“Craigy, you have to mach it join spit and make reach reek”… Words of wisdom from our boy Bert. My Aussie is lacking, so we weren’t sure what he really said, but I think it meant Craig had to go first and go hard and make the others respond if he wanted to win on Sunday.
After a super hot Saturday, we arrived at LAX amidst the smell of jet fuel and unreasonably cool and foggy weather. Significantly hobbled by a vacationing Bill Harris and a post shoulder surgery Scott Raymond, we fielded a decent 45+ team to go head to head with the BFC boys and what seemed like 32 Big Orange team riders as well as a host of other big guns. Greg Leibert was flying high coming off of his win the day before in the Bakersfield road race, so we knew he was one to watch.
The plan was simple: Two in a break or we bring it back, don’t let Thurlow Rogers or Leibert (or both!) have 50 meters or we will never see him again and if it comes down to a sprint, keep it fast and safe and let Miller do his thang.
Six Laps, 24 miles and not much for wind. As we headed out the pace quickly sped up as we descended towards the bottom turn. We kept Bud Owens, Ross Gagnon and Frank Schroeder near the front of the race to control or go with any moves. The attacks came early and often and the boys did a great job of monitoring the moves. Andy Jessup flexed his muscles more than once making the assent back up the hill rather uncomfortable at times. Thurlow and Leibert slipped up the road sounding the alarm bells and Ross Gagnon brought Craig Miller and the group up to that move. It was quickly shut down by, well, everyone. Greg Leibert hit the afterburners at the half way point and put all of us on notice. Frank helped drive the entire group up to him in what seemed like a mile long slow motion sprint.
After was clear this would come down to a sprint, Robb Mescher (BFC), Frank Schroeder, Kevin Kruger (BBI-SIC) and a host of other found their way to the front. As we head back up the hill the last time, Bud Owens responded to a late break by Thurlow and brought back that very real threat. On our way to the last turn before the finish, Kevin Kruger wicked it up to 30 into the headwind and then swung off at the turn. Frank took over there and barely squeaked through the turn with Johnny Walsh on his wheel. Frank went until the drop off that lead to the finsh and was out of gas. There was a significant slowing in the field. We think this was largely due to the fact that Scott Raymond was not present to take over where his usually does a fantastic job of keeping the speed high. As the group fanned across the road, Craig found himself in a position of being trapped behind the group as they moved towards the last island in the center of the road. Feeling the now or never pressure, he jumped. And from what we saw and others said, it was an amazing jump that rocketed Craig past the group and into a position to make Rich Meeker and company chase him down. Craig ended up holding enough of a gap to win the race with Rich Meeker coming at him for second and Marvin Hall making up the podium with a third place finish.
Pictures and personal accounts tell the story of a lackluster finish with no hands in the air and some serious squares being pedaled. But a fantastic finish for Craig and the team none the less. If you ask Craig, and we did, he put it like this:
“I didn’t see any of that…We started, we made 12 left turns, and then we rode as fast as we could to the line. Unfortunately none of the skinny guys could make their bikes go fast enough….win for the fat guys.”
Yeah, what he said.