A couple weeks ago, a few of us were anxious for crit season to begin so we loaded up and headed down to Dallas to race Matrix. Matrix is a two day crit weekend that has gone on for over 30 years and draws most of the top talent from the state and region. It’s a good early season level set to check your crit fitness, skills and study how everyone else is riding.
Having come off a few early season disappointments I was really looking forward to getting back to crit life with fast action, tight corners and big fields. Also, having just moved up to a category 2 racer this season, I was anxious to see the difference in speed, knowledge and teamwork that would play a factor, compared to racing as a category 3 racer.
Our Tyson crit squad was small for the weekend with only three of us racing (Will, Kevin and I) but I expected solid results as all of us have very different skill sets and I consider the three of us to be very savvy racers. The cat 2 field did not disappoint as all the big guys from TX and OK were present so I knew we would be in good company and that any result for the weekend would not come easy and take some teamwork.
The first race for the weekend on Saturday started wide open as I expected. Perhaps I was a bit nervous or concerned I would not make the break so I spent the first 20min of the race near max heart rate to keep in the top 5-8 positions. This approach was not smart and left me with zero matches to burn to make the break around the 25 minute mark. Frustrated with this, I sat in with the chase group with the mindset to test my sprint for a field sprint finish. I was happy to win the field sprint against some solid guys but knew I would need another smarter game plan for the race on Sunday.
Will, Kevin and I spoke before the Sunday race and our plan was to help keep the pace high while saving as much energy for a hard effort at the end of the race. One of the reasons for this plan was because we knew I would have a good shot in a head to head sprint. Also, the wind was so heavy that it would prove very difficult for a break to establish. Our thoughts seemed to be spot on as the race unfolded. I started at the back and went with the approach to ramp up my effort as the race went on and mark the two strongest riders. Will took the same approach as me, while Kevin went to the front and took several turns on the front to keep the pace high and single file. This effort really kept the field pretty close and tight and the high pace pealed guys off the back as the laps went on. With about 5 laps to go, I noticed the marked guys starting to move up and Will and I began to follow suit. As we found holes working our way up, Will took a flyer up the road to keep the pace high for the few laps before the final lap. I just sat in and avoided the wind while I determined my plan of attack on the final lap. Having watched the masters race earlier in the day, I noticed Hunter East attacked two corners before the last short straightaway and planed to try this to catch people by surprise. As we started the final lap I was sitting in 10th or so and was able to move up quick onto Andy’s (DNA) wheel. I knew he would be the guy to beat so I sat there with my plan in mind. As we moved along the backside of the coarse a rider from Elevate had the same plan so I had to adjust and then do my attack. I attacked and another guy behind me went as well. He was able to come around me and carry a lot of speed so I followed him into the final two corners hoping to go head to head with him. As we left the final corner he fired his up his sprint, I realized too late that I was in the wrong gear and got beat by him and the Elevate rider.
Last couple laps.
Both of my teammates did a lot of work to help us secure a solid finish. I admit I was upset about not winning the race for our team but overall happy to finish 3rd in my second cat 2 race. Kevin was strong all weekend and finished 7th and 6th respectively while Will was “best in show” rocking a thermal skinsuit and providing mid race comedy/conversation and a big boy flyer on the front. This is what it’s all about!
I’d like to thank our sponsors Tyson Foods, Shoulder Center of Arkansas, The Bike Route, Clif Bar and Creative.
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