This past weekend was the 2nd annual Cavern City Classic down in Carlsbad, NM. I went down in hopes of a good result and felt that it was possible after the past few successful weekends of racing. The first day was more of a circuit race with the Men 4 doing four laps of the circuit that ended with a one mile climb. The race started off as most of the Men 4 races do, slow and uneventful. On the first lap there was one extra category 5 climb at the beginning of the lap and Randy Bradford used this hill as a launching pad for an attempt at a solo break. Randy held the peloton off for one whole lap and was even able to get his lead up to almost two minutes at one point. On the second lap it was clear that the group was ready to bring him back and just before the second time up the climb he was reeled back in. The second time up saw the beginning of the fireworks as there were KOM points on the line that could greatly effect the overall. Dustin from ZiaVelo set a blistering pace up the first half of the climb. I knew I needed to take the KOM points if I wanted a chance at winning the overall so I sat third wheel and waited until about 75 meters to the line to attack. As I attacked, others behind reacted and unfortunately a few of the racers got caught up in a crash. I took the KOM fairly easily and as I crossed the line I sat up and looked back to see two ZiaVelo riders and one Carlsbad rider with me. We decided to press on, just the four of us, and attempt to hold off the chasers. The chasers got within ten seconds of us at one point but I told the guys in the break to keep it steady up the rollers and hammer it on the down hills. This worked and by the time we hit the climb for the third time it was pretty clear that the winner would come from this group. On the last lap we were still riding hard making sure to stay away from the chasers and the single Carlsbad racer was dangling a bit. I told the ZiaVelo guys it would be best to get rid of him so I put in one big dig and we were able to shake him. Now that it was two ZiaVelo racers versus me it was time to start being conservative to save what I could for the finish. I started taking shorter pulls and eventually let the two ZiaVelo racers pull altogether. We hit the climb for the final time and kept the pace steady with everyone looking around at each other. I made sure to sit on a wheel as the ZiaVelo racers started to up the pace as it was a headwind climb. We started hitting the steep ramps and then the attacks from ZiaVelo started coming. One guy would attack and I would have to chase pulling his teammate up to him. Then as I would shut down one attack the other guy would counter attack and I would have to chase this as well, each time bringing the teammate back up to the other. Each guy from ZiaVelo put in at least two hard attacks and counters before we reached the point where the rode flattened out a bit. Dustin from ZiaVelo put in one last attack right at the beginning of the flat section and I was able to cover it. He then proceeded to look back and as he did I countered his attack and was able to hold them both off to the line to take the win. This win was my most gratifying to date as I really had to play my cards right. It was also gratifying because I had to go so deep to stay with the attacks and was still able to have enough to put in one of my own. For the first time in a race I really felt like this was how bike racing is supposed to be.
The second day of racing was a fairly flat road stage until the final climb up the same hill as the circuits were on the day before. I knew a lot wasn’t going to happen on the flat sections but there was one crucial sprint point for omnium points that I knew I needed to take to help win the overall. One Olev Rapido racer was up the road and ended up taking the first place sprint points, but I wasn’t concerned because he wasn’t a GC threat. I was fortunate to have Bean Mercer pull me up to the front before the sprint point and give me a great lead out to easily take the second place sprint points. For the rest of the flat part of the race not much happened. A few half-hearted attempts at a break went off and I was forced to shut down a few, mainly the ones that contained one of the ZiaVelo riders from the day before. Approaching the climb Bean again helped me position at the front for the climb. I was first wheel coming into the climb and proceeded to ride a hard tempo to start shelling some of the riders. Almost immediately Dustin, from ZiaVelo, put in a huge attack. I continued to ride my pace thinking that he was most definitely going to blow up and not be able to hold that pace. As we got halfway up the climb I realized that he was potentially going to make his move stick and I had to give everything I had to try and get up to him. I was able to get within three seconds but never anymore. As I crested the top I realized he was going to get the win on the day. His teammate Marcus, the other rider from the day before, was able to ride up to me and sit on my wheel until about 150 meters from the line when he started his sprint and I had nothing left to follow. This had me ending up 3rd on the day but in the process I was able to secure the overall win of the omnium. Big thanks to Carlsbad Velo for the great race and support – and kudos to my two ZiaVelo riders who really made the race interesting!