Three weeks ago I crashed hard during the crit stage of the VeloTek Grand Prix. Thankfully no broken bones but, instead, a bruised shoulder and the most intense lower back pain I have ever experienced in my life. It did not help matters that I passed out in the bathroom two days later, hitting my bruised back on the toilet. That week was tough on my family and I. My wife did an incredible job of tending to my needs, keeping me thinking positive and mending me back to health. Thankfully the pain subsided after a week and a half and I got myself back on the bike.
The week leading up to the Salt City Crits I was still on the fence as to if I would race, considering I still was not feeling 100% and I didn’t want to re-injure my back. Through encouraging words from Corey and Dan and some coaxing by my wife, I decided I would race Saturday. From there I would determine if I felt I could race Sunday as well.
The Velobus brought down several riders from the Lawrence area which was great to see our team making a presence in Hutchinson and supporting the races close to the Wichita area. In total we had seven VeloTek team riders racing over the weekend. The Saturday crit was on the streets of downtown Hutchinson and was fast and flat with wide open corners. My Garmin showed we had an average speed of 24.6 mph for the 40 minute race. My mission was to stay out of trouble and get my jitters of racing out as well as my confidence back. There were a few hairy moments of chaos but everyone stayed upright and, in the end, Will was able to put in an impressive final sprint and take the win for VeloTek! My personal mission was accomplished and I was ready to do it again in the morning.
Sunday morning came and I was feeling tired but my legs felt fresh and ready to go. The Sunday crit was held at the Kansas State Fairgrounds in Hutchinson, KS. It is a somewhat narrow course with a long straight away to a sharp U-turn corner which leads to another long straight away to a right hand turn toward the finish.
I wanted to stay out of trouble and from the start I took the lead to drive the pace a little and thought that the U-turn might splinter the field up. The turn did not break things up as much as I had thought and after about four laps I took cover in the pack. Halfway through the race I launched an attack to see how long I could stay away. Come to find out, not very long. I only lasted for two laps before I was swallowed back up. At this point I was focusing on hanging with the pack and hoping I could get my heart rate down. I took Gary’s wheel and he told me to let him know when I was ready and he would pull me back to the front. I didn’t get that chance to tell him I was ready as I was still hurting from my previous attack. He surged toward the front and I sucked it up and stayed with him for half a lap before I couldn’t keep his pace. At this point I am thinking I had probably burned all my matches and wasn’t sure if I would have anything left for a final sprint. With only five laps to go I sat in trying to recover as much as I could for one final push. With one to go and rounding the U-turn I was sitting mid pack and knew I needed to get to the front before the final turn if I were to stand a chance. I gave it all I had and took the lead coming into the final turn and then hammered again out of the turn. I was able to take the line by half a wheel! Instant exhilaration entered my veins and I was in shock that I took my first ever crit win considering where I was physically three weeks ago. It will be a weekend I will not soon forget.