If we don't win,....well I don't want to think about that. All that matters is that we put on the biggest show the Exergy Twilight race has ever seen. We just need to get it done. Whether than means we have to put ourselves in harms way, give so much that it'll take days to recover, or pour everything into split-second decisions made with limited information, now is the time. Today is the day that the team's been planning for, talking about and also dreading since the first day at training camp. Today is Team Exergy's home criterium race in Boise, Idaho, now sponsored by the team's title sponsor Exergy Development Group.
With friends and family looking on, the ceremonies started quickly after an unwelcome rainshower. Quick attacks brought the 120 strong peloton up to racing speed but a Jamis rider slipped out from 12th wheel on the 5th lap. Following directly behind, Mighty Mouse (my nickname) took his first flight of the season and a cascade of sliding lyrca-protected bodies heaped up against the spectator-buffeted barriers. Fortunately a visit to the pits for a fresh rear wheel and new front wheel tire pressure placed me back in the race. However the peloton had split in two with 25 riders driving the front group after another crash the following lap. Surveying the damage, I found myself with 3 teammates fighting to lead the second group back into the race. Absolute terrifying. Were we going to loss four of our six riders in the first 20 minutes?
We couldn't go any faster in the corners, they were too slippery. PANIC. It would take a 4-6 lap team time trial to catch the peloton in a mano-a-mano fight; we'd either make it or we wouldn't but it would take a big effort, that much was clear. There were no shortcuts here.
After a whole box of "matchsticks" and some very high heart rates, luck finally turned and we came back. "On the front wheels" Carlos dictated once I rejoined him at the head of affairs. My teammates and I returned to shut down the fast attacks of the other large teams as a widening dry line propelled the speeds of the peloton to normal speeds. SNAP! Chain broken!
In the pits, our mech Josh set up the spare, grabbing my saddle and installing it quickly. Equipped with our deepest dish Vision wheelset and loaded with full tire pressure, my director kindly reminded me of my duties: "GET TO THE FRONT!". The next lap I am in the break with four other riders and we have a gap on the field. My job now...sit and wait, rotate through but wait for maximal commitment. The next lap Carlos bridges. Now six strong with two Exergy, I fully commit to extending the gap: 10 seconds...13 seconds....16 seconds. Thirty minutes remained at the beginning of the move, but each lap felt like a year! So now it's 28 years to go.
The black of night descended with 9 laps to go. Cameras started flashing and the crowd took it's support of the breakaway to another level. Then BANG, we lost one of the stronger riders, Eric Marcotte (Yamaha Racing) to a flat tire after the free-lap cut off period. Carlos then jumped in the rotation and dished out all of his Olympic team pursuit power to help hold our advantage but it all came back with 1.5 laps to go. Knowing that I had to give everything and avoid getting swarmed, I took Carlos on my wheel across the start finish line with 1 lap to go. But we both knew that I can't do a proper leadout after 30 minutes in the break so out of corner 2 he swerved the peloton off my wheel hoping for a high speed reshuffle. In the pain cave, I didn't even realize what he had done until halfway down the back straightaway. I'm winning the Boise twilight by 50 metres on the final lap!
I dug for more juice but couldn't muster it but it was only seconds later that I heard the wheels chasing back. Into corner 3 I knew I had to get out of the way and readied to swing outside but in a flash of light two riders buzzed me, blocking me in and forcing the peloton to split me on both sides. It was only a matter of time until someone hit me but resolute to stay upright, I held a strong shoulder. In the finale, Carlos popped out but just missed the victory. A valiant effort for the mess that was the closing lap.
So in the end, we didn't get that top step on the podium, but we did put on one hell of a show. Fortunately maximal efforts at target races are a respectable trade.