The Bikecrossing Mississippi Grand Prix
by Colton Jarisch
A 3-day, four-stage race based in Brookhaven, MS. Bikecrosssing starts off with a twilight crit in downtown Brookhaven, followed by an 82 mile road race, a 3-mile individual TT, and concludes with an 80-minute circuit race in Lake Lincoln State Park.
For the entire race, our goal was to be aggressive in every stage, always having a guy up the road and making other teams chase. Starting in the criterium, we wanted to isolate some of the big contenders on the other teams, including Matt Davis from La Sport and Christian Parrett of Five Hour Energy. We wanted other GC contenders and teams to do as much work as possible, fatiguing them over time to open up more opportunities for Think to put time into them. The team raced aggressively, but could not get the right moves to stick. Everyone in the race was still too fresh. With 5 laps to go we had a lead-out train set up on the fast circuit. Nick Coil and Nate Beams played their cards perfectly to set me up for a long, tailwind sprint. The tactics played out well and I was able to score the win for the team! Michael McBrien of Bikes Plus came in second with Matt Davis coming in third.
Early the next morning, the team discussed tactics for the 82 mile road race. I had a ten-second advantage over most of the field for winning the criterium, and a six- and four-second advantage on Matt and Michael respectively. The team would ride aggressively at the beginning, trying to isolate main GC contenders and force their teams to chase. This worked out well. We always had a man off the front forcing others to put in the work. Again, this was to slowly wear down our opponents and to keep our GC guys (Caleb Fuchs and me) out of the wind and as rested as possible. Although Nick Coil got in a move that would gain nearly a minute on the field, nothing would stick yet again on the tree-sheltered course. Adam Mills would attack in the last 6km and put in a really big dig. He stayed out until about 1.5km when La Sport ultimately brought him back. This paved the way for my team, already organized at the front to lead out the downhill, headwind finish. Caleb Fuchs and Carlos Vargas were my main allies in the sprint. Caleb took it from 600 to 400 meters and then Carlos took over to drop me off with 200 meters to go to the line. This was a perfect setup for the downhill, headwind sprint. It was the most perfect example of a textbook lead-out I have ever witnessed. I took my second win of the weekend with Matt Davis and Blair Krogh (4D racing) coming in 2nd and 3rd. I would gain another 4 seconds on Matt and ten on the rest of the field.
The team went into the TT expecting Caleb Fuchs to do very well, and me to assess the least damage possible to Matt. It was a short TT with high stakes and fancy bikes. I don’t consider myself a specialist in TT’s and I was actually quite nervous about it. The TT is where our tactics from the previous two races had the most effect. Forcing Davis and the La Sport guys, along with the Herring Gas and Bikes Plus squads to chase slowly wore them down. My team, keeping Caleb and I out of the wind as much as possible, kept us fresh for the TT, allowing us an opportunity to put more time into our rivals. Every little bit helps, and the individual TT is where it will show. Davis won the TT over Fuchs last year, and he was our biggest threat. My coach (Adam Mills) told me just to race it just like the first lap of a cyclocross race, all out. That is what I did, I came across the line, frothing at the mouth, marking off a 5:40 time for the 2.85 mile course. My teammate, Caleb would come across with nearly the same time on his Garmin. We went 1-2 over the rest of the field. I gained another 9 seconds on Davis and Caleb moved in to 3rd in GC.
The last stage was late Sunday morning, which is nice because it allowed the team a little time to sleep in after a long day before. It was an 80-minute circuit race taking place on a 6.5-mile loop in Lake Lincoln State park. It was one of the most picturesque courses I have ever ridden, with small, one-lane roads and towering trees on either side. It had a 2-mile rough section where the field would nearly split every lap, making it very Roubaix-esque. There was a time bonus sprint midway through the race that could play a key factor in GC. Less than one minute separated the top 15 GC spots in the race.
The Think Finance squad decided that it would be safest to line up our boys from the start, along with a few guys from La Sport, and try and control the field through the sprint. It took less than two minutes into the race to get everyone lined up and rotating at the front, with Caleb and I sitting on playing gate-keepers. We figured the other big teams in the race would try and either get guys off the front in a breakaway, or split the field in the rough sections. They would try to no avail. Attacks would go, but they wouldn’t last against the team’s 27mph average speed. The Think Finance guys kept it smooth, fast, and steady up front, thwarting any attacks that went off. We were content as long as no one in the top 5 earned the time bonus halfway through. It worked out perfectly as Stephen Mire (La Sport) snuck off the front with 500m to go to earn it.
With 40 minutes left in the race I was fighting hard to control my excitement. As long as I finished with the top GC contenders I would win the race. There were two laps left on the circuit and my team started rotating harder through the rough stretch. This seemed to be where Hell was trying to break loose on the course and everyone saw fit to attack. They kept it smooth and fast though, and maintained complete control.
The last time through, the team nailed it with only 6km to go. We would burn through one of our men on the rough section, rotate through the last 5km, and lead it out up the mile-long finishing hill (average grade of ~2.5%). With our guys burning off fast and going as hard as they could to the finish, we had GC in our hands. Caleb would go at the base to try and gap off Matt Davis. If he could gain 4 seconds on him he would secure 2nd place. There was another time bonus of 10sec, 6 sec, and 4 sec for the top 3. He got the gap but just wasn’t able to hold on in the last 200 meters. Matt came around him with me on his wheel. I went as hard as I could up the last little kicker and scored the 4th win for Think Finance p/b Trek Stores! We swept the race!
A very special thank you is owed to my team. Nick Coil, Nathaniel Beams, Adam Mills, Caleb Fuchs, Carlos Vargas, and John McAllister rode their hearts out for me defending our lead, and I am extremely grateful.
If you would like to see video footage of the races, Brian Toone had a camera mounted to his bars and caught some great footage of the races and sprint finishes. They can be viewed at: http://toonecycling.wordpress.com/2013/04/16/mississippi-gran-prix-2013/