Sun Devil Crit – February 9, 2013
By:Craig P. Streit
On Saturday, the Sun Devil Crit was on the schedule. It was a cold, dreary day with heavy cloud cover. The Pro/1/2 race was scheduled to go off at 3:45pm. As is my routine, I got to the course about 2 hours before race time. Two of my teammates were already there. Brian Forbes won the 40+ race earlier in the day and Rob Alvarez made the drive up from Tucson. Nathan Mitchell was slated to round off the team for the day, but in pro-style he showed up a little closer to race time. Victor had to work, but would join us tomorrow at the McDowell Mountain Circuit Race.
I spent the next 30-45min getting dressed and ready to warm-up. Given the temperature, I wore a fair bit of clothing for my warm-up and spent the next 45-60 mins warming up with Rob and Nathan. Brian didn’t need much warm-up since he had already raced earlier.
At 3:45, we rolled to the start line. There were about 50 riders in the race, which is a pretty good field size for an Arizona race. At the start line, there was a moment of silence for fellow cyclist and friend Bob Pongratz, who had passed away while riding his bike earlier in the week. We were all close to him, so you could definitely feel the heavy hearts throughout the field. They announced that they would be awarding a Bob Pengratz Most Aggressive Rider Award during the race. Then, a few race announcements and the national anthem and we were off.
The race started fast. My normal strategy is to stay at the front (top 5-10 riders) for the first few laps to avoid any early mishaps. After the first few laps, I settled in about mid-pack to save some energy. Right away, the attacks came thick and fast. Rob and Brian were doing a stellar job covering them for most of the race while Nathan and I sat in to conserve. That’s not to say we wouldn’t roll with a few moves if they presented themselves, but because of the strong wind no breaks were getting more than 10-15 seconds and they didn’t last for more than a couple of laps.
Our race was scheduled for 60 minutes. We were ticking off laps in about 1:15, so after about 53 minutes they put up 5 laps to go. When the lap cards came out, I was sitting about mid-back of the pack so it was time to move up. I spent a lap or so moving up and trying to find Rob. Once I found him, I asked him to move me up towards the front, which he did. I then found Brian and Nathan.
As with most criteriums, the last laps are extremely aggressive with people fighting for position. Once I told Brian I was on his wheel, he moved me right up to the front. With 2 laps to go we were lined up perfectly….Brian, me, and Nathan, the perfect makings of a solid leadout. Unfortunately, that only lasted about a lap before the chaos mixed us up. I found myself about 8-10 wheels deep with a lap to go. Not ideal, but Brian and Nathan were still in solid position around 5th. On the back curve, I moved to the outside in an effort to move up into a little better position. This ended up being a lucky move because there was a crash in the middle of the pack, right in front of Nathan. I later learned that Nathan actually end up riding over the guy and his bike. I still can’t believe he didn’t go down. I had to swerve to avoid the crash and actually had a bike bounce off my back.
After I knew I was clear of the crash, I found myself about 10-20m back from the lead group of approximately 5 riders. There was no time to think so I just attacked and sprinted up to them. I got to the back wheel and had about 2 seconds to catch my breath before I knew I had to make my move. The finish straight is just too short to try to come from 5-6 deep and expect to win, so I attacked again about 50-100m before the final turn. It put me in perfect position. I came out of the final turn in 2nd wheel and I could taste the finish line. I stayed in the draft for a few seconds before I made my final dash to the line. I was able to come around the guy in front of me, take one last look back to make sure I had it, then put my arms up and enjoy the victory.
I didn’t enjoy the victory for too long as I wanted to get to the back side of the course to see if my teammates avoided the crash. I knew Nathan and Brian were right there in the middle of it. I didn’t see them on the back side so I continued around back to the S/F line where they were all there to celebrate the team win!
The day was a total success. Brian won the masters’ race. He also was awarded the Most Aggressive Rider/Bob Pongratz Award. It was bittersweet, being excited about the result but sad for the loss of a friend and fellow cyclist. I can’t say enough about how the Body by Vi p/b Velo Vie team rode. They were amazing.
Thanks to these sponsors it is all possible:
Body by Vi, VeloVie, SRAM, Reynolds, Onsite Realty, and Nova Home Loans