Grant's Tomb

I couldn't be happier to open my season for Green Line Velo with my first win for the team and the team's first win of the season. As many of you know, last season was a season of recovery for me after knee surgery in April, and I'm glad to say it -- I'm back.

Cole ADominic Caiazzo and I made the trip down to New York, leaving just as a snowstorm that dumped over a foot of snow in Boston was ending. We certainly had no idea what the course conditions would be like at our 8:15am start, but a late evening e-mail from the race promoter confirmed that the course would be cleared of ice.

Despite near-freezing temperatures and a stiff wind on Saturday morning, I was happy to find that the course was mostly dry. The Grant's Tomb criterium course combines the wide, gradual slopes of Riverside Drive with a short, technical section - complete with tight, bumpy turns and steep climb. In the technical section, riders at the back of the field must work much harder than those at the front since they have to brake more into the tight turns, especially the turn before the steep hill.

As I watched riders in the earlier races suffer up the climb, I made a mental note to ride hard at the beginning of the race to punish those who hadn't warmed up as well as I had. Bike racing can be cruel sometimes.

During staging, I noted that Sixcycle-RK&O, a New York-based team, was there in force. A large team can frequently affect the outcome of a race, greatly increasing their chances of winning if they play their cards right. I fully expected Sixcycle-RK&O to control the race, an assumption that would prove to be correct.

As the race started, I moved immediately to the front and railed the technical section, maybe even a little bit too hard. I faded back into the pack a little bit, gassed from my early effort. A breakaway escaped during this time, but luckily no Sixcycle riders were represented. Still, Dominic went to the front and worked hard to bring back the breakaway as only a dedicated teammate will do.

Sixcycle amassed at the front, with a breakaway of two barely visible up the road. I made my way up to the back of the Sixcycle group, expecting them to chase hard to bring back the breakaway, but instead one of their riders attacked in an attempt to bridge up to the breakaway. Without blinking, I was on his wheel. A quick glance back confirmed that we were alone between the field and the break.

For a few laps, my breakaway companion and I worked well together slowly but steadily making our way up to the leaders. Then things fell apart. Our progress toward the front of the race stalled as the Sixcycle rider ran out of gas. Crap. Instead of taking over the chase and letting him sit on my wheel and recover, I accelerated hard and dropped the Sixcycle rider.

Up ahead, the two leaders had stopped working together as well, with one leader, Blaine Hurty, forging on alone. I quickly caught and passed the floundering KMS rider and spent another hypoxic lap chasing Blaine. I finally caught on with a few laps to go. I nervously glanced behind myself and was relieved to find that the field was nowhere to be seen.

Despite being out of sight, our time gap to the field started to fall, which made me nervous. I could only imagine a frustrated Sixcycle team chasing hard as the energy left my legs. So, with three laps to go, I made a huge effort at the front to stabilize our gap. Tactically, this was risky, as Blaine could have attacked me after my hard effort and left me in the dust, but this was an opportunity left unseized. With a lap and a half to go, I installed myself on Blaine's rear wheel and let him tow me to the line. I jumped clear with 100m to go a crossed with my hands in the air, my goal of winning a race this season complete. Dom cruised in for a very respectable 13th after doing good work early on in the race.

--Cole A.