by Heath Blackgrove (Elbowz Racing p/b Boneshaker Project)
The Texas State Criterium Championship was held on a brand new course around Frisco Square. And what a great course befitting the state champs it was. With 9 corners and a fairly stiff wind, it was going to be a hard race, but also a hard course to make a move stick. Numerous attacks tried from the start and the bunch seemed strung out, but nothing could get more than a few seconds or last more than a couple of laps.
The head wind around the backside of the course really affected a lot of attempts, but the Elbowz Racing p/b Boneshaker Project team and I kept the pressure on, trying to break the bunch and following the pre-race plan.
Around the midpoint of the 90 minute race, I attacked and was quickly joined by Bryan Fawley (Giant South). We shot straight out to 15 seconds and the biggest gap of the race so far. At first, on this circuit, I thought two riders was not enough, but I was feeling good and pushed on. It became apparent to me that the teams left to chase didn’t have the organization to chase together and any individual trying to chase was going to have an extremely hard time as the gap grew into the high-20 seconds.
Unfortunately, it also became apparent early on that if this break had any chance of succeeding, I was going to have to do more than the majority of the work. So I took it on myself to make the move stick, with Bryan giving me some small breaks to try and get a breather.
The gap yo-yo’d between 20 and 35 seconds, but the lack of organization and great job by Elbowz Racing and Giant South to cover and kill any more moves helped us hold it until the lap board came out. With Fawley knowing his main chance to beat me was with his superior sprint, he tried to conserve as much and do as little as possible. Fortunately, I’ve been around this game long enough and wasn’t about to tow anyone to the line. Also, having faith in my teammates behind allowed me to gamble a bit more than I normally would.
With three laps to go, Tristan Uhl made a great move to come across to us. While it was one more person to worry about, it worked out great for me as it gave the break more legs (as the bunch was pretty close) and added a buffer between me and Bryan. With Bryan fully set on sitting on and expecting a free ride to the finish, any chance or small gap I could get I was ready to take advantage of. Finally, with just over a lap to go, I saw my chance as a small gap opened when I went through for my lap. That was the opening I needed and I put my head down for the last lap to solo if for a very hard-earned victory ahead of Fawley and Uhl, who just held off the charging bunch led in by Logan Hutchings and Michael Sheehan from Elbowz Racing p/b Boneshaker Project for 4th and 5th.
I was really happy to take the Texas criterium title for the 2nd year in a row, especially having had to work so hard for it. It also capped off a great Memorial Day weekend of racing that started on Friday with me taking the McKinney Bike the Bricks criterium in similar fashion and testing conditions, including a thunder and lightening storm hitting the race in the last few laps.
Huge thanks to Elbowz Racing p/b Boneshaker Project for some great support and racing, including the support of our team manager Nick Kiernan and team owner Ben Spies, who was fantastic racing with us on Friday and Saturday. Also, big thanks to King Racing Group for putting on a fantastic race on an exciting new venue, one we will hopefully race on in future years.