Our buddy and teammate Chris Larkin is moving next month. He is a Cat 4 racer who is definitely strong enough to be a Cat 3 or even a Cat 2 when he has the time to train. His days of racing just Master's or triathlons hasn't given him the points to upgrade yet. So this year we asked him to be on our team and wanted to help him get the points to upgrade before he moves. So a race like Fort Lee that was a Cat 3/4 race was nice to be able to help him out if possible.
So here is how it went for the Virginia Beach Wheelmen:
Myself, Kevin Horvath, Chris Larkin and John Grey entered the Cat 3/4 race. I think there were 61 starters according to the promoter. Careytown had a lot of racers and they have been pretty strong this year. I was impressed with their strategy, attack after attack to try and free a break up the road. It didn't work. Teams like Nature's Path, Bike Works, Fat Frogs and the Wheelmen seem to chase most of the stuff down. Actually I don't think any team just sat in.
I am fighting a chest/head cold and so for the first time in a while, I just sat in and watched. I was perfectly willing to work if I saw my team was over worked, but because a lot of team's were working and being a fast course, nothing was getting away. My guys did a lot of work, made some attacks and and tried to latch onto some of the moves, but like I said, nothing was getting away. Not when the average speed in near 27 mph.
Ten laps to go I moved closer to the front. I had spent the majority of the race about 20-30 people back, but I wanted to move up to the top 10-15. Five laps to go they rang the bell for a prime. I latched onto a Bike Works leadout. I had no intention of going for the prime, but I thought about a possible break following the prime. It didn't occur but I was ready for it. Two laps to go, Kevin asked for a leadout to the outside. We were both inside at this point. So we began to move outside. Bell lap first turn, Kevin was pushed outside into the curb. Someone even grabbed his shorts and held on in order to keep from crashing. No one went down but now Kevin was out. So I redirected my leadout. I went inside and found Chris and John. Through the sweeping bend I told Chris to prepare to get my wheel when I come past him.
Through the big turn up the small incline I was on Chris's wheel to the inside. Suddenly the pack shifted to the right and I made my move. "Chris, on your left, get on my wheel". I passed him he got on my wheel and I gunned it. Off the front hammering through the turn down toward the finish line. Leading the pack out. I was getting closer to the line and it seemed quite behind me. I refused to look back, if Chris wasn't on my wheel then I had to give it everything I had. I started thinking I might be alone. I even stood up to produce some type of sprint, but after leading out hard for about 1/2 mile, I had nothing. Near the line two riders came around me. I couldn't sprint at this point. One rider was Nature Path and the other rider was from GamJams. I held on for 3rd place. I turned around and saw Chris come across the line in 5th place. John Grey was not too far back in 14th place. Even after nearly going down on the final lap Kevin maintained composure and came in 25th place.
What happened? Why didn't Chris have my wheel? He did get my wheel. Unfortunately with my acceleration he had to shift to accelerate with me. His hands were numb and he couldn't feel his shift lever. He accidentally downshifted instead of upshifted and spun out. The two riders then went around him. So it was a perfect set up and we are more than pleased with the results.
This was the first "podium" finish of mine, so I was very excited about it.
Great race to all and great course.