The Adventures of Aram and C-Walk
The last time Chris and I raced together, we won. Ironically, of the 10 races i've [already] done this season, this last weekend would mark only the second time I raced with a teammate. The TIME Team for this weekend would be just two guys. Chris Walker, and myself. The race: down south at the Tour of Murietta Omium, with a 90 minute crit on saturday, and a 100k circuit on Sunday. $5,000 purse with stage and omnium money. For purposes of this report, I must emphasize that both courses were flat. Some small sprint-hills on sunday's circuit, but really, a perfect course for a fat big sprinter guy like me, or a bigger fatter 200lb super sprinter guy -a mainstay of SoCal racing.
Saturday-90 Minute Crit:
Lets go. Role-Call. Rassan Bahati lined up, and was the clear favorite, as he had 2 teammates to help. Team Hi-Tec-Star-Fish-Something had a trillion (10?) guys, so if they raced right, could isolate Bahati and make a go at it. Good field, perhaps 100 riders. Great Weather (85degs). Race blasts off. I started the race in the middle, and by the time I made my way to the front, I saw that Walker was already in a move with 6 others. Time for domestique duty. As soon as i'm rollin' the sleeves and stretching the legs to begin marking moves like a good teammate, Chris Demarchi (Hi-Tec-Starfish) bllllllasts off the right side. I blast (just one "L") off the right side in pursuit. I'm marked by Sterling Magnell (Rassan's teammate) who wouldn't pull through. I get to chris after a 100 meters. He flicks his elbow. "I got Walker", I say. "THOSE AREN'T GOOD ODDS" is what Demarchi screamed back. And yeah, course like this? C-Walk doesn't have a chance in hell against the aforementioned SoCal Scene-bred crit stock. I pull through, and Chris and I close it (with no help from Magnell....sorta understandable with Rassan in the field, but cmmmon).
Break gets established. 9-10 of us. Me and CWalk, Demarchi and his teammate, Magnell, and others. It was never really smooth, and to be honest, I didn't feel great, but pulled through hard, with the intent of staying away, and mopping up the breakaway sprint. I could take these guys. Especially after a couple Walker attacks to soften them up. We eventually get half a lap (50 seconds), and just started to stagnate a bit. But it held, and with about 10 laps to go, we were well clear. Walker was itching to go, and went. I allowed Demarchi and 2 others to go with them, and waited for the rest of the break (Magnell, particularly) to chase but they sat up. Walker was gone. He had about a .01% chance of beating Demarchi in a sprint, but 4th place is a solid Crit result for C-Walk. To my chase group I said "Cmmon, First through 4th are up the road, but we can easily get top-10s, ffffffff-in work". Nope. We were swallowed up with 3 laps to go. I rolled in at the back of the pack, a bit bummed at not staying away after all that, but content, because 125lbs of in-form Walker ended up 3rd, amazingly. Demarchi won.
Day 2: 100k Circuit Race
I scored 0 points at the Crit, and Walker got plenty. I'd obviously be the workhorse on this day, and was happy to do it. Met with Chris before the race. He was his usual timid self, and said "Ah, yeah, lets try to keep a top-5 position" or something like that, and I couldn't blame him, as it was a realllly flat course against a FULL-team (hitecsportsfish) of flatland specialists defending the jersey. Still, I said "no, man. lets isolate Demarchi, get you and Thurlow up the road, and win the whole thing". Walker: -shrugs-. Those of you who race bikes know damn well that pre-race strategy and talks rarely [raaaaaaarely] come to fruition...but still, we do these things anyway to pass the time and to feel like there's a sense of underlying purpose while racing.
So from the gun, I put in a nice acceleration, strung the field out. Found that the legs are good. Good legs with fully-comitted domestique duty......watch out. The plan was for me to work the Hi-Tec team best I could. They had lots of matches to burn, but C-Walk has an unlimited supply, and I felt pretty good too. During the first 3 (of 17 3.5 mile laps) laps, a little break containing no GC threats got a gap. Walker and I skipped this move, but no worries. I made a couple digs, and was brought back by hi-tec (as planned) each time. It came back all on it's own with no real chase pressure. Then things started to get jittery. Walker put in a couple moves, and huh? No instant response from Hi-Tec. They eventually came back, but I told Walker, "hey, a couple more digs, and you'll be clear -easily." So we kept leaning, and ha! We isolated the Jersey. How does this happen?? Walker's group had some good horsepower, and was off, but maybe only 100 meters in front because of steady pressure from Hi-Tec. What followed is among my favorite aspects of racing. I parked it at 2nd wheel the rest of the way (6 to go), and let Hi-Tec burn their remaining matches. Thurlow attacked in a bridging effort. Perfect! I let him get clear, and once he made contact with C-Walk and co., I knew it was over. Sensing victory, my legs felt even better than they did at the start, and the front of that peleton was shut down and SMITE to the back. [Can you tell that I really enjoy being the jerk domestique that sits at/near the front of the peleton, reminding everyone that "yep, you missed the move. Hi."] The hi-tec giant was slain. Demarchi (leader's jersey wearer) made a couple last-ditch attacks, but with no one but me on his wheel. With one to go, and the break nearly 2 minutes clear, I pulled out, and sprinted to the finish area to see Walker take the race. A hi-tec guy that policed the move won (and was pretty happy about it, though they lost the GC as a result), Walker came in 2nd just ahead of Thurlow to Seal up the GC win!!! Aram and C-Walk...undefeated as teammates.
Allright, time to drive this to a close. It was a great weekend, among the most lucrative of my career, but in some ways it bums me out. I look at my race resume, and see the results and all that junk from over the years, and nearly all of them have come while riding without teammates. From cat 5 to cat 1. Even this season (8 of 10, solo). Gahh. I think of how much more fruitful the resume (and the enjoyment of the sport) could have been with a nice group of guys to work with, but ah well. What's done is done.
On this note, i'd like to announce that a week from tomorrow, i'll be leaving to ride with a new team. I got the call for it about 3 weeks ago. It's U25 French continental team, based in the southern town of Aubenas, France. I can't tell you how excited I am at the prospect of riding with a full team in each race, and in France of all places! The team will be providing me with a place to stay, some monthly €€€, a bike (Giant w/Chorus), and I hope a bit of food as well. I'm very very lucky to have this opportunity, and I was [rightly] threatened with death from several people if I turned the opportunity down! I fly into Lyon on Wednesday, the 21st, where i'll be picked up and driven the 150 kilometers to Aubenas. Aside from that, I know very little. This entry's gone on long enough, though........more reflections at another time. Busy week ahead, and long lonnng flight.
And some more great shots from Dave Haag. Geez they're crisp. I would have smiled a bit if I knew he was taking them. Here they are: