by Michael Hast
This was my 2nd TT in a cycling race. I have done plenty of triathlons and didn't feel as nervous about it and you're not all wet on the bike :-) Our start time was just before 11 am which put me in a bind of should I eat before the race or not. I have been following Hammer Nutrition's advice of not to eat 2 to 3 hours before a race. This time it was closer to 3 hours and I didn't eat. However warming up on the trainer I had a gel with caffeine. I started after Kyle who started after Buzz, which was a great setup, 2 riders I knew ahead of me. A few minutes after the start my cycling computer display stopped working and all I had as a gauge was Kyle up ahead. On the way out, I think initially closed the gap between Kyle and me. Then I had a horrible onset of dry mouth and started coughing (I blame me having the gels during warm-up). I reached for my bottle of water more than I anticipated. Before the turnaround point the TT/GC winner, who started 30 seconds behind me, blew by me and took some wind out of me. On the way back, I passed one rider, but didn't see Kyle or the TT/GC winner anywhere ahead of me. I placed 7th, one place ahead of Big Mike.
Michael preparing to chase down Buzz
I have never ridden that course, nor anywhere close to Casa Grande. It is a triangular shaped course and we had to ride it 2.8 times, about 46 miles. The first section of the course was a slight downhill with a headwind and the second section was a straight away with a headwind. Nobody wanted to do any real work, so we all just sat in and rode. The third section was where all the action happened. It had a 400-foot gradual hill climb followed by a fast descent to the first section of the course. One rider just took off on the base on the hill and we didn't catch him for a while. On the second lap just before that hill we got passed by the Cat 5's and the referees put us in a neutral mode, so no attacks were allowed until the Cat 5's had some distance from us. Then there was a mad rush to the top of the hill because time bonuses were handed out on the 2nd lap. Buzz passed me on the way down after each climb and yelled, "Grab my wheel, we're going to the front!". WOW, what an encouraging working teammate. So I got on and we went up front.
On the last lap I just wanted to move up to the front before the hill, but launched an attack because I saw 3 riders up ahead and wanted to bridge to them. The pack followed and we bunched up in the middle of the hill. Towards the finish line at the top of the hill a pack of 10 riders broke away. I fell back, but tried to bridge. Then out of nowhere Buzz passed me and yelled, "Get on!" My legs were screaming, but I followed, then he released me and yelled, "One last sprint and you'll catch them!" My legs still screaming, but my mind said, yes, I can do this. So I stood up and sprinted a few feet. The guy behind me released a big sigh, but he eventually caught up to me and passed me. So I ended up 12th and moved to the 6th place for GC. Then we watched Gary and Coul race. WOW!
Well, crits are crits, too many corners and too many riders :-) The plan was to form a breakaway with Kyle, Buzz and I after a prime was given to have some separation from the pack. Well, right from the the start I was at the end of the pack yo-yoing and it took me a while to get comfortable. With the crit only being 30 minutes, there wasn't much time to get comfortable and to move up. Whenever I tried to move up, others had the same idea and I unfortunately held back. Buzz and Kyle broke away and stayed away for a while. It was great to see and I was there with them in spirit. The last 5 laps came and the strategy changed for Kyle (and me) to lead out Buzz for the sprint. Well, I almost made it to Buzz's wheel on the last lap, but again held back because a corner was approaching. I came in last in that group and didn't even sprint to the finish, which added 21 seconds to my time. So I need to be aware next time to at least stay in the pack all the way to the finish. I kept my 6th place in GC though and am very thankful about that.