As we got rolling up to the race it was nice to go up with a couple of others instead of rolling alone like I normally do. The drive was actually a good time. On the way up we were chatting and decided to work in this race like a team and have a plan going in with the goal of sticking to it. On their suggestion the plan was for them to lead me through the course and for me to attack at the end. It was a little odd for me to be thinking of it this way but they said I was in the best form. Rick has been busy and hasn't been training a lot and Shawn raced the road race yesterday and was feeling a little tired.
As we were continuing to drive north the weather was getting colder and we were driving through all sorts of rain. I was already cold and a bit worried about the fact I hadn't brought any of my cold weather gear or a even a jacket to wear before the race. The only thing that I had was my arm warmers that I threw in at the last minute last night. I'm thankful for that.
When we got there and got registered we picked up our numbers and went to get changed. After we got changed we hit the course for just a couple of quick of quick laps before the junior racers started. The only thing I kept thinking about was that it was cold. After they closed the course we went right back to the truck to warm up. I was a little tense but my teammates Rick and Shawn are pretty funny together and lightened the mood up.
They only gave us a little under10 minutes to get warmed back up on the course. All I kept thinking was that I was cold and that I had to stick to the plan. Rick was all over me trying to get the mountain bike mentality of having to be in the front the whole time out of my head. He even went to the point of lining up in front of me on the start line to keep me back. When the gun went off I rolled and then had to stop from rolling into Ricks wheel and then had a hard time getting going again and ended up at the back of the back. Shawn led me back up though and I got to my spot on Rick's wheel and we started rolling through the laps. The challenge to this race which took it to another level was that right at the start it started to rain a little and as we were going it just kept getting stronger.
As the race progressed the rain kept getting stronger and the thunder was starting and we were right were we wanted to be with the lead group and sitting in about 6 & 7 th position. I think that since the weather was bad nobody was really attacking to much and it kept things tight. We had about 12 laps to go when Rick came next to me and asked if it was starting hail. Right when he said that I heard the ping on my helmet. Yes, it was hailing. The hail continued to get worse and worse and worse. We were sticking to our plan through it and just kept going. At 8 laps to go the thunder started but we still just kept rolling losing a couple of more riders in the lead group.
When we went through with 4 laps to go Rick and I looked at each other and said at lap 2 we attack. During that 4th lap though there was a huge thunder clap right above us and when we got around to the start/finish area I heard the bell and them yelling last lap, last lap. I looked back at Rick and said this is it and I attacked getting right up into third position. It stayed that way and on the second to last turn I passed the guy in 2nd and then on the last turn I pushed hard and made my move to go for the line. I probably went a bit early and my wheel slipped on the streets now almost white with hail and I had a guy on my wheel and he was strong and got around me and I couldn't hold him but kept pushing and ended up coming across the line in 2nd.
Right after the finish I went straight for the nearest awning I could find to get out of the hail. Rick rolled up asking what was going on. He didn't hear them or me say last lap and when he was yelling at me when I went I thought he was saying go but he was trying to get me to slow down. He crossed the line without sprinting where he could have finished much better. Probably could have gotten 3rd or 4th easily. Shawn had a hard time getting back into the pace and dropped from the race.
After we got changed and went back to wait for the medals we were all pretty pumped about how my race finished. I owe it to Rick who played the role of the domestique and got me through to the end. When they went to do the podium shots and hand out the medals they did the medals for the race first and I was in second just like I thought but when they went to announce the state championship I realized that the guy who finished first wasn't from Nebraska and that made me the Nebraska Cat 5 Criterium State Champion. I couldn't beleive it. The guys went nuts. It was such a huge accomplishment for us being a new team and all of us being pretty much in our first year of really road racing. I couldn't have done it without my team and they were just as excited. We all won that.
Thinking about it now I had a great time in this race. Rick said the same thing. Even though the conditions were horrible that just added more to it. A race that we will all talk about for a while. Here's a few pics we got:
getting ready to go back out on the course after warming up in the truck
the flatwater team soaking wet after the race
criterium state champ