2009 State Crit Championships. Mirage C3’s deliver the victor!!!

Kutach Takes State!

Kutach Takes State!

You know, there’s something special about this group of 3’s with whom I’m riding. We’ve got some strong cyclists, but even better, we’ve got some smart cyclists who are looking for a way to contribute and work together. It’s been a long time coming, and I’m proud that we’ve worked through ego’s (including my own), and other self-promoting agendas to work together for the common good.

The 2009 State Crit Championship for Texas was held in Fort Worth, right in front of the two art museums (Kimball and Amon Carter), and the Will Rogers Memorial Stadium. It’s an 8-turn course on a slant, and there are some tricky turns in there that can really throw cyclists for a loop. It offers the best of challenges, from varying surfaces, to tight chicanes, to city reflectors that can’t be removed. Turn 7, in particular, is a doozy. It is a right-hand turn coming off of a section of brick road on to cement, and the promoters (who are awesome, btw), usually park an ambulance right at the location, so that the medics can pay immediate attention to anyone who might go down.

I had the privilege of having my wife and dog come over to watch the race, and we also had some friends from Fort Worth watch as well, bringing their dog for Shadow to play with. The morning was perfect in terms of temperature and wind (mild and mild), and our start time was right at mid-morning, so we had a chance to sleep in a little, warm up appropriately, and watch some of the earlier races, which helped.

Jordan, Andy, Darwin, Chase, Jason and I mounted up in a vacant parking space prior to the race itself, and warmed up on our trainers. I’ve become a huge fan of ice vests, so I brought mine with me, and with Amy’s help, was able to keep it on until the last minute. I swear they work, even if it’s just to keep your jersey wet and cool so you have some evaporation as you move through the air when riding for the first 10-15 minutes.  While we warmed up, Jason laid out the plan. We were to look for opportunities to attack and create breakaways, and it was the duties of the other teammates to block, anchor, or even counter-attack if a break was brought in. The race was going to be 75 minutes long, and on such a course, a lot could happen. But the priority was to deliver Andy Kutach to a position where he could win the overall and bring home a jersey. Andy was the strongest rider, the most savvy, and he possessed the ability to ride with stamina once a break got away. He was the package.

Chase and Darwin protect their main

Chase and Darwin protect their main

Over the course of the race, there were dozens of primes (prizes) that were given away, and early on, Chase grabbed one and started the antics of trying to break away. Later, I moved from my position in the 20’s to the front and gave some strong pulls for 3 laps or so while Jason pulled back to recover.

Rich Takes a pull, leading out Ian Sewalt

Rich Takes a pull, leading out Ian Sewalt

Though I never looked back, apparently the starting list of 75 riders began to get strung out pretty quickly, and riders were being pulled early. I guess we finished with no more than 40 riders, maybe less. But in the middle of the race, while Mirage wasn’t really going for primes too much, Andy came up to me and said, “We’ve got about 45 minutes to go in this thing.” And then, he moved up. There was a prime on the line for $100 cash, and he took it. One other rider went with him, and they got maybe 10 seconds up the road. The next lap, there was a $50 prime. Andy took that, and Chase moved to the front in an effort to block.

Andy Breaks Away

Andy Breaks Away

It worked. The pack slowed down almost unconsciously, and Andy and the other cyclist started to get out of sight on the tight corners.

After a lap or two, several riders tried to get up to the front and force everyone to bridge. It didn’t work. I blocked. Chase blocked. Jason came up to me with about 15 minutes left and asked, “Did Andy get away?” My reply, “YES HE DID!” in my most Saturday Night Live-ish voice. He then went up to the front — and blocked. It was beautiful. The whole peloton began to slow down and collect its’ breath, while we intently watched the motorcycle that was following the leaders get further and further ahead. 1/3 of a lap stetched to 1/2 a lap, and then maybe 5 out of 8 corners. The lap counter came up, counting down the laps from 5 to go, but still the pack couldn’t adequately respond. In the final lap, there were some crazy moves on the brick descent to try and establish positions for the group sprint, but it was still too late. I made the turn in roughly position 20, and got passed by Darwin with his wicked-quick kick (he also took his share of pulls and blocked). But for me, the real goal was not taking a high placing, it was finding out how Andy had done. I looked up the road, and saw him cooling down at the top of the course, so I rode up as quickly as my own shelled legs would take me, and rolled up beside him.

“How’d it go?”

“I took it.”

There are no mountains in Ft. Worth, but I think 1000 people down below at the starting line and elsewhere heard the “WHOOOOO HOOOOO!” that erupted from my throat as I shared my elation at my Teammate’s win with them. The other riders came up as well, and there were pats on the back, high fives, fist bumps, everything. We’d done it. We’d delivered a State Champ. His next words out were, “I knew you guys were there for me. After about 15 minutes, the other guy looked back down and said ‘Your team is blocking for you.’ and I knew then that this was gonna work.”

We rolled back through together, and then went over to the cars to start loading up our bikes and gather up our gear. I told Jason – “Hey, this was YOUR plan. You made it happen.” He just smiled and went on. He’s pretty humble, dontcha think? It took a while for Amy to make her way up with Lila and Emmitt, and we got everything in the car, the headed over to their house for a post-race brunch, which was awesome.

Having a team, having a plan, and executing that plan, really adds to the dimension that is bike racing. I’m proud of my teammates, and want to congratulate Andy Kutach once again on his stellar performance on that Monday. I hope we can all get and give that kind of support the rest of the cycling year.


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