with a limited amount of ammo, we had to pick and choose our spots wisely. Nick followed a move early on that looked good but with so much power still in the pack, they never got much of a gap. Matt was very aggressive for the first part of the race, getting in several moves that looked good, but unfortunately, missed the one that stuck. The move included Chris Reikert of Mikes Bikes, who had an endless supply of strong riders, and Aldo Illesic of Alto velo Seasucker. I wasn’t in great position when the move went, but with so many other strong teams in the field that weren’t represented, I hoped the pack would chase them down. Without having big numbers I knew we weren’t responsible to bring it back, but we contributed to the chase anyway hoping to encourage others to help. Instead of working together, guys from the field kept attacking the pack to try and bridge across to the break. Matt followed some of these moves, but with Mikes following every time and sitting on, they never made it that far. Pretty quickly the move was out of sight and without a concerted chase; I knew we were in trouble. At one point I started sliding back in the field and Nate came past and told me to get on his wheel. He helped me move up for the next lap and from then on I made it a point to stay in the top 15-20 riders.
The two leaders eventually lapped the field and we were officially racing for leftovers. Things can get pretty dicey at the end of this race, as parts of the course are totally dark and you have so many guys fighting for position. With just under three laps to go I was sitting in the top 10 and going up the hill I felt someone hit my rear wheel. I heard someone crash behind me and one of the Mikes guys said Chris went down. With less than 5 laps to go and no free lap, he had to get back on his bike and chase. With the field preparing for the final sprint in two laps, there was no easing up. Unfortunately for Reikert, it took him a while to get going and the pack caught him before the finish and he had to settle for 8th after working so long in the break and lapping the field. That gave Aldo the victory, but not before he led his teammate Daniel Holloway out to win the field sprint for 2nd. I struggled to keep pace in the final few hundred meters and came home in 7th. A good result overall, but I was in position to get on the podium and just didn’t have the acceleration left in the legs. The end of the season is in sight, but some of the best races are still ahead, so I hopefully we can have a strong finish to an already successful season.