7am came early. I bundled up for a chilly 11 mile run but with beautiful skies, I was actually quite toasty.
Karel left for his race around 9:45 and my parents, Campy and I left around 10:45. The race was on-time (YAY!) so we arrived just in time to wish Karel and Jeff good luck.
Karel was pumped...yet calm. In my opinion, he looked super confident. As I mentioned in the previous post, this crit course is really technical and has a reputation of being fast and dangerous. For Karel, this course fits his need for speed.
The Pro 1,2 race started at 12pm. The race was 70 minutes + 5 loops. This criterium loop (each loop took around 1 minute) had 6 corners, cobblestones and one really HOT corner. If you have never witnessed a crit race, it can be scary and exciting all at the same time. Tactics and strategies are in play for 70 minutes and depending on how teams work together during those 70 minutes, the last 5 loops allow racers to prepare for the final sprint.
Karel didn't sit back during this crit. I've never seen Karel work so hard and change the pace of the group. Karel lead the first two loops and was in the top 10 for the first half of the race. With crit racing, you can never tell the winner until the end of the race and even though Karel was working hard, he remained in the front for at least 30 minutes. After around 30 minutes, Karel moved back towards the middle and Jeff took the lead. Jeff is a powerhouse and amazing TT rider so it didn't surprise me that Karel was resting as Jeff made a move to put some pressure on the other riders.
Around 40 minutes into the race, my dad and I were taking pictures and all of a sudden....CRASH!
Oh the sound of carbon on concrete....nothing worse than $$$ and body parts skidding on the road.
Luckily, Karel dodged the one rider who feel in the sharp corner and as other riders swung left and right to miss the fall, a group of 8 guys broke away.
The 8 man break started with a 15 sec. break but as the chase group compiled themselves after the crash, it looked as if the group of 8 was too strong for the pack. The lead went from 20 to 25 to 35 seconds in the next 10 minutes and with 5 loops to go, the chase group was sprinting for 9th place. Nothing like a group sprint for a top-10 finish.
I knew Karel had it in him for a great sprint however, it was up to him to move his way up to the front and put himself in a good position so that no one would get in his way.
After the lead group finished, it was up to the chase group. I felt it inside me that Karel was going to place in top 10. I knew how bad he wanted it and I knew unless he had a mechanical problem or another rider strategically cut him off, he could have a great finish.
As the group got closer to the line, I could see Karel sprinting his legs off in the front of the group. Because I was in front of the finish line, I couldn't exactly see the finish. The announcer was calling Karel's name as he sprinted towards the line but by a hair, Emile Abraham (2007 winner of US 100K classic) beat him to the line. However, if there was anyone to beat Karel to the line, I think Karel is happy that he had such a talented rider to challenge him to a sprint.
Karel ended up in 10th place. Another 10th place for the weekend and what a weekend it was. Karel said that he felt awesome and that he wanted to "punish himself" during this race (exact words). It is early in the season so if he is just using this weekend as a training race, I have a feeling that are many more great races to come.
Enjoy the pics!
I know you really just want to see Campy pics...