The 51st running of the DeBaets-DeVos Labor Day Criterium marks the end of the criterium season in Michigan. It’s hilly and curvy course offers unique challenges for riders. This year, the temps rose into the 90’s with a hot wind that hit right as racers climbed the hill, making the top of the hill a perfect spot for racers to test their legs and lungs in attacking the field. TEAM OAM NOW/Athletic Mentors’s first racer was also our youngest, tackling the 9-14 year old Junior field and ended with our CAT 1/2 racers hitting the pavement in heat of mid-afternoon.
At the start of his race, Christian sized up his competition… knowing he wasn’t likely to win (he’s the little guy in the middle), he still did everything he could to stay with the lead group; and then to hang on the wheel of another rider who was dropped along with him. He ended up riding the last 2 laps on his own, still pushing it as hard as he could. He finished in 4th place… and loved every minute of it.
Next up was the 45+ race, where Chris Abston, Terry Ritter, Jon Morgan and Mike Wyczalek took on the competition. Thanks to recent repair of the roughest, uphill section, where formerly broken pavement and cracks galor has been replaced with brand new concrete, and a tailwind on the long straight away through the start finish area, speeds exceeded 35 mph for the first part of the 45+ Masters race.
With these conditions, the first several laps were filled with attacks. Riders Chris Abston and Terry Ritter covered initial break attempts, while Jon Morgan and Mike Wyczalek waited in earnest for premes and the final sprint. Unfortunately, none of the initial breaks stuck and the in the end, our team’s best finish was Chris Abston placing 12th.
In the Masters 35+ race, 45 riders toed the line for the 45 minute event. The winds had picked up a bit and it was a tad hotter than earlier in the day. Terry and Mike navigated the field, patient as other teams chased breaking riders. Terry eventually bridged up to two promising breaks that were pulled back into the group. The heat took its toll on both Mike and Terry. In the end, they played it safe in the field sprint.
The Men’s CAT PRO 1/2 race was placed in the hottest, windiest part of the day. This 90 minute race was exciting and exhausting. Team OAM NOW/Athletic Mentors teammates Collin, Dan, Cory and Pete put in many attacks and had riders in most of the moves. With a thin field, the leash was short. After a big split in the field, the lead group of 3 got away. The team missed that attack, but eventually got Pete up the road in a 2 man break with Collin in a chase group. Unfortunately, in the closing minutes, the chase group caught Pete and Collin. This left Cory and Dan, who still had some legs, to fight for a good finish. Pete, in spite of his exhausting break, was able to place 7th. Cory took on the field sprint, placing 10th, thanks to some late attacks by Dan to soften the legs of the competition. The team worked well together and had a great race.
The Women’s CAT 1/2/3 race was held just after noon. With three racers, Laura, Marie and Jenny, the team lined up with a plan. And, the plan was enacted from start to finish. There were many attacks throughout the race. Marie was able to chase them down so that no one got away. Laura took the heat at the front of the pack leading up to a prime to help put her teammates in position to sprint, tiring out the field in the process. With the field in tact heading toward the final sprint, Marie took the lead after the last corner of the final lap to lead out teammate, Jenny. While Jenny wasn’t able to get on Marie’s wheel, she was on the wheel behind Marie and the three racers barreled toward the finish line. Jenny hammered out a great sprint, barely missing first place at the line (thanks to a dropped chain at the very last second). Marie placed 4th. The team worked incredibly well together, which is what TEAM OAM NOW/Athletic Mentors is all about.
And, thus ends the Criterium season here in Michigan. The team had a great year filled with exciting races and great teamwork. Great job, everyone!
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