How does the saying go?
"Proper Preparation Prevents Poor Performance"
Or is is "Proper Planning Propagates Phast Phinishes"??
Not sure if that is the right use of propagate, but based on how I spelled phast and phinish...it'll have to do. The Hagerstown Crit was a race I had been looking forward to for a long time. I had been off the bike for 6 weeks due to a fractured arm and had just started riding again. I had only three weeks of training in me since the recovery but was going to do this race regardless. I didn't hurt that this was the District Crit Championships neither...
Anyway, enough rambling: We went into this race with the intention of winning Brandon the Champions Jersey. Brandon is showing great form right now and has had some really good results, but the win was evading him. Joel, Brigham (who had just gotten his III upgrade), Brandon, and myself discussed it before the race and planned it out:
1. We wanted to have the race end up in a sprint finish.
2. We would all stay in the top 5 to 10 places during the race to stay out of trouble.
3. Brigham, Joel, and I would cover the front and try to go with everything, but not work to stay away, and chase if necessary.
4. Brandon would sit protected, preferably behind one of us.
5. With 5 to go we'd find Brandon and move to the top 5.
6. On the last lap, get Brandon to the last turn first and let his sprint win us a Jersey.
We had a plan, a capable/confident sprinter, and a supporting cast willing to see the plan to fruition. We knew though that the plan could go out the window at any moment, so really the only thing we wanted to do was to get Brandon to the last turn first or as close to it as possible...so on to the race.
The race was fast from the gun. The course was conducive to high speeds with the long front side and the slight downhill on the backside after turn 2. Brigham and Joel were on the front from the gun. They went with everything and kept the pace nice and high. A few breaks tried to form, but luck was not on the breakaway's side today. NCVC, Evolution, and Bike Doctor all made some really strong moves off the front and were really active. I kept waiting for my turn to chase or go with a group, but Brigham and Joel never seemed to be tired...so I sat in. Halfway through the race it was unspokenly decided that I was going to be Brandon's leadout man and my job was to stay with Brandon, give him a draft, keep us at the front. With 6 to go we were in good placement and Joel and Brigham were still working hard as ever keeping everything together. Brigham actually got caught in a nasty wreck on the finishing straight at some point that took out 5 to 10 people but got back in and went right back to work...impressive (dude is an animal).
With one to go we were all set up. Brandon and I were sitting 6 and 7 going into the last lap and fighting to keep our position. The group came through turn one fast and was moving on the slight uphill to treacherous turn two. The inside line was taken so we swung wide...unfortunately, the speed of the first 5 swung them out wide too and I ended up being pushed out wider, clipping the bottom of my pedal on the curb twice..didn't go down, but lost a little speed. Brandon saw this and swung back onto the wheel of someone else in the group. I recovered, and got back on the gas as we were heading down the backstretch, maybe lost a position or two. Nice thing was that it was starting to go single file, but the pace wasn't at ludicrous speed yet. I saw Brandon was on the right side in front of me and not boxed in, it was time to go, so I started moving into the wind on the right. He grabbed my wheel as I went by and we started the sprint. I think the timing was good on this one because the group seemed to be looking around to see who was going to take the suicidal flyer. Once Brandon was in tow, I committed. We went through turn 3 first and second...all I had to do was get to the last turn first. Kept the speed up over the little riser and rounded the last turn and swung wide, opened the door, and was done for the day. Brandon saw the line, jumped, and had about 4 to 5 bike lengths on everyone from the start...held the speed to the line, hands up in victory salute. Rumor is he had about a bike length on second...nicely done.
I had been dreaming about this kind of finish all year long. The leadout train of pain...last stop, Victory. ;)
Having the Jersey won by someone on the team is great! Having it won by Brandon is even better. There isn't a more deserving guy on the squad. He spent all year last year sacrificing for the team and helping Esmonde win the 3 BAR and has come so close to the win several times this year. I was glad to be a part of this one.