Walterboro, South Carolina. It is day four of USA Crit Speedweek and we haven’t won yet. But we have done everything else: leadout trains, stacked late race moves, won mid-race points primes, controlled the race early, taken the lap leader’s jersey, taken the week’s overall jersey, placed three riders in the top-ten earning pre-race call ups and garnered great praise from the race commentator. But we aren’t here for praise or to do a pretty leadout until a ½ lap to go. We are here to win races and tonight that is exactly what we did.
Walterboro is a longer lap. A two minute clockwise journey with seven corners taking us from a well lit but bumpy and narrow main straightaway lined with restaurant patios to a four –lane-wide and 650 meter long back straightaway without lights, we are talking pitch black. Good thing it’s smooth because heading into the final two corners, the speeds reach above 55kph with large groups of riders swarming over top of slower riders due to the great width of the road. After these last two corners it is only 200 metres to the line; the race is to the 2nd last corner.
Although we started under the fading light of the late evening, it was quickly dark and the bumps along the main straight quickly claimed victims. If you didn’t bunny hop the big ridge on the inside of corner 1, flat tires were inevitable. The bumps of corner 1 and tight nature of corners 6 and 7 created good opportunities for riders to sneak away and various moves launched off the front in the early going. Similar to last night’s race in Beaufort, a lot of the same players were active in these moves. Riders like Frank Travieso, Bobby Lea, our own Carlos Alzate and Kenda riders John Murphy and Issac Howe. Team Exergy didn’t miss a break and stayed safe near the front otherwise.
|Kevin & Ben|
At the forty five minutes mark, Carlos attacked over the outside and won the mid-race prime. This earned him a valuable 10 points for the overall. However, shortly thereafter a horrible crash at corner 1 neutralized the race for 20 minutes. Momentarily out of position riding outside of the top thirty, I heard an awful sound entering corner 1 and instantly saw a bike high in the air just in front. I narrowly missed the bike and the rider. I hope the injured riders are okay.
When restarted, 16 laps and approximately thirty minutes remained. I hadn’t been protecting Carlos from the swarms on the back straightaway well enough so it was time to get sorted and keep him safe for the finale. Attacks continued and small breaks formed out of cash prime sprints but we controlled these moves and as the lap counter hit 5 to go, we found ourselves together and at the front. Quinn, who has been riding well in the first hour of this week’s races but fading at the end due to his recent honeymoon (congrats Quinn!) rolled up to Tino and I at the front with 5 laps remaining: “We’re all in a line” he yelled. “Just relax, we still have ten minutes” I replied. The back straightaway was too long and the changes of a swarm too high to start our ramp up now. But with four laps to go Tino (Carlos’ younger brother) started to train it out. Call it a train, or a tornado, or whatever you want to call Team Exergy’s wind-powered leadout train. Actually, Tino’s nickname is The Shark because he is so aggressive covering moves and is not afraid to bite back when other riders try to get under his skin. He did 1.5 laps or 3.5 minutes on the front, pretty impressive really; I watched from 4th wheel, the Mullervy twins waiting behind in the top ten with Carlos, Quinn sweeping.
Sprinting through the darkness on our way into corner 6 with 3.5 laps to go, Tino pulled off and it was Kevin, Conor and I on the front. Okay, six minutes. Patient on the corners and make sure the back straightaway is really fast. We rotated ever 30 seconds on the front so as to stretch our team’s effort.
Next time into corner 6 (just over 2 laps remaining) it was a full out sprint. When you hear your team leader say “GO!” in that situation, you know that his is just about to get swarmed unless to bite your lip and slam it down the cog set. Okay, rest the corners, keep rotating, keep the speed up and guard the inside line.
With 1 lap to go it was just Conor and I left. But over the start line John Murphy (Kenda 5 hour Energy) went all in. Maximum 2 minute effort and there was a gap! This guy has been in Europe riding for BMC for two years. He can do 530 watts for 8 minutes at the Athens Twilight Prologue. Oh crap!
Briefly stuck in no man’s land, Conor and I realize that we have to wait for the peloton. Murphy’s gap is growing, ten ... twenty....thirty meters. As the Rosetti leadout man closes our gap, the field in tow, Conor goes all in and brings the speed back up. Entering the back straightaway I know I have to close it down. I’d say Murphy had at least 100 metres with 800 metres and two corners remaining. Sprint BEN! When the field blew by 500 metres later, Murphy’s gap was down to ten; Carlos tucked in with the likes of Travieso, Howe, Keough, Dominguez...come on Carlos, you can do it.
Seconds later a flash of blue and green shoulders flies into corner 6 from the outside and emerges with a gap. I know that he is going to hold it, especially after coming so close these last few nights. Carlos is the nicest guy off the bike but when it is the finale, he is ruthless. This is his job. He has been to the Olympics. He has raced all over the world. In Colombia, he is a star. And I believe in my team leader.
Rounding the finale corner and making my way into the bright light of the finish line, all I hear is “ALZATE!” A great day for our team, the monkey is off our back. Now we just need to do it again.
Thanks for reading. Photo Credit Barbara Dowd & Heybuckshot
|Closing Laps...it's time get this thing done|
|Downtown Walterboro: Travieso 2nd, Alzate 1st, Howe 3rd|
Labels: Road Report