The team and I headed out to Sedailia, MO yesterday to race this weekend. Sedailia is a great little town in Western MO, that hosts an amazing critirium in the middle of their downtown. The cat 3/4 and the Pro123 are held later in the day with the later taking place in the dark. The course is very straight forward in crit terms. .75 miles long, with 4 corners and almost no elevation change. It is a very fast course, and with good bike skills you can really enjoy yourself in the race.
We lined up Brian Smith, Eric Finks, Jason Wulff, Jason Murphy, myself, Keith Vogl, and Grant Erhard. We have been very successful this year in crits and have done some great things as a team. We came to this race though to work on some weak spots, and get things tuned in for Gateway Cup. If we didn't do so well that would teach us something that we could try to fix before the big race. But succeeding would be nice too.
The race was pretty easy in my opinion for most of the ride. We all started in the back of the pack and had to work our way to the front of the race. We all agreed that was the worst part of the race. Most of us had not gotten a great warm up after driving long hours to the race. So jumping hard early in the race sort of sucks. Once the legs have stretched out though things were pretty straight forward.
We did a great job in the race of hitting working points we had targeted. Hitting those targets made it easier to make small changes to our plan when we were short one rider near the end of the race. With 5 laps to go we lined it up on the front of the pack and started our lead-out train. This is the longest, and biggest lead-out we have ever done. We tried it once before but did not get it quite right. With some small tweaking though we were flying! I set myself in second position. I was supposed to be 4th, but like I said we needed to make some changes. We have been riding so great together though that everyone was able to make the change without too much trouble. Our first rider, Keith, in my opinion had the hardest part of the job. He took us up to speed and had to hold it for 2 laps. That doesn't seem like much compared to PRO's but we are just getting started here so 2 laps for our first guy was a lot. He did an amazing job, even accelerating for a second spirt when I thought he might be losing power. As we were coming around with 3 to go it was my turn. The rest of us were just supposed to keep the speed high enough that no one would want to try and move up. This would give our sprinter the best chance to win. As I fought with my bike trying to put out as much power as I could I kept waiting for the pack to surge around me, but they never came. And with Grant behind me barking to keep going I was able to make about 3/4 of a lap and dropped Grant with 2 turns till 2 laps to go. Grant and Murphy had the last two laps to pull to put our man in the right spot. Looking back on myself I should have gone farther and dug deeper. I think I got scared of dropping too much speed and called it too soon. Practice makes perfect though right? After I pulled off I don't really know what happened first hand. What I saw however was the field was shattered! There were only a few riders holding onto Fink's (our sprinter) wheel. I was blown away! From what I am told our lead-out dropped Eric at the perfect spot and he took the win by a bike length. It was really great to get him the win in what he considers his home town race.
Between the 3/4 and PRO 123 race we were able to meet one of our sponsors, David Garnett, the president of Hawthorn Bank in Clinton, MO. He is trying to help his own town try and bring a race like Sedalia to Clinton. It is always great to meet the people that make our racing possible.
The PRO 123 race in Sedalia is held under the street lights and car head lights of the town. In my opinion it is AWESOME! Last year I jumped in this race and made it all the way to 15 min, out of an hour......
So this year I was really hoping for a better ride, and to try and help our new team member Luke Bligh with whatever I could. The team lined up better in this race so as to not have such a hard start. It really didn't matter though, it was hard, and fast, and hard. There were two really good teams that I could see really mixing it up. Dog Fish, the juggernaut of St Louis Cat 12 racing, and Gateway Harley Davidson. Other teams with regular strong dudes were The Hub, with Devin Clark, and Off the Front with Hayden Warner. For the most part the regulars made their way into a break and they duked it out while the rest of us battled for best of the rest (9th). I was pretty smoked by the time the break was out of sight. I had made attempts to pull the pack back up to them as we had a good sprinter in the bunch. But I am quite on par with these guys, hence I am still a cat 3. My fitness must really be coming around though as I was able to recover very quickly and an uncountable amount of times. I was pretty much bouncing back and forth in the pack, jumping, or pulling, and then hanging on the back.
As we neared the end of the race Eric, Luke, Grant, and I were still in the race. As we started to line up for Luke we couldn't find Grant who was hanging on for the finish at the back. That was okay though as it was his first cat 123 race and he was going to finish great! Luke did a great job of steering Eric and I around the course in order to get him in a good spot to sprint. I actually felt bad for Luke being behind me, as Luke towers over me on the bike and I have no idea how he was getting a draft off me. So as we were starting our lead-out, and keying off Dog Fish, we got a big unlucky and ran into some traffic. Eric when one way and I went another. I had a chance to pull off the move and keep Luke going but I over cooked a turn scraping my pedal on a curb and barely keeping my bike upright. Luke made it around me and through the traffic though, a great skill he has honed over the years, and finished 3rd in our group and 11th overall.
We were all pretty pumped about the race. Everyone really seemed to have had a good time and the city of Sedalia put on a great race. I hope that they keep it going in the years to come, and the people of the community continue to embrace it as they have.
Grant, Keith, and I, were all planning on staying with Finkszilla's place in Clinton. We stayed there last year, but it is kind of a drive. This year we decided we would get a room at a hotel on the town square. Hotel Bothwell is a great old hotel that has not lost it's charm. I really like places like that, and someday I hope I get a little more time there to really check it out.
This morning the team headed over to Otterville, MO. It was only 15 min away, another small Missouri town that welcomed us cyclists to their town. The Otterville road race is a 24 mile rolling loop through the country side. There are really no real hill climbs to speak of, but the road is also rarely flat. The wind was also pretty strong. We didn't really go into the race with much of a plan. Most of us had planned to do the 123 race, but chickened out when we thought that the weather was going to get rough. So we just went in looking to get some more work done.
We were all pretty tired from the previous night's racing so we were happy to see that no one was really organized and never attacked us. There were plenty of guys who tried to get off but we felt there wasn't much use in tracking them down. We felt most of the time the race was going to just naturally bring them back. During the frist lap we actually had a little fun when Eric had a chain problem. A few of us pulled off the back to bring him back up once he had it fixed. We started to get a little nervous when Grant ended up also having a mechanical problem as well while we waited for Eric. Everything ended up fine though and we made a quick pace line back to the pack.
In the second lap we tried a few moves to see if anything would stay away, but nothing did, kind of like we had expected. So we wanted to do some more practice with our lead-out. Sometimes you learn more when you fail than when you succeed, and I think this was one of those times. Our train didn't work this time, and there were things we did not take into account for. It was close, and a good try, but like I said, we learned things, and wont make that mistake again.
In the end Grant was our best placed rider, even after having to deal with a not so good situation at the end of the race. It all turned out okay, and like I said Grant didn't give up and finished strong. For a young guy only racing about a year he looks mighty strong. All the guys look like we are going to be flying next weekend, and thats a good thing.