The C race was brutal. The pack split very early in to 3
chase groups. Up front was Dave Fish, Richard Bulis, Bill Nagel, and
junior phenom-Nate Sowle. Nate has been ripping up the Nor-Nevada
MTB Series and now looks to be turning his legs in to full fledged
roadie material. I’ll have him shaving yet!
The four would rotate through and keep a hungry pack of 6 at bay.
Bill Nagel would take a bit of soft digger mid-way through the race,
shelling him off the leaders, forcing on himself a furious solo
chase to get back…a very strong effort. In the chase, Rick Hathaway
would lunge out of the group a couple of times to come close…oh, so
close to bridging up to the leaders, but would have to fall back
each time. Painful – but the big man would still finish with a very
satisfying 7th. With three to go, Joseph Little would take a
full-bore flier in a last ditch attempt to bridge up to the leaders.
Again…so close. But the heat and the exertion would cause a serious
explosion in the young rider’s lungs and legs…and the last lap saw
him biting his bars, suffering like a dog to finish an admirable
9th, right behind Charlie Apple of the Sugar Bowl Academy.
The front group would stay together until the last 2 corners.
Digging in to his ‘tough guy’ reserves, young Nate Sowle would
attack hard (and I mean hard) through the turns and open up just
enough gap and have just enough power to keep it to the line for his
first road victory. Well done! Bulis would fight till the end for a
valiant 2nd, with Dave and Bill rounding out the top 4. New rider to
the area, Rodrigo Rubiano would lead in the chasers for 5th
followed by the consistent Mike Shipman. Chris Morton, our newest
Wheelmen I’m proud to say, would lead in the rest of the field.
Fantastic riding C racers – your race was safe, fast, and damn hard.
Next off was the B event. After a couple of neutral laps for
the riders to get accustomed to taking the corners en masse, the
flag was dropped and it was an immediate hammerfest. Spencer
Erickson was especially active early on, riding away from the field
for a couple of sprint prizes. Mike Damon and Shawn Pearson would be
active sprint beasts, as well. But, Paul Miers would take the
largest cash sprint of the day, $20. A solid break away never really
materialized in the B event…I think there were just too many strong
riders pushing the pace…that and the constant flow of sprint prizes
thrown out by a malicious promoter. At about 25 minutes in to the
race, Rich Paul edged away from the field solo and looked to be very
strong. Alas, about 3 laps in to his effort his rear tire came out
of the bead and he was forced to the pit for a wheel change. Back in
on the next lap, the stopping would sap the snap from his legs and
he would have to fight for a finish with the lead pack.
The last lap – oh man, you either had to be really experienced or a
guy who could really suffer to stick on that last lap. Playing the
classic lead-out role, Chris “Lombardi” Payne notched it up from a
mile out. Powering through every corner, he almost gapped his
protected sprinter, but Eric Wang is too experienced AND too strong
to let that happen. Into the final corner, the field was strung out
and whittled down to 15 very tough riders. An excellent bike
handler, Eric Wang would shoot off of Payne’s wheel and dive through
the final corner perfectly – setting himself for yet another win.
But right behind would be the wolf, Steve Kaufman. Still learning
the ropes, Steve would skip his rear tire through the turn and lose
a couple of bike lengths to Eric…a serious deficit with only 150
meters of pavement to the finish. Eric would speed towards the line
like a bullet, straight down the middle of the finishing stretch.
Kaufman would dig deep, deeper than I think I’ve seen him go this
year. He would luck in to Eric not closing off the draft side,
getting that miniscule bit of protection as he came up along side of
him. Like a train, like a big angry locomotive, Kaufman would throw
himself towards the finish with a singular purpose – reach that line
first. Eric has been flawless this year. Each of his sprints has
been timed to perfection and executed with the cold calculation of
a…well, a mechanical engineer. But this time he would leave that
draft side open, and Kaufman would pounce. A wheel’s difference and
Kaufman finally wins one. What a sprint!
The last event was particularly nasty. All those riders who
have become accustomed to getting the free ride at the Air Center
Crit all of a sudden found themselves very quickly in the red zone,
trying to match the painful accelerations and decelerations of a
technical, tough criterium course.
An early move by Tom Skiles and the
Aussies, Jason Chalks and Casey Guthrie ended when the pack finally
clawed back in to the race and the two men from down under found
themselves dry-heaving in the bushes – suffering like dogs on this
hot and painful day.
Yes…suffering. This is the first time
in a while I’ve seen so many A riders suffering out there – from the
gun. It was glorious. With 3.5 laps to go, Dustin Sweet would launch
off the lead group of 7, 3.5 miles of wind and heat in between him
and his first crit win in who knows how long. The chase group of 6
just wouldn’t have the gas to reel in a driven Sweet. Fantastic
effort and he would cross the line with 50 meters of cushion.
Behind, the new and very real sprinter on the block, Jeff Dickey
would sweep up for 2nd, followed by a tight finish between
VanDenAkker and Kyle Dixon. Leading in the 2nd group and fighting
desperately to keep the Twilight Leader’s jersey on his back was
Jouzas Martynaitis. Jouzas was on fire for the first half of the
race, driving every move that went away from the group…but, he would
burn one match too many and miss the winning attack. First time all
year and a good lesson for him.
What an evening of racing. If you
didn’t get a chance to come out and watch this race, check it out
next week…cause it is spectacular!