LITESPEED-BMW rider Chris Brown made quite an impression on the west coast teams/riders at the Masters National Championship in Bend Oregon a couple of weeks ago. In the process he just about brought home a national championship to the team! Read on for the details:
First up was the 110km road race with 5,372 feet of climbing taking place around and up part of Mt Bachelor (yes, this is THE Mt Bachelor – just a bit intimidating as the race finished part way up the Mtn!). The field was stacked with previous Masters National Champions, ex-pro riders from teams such as Rock Racing, Health Net, Prime Alliance of which were now racing for Masters elite teams in Southern California or other west coast areas. West coast teams such as California Giant Berry Farms, Safeway, Time Factory Team, Sho-Air and the biggest of these…Monster Media/SC Velo were racing of which the Monster Media team had eight riders racing!
The race started on a long nine mile downhill and then hit some flat to rolling roads before heading up the long, rolling eleven mile climb to the finish. There were lots of attacks as the roads were very wide and were closed to traffic so riders could attack all over the road and thus it made for some very intense early racing. Chris was racing smart knowing he needed to try and save as much of his energy as possible for the final eleven mile rolling climb to the finish which would ultimately decide the race. So he only went with the moves that looked dangerous. Yet at one point a four rider group got away and eventually two other riders attacked to bridge up to the break and Chris noticed that the large Monster Media team was pretty much shutting everything down as the break got to a minute and a half ahead of the peloton.
It was crunch time, and Chris, being maybe a bit unrecognized, rolled off the front of the group when the group lulled a bit and he did so in an attack-like effort (he did not stand and do a violent visible attack but stayed seated and stealthly rolled off) to see if he could break free of the peloton and it worked! He brought out one other rider with him and off they went to bridge the gap to the break. This took them approximately 13 miles to pull off, finally reaching the six rider break. Once there Chris began taking pulls and realized that over half the break were smoked already and the Monster Media rider (Karl Bordine, a previous Masters National Champion) had been sitting on the entire time so he would have fresh legs for the climb coming. So Chris and a few others rotated to try to keep the gap up before the climbing began. The peloton got to within 30 seconds before Chris, Karl, Rudolph “Rock’s Not Dead” Napolitano of Time and Jonathan Eropkin of Safeway hit the first part of the climb together as the rest of the break had come off. Rudolph immediately attacked and got a slight gap with Karl attacking hard and Chris getting on Karl’s wheel. So the race for the championship was on and it was basically a drag race the next eleven miles as Chris tried to work with the fresh legs of Karl as much as he could on the climbs but Chris was a bit tired from having to bridge to the break earlier. Ultimately, Rudolph Napolitano held a slight gap with Karl and Chris chasing, keeping Rudolph to within 15 seconds on most of the climb, but with 2k to go they knew the race for the win was out of reach. Karl and Chris had kept the fresh riders of the peloton at bay so they were going to sprint it out for a silver medal. At 1k to go, all of a sudden Matthew Gates of the Mix 1 team of Colorado catches them out of nowhere! He had come out of a small chase group and bridged up! Well a hard sprint ensued and Chris watched Karl and Matthew race for a silver medal as Chris’s tired legs just didn’t have the snap to do much of a sprint. So Chris rolled in for a solid fourth place at Nationals! Great result especially considering the way he had to race by bridging up to the break and then giving it his all on the final climb. The silver medal and ultimately the National Championship were oh so close though…next year! Congrats to Chris on an unbelievable season! Overall Tennessee Best Rider, double-digit win total, and now a medal at the national championships!!!
Two days later was the 50km criterium for another national championship. This race was on a technical, 1km course in downtown Bend. The same strong field of riders were on the start for this race as well, again the Monster Media team had eight riders and should be the team to control the race. Early on it was fairly apparent that riders were not being very aggressive as it seemed no one wanted to work together in any moves. Even when Chris or other riders would get with a Monster Media rider in a break, the Monster Media rider didn’t seem to want to push the pace for the break to succeed, were they just wanting a field sprint? Chris made some hard efforts mid-way through to try to break away, at one point he and Monster Media rider (Kayle Leo Grande (a former Rock Racing “A Squad” member)) and Jonathan Eropkin of Safeway got away. Chris thought this move was here to stay, but soon Jonathan crashed in the tricky 2nd to last turn and that pretty much destroyed that move from succeeding. Some other attacks came late in the race and TN friend and Nationals roommate John Hart of the Friends of the Great Smokies team did a great job to not allow any of the moves to get much time, pulling them back and keeping them in check so they didn’t get too much of a lead. John was trying to set up Chris for an attack which Chris did with eight laps to go (thanks for the help John!). At that point of the race a Time Factory Team rider (Michael Easter) had snuck away and had about a fifteen second lead. Chris got a great solo gap on the field and closed in on Easter a bit as the laps ticked by, but Chris could not quite get to Michael Easter and then the Monster Media team who had put three riders on the front of the pack to chase, ultimately brought Chris back with three laps left. Funny thing is once they brought Chris back into the field the Monster Media team stopped chasing as hard, they seemed content to race for second…pretty strange as it seemed that they wanted a field sprint earlier in the race, guess not or was there some strange team allegiance? Who knows but it did seem unusual to just let the national title go up the road…so Chris just did what he could the last couple of hard laps as he was a bit tired from his solo effort, he missed some last lap crashes as well and still finished 12th. Not bad at all as he gave it his all to try to win a championship only to come up a bit short but what a way to go after it Chris! Nice work in Bend and way to represent the east coast and the LITESPEED-BMW team.