After a long weekend of racing away from home, the Veloworks-Spokes Etc. race team happily headed for closer circuits at the Bunny Hop Criterium presented by Artemis Racing. The beginning of flat criterium season is upon us and the 1km three-turn course meant crosswinds, prime laps and big bunch finishes. With representation in three fields, it would be a great day for racing and hanging out in Suitland, Maryland.
With Thom, Billy and Tom N. unable to make the race, Eric and Mike lined up ready to represent VWS in the 3/4 35+ field. With only two people, the plan was simple – stay near the front for the entire race. In the unlikely event of a promising looking break, try and get in it. The pace was kept high for most of the race, and as planned, both Eric and Mike took their turns at getting in a few of the small moves off the front, or helping to bring back moves we weren’t in. Eric took over on front with around 2 to go and kept the pace high enough to keep the last minute flyers at bay. He stayed on front until after the first corner on the last lap. That left only a Bike Doctor guy, then Mike in line at the front of the pack. Bike Doctor took a good hard pull to get things around the second to last corner and half way up the back side, and that left Mike with his nose in the wind much too far out. He did what he could at that point and came in 10th.
Kaitlyn lined up for her first Cat 3 race alongside the open women’s field that featured a local pro and many eager amateurs ready for the challenge. At the whistle, she clipped in quick and found good position in to the first left turn where the wind hit like a ton a bricks. At that point it was clear–she must have a wheel coming out of the turn or she’ll burn matches fighting against the wind.
After settling in and finding a comfortable spot toward the front of the pack, Kaitlyn went along for the ride, lap after lap. A few attacks here and there led to some short surges, but nothing threatened to stick. With about 7 to go, Kaitlyn spotted Alexis off to the right coming through turn two. She was snacking, grabbing a quick sip and riding easy in her hoods. When fully through the turn with the pack altogether, she moved to her drops as Kaitlyn watched on and whispered to those around her, “she’s getting ready to attack”. And sure enough, going in to turn three, Alexis flew off the front with Michelle Miller in tow. Kaitlyn didn’t mind–she knew her race remained in the pack behind her.
With 1 lap left, Kaitlyn moved toward the front and found a solid, fast moving Artemis wheel in turn two. She rounded the final turn still in the draft, but stayed in just one second too long before launch her sprint. That was good for 4th in the Women’s open, just a hair behind 3rd place, but it also meant 1st place in her first cat 3 field!
For the last race of the day, Tom N, Chris, Sean, Nate and Brian lined up for a full Cat 4 field, ready to try their hand on racing together for the first time all year. The plan was to set something up for Sean to get him to the last corner for the sprint finish, and the finishing tailwind would make the early launch stick. Early in the race, Nate and Chris tried a couple of probing attacks into the wind, looking to streamline the bunch and pick up the pace.
After Nate took off for a three lap solo and picked up a prime, Brian showed some good power and attacked the field in his first Cat 4 race, keeping the tempo up. With 5 laps to go, the team tried to come back together towards the front, but the ebb and flow of the race meant lots of movement on the outsides, and it was very difficult to move up or hold position in the bunch. As the pace picked up, the jostling in the bunch crescendoed and a midpack crash pushed Nate into the curb and off his bike onto a very well-cushioned landing into the grass median. With Chris and Tom caught behind the wreckage, Brian and Sean fought for position but couldn’t quite find each other as the wind blocked any moves. The final sprint saw Sean take a top 10 and Brian earn a very respectable 18th in his first race as a Cat 4.
A special thank you to Artemis for putting on a great race close to home, and to our sponsors like Mt. Borah Cycling Apparel for keeping us looking great before, during and after the race.