No one even tried to get on his wheel as he came up. I let him ride right past me and off the front, sure that Davis would mark it straightaway as they did every other such attempt. Although they took their time, they eventually reacted. The chase was officially on. About half a lap after Jim and I did our thing, Mr. Beast himself, Karl Tingwald, rode up the left side of the field on the first roller and immediately assumed the front to the tune of “Alright!” and “There he is!” from some embattled riders near me.
After hitting the front for the first time all day, Karl used every last ounce of his strength to pull the field, including me, for the greater part of a lap. By the end of that lap the break was only a few seconds ahead and doomed to certain failure. It was an impressive effort and I was not going to let it go to waste.
We finally caught the break with just under 6 miles to go, and by this point it was a given that nothing else would be allowed even a foot of breathing room. The pace slowed to a crawl. Davis assembled their lead-out train but were understandably weary of hitting the gas too early and waited in the wings. Just as we approached the second-to-last corner with just over a mile to go, the pack sprang to life and each rider jumped to hit the corner ahead of the next guy.
As always, I was not about to muscle for position at the risk of life and limb and so lost a couple of spots after the jump, ultimately settling in around 20th. However, I used some energy to pop around some people during the straightaway, entering the last corner at about 10th after being cut off by a rider from a team that will not be named.
Rounding the final corner, some riders forgot that there were about 600 meters to go and launched immediately, only to quickly sputter out. For my part, I continued to follow the surging wheels and surfed up to third position with about 200 meters to go and prepared to launch my sprint. However, just as I readied to strike, the same rider who had previously cut me off, now riding in second, swerved again (I don’t even understand why this time, as there were only three of us at the front with the entire road to ourselves), forcing me to either sit down and brake or go off the road. Easy choice. I sat in behind him and rolled across the line, seated, in third.
The result could have and should have and would have been better, but that was certainly a good enough result to be happy with, particularly in light of the terrific work the team did to get me there. I was getting nervous, but they definitely pulled through in the clutch, making for a damn exciting race, if I do say so myself. Props to Justin for sticking it out in the field in his first Bs road race, which is a lot more than I can say for myself.
The next day at the UC Davis Criterium, the plan was for me to try to set Karl up for the win, but upon seeing the technical, dangerous nature of the course, we quickly set those plans aside for another day. After witnessing two crashes in the first three laps, Justin and I mutually decided to find a coffee shop and then return to spectate. Jim and Karl weren’t having the times of their lives either and abandoned shortly after. Despite this disappointment, however, I think all of us would call the weekend a rousing success and a lot of fun to boot. Fight On!