Crit Week in the Northeast is always an exciting time for bike racing and for the Aetna-Expo race team. This is a time of year when everyone is fit (some fitter than others as many racers use this week to peak for fitness in the year) and the big competition for overall series winner and best team takes place. This week rings in the best of New England Crit racing.
The racing kicked off in the rain at the Keith Berger Memorial Crit in East Hartford. The team was in force for the Masters race with a plan to keep the race hard and ensure we had a man in every break. Early in the race I was able to motor to the key early break with two other racers (Stage One Fusion and Wheelworks). We were four but one of the other racers went down due to the wet roads on our first lap. We stayed away for the majority of the race and built a break of a minute. I was comfortable knowing that I had the rest of the team in the pack controlling and prepared to counter if needed. The break (as typical) did not last and we were picked up; immediately Todd countered and was away in another break which looked even more promising. Again this wasn’t to last as others not in the break wanted to bring it back. On the last lap things really heated up and splintered the field. As a team we did our best and were able to secure a 5th place finish and 3rd in the team competition.
Leominster, Worcester and Fitchburg were next up and back to back in that order beginning Friday night and ending in the rain Sunday morning. This would prove to be more exciting and very challenging racing thanks to the high caliber of competition and challenging courses. Leominster with its unique course proved to be more challenging for us as a team than expected – we raced hard and worked to get in the moves. A break went up the road and we didn’t have anyone in it. We challenged for the best positions remaining in the field. Worcester is one of my personal favorites given its 6 corners with twists and turns tossed in. There was one section of road responsible for more than a few flat tires for those unfortunate enough The weather would play in our favor with beautiful skies and moderate temps. We drove up as a team to discuss tactics and just have fun doing what we love to do. The race was off to a very fast start with many attacks launched off the front early, though none of them would stick – the result was an average speed around 28mph. The final 2 laps saw the intensity ratcheted up significantly and became the deciding move… Todd and I were best positioned and able to secure a 4th and 6th place finish. The final day (Fitchburg) came in as it started, in the rain. We arrived early to set up the Aetna-Expo tent providing a comfortable dry place to warmup. Racing in the rain is never easy, it puts you on edge as you calculate every corner to avoid the wet paint, slick manhole covers and other racers. A late 3 man break went up the road and though a couple of us were positioned to follow, I chose the tactical route of waiting for it to get caught then countering – this proved wrong as it stuck. We held our own in the front of the race and finished with Todd (11th) and Jeremy (13), while I trailed behind in 23rd.
At the end of the series we didn’t get the ultimate prize of #1 team, though we tried very hard, we landed in fourth place. We knew we had all given it everything we had. In the individual competition we were able to finish 2 in the top 10 (7th & 9TH). We are very fortunate to be able to do what we do.
Congrats to all who competed and those on the top 3 steps! Everyone here is a winner for showing up and doing what they love….
Aetna-Expo's Setup before the Worcester Criterium!
David Hildebrand leading the field at the Worcester Criterium!
Aetna-Expo riders take shelter from the rain at the Fitchburg Criterium