Karel didn't want to do a lot during the race on sat evening in downtown New Port Richey. Typically, Karel would be really active and try to attack, respond and be really involved in Crit races (his fav type of racing), but in an effort to conserve energy, he had to keep in mind his FL cup race on Sun. Although sat was not a cup race, the Pro 1,2 field was stacked with tough and strong riders and the Lindner guys had no choice but to ride hard and respond to moves. Curtis, Karel's teammate, did a lot of work to try to chase down the 3-man break but despite the 75 minute crit race, the hot weather and team tactics of the field allowed the 3-man break to stay away for almost the entire race. Because the 3-man break had 3 riders from the 3 biggest teams, every time a field rider would try to attack, the respective team from the 3-man break would slow the group down. The crit was really exciting and I was so happy to have my good friend Jennifer and her wonderful and sweet dog Molly there to spectate. My parents were there and awesome athlete Andrea came as well. We saw all of our Gearlink friends as well so overall, the race was exciting and fun to watch. Karel ended up 12th and also won a prem (he was the first person to cross the line when the announcer rang the bell for a prem prize the lap prior).
We came home around 7:30, made two home-made pizza's and Karel could barely move after dinner. He couldn't believe how a 75-min, 5:30pm race could leave him completely exhausted and drained. Karel knew that Sun was an important race and after a restless night of hardly any sleep, Karel was 10X more nervous for Sunday.
Karel being the tough competitor that he is, somehow psyched himself up for Sun as we drove the hour or so to Brooksville/Dade City for the 60-mile RR. I let Karel get in his zone on the way to the race but he seemed to relax once we arrived to the race venue. Jennifer met me at the race after her ride in San Antonio so it was great to share another exciting race with her.
There was so much excitement for this race because every team and every rider had his eyes out for Karel...especially the team who had a rider in 2nd place for the FL cup. Therefore, Karel knew that he needed to keep his eyes out for the 2nd place guy and couldn't take any risks during the race (or experience a mechanical) or else Karel would move out of 1st and there would be little chance that he could win the FL cup with only more race to go (in 2 weeks).
The race was 5 x 12 mile loops with a feed zone on the flat section of the course, right after the start/finish. I had a bunch of bottles with me for Karel and his 3 teammates but only Ralph needed a bottle (Jennifer did her first ever feed zone hand off!). I never saw Karel during the race because he was tucked in the field, soft pedaling during the entire windy and rolly ride. Thankfully, there was a lot of cloud cover with a storm in the far distance so despite the wind, it was rather tolerable for the 60 Pro 1,2 and Cat 3 riders.
There was a few breaks during the race, with 1-4 guys but it seemed to change every loop. The riders were coming around every 25-27 min so it was a quick race (a little less than 2 1/2 hrs for 60 miles).
I was really nervous for the finish, for both Karel's safety (NO Crashes please!!) and for the 2nd place rider to not pass Karel on the line.
With a 5 man break, Karel ended up sprinting and getting 2nd for the field sprint. Karel ended up 7th overall and is winning the FL CUP series by a good 33 points. If Karel just finishes the next crit race in Bartow (in 2 weeks) it looks as if he will win the FL CUP Pro 1,2 series!! How exciting.
I have to say how impressed I am with the teamwork on the Lindner team. Curtis, Ralph and Clint all watched out for Karel, despite the other teams continually blocking Karel ever time he tried to move up in the field. Clint carried a bottle for Karel so that he didn't have to carry the extra weight. Also, Clint stayed next to Karel during the entire race so that in the case of a flat tire, Clint would give Karel his wheel and Clint would wait for the wheel truck. I was really impressed with Karel's sportsmanship during the race, although it is no surprise to me. Karel was talking with the 2nd place FL cup guy during one of the climbs and the other rider happened to slip his chain as he was changing his gears. I guess you could say it could have been an Andy Schlek and Contador situation but Karel slowed down and gave the other guy a push on this back to keep him in the race as he pedaled his chain back on the chain ring. Karel said that if he is going to race, he wants it to be a fair race.
Hope you enjoy the pics...I am super proud of Karel!