After I got married, Caitlin and I went to Traverse City for a week. I decided to race the Mass Avenue Criterium after not really touching the bike for a week. Needless to say it did not go well. I tried to cover some early moves to help out the teammates, but the efforts caught up with me. I was dropped like a brick at minute 55, which actually worked out as I was able to beat the rain and get back to my car. The race turned crazy with high winds that blew over race barriers and trash cans. I decided to get back after it so that I could do well at the Village Volkswagen River Gorge Omnium in Chattanooga, TN.
The race had a stellar field including Cesar Grajales of RealCyclist.com (with teammates Frank Trevieso and Oscar Clark), Phil Gaimon of Kenda p/b 5 Hour Energy, and Nate Brown of Trek Livestrong. Jonathan Jacob, the Elite National Time Trial Champion was also present. It was an excellent field for a non NRC event in rural Tennessee. The race started with an 8 mile time trial around a lake on top of Raccoon Mountain. I rode it in 7:54 which would have been good enough for 6th but for some reason 3 seconds were added to my time and I was officially 10th on the stage. I protested but to no avail. This would become the theme for that evening's criterium. The crit was fast, 30 mph average speed, and during the course of the race they offered a set of Zipp 404's for a field prime. There was a break up the road, someone in no man's land, and then the field. The rang the bell for us, and I led out Uberti who did an excellent sprint to take the win. They even announced that Panther had taken the prime. However, after the race they decided to give the wheels to the rider in no man's land. Turns out he was a local club rider. We protested and were given a very interesting explanation but ultimately did not change their mind. I was very frustrated and determined to do something in Sunday's road race.
Sunday's road race included two KOM climbs and a finishing climb of 3.5 miles up to the top of Raccoon Mountain. The race started out very fast and before I knew it there were about 15 riders up the road including most of the heavy hitters. Jonathan Jacob went to bridge and I followed to help with the chase. We caught the lead group and I thought we would sit up, JJ had other ideas and went right on through. I followed him and saw 1 km to the first KOM. I took it ahead of JJ and we kept on going. Frank Trevieso bridged and we stayed away until Sand Mountain, atop of which was the 2nd KOM. We were joined right before the climb by Cesar Grajales and Phil Gaimon. Phil set a hard tempo and I knew this KOM would not be easy. I couldn't believe it. It was like a dream come true. Racing up a mountain with great riders, including Phil Gaimon, Cesar Grajales (former winner on Brasstown Bald in the now defunct Tour of Georgia), and the current Elite National Time Trial Champion, Jonathan Jacob. I jumped with about 500 meters to go as hard as I could. I didn't look back and could not believe that I held them off and took the prize at the top. After the climb Cesar would not pull so we all took turns attacking him. This cat and mouse led to our lead group ballooning to 10-12 riders. After several attacks Oscar Clark and Phil got away. Cesar later joined them and the would contest the finale. The final climb was brutal. Jonathan left me pretty early and I struggled to the top to hold onto my top 5 finish. I was very happy with it. It was great being able to compete with such high caliber riders. Hopefully I can continue to improve so opportunities like this will come about more often.
Hopefully some pictures to follow.