A Sprinter’s-Eye View on Roger Millikan
By Erick Sobey (SPY/GIANT/RIDE)
The Brea race makes for a fast one and the Roger Millikan course housed some quality bike teams bringing full squads. I haven’t raced on this part of the course before, but it didn’t take long to figure out. It’s a quick, four-corner criterium with a short rise on the backside and a slight-downhill finish.
The race started with a bit of tension and a hot pace under grey skies. There was a crash within the first few laps in the first turn, which is never a pretty sight, but ride on we must. After that, it remained dicey with many accelerations and easings. The turns, while far from slow, were a bit hectic and usually jam packed. The front was the only shelter, really.
Teams were deep, so I thought the attacks would be abundant. Our team was lean with only 3 riders, so we chose our moves wisely. Unfortunately, Anthony C went down early, so it was up to me and Anthony V to represent SPY/GIANT/RIDE well and opportunistically. We did our best in a fast, physical pack.
Pace was a bit inconsistent at first. There were a few teaser attacks that were quickly chased down. I believe I only saw 1 or 2 attempts that created significant separation. I chased after 2-3 groups, but nothing came of the quick efforts. It was starting to look like Cashcall and MRI were setting up for a sprint. That can be quite an influence on the race, and it seemed as though the battle for the finish started early. There was a lot of fighting for position at the front with 9-10 laps to go. The final 3 laps were taken over by a Cashcall paceline. The fight for the best wheel was on.
Going into the final 2 laps it was tight and very physical. Riders were fighting for the wheels of Cashcall riders Williams and Von Nocher. Rightfully so, as they were the punch at the end of an organized lead out. I found myself too far back coming into the first 2 corners of the final lap, but I made up some real estate on the back stretch following the aggressive lead of Stage 17’s Bryan Larsen. I came into the 3rd corner still needing to make up ground, so I jumped out of the saddle just after the turn and got a nice wind up.
Although I still was approximately 7 wheels too deep in tenth position, I was gaining momentum into the last corner. Luckily for me, there seemed to be a slight and short hesitation at the front with the lead train running out of players. I knew going into the final corner that I’d be lucky to even be involved in the sprint, but I figured I might be able to achieve a decent result if I could find a fast line and make up ground. I started sprinting after the third corner at about 85%, then took an outside line into the final turn, carrying all the speed I could and keeping all my momentum. After that, it was quick history. My momentum took me around a handful of riders just after the corner and I was able to crank hard to a close 4th place. Cory, who had a shot at the win before a sprint mechanical, caught the final lap on the GoPro, illustrating the sprint perfectly.
To conclude, it was a fun but dicey race. The pack wanted a sprint today and the course lent itself nicely to a competitive, physical finish with the usual suspects. We will all be continuing to champ at the bit for that elusive win. In races like these, that win may be earned more in the persistence and positioning into the early corners of the final lap. Most sprinters at this level have great confidence in the bite of their final sprint, but it’s clear that the elite have the ability to battle for position way before the final exertion. It’s the most nerve-racking part of racing but it’s what we love most. Thanks for reading. Train well, everyone.