The final chapter in my first Speed Week started with the Spartanburg Classic last Friday night. It too was undoubtedly the highlight of my Speed Week for a number of reasons.
With my Dad being out in the States on a business trip it gave him the opportunity to come and watch his first criterium. It was awesome for my Dad to see the race in person as photos, videos and my blogs can only go so far in describing the crazy experience that crits are. The Spartanburg race would also sort of be my ‘home’ race in the series and this meant I had a number of other friends from Greenville at the race. Additionally, I had further supporters on the evening in Ash my girlfriend and my Dad’s work colleagues: Des, Mike and George.
With added motivation, I was more determined than usual to do well on the evening. The race got off on the right foot when I attacked after one of the first primes in the slight lull in speed. I was joined by Andy Baker (Hincapie Devo) two laps later and together we stayed away for another four laps. It was awesome to have my Dad shouting from the side of the course! The peloton was not content to let us hover off the front for too long and we were swept back up for the cards to be again reshuffled. Fast forward to the last quarter of the race, with 20 laps to go I found the wheel I wanted to follow in the sprint and did what I needed to do to stay on it. Unfortunately I lost it on the back end of the course on the final lap but I still had a good run in to the line to take 14th in the kick, it was definitely a step in the right direction but not quite where I want to be yet.
Check out my team mate, David Reye’s blog from the race. Reyes enjoyed the delights in air travel plane delays and literally had to race to the race make it to the start line on time!
With a solid result in the bag we were off to Belmont late the next morning, for the Belmont Criterium p/b the Carolina’s Healthcare System. We didn’t know it yet but the race would prove to be our longest of the week, with us racing for two hours. This may not sound long but when you have raced a crit and understand the intensity at which they are raced you will understand why. After struggling to get my cleat into the pedal quick enough, I didn’t have a great start and found myself way too deep in the 100 rider field. I knew I needed to move up and set about doing it as quickly as possible. The key to doing this is to pick off a few riders at a time using as little energy as possible. A big effort down the side of the field to steam roll yourself to the front isn’t always possible in a crit, and often if it is you will get to the front in the red and be popped in the following accelerations. Unfortunately for me I could see a big split 20 bikes ahead of me, with 20 riders going off the front.
The climb on the course literally splintered the field and eventually our chase bunch of not even 10 guys found ourselves a lap down.
Rounding a corner, B. Hill in front, followed by myself & Yosvanny Falcon.
Image Credit: Ash Smit
1 x skin suit finished!
While rounding a corner I must have done at least 40 times in the race already I had the unpleasant experience of buying my first property in the States(cycling code for: I crashed). I slid out on my right hand side, acquiring some bad ass road rash and came to an abrupt stop in the barricading!
I was grateful to be lent a bike from the SRAM Neutral Support team and was able to finish the race in 26th position. It had proved to be a real race of attrition with only just over 30 finishers on the day. Brian had managed to also finish and wrapped it up nicely with a prime on the closing laps.
With some roasties and a monsoon rain forecast for Sunday we were back in the car again making our way to Sandy Springs, north of Atlanta for the Global BMW Sandy Springs Classic. I was motivated to race nonetheless and finish the week on a high note. I was still gunning for my Top 10 that had eluded me thus far.
The day didn’t start as I had mentally planned it to, and I found myself caught behind a crash that took Brian down early on. After a neutral lap we were back in the action only to witness one of the UHC boys go down literally two corners later as we came out of the pits. While I avoided the crash again, I was now caught behind the split on a circuit where it would be difficult to close it. A group of 15 of us formed and we set about the chase.
Before long there were only 6 of us left and we were pulled from the course, as we were not able to close the gap. It was a disappointing end to the week, although in a sense I was glad my race was over before the rain started. I was stiff and sore and the risk of crashing again had become too high.
Pre race morning spin with Brian and DZ.
Image Credits: Ash Smit
Looking back on the racing I am glad with how it went. I achieved most of the goals which I set out to attain and now am able to actually race the criteriums instead of ‘pack fill’.
I have a few easy days in Greenville now before we head off to St Louis, Missouri for the Tour de Grove this coming weekend. We will be doing a further 3 criteriums over the weekend starting on Friday night.
Until next week, ciao Chris