-By Craig Streit
Friday night was the inaugural El Tour Twilight Criterium, a clockwise 1.5 kilometer, eight turn, figure 8 course in downtown Mesa. As the name implies, the race was held at night under lights. The venue was spectacular!!!! They had bands, a great announcer, tons of fans, a beer garden, and the entire course was fence making for a top notch event. We just received our personalize, long sleeve, aero skin suits from Pactimo just in time for the event. Our entire Body By Vi p/b VeloVie men’s team lined up, Nathan Mitchell, Rob Alvarez, Victor Riquelme, Brian Forbes and myself. The team congregated at the Forbes/Pactimo/Visalus/VeloVie tents, and we made plans to watch two of the other teams in the field: Jetset and Athlete Octane.
We had 60 minutes to race and took turns covering the other teams. Everyone was amped for the race so no move got more than a few seconds of freedom. With 7 laps to go they rang the bell for the 5-day cruise prime. I’m not going to lie, I wanted it. Coming into turn 7, I positioned my self in 2nd wheel. Unfortunately, we simply weren’t going fast enough and Kyle Reedy came from 5-10 deep and flew by us. I jumped, but it was too late. He beat me to the line by a bike length or two. Oh well, time to get ready for the finish. With a lap and half to go, Forbes went to the front and set a blistering pace. He actually gapped the field and had a 30m lead or so. I was sitting 3rd wheel waiting. Between turn 6 and 7 Brian got caught and we got swarmed at the same time putting us in a bad spot. I had to open up my sprint just to maintain position. I came through turns 7 and 8 in 3rd wheel. I was able to come around the Landis rider, but ran out of real estate chasing down Tyler Coplea. Tyler won in a photo finish. I finished 2nd and my teammate, Nathan, finished along side me in 3rd. Great night of racing!!!!
El Tour de Mesa
After a SHORT night of sleep (only about 3.5 hrs), at 5:45am the team lined up for the El Tour de Mesa, a 70 mile race starting in downtown Mesa, just a stones throw from the crit the night before. The route meanders through Mesa, up through Scottsdale, over to Fountain Hills, out the B-Line and Bush highways, followed by the longer climb of Usery Pass, then back through Mesa to the finish downtown.
Jetset was the largest team in the race with 15-20 guys. We planned to get someone in the early breakaways, and Rob Alvarez was the one that got away. He was accompanied by a Jetset rider, and they were out of sight early and stretched out a large advantage. The big rollers and wind on the highways north of town brought the small early break in. It was basically down hill and a few roller until Usery Pass climb so there wasn’t much sense in trying to get another break established. We decided we would just try to survive Usery and re-evaluate our situation at the top. Before long we were on the Usery Pass climb in the large main field (200-300 riders), but that proved to be the breaking point for most. Jetset set a stiff tempo up the climb and there were a few attacks. I just kept riding my pace, trying not to hit redline and stuck with the group. At the top, I swung out to assess the situation. To my delight, I saw 3 of my teammate (Forbes, Victor, and Nathan) in a select group of only 15 riders. I was starting to like our chances. From Usery we dropped into Mesa with 15 miles of wide boulevards and flat land to the finish. Everyone in the group worked hard and we flew through town. In the last 5 miles Forbes and Victor started taking turns attacking the riders in the break, forcing other teams to chase while Nate and I waited in the wings. We came into the finale with everyone in the group looking at others to do the work. A Jetset rider attacked very hard in the last kilometer, Victor and Brian used the last of their energy to bring Nate and I into striking distance. We both sprinted for the line. I just edged out my teammate taking the win and Nathan took 2nd. Not just a big 1-2 for the team, but a special one for me since it was my 3rd El Tour de Mesa victory in a row. I definitely couldn’t have done it this year without the team. They were AWESOME!!!!