Once I looked at the course map of the Jailhouse circuit race-turned-criterium, it looked ripe for a breakaway. The course was a little over 1km with six turns. Kudos have to go out to Serious Cycling for organizing an excellent inaugural event; they laid out a very challenging course that had to be truncated from the full circuit course only a week earlier, and provided great prize money and primes.
After arriving at the venue, there was a lot of chatter about the course; “it is bumpy, there is a huge pothole, there is elevation gain, the last corner was off camber and it is hot and breaks are surviving”. Charon was warming up across from our OTR Racing tent and warned me about the breaks as well. Surf City only had two guys, Monster Media had several as always, and he said we would have to work together to keep the breaks at bay, and then we could duke it out at the end. I’m assuming he meant something like he could take the field sprint and I could duke it out with everyone else.
Only 40 or so guys lined up, and from the gun, a group rode off the front; the pace was torrid. I found myself toward the back and saw gaps began to open. After finding the friendly wheel of Josh Alverson, he reattached us to the main group. Several laps later, the pace settled and I was able to move up through the field. A break of four was still away and I overheard Jamie Paolinetti encourage a MMRI teammate to help chase; they had a man in the break but they didn’t have the right combination. I marked Jamie at this point and realized an organized chase failed to develop. A lap or so later he made a move and I followed; the two of us were able to get a gap on the field. The break was still out of sight but we were receiving times from spectators. We were 25-seconds behind but slowly slipping a second every lap or two.
Although I didn’t get much time to let this sink in during the race, this was an amazing experience for me; In January of this year I finally finished my 10 races so I could move up to Cat 4. I had recently joined my first cycling team, OTR Racing, and was off to Palm Springs for my first race camp; the same camp where Jamie Paolinetti and Chris DeMarchi were hired to train our team for the weekend. I was now in a 2-man chase group with one of them in a 35+ race; wow. I’ve succeeded so far in my short racing career by being an effective sprinter, so being in the break or a chase group was foreign to me. It took several laps for me to figure out a good rhythm, which consisted of Jamie pulling a good two thirds of each lap. I knew I could follow his lead for any tactical decisions. A few laps into our chase, we saw a MMRI rider slowing coming back, he jumped on and pulled for one lap, but fell off and it was back to just Jamie and me.
For the rest of the race, on each lap my heart rate ticked a little higher, my mouth was a little drier and it seemed a little hotter – until the lap cards came out when all of that was worse, but at least the end was in sight. When we came out of the final corner on the bell lap, a corner where Jamie had been putting a gap on me and urging me to ease up on the brakes all day, he went a little harder and pushed out of the corner. After this effort I didn’t know if I had any legs left, so I sprinted to see if I had anything. I pulled, started to sit up, and looked over; Jamie waved me on. Looking back, I wish I would have sat up and coasted in for 5th instead of 4th. I owe Jamie one, but I have a feeling MMRI won’t have too much of a problem getting me back. I didn’t see much of the rest of the race, but from what I heard later, three stayed away and impressively lapped the field. Rudy Napolitano was terrific for the win; he was able to get back out in front of the main group after lapping them. Michael Easter and Anthony Restuccia completed the podium, and only 19 finished the race, an accomplishment in itself.