The final laps of Ceraland were certainly “Nascar intense” (as usual). My teammates worked their tails off covering dangerous moves as best as they could throughout the race – not to mention JK’s great effort in the winning break. With three laps to go it was my turn to contribute.
There were still a handful of riders left in the field with a formidable sprint – and plenty of teammates to lead them out accordingly. I could not key off of everyone – just not possible at this point in the race. So, I had to pick a few wheels that I knew could navigate through the field and drill it at the end when necessary (Curtis T. and Kevin A. of TX RH). As expected, others had the same strategy in mind. With some careful acceleration through small gaps, a few bumps here and there, and judgment of where the wind was coming from – I was able stay on Kevin’s wheel (whom at this point was glued to Curtis). Perfect – a locomotive leading out another locomotive (with me in tow).
With two laps go, it was clear that the main break of 7 has split into two. Realizing that their man (Kehrberg) was no longer in the winning break (and still having a few guys that can sprint in the field) – DogFish formed a train at the front and drilled it for the next 1.5 laps. This was a good thing. The higher the speed the safer the ride into the finish (I know, it sounds ass-backwards, but it’s true). At this point, the front of the field was in a single pace-line formation (the DogFish train, followed by the two TX RH demons, me and the rest of the field).
With a half a lap to go the DogFish train loses steam and Curtis takes over – drilling it hard with Kevin A. in tow followed by yours truly. As this is happening, I hear behind me “JASON @$%!!!!!!” from Aaron Hubbell of Bacardi/Nuvo. As I learned after the race: unbenounced to Jason S. (Hubbell’s teammate), Todd C. (resident “pro” ridding in the colors of his former Subway team) was leading Hubbell out. As Todd was cutting through the field (we were going 30+ mph at this point) with Hubbell in tow – they pass Jason. Jason immediately slices in behind Todd (not knowing Hubbell was right behind Todd) almost taking each other down – that’s bike racing. I really did not care what was happening behind me at this point. My single focus was staying on the TX RH duo.
Fearing the “swarm” effect and realizing that the field sprint is now for 4th rather than 8th (part of the break is getting absorbed by the hard-charging field one by one now), Kevin A. unleashes a wicked jam sling-shooting himself out of CT’s draft into the sweeping turn (with me in tow). With slight pause of the pedal – due to the high speed into the sweeping turn (clipping a pedal would have been disastrous at this point) – the sprint between Kevin and I begins up the slight rise. Half way up the rise – a rider (reminisce of the break) is rocketing backwards faster than Kevin and I are propelling ourselves forward. Kevin dodges the rider to the left as I dodge right – creating enough of a gap allowing Kevin A. of TX RH to take the field sprint for 4th (almost catching Declan Doyle of Bacardi/Nuvo at the line) followed by me for 5th.
Another 200 meters and we would have easily caught and passed the winning move. Kudos go out to the Bacardi/Nuvo girls for the win and a special Kudos to my good friend Declan Doyle for the strong finish (we will swallow your ass next time Doyle). I was pleased with my performance (considering it’s still early in the season) and more importantly with the team’s performance today. We stuck to our pre-race plan and accomplished our goal of having a Tortugan in the top 5. In the 18 years I have been racing – rarely have I seen a newly-formed team gel this nicely (without conflicting egos) in their first race together. Yes, we could have made better decisions during the race – but that’s the nature of bike racing – always a work in progress. Contrary to what some @#$%!? think out there (you know who you are) – Tortuga/Big Brothers is one of the main players this year. Our next show is in Anderson. See you then.
Man-up or get out of the way,