Saturday’s Harvest Moon Criterium was the last UCA race of the season, and with Revolution Cafe Rio sitting atop the UCA cat. 3 team standings and Steve leading the individual standings, it was an opportunity to finish strong what has already been an excellent season.
The “plan” was pretty simple: Steve, Jeremy from Masherz, Eric from Skull Candy, and I were going to hit it hard right from the beginning, try to get a gap, and try to stick it for the duration. The course is a four corner crit around one city block in downtown Ogden—very similar to the state championship crit course in SLC. With so many corners and no long straights, I thought a break could stay away.
The problem was that nobody wanted to let a guy (Jeremy) wearing the state champion’s jersey go. In fact, nobody wanted to let any group go, which is not to say nobody tried. It was attack after attack after attack for 50 minutes. I’d attack or just move to the front of the field to have better position, and the next lap, I’d find myself near the back again. Seemed like everyone wanted to be in a move, so nothing got away.
Easily the worst part about all the rotation within the pack was the dude in Realcyclist kit riding the Tarmac. Seriously one of the sketchiest racers I have seen. He bumped my elbow from behind, nearly putting me into the racer next to me. He went outside in on people in the corners and frequently changed lines with no regard to who was already there. After the race, I talked to probably half a dozen people who, independently of one another, complained of encounters with the same guy. Cody from Ski Utah went down on the last lap, breaking a Reynolds wheel and cracking his frame in the process. He doesn’t know who caused it and neither do I, but I know where I’d start the investigation.
With five laps to go, it was clear it was all staying together. It was also clear that with four good sprinters in the field—Steve, Mike, Scott, and me (Bart C. had taken the most promising solo flyer of the race and then withdrawn)—that our team should get a decent result. In fact, there was no reason one of us shouldn’t win. But here’s the nice thing about racing without thinking about upgrade points: you don’t worry about protecting a top 5 finish, you just get to race how you want to race. So I decided that it would be foolish to leave anything to chance.
The list of people who can outkick Mike in a bunch sprint is very short, it’s just a question of whether he has ground to make up. I figured I could make sure he didn’t have much if any ground to make up, so I told him to get on my wheel for the leadout. Steve and Scott were up ahead, so they were positioned just right to get on the train as well. If our guys were the first ones around the final corner, it was just a question of which one of them would win.
With two to go, Mike and I were sitting about five back in the field just waiting for our moment. Steve and Scott were just in front of us. Carl from RMCC made a move after turn three—it was the perfect setup. As he came around, I got on his wheel and followed it through turn four to the start/finish. Carl started to fade, so I went full gas around him to string things out and keep anyone else from attacking.
We accelerated through turns one and two and were doing 50kph through turn three, which was probably a little too hot. My rear wheel drifted and I clipped a pedal. Mike also drifted, but we both kept it upright, barely. At this point my legs were burning, and my work was done, so I went wide to let the sprint come around inside.
Mike, Steve, and Scott were lined up right behind me, along with TJ from FFKR, with a small gap to the rest of the field. Those four came around me between turns three and four, and I was hoping we’d sweep the podium. Mike and Steve got first and second. Scott and TJ were tape to tape, and TJ got the last podium spot by just more than the width of his tire. I got swallowed up and coasted through in 13th, happy to have been able to watch the win from the best seat in the house.
Winning a race is an awesome feeling, but it’s no more awesome than watching your teammates get first, second, and fourth place finishes. Steve and Scott won the two primes, so as a team, we came pretty close to cleaning up everything there was to win in the race.
I decided to stick around for the Masters race just because I like to take advantage of my senior citizen* status once in a while, and Steve covered my race fee as a thank you for the leadout. In the small field of 14 starters, five were from Canyon. They launched attacks in succession until Andre got away along with Barry from Ski Utah. The four Canyon guys obviously weren’t going to chase, but nearly everyone else seemed content to race for third (with Andre up, that was a realistic expectation, but I wasn’t willing to concede without a fight). Nick from RMCC and I took turns trying to keep the gap at a reasonable distance until Nick’s teammate Chris launched with another guy from Canyon.
*You think I’m joking, but Paolo Bettini, who is all of three weeks older than me, is retired. And by the looks of things**, he’s enjoying retirement.
**Pudgy as he is, he could probably gain 20 more kilos, take an entire year off the bike, and still beat me into submission at will.
Two breaks were now up the road. Had I been less jumpy about covering attacks, I probably could have made one or the other. When Sam from Canyon also went, I figured it was my last shot and went with him. Nobody chased, and we were off.
The nice thing about being in a break with Sam is that he works super hard. You just have to be prepared that he’s going to yell at you for something, or more often than not, several somethings. That’s fine. I can close my ears so long as he continues to take his turns, which he always does, often doing more than his share of the work.
The two of us rode hard to try to get to chase one. When we had them in sight, Sam accelerated and bridged up to them. I didn’t have the legs to follow. The Canyon guy fell off, so then it was Sam and Chris in chase one, with me alone in chase two—fifth on the road, which is how it finished. Andre lapped the field and then rode away from them again. I was glad not to be in the group for that.
Overall a great day of racing, even if attendance, particularly from our team, was light. A lot of Utah racers build up to Lotoja and then call it a season, which is a shame because Ben T. does a great job promoting the Harvest Moon Criterium. It’s well-organized, the course is fun (although it would be a bit safer if Ogden City would let us have one more lane of road between turns one and two), and the prize money envelopes are filled with hard currency. Our cat. 3 team has been solid all season, and we showed why on Saturday. We’ll find out next season whether success as a cat. 3 leads to success in the big show (Pro/1/2). My guess is that the learning curve will be steep.