This past weekend several members of LITESPEED-BMW headed over to the Sunny King Criterium in Anniston, AL. Over the past 10 years, this race has become one of the biggest and most well-run in the Southeast. The guys were spread out over two different races – Hank Beaver, Colby Millen, Wes Parrish, Matt McCarthy, and Charles Rossignol were racing the category 2 criterium while Chris Brown would try his luck in the Pro/1 criterium (part of the National Criterium Calendar).
First up was the category 2 crit. The guy’s lined up with around 50 other racers and were ready to contest the 45 minute race. The plan was to get Colby, Wes, or Matt into a breakaway and to save Hank and Charles for the sprint. As soon as the whistle blew, Matt and Wes went straight to the front to keep an eye on things while the rest of the team was able to save their energy for later in the race. As is typical, there were many attacks in the first 15 minutes of the race. We tried to watch the strong riders in the race and not just go with anybody. Both Matt and Wes made it into a couple early breakaway attempts, but the rest of the field wasn’t letting anything get away. This was pretty much how the race would go for the next 20 minutes – constant breakaway attempts that would be chased down almost immediately. With 10 laps to go it was time for LITESPEED-BMW to switch to Plan B and keep Hank in position for a good sprint. Six laps to go and danger-man Philip O’Donnel was off the front with a small gap. While the other teams looked at each other, Matt got on the front, took matters into his own hands, and by the end of the lap the field was all back together. Immediately, Dave Gearhart put in an attack and had a gap of several seconds. Dave had won races each of the last two weekends, so he was a rider we knew couldn’t be given any freedom with only a few laps to go. Knowing this was a dangerous move, Wes went straight to the front of the field and was able to bring back that dangerous move to have the field “gruppo compatto” with a couple laps remaining. Colby and Hank were able to position themselves well for the sprint with one lap to go. The typical craziness ensued on the last lap and both, unfortunately, lost a little bit of position for the sprint. Hank was able to pull out a 9th place finish while Colby was not too far behind just inside the top 15. Great work by the team in the race. We’ve been knocking on the door all month and a podium is not too far away!
Later on that evening, Chris Brown lined up in the PRO/1 criterium. Chris was fresh off his win last weekend at the Aaron Shafer Memorial Road Race, he knew he was riding well and was ready to mix it up with the big boys. There were around 90 racers on the start line, and all of the pro teams were in attendance – Team Mountain Khaki’s, Kenda/5 Hour Energy, United Healthcare, etc, so Chris would be able to just sit back and let them do all the work and save himself for the finish. That’s exactly what he did until about 18 laps to go. At that point in the race Chris knew he needed to get up near the front and get ready for the field sprint. In the crazy sprint finish, Chris came across the line in 13th place! A quick look at the results and we were hard-pressed to find anybody else on there that held down a 40 hour/week job! The average speed for the 42 mile criterium was just over 28mph and only 42 riders finished!!! Way to go Chris! Chris got his and the teams name on some major cycling website such as Cyclingnews and Velonews! Chris is also now ranked 32nd in the season long National Criterium Calendar after only doing 1 of the 3 races so far this season.
This coming weekend is the Twilight Criterium in Athens, GA followed by the Historic Roswell Criterium on Sunday in Roswell, GA. If you make it out to Roswell be sure to stop by the BMW demo area to say hello. They are a big sponsor of the race!