The Winston-Salem criterium is a race I actually kind of had a plan for - I wanted to try to slip into a group of less than 10, where I typically can operate pretty well. Leading up to the race, I was actually pretty nervous for this one as the boys made me drive over by myself! No one to talk to!
On the plus side, I picked up some bonus heat acclimation on the 4 hour drive over with a broken A/C unit in my car, so I was definitely "warmed up". Our volunteer "soigneurs" Lisa (Mr. Paul's wife) and Lori (Robert's mom) made sure we stayed topped up on cold fluids and ice socks once we arrived, so we were primed for a hot evening on the bike.
The heat definitely played a role in the race, with the first 30 minutes very stop and go. We were doing flat-out efforts on the pretty challenging climb, but the subsequent descent was effectively neutralizing everything early. Robert got caught up in a crash and unfortunately broke his collarbone, much like our good friend Jerry.
A little before the halfway point Chris powered away with Tanner Ward (DNA Racing) and established the first real gap of the race at about 30 seconds. Later, Eric Young (Elevate-KHS) made it across pretty quickly, making it a break of 3.The rest of us stayed at the ready and surfed the attacks. I followed several moves before Brendan Rhim (Arapahoe|Hincapie p/b BMC) went full gas on the climb and we made good progress for a few laps. As we got within striking distance, I didn’t want to take one of the strongest guys in the race to Chris’s move, so I hit out on the climb as hard as I could and managed to make contact with the break about a lap and a half later. Rhim eventually made it across, but thankfully the extra few laps solo to catch our group added some fatigue.
As the gap started to drop from a max of 40 seconds, Chris kept making attacks to keep the group's momentum moving. I was actually looking for a good chance to try to go it alone on the climb, but never had a good “run-in” to the climb (from the back, with momentum). I was also worried that if I went early, between Rhim and Young, one of them might make contact and smoke me in a sprint finish. I ended up waiting for the sprint, and launching off of Young’s wheel at about 300 meters for a real drag race of a sprint… We spent about 150 of those meters literally wheel to wheel, but I edged ahead as the road kicked up in the last 50 meters. The field actually almost made contact at the finish, so it was definitely a close one. Pretty sweet to win a sprint for the bad news bears!
Check out USACycling's "This Week in American Cycling" which has some highlights from this weekend at Winson-Salem!