Straight from the finish line of this year's US Pro Crit Championships in
Downers Grove, IL, we were shuttled off to the airport, as most of the team was
to fly out that night. We all wanted to stay and participate in the ‘post-crit’
festivities but we were not able to convince our team manager to change all of
our flights to the next day with only 2 hours notice.
I actually started writing this on the plane, unshowered and still fizzing
from the weekend’s races. My rock-star trip, culminating with the USPRO Crit
Champs, actually started with a flight to Des Moines, IA on Wednesday to do a
few promotional appearances with the areas regional 7-Up bottler. My teammate
John Lieswyn met us at the airport where I immediately built up my bike and did
a 50-mile ride straight from the terminal along some beautiful country roads to
his house in Ames, IA.
After a nice dinner and a good sleep we drove to Cedar Rapids where we met up
with Doug Z., Jeff C. and some of the girls from the Diet Rite cycling team for
the promos. After two long days of meeting people and giving out cans of 7-Up we
drove to Chicago and finally rendezvoused with the rest of the team. The weekend
consisted of two races; Saturday was the 31-mile Extran Pro-Am Challenge and
Sunday was the 100k USPRO Crit Chps.
Our game plan was not too complicated; work for the foreigners on the team
(because they will work for the domestic sprinters on Sun), use the race to open
up the legs, win some dough and most importantly DON’T CRASH! As a team we rode
better than anyone else out there, we were in every move and the entire team was
always in the top 35 riders. The race had a mind-boggling 191 starters, which
meant that if you were at the back of the peloton it was a 20-minute job of
super hard work to even get close to the front.
Our Canadian sprinter Charles Dionne made his way through the throngs of
racers on the last lap and finished in a fantastic 2nd place. He was
a bit disappointed because he thought that he should have taken the win but 2nd
out of almost 200 is nothing to complain about.
With ¾ of the Pro Peloton all eating at the same Panara Bread Co., USPS team
manager Frankie Andreau noted that excuses over having a bad meal certainly were
not going to work. The race is a on a great 1-mile 7 corner course that has a
nice little kicker on the backside called "Suicide Hill." The hill is nothing
too crazy but come your 50th time around you can start to feel its
teeth start to sink into your quads.
The race is also difficult because of its distance, 100k (62 miles); I mean
how many criteriums actually have a feed zone in them?? Doug and I were put on
early patrol, which is normally no big deal, but with the race being long if you
over-extended yourself too early you could easily dig a hole that you might not
be able to claw your way out of.
As expected the race stayed together for the most part, with no break getting
more than a handful of seconds up the road. We had gotten John in the only major
move of the day but it was also eventually brought back into the fold.
With less than 5 laps to go (and therefore no more free laps), the field down
to about 50 riders, the speed averaging over 30mph and a $1500 prime on the line
there was a huge crash on corner 3. After the crash there were only 35 people
left on the road and we were split into 3 groups: the lead group of twenty who
were going for the win, a group of ten about 30 seconds back and another group
of five 15 seconds behind them (containing myself, John and Haden).
Our manager Jeff told the three of us who were in the chasing group to keep
on going because we were all still "in the money" but most of his attention was
on the lead group of 20 since we had two of our best sprinters, Kevin and
Charles, up there. Hayden and I were trying to get John as good a result as
possible but most of our attention was spent listening to what was happening up
the road on our race radios.
In the front group Charles was working for Kevin in pursuit of the coveted
stars-and-stripes jersey. Charles led out the final sprint but Henk Vogels
(Mercury) and Robbie Ventura (USPS) got around them just before the last corner.
Henk won the dash to the line and it was a photo finish for second place and the
USPRO Championship between Kevin and Robbie.
On our cool down lap the announcer on Suicide Hill was calling Robbie the
unofficial US Pro Champ so we went back to the team van to start packing up our
bikes. Kevin rode around in circles at the finish line for about 20 minutes
while the officials reviewed the finish line tape. They finally announced that
it was Kevin who won the US Pro title and our whole camp went bananas!
Our team has had some great results this year but we have not had that one
BIG win, until now. It also could not have happened to a better guy! Kevin does
not have an enemy in the peloton and is a more deserving winner than anyone out
there. He has been racing for over 15 years and can now proudly wear the US Pro
Champ jersey knowing that he earned it the hard way.
On a side note, our bike sponsor Cannandale has already sent him a custom
painted red, white and blue CAAD 7 bike. How cool is that!!! He is going to look
like a super hero riding that for the next year.
Thanks For Reading,