It was an early start for Team Blue on the final day of Masters Nationals. The fog hung heavy in Louisville on the drive to Churchhill Downs, but the rising sun burned it off, leaving nice but humid conditions for the racing at hand.
Mike's 50+ criterium opened the day of racing at 8 AM, with 50 laps of the 1/2 mile loop in the infield of the 133 year old horse race track. Mike was feeling great, and covered or initiated countless moves. However, the field was not inclined to let anything up the road today, and the stage was set for a pack sprint.
Mike saw Gordon Aubrey moving up on the last lap, and knew that was the fast wheel to be on. Coming into the final turn, Aubrey was 3rd and Mikey was perfectly positioned in 5th, but the rider in 4th hit the deck, forcing Mike to swing wide to miss him. Mike stayed upright, but lost several spots, and crossed the line in 10th, a solid result under the circumstances.
Joe was up next at 9:30, also racing 50 laps in the 45+ field. Thurlow and his two teammates came to play, and swapped attacks back and forth. His legs still suspect, Joe hid in the field except for one brief trip up the road with Thurlow and a couple other riders. Thurlow doesn't play well with others, though, and the move didn't stick.
At last, Thurlow found the move he was looking for: up the road with only his teammate Richard Meeker for company. They pounded out 1:05 laps of the half mile course, a pace the field was not inclined to exceed. With 8 laps to go, they caught the field, and blew right through to the front. At the start of the bell lap, Thurlow had Meeker tucked in behind him, and the lead-out train left the station. Joe tried to climb on board, but some fading riders drifted across the road, blocking Joe just long to get him uncoupled. On the back straight, Joe chased them down, and was able to regain contact coming into the last corner, but didn't have anything left to advance his position on the finishing straight. He was able to hold off the pursuing field though, and snagged 8th place.
With Thurlow's perfect set-up Meeker had a gift-wrapped stars & bars jersey waiting for him. Joe took some small satisfaction from passing Thurlow before the line. (Hey, even if Thurlow was a lap up, and started coasting, it still counts, right?)
The boys in blue headed back to the hotel, grabbed showers, and packed up for the trip home. Mike and Joe bid farewell to Bill, who's flying out tonight, and climbed aboard the Caravan. After obligatory stops at Starbuck's and White Castle for some long-anticipated (un)health food, they hit the road for the 1133 mile drive.
The current plan is to pause briefly in St. Louis to take in the sights at the Gateway Arch, and then drive as far as possible tonight. The boys should be back in the 'hood by sometime Monday afternoon. Thanks for reading!