- 2nd on 1st $200 prime
- 3rd on $750 prime with 7 laps to go
- Narrowly avoided crash in final 100m to finish 14th.
- Going for the $200 prime
- Struggling to move forward from towards the back of the pack
- Easier once I made it to the front
- Attacking to go for the $750 prime
- The finishing sprint
- Attacking for the $750 prime
- The actual sprint for the $750 prime
- Hitting it hard to keep my position at the front of the pack
- The 39mph crash in front of me with 100m to go
- The actual finish of the race, tied my current known maximum heartrate
I just found this youtube video online that has some good clips of the race. At about 34 seconds into the video, I am the first rider around the corner with Andy Crater behind me. Andy had just won the $200 prime, and I decided to keep rolling in case a break came up to us. It did, but our break only lasted for maybe half a lap before the field caught back up to us.
Nearly 140 riders lined up for the start of the race. I got to the staging area real early, but after all the callups and people rolling in front of the staging area, I ended up on the third row for the start. Better than at the back, but not ideal. Fortunately, somebody in front and to the right of me had trouble clipping in, and this opened up a hole so I was able to zip around him and into the top 15 or so. The pace was fast, but manageable. Then at the start of the sixth or seventh lap, the announcer rang the bell for a $200 prime. I wasn’t intending to go for the prime, but I was already at the front when Emile Abraham (Aerocat) attacked with his teammate Andy Crater on his wheel. I was right there so I jumped in third wheel as we got a small gap on the field going into turn 5 and 6. Out of turn 6, Emile peeled off and Andy launched his sprint. I tried to come around, but couldn’t do it and had to settle for second (i.e., nothing).
I was happy to be in contention for the prime, but it was a lot of wasted energy. I spent the next 20+ laps trying to recover and work my way back to the front of the group. It was pretty crazy back in the pack and it took a really concerted effort to work my way all the way back to the front. A few thoughts kept running through my mind:
- “The #1 rule in moving forward is to NOT move backward”
- “Gee, it’s still a really long way to the front” when the group was strung out single file ahead of me
- “How on earth am I not to the front, yet? Who is passing me and when?”
Finally, with less than 15 laps left to go, I had worked my way back into the top 20-25 riders. It was much smoother, and not too hard to maintain that position as long as you made sure to pass people on at least two different parts of the course. This was the status quo for the next 8 laps when with 7 laps to go (no more free laps), the announcer rang the bell for a $750 prime. Coming through the start/finish line, I was sitting maybe 20th wheel but carrying some momentum so I swung to the outside, moved up to maybe 10th wheel when the group in front veered right opening a hole for me on the wind-protected side of the group. Without hesitation, I attacked as hard as I could hoping to get a gap that nobody would want to close. Unfortunately, I brought two riders with me – Rahsaan Bahati and a Mountain Khakis rider (Myerson or Howe). Nevertheless, I knew that Kristine would be excited to see me off the front so I drilled it and we absolutely flew through turns 2, 3, and 4. Turn 3 was a right turn, followed by a short 1 block straight away and then a left turn. I was going so fast through those corners that it felt like a corkscrew instead of two 90 degree turns! Plus I caught the pace car coming out of Turn 4 so we did get a little bit of a draft up the hill. By the end of those turns, we had a 5-10 second gap on the field. I was in the front and coming off turn 5, I coasted hoping that one of them would come around, but they didn’t. We gradually slowed down and started our sprint for the $750 prime from about 23mph with a comfortable gap on the field. I’d like to say that I crushed the sprint against one of the top sprinters in the country and walked away with $750, but what actually happened is that Rahsaan won by maybe 15 bike lengths, the Mountain Khakis rider was next, and then I trailed in maybe 3 or 4 seconds later with the field coming up hard.
Strategically, going for the prime wasn’t the best thing I could do — but I had the opportunity, and I wasn’t going to let it slip away and wonder what would’ve, could’ve, should’ve, etc… The only strategic advantage about going for the prime is that it meant I was at the very front of the race with 6 laps to go. When the pack came by, I knew that it was going to hurt, but I drilled it as hard as I could and slotted somewhere into the top 20 riders. The pace was fast with Aerocat, Bahati, and Mountain Khakis riders at the front drilling it. Even so, there was a lot of shuffling where riders from the back would carry more momentum and push forward ahead of the leadout riders. I tried to anticipate those “surges” and ended up in the top 15 with one lap to go.
The last lap was really fast, but I was able to move up a couple more positions going into the last corner and the downhill sprint. So I already knew at this point that barring an accident, I was going to place in the top 20 maybe even top 10. Well, with 100 meters to go, there was an accident — a bad one. According to my bike computer, I was going 39mph in the downhill, tailwind sprint when the accident happened. The sole BMC rider in the race, Cole House, got tangled up with a Mountain Khakis rider and the two of them went down at the front of the sprint — immediately in front of me. A third rider in front of me and to my right went down as he collided with another rider trying to avoid the original accident. Since I was going 39mph with very little time to react, I had already resigned myself to the fact that I was going to fall when I realized that if I punched it I could maybe squeeze between the riders and bikes on the ground to my left and right. The only obstacle was the BMC rider’s bike which was currently up in the air. It was just off to my left though so I ran into it with my shoulder and pushed it out of the way and very, very luckily no part of it got tangled up with my bike. So I made it through, but according to my computer I had slowed down to under 30mph. A lot of people were having to hit the brakes and slow down because of the accident, but there was still room for some people to come around carrying speed so I ended up getting passed by 3 or 4 people in the final 50 meters while I was trying to get back up to speed. Still, I was very happy (and lucky) to have stayed upright and finish 14th.
Brent Mahan (Nashville Cyclist) finished 11th riding a great race and has now moved into the green jersey for best young U25 rider! Congratulations Brent!