This week we ventured forth to the US Criterium Series Southeast. Prior to the Smith Barney Classic in Spartanburg Tiago, Chris, Jered and I stopped by the Pine Street Elementary School in Spartanburg for a visit. It was really exciting for all of us and we had a great time. At one point Jered got into the crowd of 300 or so and started signing autographs on kid's tennis shoes! This created a mosh-pit-like environment and eventually I had to physically extract him from it. I think it was as close to being a celebrity as he has ever been. If I didn't pull him out I think he would have stayed in there for quite a while.
That evening with the addition of David, we were off to the race. Erik was not able to make this weekend as he was helping out with bike rodeos elsewhere. So in the absence of our guest director and with me being sick I was the only one left in the coffers to take care of the guys. I was hoping it would be a learning experience for everyone, me included, with a respectable result as a bonus. Everyone was well rested and excited to go. Jered was still living his rock star experience as kids from the school were out lining the entire course shouting his name. This was not the case for Chris or Tiago. We did a mock race at the school which Jered won so these kids definitely were looking for a result. The guys rode ok with Tiago almost making the move of the race. He got away for about 6 laps midway through the race with two guys and it looked like the move that would stick. Unfortunately there were just too many teams present who wanted to race and the move was brought back. Chris broke his saddle, which we fixed and he was able to continue. I learned a valuable lesson from this incident as I hadn't realized that had I put my spare bike in the pits Chris would have been able to continue racing on my bike instead of his with a semi functioning saddle. Need less to say, I won't make that mistake again! I also learned that being respectful and courteous all the time has its rewards, as a broken seat does not qualify for a free lap from the jury but he got one none the less.
Although Tiago had a good ride, finishing 18th, the guys didn't ride great as a team. Tiago and Chris didn't have great starts and rode at the back most of the race. Jered on the other hand had good position and faded to the back as Tiago and Chris moved forward. Tiago needs to push a bigger gear and Jered gets too complacent and comfortable at the back.
On Saturday we were off to the Sunny King Crit in Georgia. Again we helped out with the kids races and once again we all found another extremely rewarding aspect of this sport. Tiago was full of confidence and since he tends to race a lot on emotion I knew he would probably be aggressive. I put the pressure on the guys to race at the front and race more cohesively as a team. Chris rode stellar and was at the front most of the race and he was not going to miss the early action. At one point he attacked on his own and was out front alone for about four or five laps. He picked up a few primes and then was joined by a Successful Living rider. Their time off the front was short lived. In the end the guys rode as a team and were working together to move up through the field. They finished in 22nd, 27th, and 28th with Chris leading the way. I think they thought they finished a little higher, but the result was ok. We would rather see them trying to work together and finish a little farther back than having them work for themselves and have one guy up around 11th. Eventually, when they get it, they will be able to work for a top five as a team instead of getting just outside of the top 10 as individuals. Although they worked together at the end we need them to do this throughout the race. One guy at the front can not do it alone. These guys need to learn how to use the support of the team in these bigger races and how to contribute to it.
On Sunday we were off to Decatur Alabama. The guys were a little run down and not very excited. The racing turned out to be pretty negative after two guys got up the rode as much of the field seemed to be resigned to just finishing out the series. I think they fed too much off of every one else's emotion and missed an opportunity to get a result. Since I too was tired and sick I could empathize with them a little and didn't give them too hard a time.
Getting to Decatur was a lot easier then the long journey home that awaited us. At 1:00AM on Monday about halfway home we started the debate about of the advantages and disadvantages of driving all the way home. I expect to have this conversation many times this year, this time how ever I opted to stop and get some rest.
It was a good weekend. Hopefully the guys will see the benefits in racing as a unit. We did this early this year in smaller races and the guys clearly saw the benefits there. We need an opportunity to execute those same principles in a big race so they can see they can employ those same lessons learned.