by Ben Bertiger (Stage 17 Racing)
Mothballs was my first road race of 2013. I finished up my cross season at nationals two weeks ago in Madison, Wisconsin. I had been sick during nats and the week after so I was excited to be feeling better and to see about my road form. I just started school at UCSB this fall, so the race was a quick three-mile ride from my dorm. It was nice having a race so close that I could just get my bike and ride over to the course in 10 minutes.
My team, Stage 17 Racing, recently finished off a five-day training camp in Lake Havasu, so this would be only the second race of the season for the team. I had three teammates with me in the race, Daniel Katz, Bryan Larsen, and Tosh Clements. Optum had the reigning national criterium champion in the field, so we knew we’d have to work together to beat him and the other large teams in the race.
I planned to just go easy and wait for the sprint because it was my first race of the season and I was coming off illness, so I spent most of the first half of the race about mid-field and let my teammates follow the moves. Then, a little after half-way through the race, a break got away with about ten riders. I noticed that there were no Stage 17 riders in it and it appeared to be serious. I attacked, bridged across and skipped a few pulls to give myself some time to recover. The break was fairly large so there were a few riders skipping pulls, which caused some chaos. Nonetheless, we stayed around 30 seconds up for most of the race until the end when more people stopped working. The field came fairly close to us in the last few laps and I thought it was over a few times. Then, Jesse Anthony from the Optum team attacked with one lap to go and Collin Berry, Taylor Clements, and Daniel Gay from Get Crackin’ got on his wheel. I pulled in directly behind them. Jesse Anthony pulled off between turns 1 and 2 and the Get Crackin’ riders began to lead out the sprint. I stayed right behind them until just before the last corner when I attacked. I had about three bike lengths coming into the final straightaway. I always forget how long the final straightaway is in Mothballs, so I started to fade near the end. Luckily, I had enough of a gap to stay in front. After I picked up my prize, I rode back to my dorm where I was greeted by my enthusiastic floor mates.
Mothballs was a great way for me and Stage 17 Racing to start the 2013 road season. Only two weeks ago, I had been racing cross in the frozen tundra of Wisconsin, sick and frostbitten. I hadn’t come into this race expecting much but, thanks to some hard work from me and the rest of my Stage 17 team and a bit of luck, we came out on top.