This past weekend, most of the American contingent on the Bean Team made our way to High Point, NC, for the USPRO Crit Nationals. We had me, Brad Huff, Jeremy “J-Pow” Powers, Fast Freddie, Sean Mazich, Shaggy (Alex) Hagman and Emerson Oronte.
The plan leading into the race was to bring Brad, Freddie and Sean to the closing laps as fresh as possible. Alex, Emerson, Jeremy and I were riding to represent in the moves and keep it together so the A-sprint team could do what they do best.
The race started with attacks from the other teams as we covered and made sure we rolled with everything. About seven laps in, a fairly large group of six guys rolled during a lull in the race and Sean was on point and able to get in the move. The rest of the field, including us, seemed content to let that work. Within two laps the gap was up to 30 seconds. Attacks from the now non-content field started coming in fast and often. The rest of the Bean Team was there to cover everything and within five laps the main of the breakaway group was back with one rider staying off the front.
With over an hour of racing left, we were confident that a single rider could not hold off the entire field of top American racers. During the next 30 minutes of racing, the gap grew to one minute and the field had some attacks, but nothing big.
Then with 12 laps of racing to go, the teams started to line up to bring back the solo rider and set up their sprint aces. We lined up second behind the United HealthCare team. This is always the part of the races that get crazy, hectic, fast and every other adjective between. Our plan was to come over the top of the field with five laps to go and be able to set up our sprinters. When the time arrived, Jeremy, Alex and I led the charge to come around the UHC team and take over the front. We picked the backside of the course on the little rise to lay down the power and take over. Success!
We got over the top and only momentarily paused for the rest of the guys to get up to us and then we started laying down the horsepower. We held control until three laps to go when heading into the first corner on the course, UHC came underneath me and I got pushed wide and had to hit my brakes so that I wouldn’t go into the barriers. We had lost our spot on the front but that was okay as long as we kept Freddie, Huff and Sean close to the front so that they could surf the other trains to stay in position.
With two laps to go, I pulled off to watch the finish as my job was done. Going in to the last lap Brad was perfectly positioned, but around the last two corners the (eventual winners) Optum-KBS shot the fast line on the corner and got the gap. Brad used his experience and sprint skill to get back up and put out a great sprint to finish, just off the podium in fifth place. We rode as a team and I enjoyed every second of this race.
Next up is the Tour of Elk Grove in Illinois!
– Ben Wolfe