With the hill climb prologue rained out on Friday evening, everyone was going to have fresh legs for the big NCC criterium on Saturday. The course in downtown Wilmington is on the longer side of crit courses, being about 1 mile in length with eight corners in a figure 8 shape. It also has everything you would want in a crit: a hill, lots of turns, big crowds of cheering spectators and some tight technical corners coming into the finish. The race also started at 4pm, a nice change from our usual twilight crits.
With this type of course and 105 starters, the start was extremely crucial. Fortunately, the whole team quickly got situated in the first 5 rows at the start. The second to last corner was very technical with a BIG pot hole right in the middle of the turn. You know it's bad when you are picking up your numbers and they tell you to be careful on that corner because of the large number of past crashes. I made sure to be top 10 through that on the first lap. Feeling pretty good, I was going with most of the early attacks. It didn’t hurt that off the front also felt like the safest place in the race.
After about 20 minutes, Tino was able to get into a 6-man break and I jumped across quickly while sitting on someone’s wheel. The break was working fairly well together, with us and UHC positioned the best each having two riders. At about the halfway mark we had 35 seconds or so on the field and all was looking good when all of a sudden one of the UHC guys sat up and dropped back to the field. UHC had made the call that it didn’t like its odds in the break and wanted this to come down to a field sprint. But unlike Charlotte where the situation was virtually identical, UHC would not have such luck this time!
Going into the last lap I knew that Tino had a beter sprint, so when an Optum guy attacked at the start of that final lap, I jumped across and just rode through him. I got caught with a half lap to go but stayed on the front to make sure it was fast for Tino and that no other guys would want to attack. With 2 corners to go I had given it all I had and pulled off. Tino came out of the last corner 2ndbehind the sole UHC rider and did everything he could to try to come around him. While the win was not ours to be had today, we were thrilled to have Tino on the podium in 2nd and a top 10 placing for me. It was once again a real team effort it definitely showed. It’s also maybe worth mentioning that the winner from UHC, Brad White, had recently concluded an early season stint in Europe by racing Paris-Roubaix…now that’s pretty cool!