The McLane Crit:
That positively incredible pro/1 race was the most entertaining and tactical crit I can remember seeing, ever.
My buddy Steve Stein and I were having our minds blown every lap trying to figure what the big teams (Colavita, Health-Net, Toyota United, Jelly Belly and Kodak) were planning. There was a nine-rider break for most of the race. Each of the big teams had two riders in, except Kodak - who had Jackson Stewart. But Health Net and Toyota had their big sprinters (Gord Frasier and JJ Haedo) in the peloton. Colavita had Main Man Mark McCormack and another rider I wasn't familiar with. Kiwi Greg Henderson of H-N and Alex Candellario of J-B, possibly the two best sprinters of their teams, had crashed in an early 2-man flip-over, but were back in the group, but with unknown health. So who knew what they were planning?
With about 10 laps to go and down by 30 seconds, the Health Net squad came to the front en masse . (I mean, Mike Sayers, Gord Fraser, Ivan Dominguez, Karl Menzies!! Jesus himself was in blue and green that day.) Toyota United lined up five guys behind them. They picked up the pace for a few laps, trimmed the lead to about 20 seconds, then paced it out.
The second rider of each team that was in the breakaway sat up and rejoined the peloton. With a few laps to go, there were only three off the front: McCormack, Jackson Stewart and Mike Jones of Health Net, who was not working. Their lead was 16 seconds. Health Net left them out there, presumably to discourage any adventures from the pack, and set up for the sprint.
On the final laps, Stewart and McCormack were friggin' heroic. As we watched the final 1 km, a dogleg into the long home sprint, the three were five seconds up. As they rounded the corner, the fresh Jones took off for the win. Stewart and McCormack were unconscious with effort, but somehow managed to stave off the hungry dogs long enough to stay up by a fraction of a second at the line over the massive sprint. WOW!!!!
I have got to tell you that everyone with a heartbeat on the street that day was screaming at Jackson and Mark at the top of their lungs to get their butts down the street to save the day. If you're reading this, you guys are absolute superheroes as far as I'm concerned.
What was up with that Red Bull inflatable arch that we had to duck around every lap?? And the fence far too close on the inside of the chicane where the road narrowed? Either way, the pack was tense on every lap, which causes calamity. Bad, bad, bad.
Well, that would be my ride, but you don't care about that ...