The Roane County Criterium was a part of the Roane County Omnium, but with 2 young children at home I was only able to attend the Saturday evening crit. This is a new race for Middle Tennessee and it is a very nice course through downtown Rockwood. I would have never had reason to visit Rockwood without this race but I’m glad I did. I spoke with a few locals who were very excited to see the race come to town this April weekend. The Village Volkswagen team had 5 riders while every other team was 1’s and 2’s so it was obvious they were the team to beat. I was solo at this event. The course had 6 wide-open turns and a steady 10-15 mph wind that made breakaways difficult to sustain. The final turn was over 90 degrees and only 100 meters from the finish so I knew I had to be first through the final turn to win.
There were continuous attacks from the Village VW team and early on everyone was chasing them down. I covered a few moves but nothing seemed to be gaining any serious time on the field. After covering some of those early moves, I realized I was getting tired and needed to tone down my aggression. By about the halfway point in the race, I decided to sit back, watch for any really dangerous moves, and otherwise hope that it came down to a field sprint. I jumped across to 2 more moves late in the race that looked promising, but we were brought back each time. After my last break attempt was caught (with 10 laps to go), A.J. Meyer from Village VW made a solid solo break. His team was happy to watch him go up the road and it looked like we would be racing for second place. But then after a lap of everyone looking around, the few teams with two riders decided to chase and we were back racing again. We started to eat into A.J.’s lead a little bit each lap. The race was getting harder with our pace plus the wind so I can only imagine how hard A.J. was working to stay out there solo. With 5 laps to go, A.J. was about 20 seconds in front of us and the rest of his team lined up behind the chasers to prepare for their leadout at the finish. I slotted in behind them and did not have too much trouble fighting off anyone that tried to take the wheel from me. The gap kept dropping until we finally caught the solo leader just before we got the bell signaling one lap to go.
As we hit turn 1 for the final time, Village VW had 4 guys lined up on the front and looked to be in a perfect position to win the race. We kept a moderate pace until we got to near the end of the back straightaway, where the field swamped the tempo-riding Village VW team. For a brief moment, I was boxed in on the outside of the second to last turn (which is where I really needed to be at the front to sprint for the final turn). But then as we exited the turn, the riders in front of me swung left to get in the draft of the riders that had just swamped them. Bad move boys! I hit it on the far right of the group into a cross/head wind where no one apparently wanted to be except me. It was tough in the wind but I had clear road in front of me and I sprinted for all I was worth. I made it through the final turn first and used my cornering experience to carve the turn as best I could. I came out of the final turn with a bike length on the next rider and easily hung on to win.
It felt great to pull off a W with very limited training and only 2 other races in my legs this season. Hopefully Litespeed/BMW can continue this trend. I know once my teammate Chris Brown can make it out to race with me, we will be the strongest 2 man team in Tennessee!