By Andrew Evans
[Photo Johnny P]
The Hell on the Border Arkansas State Criterium Championship was held in Fort Smith Sunday. The course was a fairly straightforward 6-corner course around the downtown area on historic Garrison Avenue. The start/finish line was located halfway down a quarter-mile long wide open straightaway that gradually sloped uphill. The back side of the course had a few more corners. There were 10 guys in the Cat 1/2 field, and we were scheduled to race for 70 minutes.
With a small field, no teammates, and lacking a powerful sprint, I figured my best chance for a win would be to get in a early move going with 1 or 2 others and try to lap the field. I went for it right from the start and then again 2 laps later, but couldn’t get a good move going. A lap later, Tanner Ward and Christopher St. Peter (Intelligentsia) opened up a gap on the field. I was sitting in the back, and took a chance that guys in front would be able to chase them down. I was hoping that with Tyson having 3 guys and Carve having 2, a breakaway of 2 riders wouldn’t stand a chance. After 2 laps, the leaders had 15 seconds and were continuing to add to the lead. At this point I decided to try to bridge the gap solo. If I caught the leaders, I was pretty much guaranteed a spot on the podium. I chased for 5 or 6 minutes and got to within 3 seconds of the leaders, but as soon as I was within striking distance, Tanner and Chris upped the pace, to avoid having another rider to contend with. I was already on the rivet and as soon as the gap started to open again, I knew my only option was to sit up and wait for the bunch that was now 30 seconds back and race for 3rd and try to pick up a few primes.
For the next 20 minutes, the peloton was working well to keep the leaders from lapping us, but about 50 minutes into the race, Tanner and Chris made contact and it was all back together with the rest of us racing for that last spot on the podium. There was a little bit of a lull in the action once it was all together, since nobody was going to take a hard pull at the front. Eventually, Sean Salazar (Tyson) attacked with 4 laps to go. I was right on his wheel and followed him; Kevin Solomon (Carve) and Jake Schneidewind (Tyson) were also there to make it a pretty solid group. It only lasted a little over a lap before the other riders closed the gap. With 2 laps to go I attacked with Kevin, but Jake didn’t let us get very far before he closed the gap, bringing the bunch with him.
Heading into the final lap there were just 7 guys left. I drifted to the back to set up another attack up the right side of the road at the start of the final lap. I was hoping to get away solo for third. At the exact same time, Tanner attacked up the left side of the road. This caused Chris to respond, and Kevin was able to follow him. Once the 4 of us were together, I knew I had to get off the front. Kevin timed an attack perfectly into turn 4 as soon as I swung off. Coming out of the final corner with 200 meters to go, he had a 1 bike-length lead. I was able to get on his wheel, but couldn’t come around him in the end as he held on for third. Behind, Tanner out sprinted Chris for the win.
It was a little disappointing to miss out on the podium, but still a fun event to end the season with. I’d like to thank Experience Fayetteville for their support as well as all of our other sponsors: All Sports Productions, Airways Freight, Breast Treatment Associates, Columbus House Brewery, Beall Barclay, and Walmart Optical Lab.
STRAVA CRITERIUM RACE DETAILS
Distance: 30 miles
Time: 1 hr 13 min.
Elevation: 597 ft
Speed (avg.): 25.3 mph
Power (avg.): 260 w (estimated)
Work: 963 kj