After a great trip to Pennsylvania, Vermont, Montreal and Boston, the whole Champion System - Stan's NoTubes team was feeling great with some solid racing and some fantastic results. As Colorado based riders, Conor Mullervy and I flew home for a break between travel races. This presented the opportunity for both of us to get to race in the Littleton Criterium, which is also the host for the Colorado State Criterium Championships and has a bid to join the NCC next year. Littleton is a southern suburb of Denver and has a great main street/downtown area where the race takes place. Littleton also happens to be the city where both Conor and I grew up. Therefore, the race was very important to both of us.
Surrounded by local family and friends, the nearly 100 starters lined up for a 7:15 pm twilight start of an 80 minute criterium. The course took riders around a mostly flat, 6 turn course of about 1.2 km. The course boasted wide sweeping corners and a very fast finishing sprint of 250 meters from the last corner. Despite having attended the biggest criteriums in the country throughout the season, I admitted to Conor about being truly nervous for this local race and he said he was feeling the same. Nerves and attentiveness proved useful as the race opened up to a blistering pace.
With several very strong Colorado teams and a number of regional and international professional riders in the race, it was very aggressive throughout. I swapped turns with Conor covering a flurry of attacks and getting into a number of promising moves. However, the most significant move of the race came late, with about 10 laps to go and included 5 riders but neither of us were represented. Showing the strength and cohesion that only come from doing races together all over the world, we planned out the remainder of the race with only a few words. Conor went to the front with 8 laps remaining and drove the pace. In a monster effort over the next 6 laps, Conor singlehandedly brought the gap down to less than 10 seconds. With only 2 laps left in the race it was up to the strong amateur team Horizon Organic to use their 5 man leadout to close the rest of the gap.
It was a hard fight for me against a full team at the front. Horizon was working for the defending champion Brad Bingham but I was able to find, fight for, and hold Brad's wheel into the final lap. The breakaway was caught with less than 1 km remaining as the Horizon leadout blew around it. Seeing my chance to overtake the tired leadout men in front, I attacked with every ounce of power I had just before turn five. Pushing the equipment to its limits and flying through the final two turns at over 35 mph, I sprinted clear of everyone else and showed a clean pair of wheels to the rest of the field across the line. I even time to do a heartfelt victory salute to Champion System - Stan's NoTubes.
After a victory lap there was a short interview where I was able to thank the crowd and my friends and family for coming and supporting such a great event. The course, the organization of the race and the host city were all fantastic. Both Conor and I are very hopeful that the Littleton Criterium makes it onto the NCC for 2015.