Santa Cruz Criterium
April 6th 2008
Steve and I met the rest of the gang over the hill in Santa Cruz with enough time to ride along the river’s bike path, up to the boardwalk and smell the cotton candy. It was a good incentive to win, smelling that sweetness! Maybe I’d allow a little indulgence post race.
Larry was psyched for this race, as always, and Craig, Kevin and Wyatt were all on very good form so we felt as if we had a bunch of cards to play. It was a breezy day, the sun was out and it was a beautiful day for a bike race.
Larry sat us down and talked over the plan again- Kevin, Craig and I would keep our eyes peeled for breakaways, with Wyatt and Steve in reserve for keeping the bunch up to speed for the inevitable sprint for Larry. Because the final sprint to the line is uphill and into the wind, it was a power sprint and not a pure speed run. It suited Larry, but with only 20 laps of the course, unlike the 45 the pro 1-2s were running, time would be short and we had to keep our heads up the whole time.
The race got started quickly and the speed was painfully high right from the gun. We dove into the first turn, the off camber hairpin, and our SL2s railed as if we had front wings, a high down force setup and super sticky tires- incredible bikes! Stomped on the pedals and down the hill we shot, up through the chicane drifting up to the last turn, again off camber, and sprinted out, up the hill @ over 1000 watts! I thought to myself that this was going to be a hard 20 laps, for sure. But the boys kept in it, never drifting too far back, and never getting too far from the front of the field.
The promoter was giving away a ton of cash and strawberries, happily donated by Cal Giant, so guys were leaping off the front to grab whatever they could. It seemed like the bell was ringing the whole race and the cheers from the crowd were keeping us light on the pedals the whole way around the course. The laps ticked by, I grabbed a preme and then a couple of laps later Kevin pounded the pedals, grabbing a 10 second lead in no time. He held off the pack for what seemed like forever, other teams sending guys to the front to chase and they would drift back after their turns completely spent, never to be seen again. As soon as Kevin got nabbed by the field, Craig bounded off the front with a couple of other guys and that was the final move. More teams that missed the break were now sending riders off to chase or make it across, but with Wyatt and Steve always on their shoulders they knew there was nothing they could’ve done. It looked tenuous for a bit but the break stuck- with the horsepower in the move there wasn’t anyone that could bring it back.
With 4 laps to go Larry turned to me while we were flying down the hill @ 55kph, ‘You take the field sprint and I’m going across!’ I looked at him, ‘Why not announce it to everyone?’ I chuckled to myself. But Kevin sensed what was about to happen, went to the front again, took a good hard dig, setting Larry up and off he shot across the gap. There was nothing anyone who’d heard Larry could’ve done as there is no denying Larry Nolan when he’s on a mission! He flew across the gap, making us all look very, very slow and got there in time to hear the crowd screaming and the bell ringing for the final lap.
Up the hill the break flew and Craig saw just enough daylight down the left hand gutter, slightly sheltered from the gusting wind. It was all the centimeters he needed- he shot through to take the win for Team Specialized Racing, hands aloft! Larry finished 4th and the rest of us rolled in, avoiding kissing the pavement. The plan came together- all we needed now was to meet back at the A-Team van and Larry to be puffing a fat cigar. “I love it when a plan comes together” he’d say, smiling.
Murdoch finally got the monkey off his back too!