On Saturday August 2nd, 2014, the stage was set for what has traditionally been one of the fastest and most aggressive races of the whole season, the USA Crits Iron Hill Criterium. Taking place in West Chester, PA, the Iron Hill Crit boasts more than 20,000 spectators and once again did not disappoint.
Nearly 100 riders lined up for the 1 kilometer, 4 corner course, which includes a significant elevation change on each lap. The race was indeed very aggressive from the gun, with threatening gaps opening up even in the first 5 out of 75 laps of racing. Isaac Howe was represented in the first threatening move of the day which including the reigning elite criterium national champion. The next significant move to get off the front proved to be decisive. It was a group of seven and was successful due to the huge amount of work by Kevin Mullervy and Andres Alzate. In-fact, Andres worked so hard to help the breakaway lap the field, that he eventually had to retire from the race. The remaining group of six quickly lapped the field, with Champion System – Stan's NoTubes having only one out of six a lap up on the rest and in contention for the victory (odds we did not love).
With 30 laps remaining, I attacked with two other riders after an all-out sprint on a prime lap. Our gap back to the field continued to grow over the coming laps as we dug deep. After more than 20 laps of hard riding, the dynamic of the race changed once again when our group of 3 also lapped the field! Watching a re-play of the race video it was very clear that without the tactical work of Conor Mullervy, Gavi Epstein, and Isaac Howe in the field, our ability to lap the field would never have happened. With Champion System – Stan’s NoTubes now having two out of nine a lap up on the field, we were much better situated to contest the win.
As we came into the final ten laps, attacks were still coming hard and fast. Two-time Olympic track rider Bobby Lea, who was one of the lead lap riders, launched a move that lasted for 2 laps. Since neither Kevin nor I are sprinters (and since the best sprinter in the country was also one of the lead lap riders), we knew that our only chance to win would be to try to do it solo. With about eight laps to go I tried to go solo, but with the recent work I had put in to lap the field I could only manage to create a small gap that lasted for a lap. Kevin had a bit more time to recover from his efforts and immediately put in a strong counter attack with 7 laps to go. Kevin’s effort was truly a valiant one, but he had gone just a bit too early and was brought back with just two laps to go. The finish came down to a field sprint and despite heavy jostling and a top of late work by us, Kevin and I finished 4th and 5th, respectively.
While we did not exactly get the win or the podium finish we wanted, Kevin, myself and the rest of the team truly left everything on the road going for the win. I don’t exactly have this opportunity every day, so to come up just a little short while giving it 100% is something I can certainly live with.