We smashed this race. Chad Thompson (USA Crit commentator) talked about Team Exergy all night because we gave him good reason. And after Carlos got on the local Spanish television channel in a pre-race interview and Tino, Conor, Quinn and I graced the front cover of the Athens Bulletin-Harold newspaper, the crowd even knew our names. I heard a lot of "go ben" and "go exergy"...pretty cool. Right from the start we were very aggressive and made sure we were represented in every move today.
In the first 25 laps of the planned 80 lap distance, a few large breakaways formed. Usually with the "big hitters", I felt fortunate to also be in these large moves. At half distance, with 40 laps remaining I rolled through in 4th wheel and they rang the bell for the mid race prime. I decided to have a go as long as it wasn't too much of an effort. Down the backstraight I held good position so I decided to test my sprint for the first time this season in a race and was pleased to finish it off in the 300 metre drive to the line.
Shortly thereafter, Jackie Simes (Jamis Sutter-Home) escaped with Cole House (Competitive Cyclist) and established a 20 second gap with 35 laps to go. Kenda sent three riders to the front and Conor joined them. The Mullervy's did an amazing job and Quinn rode very strong in the early going. Tino rode with great finesse and a keen sense of tactics as he easily moved his way through the peloton and into many of the day's dangerous moves. Carlos and I stayed safe during this point in the race staying in the top 15-20 riders.
With twenty laps remaining, the breakway dangled just 9 seconds ahead and the catch seemed imminent. At about nine laps to go, Simes and House finally returned to the peloton and 2008 Olympian Bobby Lea tried a last ditch solo break, gaining 5 seconds on the fast charging field.
The noise of the crowd went up, the pace and bumping through corner 1 escalated and the number of riders looking to half pedal through corners so as to avoid losing touch spiked the danger factor. Two large crashes occured in the final 10 laps outside of the top 20 riders, both Quinn and Tino were caught behind. This left only Kevin and myself to help Carlos in the finale. Kevin took the front with 5 to go but we didn't have enough riders to train it out in the finale so to goal was to keep the pace as high as possible and trust that Carlos would position himself well. With 3.5 laps to go, Tino reappeared from the depths of the pack, fighting his way back into position and took a strong final pull to bring us to 2 laps remaining. At this point I took over and aimed to go as far as possible. The crowd was wild and I tried to make it as fast as possible. I made it 1.5 laps and on the backstraightaway on the finale lap Ivan Dominguez came up around the hill, Carlos in tow, and my day was done.
In the final corner, Carlos was pushed into the barriers on the outside and thus fell from 3rd wheel to finish 7th on the day. A frustrating finish for the guys but no one is more disappointed than Carlos. So it's on to tomorrow and another opportunity to ride the front and search for our criterium squad's first win.
Please pardon the grammer and spelling. It's 1.30 am and I'm off to bed. Melatonin makes me fuzzyyyyyyy......
All photos are credit to CyclingNews and Canadian Photographer Jon Safka. Thanks Jon!
|Carlos and I received the pre-race call up. 30,000 people showed up!|
|Carlos, Luca and I attacking hard in the early going|
|When not attacking, Conor took care of Carlos near the front of the pack.|
|The laps countdown. Kevin is just finishing his turn. 4-5 laps to go.|
|1 lap to go, I was all in, trying to keep the speed high.|
Pro Men starts at 1:08