I was very excited to earn my starting spot at the Cascade Classic Criterium last Saturday and although I was feeling quite good from the difficult days before, Lady Luck had nothing for me come Lap 7 of the twilight event. The 1.3km four corner course through downtown Bend looked straightforward on paper but with a crunch from four lanes to two as the field approached corner 3 each lap, the long line of heavy breathing riders along the start finish line could attest to the importance of pack position. Despite good position in the early section of the race, I was once again involved in a crash. As we passed under the start finish banner on lap 7 the peloton slowed sending the usual 2 wide string to a +10 rider wall reaching from barrier to barrier. In what is usually a safe part of the course I knew that such a change in pace was very dangerous and I immediately felt an uneasy sensation in my belly. I remember thinking in those split seconds that it would either get real hairy in 15 seconds when we reached corner 1 or it would all happen right then and there. Well it happened right there and immediately a bike in the air down the middle of the peloton. I elected for the right side but soon discovered that that was the wrong choice as a pile of now half lycra-covered bodies splayed out in front of me. Despite jamming on my brakes, the +60km/hr pace proved too much and I ran right into a Team Type 1 rider already on the ground. I flew like a clipped bird, landing in amongst the barriers and bike parts. My bike end up with minimal damage and I could have jumped back in but I decided I had had enough for the day. It was the first time I had ever elected to voluntarily stop racing after a crash.
I thought about this afterwards. Why did I do this? My wrist was quite sore from the sprain plus the strain I had placed on it to make it through the week's mountain stages to make time cut. Now with my left elbow quite sore and an overall feeling of relief that I had NOT hit my head in the incident, I figured that I better save it for another day.
Once I had cleaned myself up at the med tent, I jumped alongside the race course to see Mike jump into a 7 man breakaway. Ten laps later, the break had established a +25 second advantage and judging by the representation - it looked good for the rest of the race. However a slowing by some riders prompted Mike to try another solo move off the front and grabbed the crowd's attention with a three lap flyer. You should have seen the breakaway try to reel him in - teeth gritted - just panicking! It was great.
In the finale, the breakaway stayed away and Mike finished 4th in the kick, just short of a podium ride. Great ride Mike! Roman, Taylor and Quinn stayed safe in the pack.
Sunday's course was very difficult, a 26km loop with a nasty climb, an intermediate sprint and of course a feed zone (or the tan zone). Tanning didn't actually happen as temperatures rose close to +35C once the 1pm race time approached. The guys set out for 5 laps, totaling 130km with the hopes of a good ride from Mike for stage placement while keeping Roman safe, who sat 15th in the Young Rider classification. Mike jumped in the penultimate move of the day, expending quite a bit of energy early but was able to hang in and dig deep the last time up the KOM (king of the mountain hill) to place 12th on the stage. Roman hung in there as well to finish 17th in the Young Rider's classication, three minutes back of Trek-Livestrong's Ben King.
The Classic was once again a classic. It was hard, the weather and altitude made for tough conditions and the NRC level field cut any chance of a gimme. The team's goal this week was not to win the race but to animate and be a part of the action. We were all happy with the way it went and are looking now for a little rest. Thanks again to Bici Vida
Team Manager and New Zealand Olympian Carl Williams who took upon the position of Director Sportif this week. I look forward to more bike racing in the future under your wing. Thanks again for reading about my riding experiences, once I get healed up in the next few days and start thinking about track and cyclocross preparations, I think I may do a little section on some of my training - any starter questions?