David Santos: 2nd Place US National Criterium Championships

The CashCall Mortgage Cycling Team had a great campaign at the US National Championships hosted in Madison, WI. We took 6 riders to the event including Cole House, Brian McCulloch, Michael Olheiser, Logan Loader, Chris Barton and myself, David Santos.

In the road race on Friday, it got a bit crazy on the third lap climb and a group of 8, including myself, got away.  Nearly every team was represented and everyone worked to get the break established.  Before we knew it, we had a gap of one minute thirty seconds on the field.  Everyone in the break worked for the next lap and halfway through the 4th, I heard Cole and one other rider were chasing. Ten minutes later, Cole had successfully bridged the gap with one other rider and now CashCall had the upper hand being the only team with two riders in the break. On the last lap, several riders started attacking, but each attempt was welded back.

Ultimately, the break stayed together up until the last 3K climb, where Stephen Leece of CalGiant decided to put in a huge effort and basically rode away from the break.  Other riders started lifting the pace and by the time we hit the feed zone, there were three riders up the road with the rest of us still together.  As we made the final right turn, everyone stayed together until we hit the steepest climb of the day at a 17% grade with 500 meters to go.  At this point, I made one more big effort and nearly imploded.  Cole did his notorious sprint and landed 6th, while I managed to finish 10th.  Overall, the Road Race National Championship was one of the hardest races I have ever done.  Even though we didn’t finish how we wanted, CashCall rode the best we could.

Going into the National Criterium Championships on Sunday, I never imagined I would be contesting the win via a sprint. With a handful of some of the best US sprinters in the field, we knew we needed a hard and very aggressive race.  At our team meeting, we decided our best chance to win was putting one of our workhorses in the break with either Logan Loader or Cole House to contest the sprint.  If that plan failed, our back up plan was to line it up with one lap to go, have Logan sprint off 4th wheel, while Chris Barton and Cole sat up to leave a gap.  In that scenario, my job was to take the guys to the front of the field with one lap to go and drill it as hard as I could for as long as I could.  But as the race got underway, dozens and dozens of attacks were made, counters followed, and a few short-lived breaks were established.

Every rider in the field wanted to be in the break, and as a result, every break was welded back together.  I spent most of the day trying to get off the front, following attacks, and countering when breaks came back.  With 15 laps remaining on the 1k course and still no break, our plan was to ride for a field sprint. Resorting to our back-up plan, the team got together and rode at the front. With 4 laps to go, CashCall ended up taking control of the race; which actually was 3 laps sooner than we wanted. Mike Olhieser ended up switching roles with me and he went to the front to set tempo while the rest of us lined up behind him.

I ended up being the last CashCall left at the front with one lap to go, which I didn’t realize until I crossed the finish line. Just before the second to last turn, I began my lead out thinking teammate Logan Loader was still on my wheel. I began my sprint as soon as we came out of turn 3 and within seconds, I was 100% all in. I sprinted as if my finish line was halfway up the hill before the final turn. It wasn’t until I was about to go through the last turn that I realized Logan was not on my wheel unfortunately due to being caught up behind a crash.  At that point, I knew I had to continue my sprint to the line and put in one final effort in hopes of getting to the line first.  Right before the turn, Travis McCabe from Elbows just barely managed to come around me for the win. I tried to find one more gear, but having started my sprint so early, I was completely gassed.  Fortunately, I had just enough to hold off everyone else and crossed the line in second.