by Ryan Schenider
Sunday, January 13th: the first race of my fourth season and I haven’t raced my bike since last September. For the last few weeks, I’ve been looking forward to getting back out there.
The race was on the 7-turn grand prix course in Ontario. For our team, this was more of a training race than anything else, but I still felt a lot of pressure to perform. I had seven teammates show up, all of whom were there just to race for me and I did not want to let them down. We discussed some team tactics in the days leading up to the race and rehashed them a few hours prior to the start. We knew that having one of the larger teams would mean other teams might look to us to do a lot of the work chasing. We planned to have at least one guy in each promising move, but we really wanted the race to stay together for a field sprint. The plan was to have 5 of us line up, then jump the group hard going into turn 4 and take it all the way to 200 meters so I could finish. Our other two men were to be looking to win some primes and also trying to keep any riders off my wheel in the last few laps.
The race started at 3:50 and it was uncommonly cold for Southern California. I had to wear a base layer and a windbreaker vest under my skin suit, as well as long fingered gloves and embrocation on the legs. The first lap was fast right from the start and the constant attacks started. But the breakss never concerned us. Each break was just a few guys and there was never a time in the race that a break had more than a few seconds advantage since field kept a steady fast tempo.
With about 15 minutes to go, it was starting to look like we were going to get our field sprint and I told the boys to start looking for each other and to stay together as much as possible, which they did. In the last five laps, we were all lined up and sitting at about tenth wheel; exactly where we wanted to be. Like usual, the final laps were chaotic and it was difficult for us to stay together. Other racers were desperate to move up, so we had to make sure we didn’t give an inch to anyone trying to infiltrate our leadout train.
On the last lap, we somehow lost a little bit of organization. John Van Dyke made a small split with a few other riders. I was glued to Ryan Early’s wheel. He was on Andrew Bosco, who was on Luke Olliet. When we hit turn four, the team executed one of the best lead outs you could ask for on the local level. Luke came up the right after turn four and Bosco took over. There were still about 4 or 5 guys just off the front, including JVD. Mark Renshaw…I mean Ryan Early took over after turn 5, chased down the last few guys off the front, passed them like they were standing still, then opened up a sprint which took me into the final 250 meters. I started sprinting from there and I could see under my arm that Cory WIlliams was locked onto my wheel. I drifted a bit left during the sprint while maintaining a straight line to make it a slightly longer distance for him to come around me. With about 50 meters to go he was right alongside me and it was a race between just us. I took the win with a bike throw–a great way to start the season.