By Dennis Pedersen
We had perfect weather, albeit a bit windy, in Santa Clara for LGBRC's flat, 4-corner criterium near Great America Parkway. Team Bicycle Trip was well-represented with Vlada, Matt Wocasek and I in the 45+ race, and John Schaupp in 55+. Ed Goulet also made a reappearance on the racing scene after a long absence... but in "unattached" status. My goal was to race aggressively and either go with a good breakaway group, or keep the pace high while holding back enough to be able to sprint at the end (which would also help my teammates if they could rest enough).
Our combined field was 67 riders. On the very first lap of our 40-minute race Morgan Stanley sent one of their riders on a solo flyer, but we caught him after a lap or so of chasing. A number of other riders tried their luck at various times, but nothing too serious; I chased a few of these down as I really didn't want to risk missing the wrong break, but others just fizzled out on their own. About halfway into the race a break of about 6 guys looked big enough to get away from the rest of the pack. I bridged up, with John on my wheel part of the way, and latched on, fresh enough to be able to contribute, when it all just dissolved into nothing. Darn. A little later Matt also took a really long pull to close in on a break while I drafted behind him. After he tired I went around and the pack followed shortly for another catch.
In turn 1, the site of many crashes from the dreaded overhanging bush in the past (it seems to have been trimmed back finally!) we had a crash from a different cause: I thought it was a guy who clipped his pedal but it was actually his front tire that flatted, scraping his rim on the pavement... screeeeech. He took down a couple other guys, and yet another went down when I swung wide enough to avoid the crash, but a SJBC guy swung even wider from my inside. We gently (it seemed to me) bumped shoulders, and bam, down he went like a sack of concrete. Yikes, we didn't even touch bikes. That was a bummer, but nothing an experienced rider couldn't have avoided (I have bumped and leaned much harder into others with no such drama; some of it in velodrome training sessions). Anyway, I feel sorry for the guy.
The crash later resulted in a restart when an ambulance was called onto the course... though it looked like everybody was well enough to be ambulatory at least. On our restart we were given a bit of extra time, 20 minutes total, to finish our race. I set my timer to count it down.
Later I saw a VOS rider jump free off the front, and it looked like it might have been Rick Martyn. So I rode hard to catch him as he's the kind of guy who might stay away if we just watch him. Stanley Terusaki (Morgan Stanley) thought the same and got there first. They traded pulls but when I caught them and Rick dropped behind Stanley after his pull he looked at me and promptly sat up; I prefer to take that as a compliment.
VOS kept animating the race and with about 15 minutes to go VOS sent Rich Juarez off the front; another real threat as he can definitely solo for a win! I, and another Morgan Stanley guy, again shut this down as he immediately sat up when we caught him... I really hoped I'd get into a strong break but that wasn't happening yet.
About 3 laps remaining I saw Mark Caldwell bridge up to another break, but I wasn't convinced it was the break "du jour" so I let others close in on them, which they did. I wanted (OK, needed!) to rest a bit for the finish anyway.
I saw my friend Chris Tanner (LGBRC) with about two or so laps to go, and decided to follow his lead as he is a very smart racer with a powerful jump. Just after turn 3, on the last lap, he stood up and jumped very hard which surprised me, and everybody else, a bit as it's still fairly far to the finish line, maybe 400m. But this set him up beautifully for a sling-shot jump out of the inside of turn 4, and guys like me who swung wide on the outside couldn't make up the gap on the finishing straight as he held his gap over the line for the win. Congratulations Chris! I finished in 7th place.
So, I worked hard to improve my own chances in the race, and also those of my teammates who sat in a bit more than I did. I felt strong, but the results didn't go our way. Still, we all rode well and had fun in the gorgeous weather.