Vegas sucks. I hate it. It’s like the last day at the State Fair all of the time; stinky, hot, trash everywhere, disgusting people.. I hate it. Once a year I can tolerate it. I can overindulge.. it’s Interbike time. This year was an exception. The industry Cup Criterium was a long overdue first time event at Interbike. It was preceded by a cross race and followed by the US Criterium Championships at Mandalay Bay Casino. I started to regret my decision to do it. The trade show is exhausting with tons of standing, walking, running around, breathing recycled dry air and sleeping poorly. Plus no riding. I managed a short, annoying ride in the dark the evening prior to the race but my motivation was dropping. Then I found out there were 109 entries. Rumors started to fly about some heavy hitters entering the race; Mark McCormack, Steve Bauer, Steve Hegg, Kenny Williams, Dave Letierre, and of course Mario Cippolini. The HED team consisted of Dino, Paul Ellis (a new HED acquisition), Hollywood (our 3rd largest retailer, and HED sub-contractor on demand) and myself. H-wood and I made our way to the venue to find a huge crowd packed around a parking lot style course. The women’s event was in progress and rumors were that it was a crash-fest and a crazy course. Great! The motiv sank further. But worse case scenario; we do a couple of laps and hit a beer tent. I couldn’t afford to crash again. So I was going to take no chances. My nerves settled some when H-wood, Steve Tillford, Adam Bergman and myself shot the shit while watching the kids race and hand cycle event.
Steve and Adam were doing the Pro event with 150 entries. It’s hard to stay demotivated hanging around on H-wood time as well. The course opened up so we started to roll around. It was crazy, lots of turns and a couple of slightly off camber ones that would prove slippery at speed. The course was lined with barriers and it was tight. It would be the perfect course for a week nighter here in the cities when 60 guys show up.. but 100+!!??. under the lights? I was nervous. The racers lined up to reserve their spots at the front. Of course I found myself at the back. I gave up my chances right then. I saw H-wood up front with the celebs. He deserved it. He has the balls to back track on the course and do that so it’s his. Then the announcer came on and said “take another lap gentlemen, the staging area is WAY back there!!”.. Fuckin-A I thought.. I simply turned around and planted myself on the fence and the field rolled up a minute later behind me. Instantly at the front! But we still had call-ups. Again H-wood pulled up to the front as the pack settled into the staging area. I think that’s his “hole shot”. So it’s call up time and some big names get called up. Then something weird happened. They call up some guy who has over a hundred cat 1-2 wins from Minnesota and likes to steal ice cream from 3 year olds.. H-wood points at me.. and the announcer calls me up!! So I’m 7th or so called to the line. I’m in shock but I’ll take it. Mario hadn’t been called up yet. Then Bauer gets his call up and crowd is starting to get antsy.. they want Mario. Finally, after about 20 call ups they bring up the man himself and the crowd goes nuts. Moments later the gun goes off and its an all-out race for the first corner. I’m second through. A huge feeling of relief overcomes me and I get into tt mode. My main motivation is to stay up front and I use every ounce of energy to do so. I take a solid lap pull and keep the pressure on. I get some help from others and maintain my spot in the top 3 for at least 10 laps. Then a guy comes up and starts to take serious pulls. He’s Italian Max Lelli. I get on his wheel. He’s apprehensive in turns but jams the straights and keeps the field strung out. There are occasional attacks for primes and solo efforts but this guy keeps the race at bay all the way through the mid point of the 40 lap race. He flicks me through and I take a half lap pull.. then him. I glance back to see Mario glued to my wheel.
I hear an occasional order barked to Max in Italian when the pace drops and riders converge on the front. Max obliges as do I. I’m in 2-man tt mode and using it all to keep my spot. As the laps count down more riders take their chances off the front and the prime bell amps up the pace even more but I’m feeling fresh and losing 10 spots is not a concern as the course is favorable to moving up on the outside of turns. But 10 spots is all I’ll give up. Then it’s back to the front. I take a prime with 10 laps to go so I’m feeling great. With about 6 to go the bike starts to feel weird. I thought it may be that my hands were numb and the 180 turns I had made under the lights and flashing cameras were messing with my mind.. or that maybe I hadn’t tightened down the stem onto the steer tube when I assembled the bike. I moved off the pace and let some riders pass and gave the bike a quick check.. nothing. I worked back into the field but something was wrong.. then I felt the rim. 4 laps to go, a front fucking flat.. and no more free laps. I roll through with 3 to go hoping the crowd sees my flat tire. I roll off the course to be greeted by Tyler Deniston and the Cat 6 crew. They assured me that if I got fired from Team H-wood for my poor performance that I had a place there. Then Bang! Crash! And a bike practically flips into the crowd. We look over the fence to see a big pile of riders and Mario standing in the middle. It was nasty. Kenny Williams soloed off the front for the win. H-wood and I collect ourselves and head to the VIP tent where I was greeted by the HED mafia. Steve Hed pulls a staple out of my tire. For the rest of the story check out Kristy Kreme’s site. It gets better.