The 2010 criterium season is officially open: the Prairie Center Criterium was held in Brighton, CO today under nippy but otherwise ideal conditions. Joe Paulson, Bill Simmons, and John Talley came out to represent the Vic's Espresso/Peerless Tire clan, and take a shot at the $260 in cash on offer for the 50 minute 45+ men's race.
The 1 mile loop on good pavement (manhole and valve covers aside) had 6 turns to make things interesting, and every team seemed to have the same thought: get something up the road. Great Divide and Vitamin Cottage had strength in numbers, and Colorado Bike Law and Green Mountain were animating things as well.
JT got up the road early, joined by a Great Divide rider, and Bill and Joe quickly moved to the front to help the GD boys shut the pursuit down. Although there were still 45 minutes to race, it looked like a great move, with the gap steadily increasing. Alas, the GD rider suddenly popped, and JT was all alone up the road. He drove on valiantly for another few laps, but with GD now assisting in the chase, it was inevitable that he would be brought back. Another flurry of attacks (Karl Keister was a madman) were covered by Bill and Joe, and Joe found himself in a small selection triggered by the first prime lap. He hitched a ride on State cyclocross champ Rod Yoder's wheel when he jumped for the prize, and was able to come around to claim it instead.
The pair had gotten a good gap, so they hunkered down and went into serious 2-man TT mode. For awhile, it looked like promising, so Joe went all in, putting what he could into his pulls, and hanging on to Rod's wheel when the tall powerhouse went to work on the front. However, the chasers wouldn't give up, and a small group bridged up at the beginning of the 2nd prime lap. The new arrivals took early stabs off the group, but Rod didn't want to come away empty-handed after all that work, and and launched past them. However, Joe wanted something to show for his efforts as well, and put way too much effort into an 1100 watt surge for the line to snatch that prime as well.
Spent by the efforts, Joe sat up, and latched on to the tail of the peloton as it passed by. The attacks continued, and JT and Bill covered everything, with Bill clinging to Kiester like his shadow. With 5 laps to go, the field got very twitchy, and the corners got very interesting. Another surge brought JT and Joe to the front, and they found themselves in a selection with a few riders representing each of the major teams in the race. JT, realizing the opportunity, said "Let's go!" The group never got organized though, and everything was back together for final 2 laps.
JT drilled it at the front to get the pace high and the pack stable, and Bob Pinkerton charged past with 1 to go trying to set something up for the Vitamin boys. It looked like a great wheel to Joe, so he jumped on it, and followed Bob until the approach to the final corner, 200 meters from the finish. Suddenly, a big rider blew by on the inside, and Joe lit up after him. The rider (later identified by Bill as a former track world champ named Butch), had a good gap into the corner, but his move from the inside carried him wide, and he teetered momentarily in the gutter, helping Joe close in. Joe got behind him, then beside him, then finally inched in front before the line and sewed up the W with a bike throw.
Rod Yoder came across next, with JT right behind him in 4th. After covering countless attacks, Bill still came in 7th. Between the finish prizes and primes, the Blue boys picked up $155 in coffee money, so they were happy campers!
Video highlights now available courtesy of Rod Yoder: http://vimeo.com/10836844. You can see Joe's bridge up to Rod's solo attack to start their ill-fated break, and the last-lap launch by Butch off of Rod's wheel prior to the final corner, but Joe is out of view just in front of Rod. Enjoy!