US National Criterium Championships Report: Brian McCulloch

Copyright Danny MunsonAuthor Brian McCulloch. Photo Credit: Danny Munson

As a sportsmen it is always exciting to be able to race at the highest level possible. All I have to do is mention the title of the race, The USA Cycling Elite National Championships, and you know how excited we were to be racing this event.

This was my second year participating at Nationals and last year we came away with two podium placings, which means we would set our sights even higher this year. By Sunday when we raced the criterium, our team was already on a high note. Teammates Logan Loader and Chris Barton finished 1-2 in the time trial. The early success made us all very hungry to capitalize on the opportunity to bring home another ‘stars and stripes’ jersey for our team.

Much to our liking the criterium started out fast and aggressive. The other teams in the race were also racing aggressive and looking to prevent the race from coming down to a field sprint. Despite the race being fast, long, and hard, the finish came down to a field sprint anyway… With 15km to go in the race, we knew we would be setting up for the final sprint.

Up to that point each of my teammates, Chris Barton, Logan Loader, David Santos, Cole House, Mike Olheiser and myself had been animating the race and using precious energy trying to get off the front. Once the field sprint situation became clear, it was time gather at the front and organize ourselves for the lead out.

We received help controlling the remaining laps from other teams hoping to keep their sprinter at the front. All of us that were trying to lead-out our sprinter had a bit of symbiosis to our purpose at this time in the race, therefore we all made a little room for each other to keep affairs calm at the front end of the race. On the road we had made an ‘audible’ to our earlier choreographed plan, we had swapped lead out positions for Olheiser and Santos (a decision we would come to celebrate!). Olheiser had the legs to turn up the speed for a number of laps on the front himself, leaving the rest of us able to respond to any surges that may come from our competitors in the waning laps. Once we took the front with a few laps remaining, it was all hands-on deck and although we tried to be patient, we probably could have waited even longer to keep our legs fresh and the lead out effective.

Olheiser took the front and kept the speed high. I followed and did my portion of the work by pulling for a lap. It should be noted that Paul, our Team Manager has given me this advise regarding lead-outs “go so damn hard that you are tying to rip your bars off!” Well, today I got close, at the conclusion of my pull and after regaining clear vision, I found my handlebar tape had been ripped from the right side of my bars…mission accomplished, lead-out achieved! At this point, the rest of the my account is from information relayed to me by my teammates, as I was cross-eyed and getting passed by the remaining peloton like I was on the pedestrian walkway of the Autobahn.

Elbowz came over the top with some fresh teammates in the final and Santos hopped on with them, hoping to give the rest of our guys a free ride to the the finish. Unfortunately, there was a bit of contact and a crash on the last lap which took Loader, House, and Barton as well as many other riders hoping for glory out of the mix. Santos had no idea of this and kept the pressure on, sprinting all the way for the line as was his job as lead-out man. The good news for us is that he did his job so well that he crossed the line in second place!

We had hoped to win the jersey on this day, but it was wonderful to see Santos pull on a silver medal on the Nationals podium. In my opinion, he is one of the best all around riders in the US. He rode a good TT finishing 11th, powered the break away on the RR placing 10th, and finished 2nd in the crit. He is my vote for GC National Champion, if there was such a jersey.

All in all, our nationals experience was amazing and it reinforced to me why I feel proud and privileged to race with the CashCall Mortgage Cycling program.

As always I would like to say a sincere ‘thank you’ to all of our wonderful sponsors that make this program possible. As riders, we are proud to represent CashCall Mortgage, KHS Bicycles, Jakroo, Shimano, Kenda, Velo Saddles, Serfas, Rudy Project, iRT Wheels, Bike Religion, Rennie & Associates, Chamois Butt’r, World Oil Corp., and Finish Line Products. This weekends results could not be achieved without your belief and support.