Chris, Richie, and I always try to make sure we race as a team and so far this season we have executed this very well. The plan for the weekend was to continue to protect Chris’s TBRA standing and bring home the omnium win for the team. Had planned on Chris winning the road race, hopefully out of a small select break, I was hoping to win the time trial, and we were going to try and go into the crit on our heels and just protect. It of course didn’t workout that way at all!
The road race started as expected with a few little attacks, but mostly it was me attacking to see what kind of response we would get. The pack was fresh and people did not like the idea of an early break. I attacked and pushed it at least twice during the first two laps at about 80% and had significant chasers both times. I went on the corner and the smooth pavement that I love, and on the first hill once. Marx Bensdorf was all over us.
Our plan all along was to chill and then on the 3rd and 4th laps get something off the front. We needed to wear down the stragglers a little bit. However, on lap 3 while on the top end of Adair, the official came up and said we were going to finish this lap and it was the end of the race because of a tornado.
This completely ruined our plan, because we were now in a long fast field sprint with a fresh pack – which was not optimal for a Biz win, but we still had a plan. As soon as the official pulled away, people began attacking. We had discussed pre-race that if it came all together at the end, for Richie to take a flyer at 2 miles to go. He did this, and went hard, but Marx Bensdorf brought it back. I moved up front and began our plan to lead Chris out. Will Montgomery attacked at about 2K and I hesitated, hoping that MB would pull it in, but they didn’t move. With Chris on my wheel I bit the bullet and started pulling hard up the hill at about 1.5K to go. I was able to bring back the flyer and my garmin had me at 38.8 mph coming down the homestretch, at about 300m I died and yelled at Chris to go. Again, we were 1-2 at 300m. He pulled to my right and ripped it, but had a big train coming up behind him. He was able to keep 3rd. I sat up for last place. Ritchie was in the mix, after recovering from his flyer and took 5th or 6th depending on who you ask.
I always try to match tactic with skill set, and a 40mph long flat field sprint is NOT where we wanted Chris to be, but he handled it well and held his own. Our original plan to get him off the front with a select small break, or in a break where our team was the majority, was foiled by the storm.
The TT. I was almost sure I could win the TT. Uggh. I don’t know what to say about it except it was possibly the worst experience on a bike I have ever had. I was absolutely sure there were people throwing bricks at me, because I felt them hit me in the gut and groin, and a few in the back about every 30-40 seconds. My back cramped up – something that has never happened in 20 years of riding. I rode it faster practicing without aero gear. I might as well not have showed up. I ended up going home, and spiking a fever and laying on the couch for 4 hours sweating while freezing afterwards. That’s all I have to say about that.
And the Crit. We knew Chris had to win the Crit to win the omnium. I was angry, frustrated, motivated, and felt like we had no choice but to own that race. We discussed me taking a flyer at the beginning and seeing if Chris and I could get away. We also thought a break with Chris and none of the omnium contenders would be a good option as well. We also had plan that if Richie felt good he would grab some primes. If it stayed together, the plan was to lead out Chris in a Rothrock – Richie – Biz sequence. The race started and we did our thing. They wouldn’t let me get away, and the sure wouldn’t let a combination of Chris and I get away, then Richie went for a prime and rode off the front. Chris and I immediately went into protection mode and sat back, covering bridge attempts and discouraging attacks. This worked out great, and we thought there was a great chance Richie was going to survive. however, with about 6-7 laps to go, Marx Bensdorf organized and a series of one lap pulls by their stronger guys pulled Richie back into sight. With one lap to go, the catch was inevitable. I grabbed Chris and told him to stay on my wheel, and up the last part of the hill, I ripped it pretty hard, Chris and I were 1-2 coming down the hill and I railed the corner and accelerated out of it. I didn’t look back until I hit the front door of the lift, and under my arm I didn’t see a wheel. I then formally looked and had a gap. I said “uh-oh” then decided to take the win. At the time I didn’t know Chris had crashed, but knew something had gone seriously wrong. I went pretty hard, thinking that the longer stretch, I would have to really be quick so guys in 3-5 position couldn’t come around. I celebrated across the line – to get the promo photo our team needed.. and then heard that Chris had crashed in the last corner. My garmin had me at 35.5mph, the top speed of the whole race coming out of that corner and into the home stretch. We averaged only 25.4, which I though was slow for that group. I am absolutely sure that if Chris hadn’t of crashed, he would have won the crit and the omnium. That’s the way racing goes.
We raced as a team, and I think it was obvious to everyone watching. We were able to get the win, and put on a bit of a show. We owned that crit. Richie showed out most of the race, while Chris and I controlled the peleton. This whole year, in every race we have done, we have executed very well tactically, it just hasn’t seemed to come together just right. There is no doubt in my mind though, that people know us, respect us, and can appreciate that if we gear up, it’s gonna be a race! Plus my camera ready posturing and split second judgement got us the front page of the Jackson Sun!
by Alan Rothrock