Playing My Cards Right By Jamie Paolinetti (MMRI) your National Criterium Champ for 45-49

 

Winning any bike race is frickin’ hard. I don’t care if it’s El Dorado Park on Tuesday night, it’s frickin’ hard to win. I’ve always said that it’s impossible for one rider to target a specific race, pin their hopes on victory and then pull it off. So, I never do it. The problem is, with the National Championships I don’t really have a choice.

I raced the Cascade Classic many, many times as a pro so going in I knew the crit course was good for me. But, ultimately in any race it’s the rider’s I’m racing, not the course. As soon as I heard announcer Dave Towel count down to our start and the gun went off, the information gathering began.

Watching how the competition is behaving is the key to victory for me, and I had to assess who wanted to do what, but more importantly, who was capable of what. I had two teammates with me, Lance Coburn and Aaron Gadhia, but Aaron’s job was to save it for a field sprint, so that just left Lance and I to actually do the race. There’s a lot of nervous energy at the start of a race like that and Lance did a great job going to the front immediately to keep any early moves in check, and to give me a chance to settle in three or four riders back and not have to hit the wind.

 

After a number of early moves were reeled right in, Lance slipped back to take a break. Almost immediately Bart Bowen (Bicycle Ruidoso) attacked. I knew Bart was in the race, but I didn’t know what he was wearing and wasn’t sure it was him when he went. As soon as I heard Dave announce his name I went on high alert. I raced with Bart all through the early ‘90s when we were both real pros and I was there when he won the U.S. Pro Road Championships in Philly. Bart’s the real deal, and when he got 20 seconds I started subtly recruiting anyone I thought was a player in the race by talking Bart up. Many of the guys didn’t seem to know who he was, (mind blowing to me, but that’s another story). Anyway, I did some hard turns myself, and I also got some help from SoCal’s Schroeder Iron boys who I thought wanted a field sprint. Those boys are masters at putting together a chase and always willing to lay it all on the line as a team. We got Bart back pretty quick and it was the only real attack he tried all day.

 

From that point on the race was a series of accelerations and small splits, all of which I covered and none of which had the horsepower to ride away from a chasing field. There seemed to be a number of riders following me, but none of them wanted to work in the splits, or simply couldn’t. There were a couple times when a single rider dangled off the front of the field, but didn’t have the juice to ride away, so I didn’t bother trying to bridge.

 

Reading races is a constant information gathering and sorting process, and when I saw 10 laps to go I was looking for the winning opportunities I was sure would come. Looking, waiting, positioning, planning, executing… no mistakes. At about five to go I saw Aaron had come up to me and that gave us a couple different cards to play. Sorry, I can’t say what they all were, (it’s a National Championship remember) but, I will say that there were a number of fast guys left in the field and it was never going to come down to me leading out a field sprint.

 

There’s nothing I’ve found in life that can match the feeing I get at the end of big race. The adrenalin is flooding the system, the mental and visual cues are on high alert and my body’s simply doing what it just seems to know how to do.

 

Stay calm, asses the situation, plan, execute, and win. It came all the way down to the last lap before a good winning opportunity presented itself. A late race solo is always a card I have in my hand, and the chance came to play it as we crossed the finish line and headed toward turn one. The pack started to swarm to the front, and while most riders are probably thinking, “I need to be up there”, I’m thinking, “Turn one is very tricky. There’s only one line at this speed and I’m going to be first or second through it because what’s going to come next is the chance I need to win.” So, with that in mind, I burnt a big match to be on the front and go through the turn clean. Too many guys tried to sit behind and not use the energy necessary, and when they tried to go through the turn four abreast at that speed, of course there was a crash.

 

I came out of the turn clean and with great momentum. I let one rider slot in front of me who I trusted and had been riding the front all day and glanced under my arm. Aaron was gone and what was left of the field was now single file with very small little gaps between everyone. When I saw that I knew I’d won. I just knew. We still had the rest of the last lap to do, but I had played out the winning move in my mind many times during the race and now the chance was sitting right in front of me. The important part to understand about this story is that the effort I made to stay on the front with one to go is what gave me the chance to execute the winning move. Without that effort, there would have been no winning move.

 

The move itself and how it was executed is going to have to stay a secret. Sorry, but like I said earlier, it’s the National Championships, and the older I get the more I need to keep a couple trump cards hidden up my sleeve. If you really want to know how I won ask one of my teammates and maybe they’ll give it up. I doubt it though, because as the first sentence of this race report reads, winning bike races is just so frickin’ hard. Congratulations to all the guys who came home with stars and stripes. There were some seriously impressive rides done in a great weekend of racing.

 

 

 

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Comments

  1. Whatever says

    Congrats on your awesomeness. Your victory is only second to your self-congratulations. The only thing missing is using the term EPIC

    • Humility says

      I watched the race from the Bowen attack. Jamie raced very well. The funny thing was, I was watching between corner 3 and 4 chatting with a guy who wasn’t familiar with crits. Before the final lap I called the move.
      “A strong attack here [between corners 3 and 4] from 3rd or 4th position will probably win the race.”
      Oops, the secret is out. Now his teammates don’t have to worry about keeping their mouths shut.

  2. Humility says

    I was there. The move was attacking out of corner 3 and through 4 which is also a slight uphill. This was to make sure he was able to take the cleanest line around the most dangerous corner (5). Then it was just holding them off downhill around 6 and across the line. It was textbook and it worked.
    Just be proud of winning a hard fought race, Jamie. You raced well. You didn’t do anything worth secrecy. Any amatuer would recognize that opportunity, you were just strong enough to pull it off.
    Next time, write something that contributes to the enjoyment of the sport instead of your ego.

  3. shawn cronkhite says

    OMG, bunch of chicken shits! Lets start off by saying that I am not the biggest fan of Jamie, but I have great respect for him. Much like the respect one might have to a rattle snake. I have my own history with Jamie ( but thats whole nother story) from racing with and against him in the late 1990’s and 2k’s. His eggo is big and his racing ability is bigger. Jamie deserves a big congrats from all and if he chooses to write about how good he is then “balls” to him. Its probably his eggo that has won the most races for him anyway. The crazy thing is, is that all the filler in his blog about the execusion of the race is true, thats how he thinks. He knows how to make the race come to him and all the hrs in the world at the gym or on the bike will not get you to read a race like Jamie.

    Congratulations Jamie

    Shawn Cronkhite

  4. Anonymous says

    Thank you Shawn for putting that guy in his place! When people make comments like the one above, it just reveals that that they’re jealous and insecure. Yes, Jamie has a big ego but so does everyone else in this sport! It bothers me when people can’t display good sportsmanship and just say “congratulations”. To the person who made that comment…… guess what? You have a big ego too otherwise you wouldn’t have said that. Maybe if you put it aside, you could actually learn how to be a better bicycle racer from someone like Jamie.

  5. Humility says

    Anonymous- That’s the reason I read these articles: to learn from people better than me. I’m lucky to have been in the area where Jamie hammered it so I knew what happened.
    I watched him the whole race because I know one of his buddies. I was rooting for him. I’m glad he won, he raced well. (You’ll see that in my first comment.)
    If he wants to keep his tactics secret, he should do just that. Don’t truncate a play-by-play. Now go read his teammate’s article about placing second in the race that followed. That reads like the guy is a class act. That is sportsmanship.
    I haven’t been “put in my place.” We’re a bunch of guys who shave their legs, we don’t have room for bloated egos.

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