My teammate and I left San Diego early on Saturday morning in order to give ourselves plenty of time to make the 150-mile drive to Valencia for the first annual Jailhouse Crit. It was a longer drive than usual but the new crit offered an interesting course and a decent prize purse to make the trip worth while. However about 15 miles into the drive we hit traffic which plagued us for the next 3 hours. It was stop and go through LA, and all I could think about was that this must have been the inspiration for the song “Aenima” by the rock band Tool, which hates on Los Angeles. As we neared the race we gradually lost hope in any chance of making it on time but decided to keep trying since we had come this far.
We arrived at the race about 5 minutes before our start and with some pleading we were able to register and get our numbers. A few minutes later we were kitted up and on the start line, relieved that the last 3 hours of torture were not in vain.
It was hot, so when a group attacked on the first lap and forced us to chase it didn’t matter too much that we didn’t have time to warm up. The first break was brought back after about 5 laps, but it was obvious that a break would eventually stay away on this slightly hilly, technical and hot course. It happened to be the next break.
After the first break had been reeled back in I attacked on the short hill and took Ricardo Escuela (Pure Gear/ FCC) with me. Before we gained too much time, Chris Walker (Time Factory Team) joined us; the 3 of us worked well together to put time into the hesitant field. After about 30 minutes of racing we were able to see the tail end of what was left of the field, and it wasn’t much longer until we joined them.
I found out from some other riders that we were not the only ones off the front. There was a 7 man chase group behind us that were also about to lap the field, and in that group were some dangerous sprinters like Rahsaan Bahati and Cody O’reilly (Optum). I rode up to my teammate and told him to keep the pace high so that the chase group would not catch us and I would at least have a guaranteed podium. He selflessly went to the front and began working with the FCC/Pure Gear team to keep the chase group from lapping us.
Unfortunately, the chase group was too strong and they eventually lapped the field, but they really had to work hard for it. At this point, 10 riders had lapped the field.
I attacked once again on the hill but did not get far. Before the field brought me back, Ricardo Escuela countered and flew by me like I was standing still, taking an Optum rider with him. My teammate was gone and the field hesitated to chase them. Chris Walker attacked again and the field let him go as well. I realized I would have to try to go again if I wanted a podium spot and attacked with 5 laps to go. I bridged up to Chris Walker after a couple laps and the two of us worked hard to catch Escuela, but it was too little and too late. Escuela finished the race how he had started it, off the front, and took the win. The Optum rider that was with him had not lapped the field so Chris Walker and I were racing for 2nd.
We easily stayed away from the rest of the field and sprinted to the line to take 2nd, with Walker rolling across for the last podium spot. Behind us the field was charging to the line. Jamie Paolinette (Monster Media/MRI), one of the riders who had lapped the field in the second chase group, had attacked on the last lap and finished just ahead of the field to take 4th place, with Rahsaan Bahati winning the field sprint for a hard fought 5th place.
It was disappointing to not get the win after coming so close, but it is always great to lap the field. Afterwards, I realized that I was lucky just to take to the start line. I had to give extra thanks to the Serious Cycling folks for letting my teammate and me race. Hopefully they have the race next year.