Hey, welcome back to “On The Road With Sergio Hernandez”. I last left you off in Delray, Florida where the team was starting to pick up momentum leading into the Redlands Bicycle Classic. Redlands as most of you know turned out to be a very exciting race and in my memory the fastest Redlands Classic I’ve ever done. I think this was due mostly to the cool weather conditions we had instead of the 100 degree blow dryer temperatures that we’re use to. Team Predator had a phenomenal ride during Redlands thanks to our two guest riders Freddy Rodriguez (who finished 13th), Kirk Carlsen (who finished 8th) and I was 32nd in GC. With those top 3 GC places we managed to place 4th on Team GC and were the Best Amateur Team of the 2013 edition of the Redlands Bicycle Classic. I also want to mention Cody’s O’Reilly’s 4th place in the Criterium which was a great result.
After being home for two weeks, which felt more like two day’s, I was back on the road. The first race of the trip would be the prestigious “Presbyterian Hospital Invitational Criterium” in Charlotte, North Carolina. There was a $50,000 prize list on the line set for 40 laps and totaling 50 miles. Representing Team Predator was Jean-Michel Le Chance, Emile Abraham, Gevan Samuel, Josh Carter and myself. As always, the sidelines, the VIP booths and the bars lining the course were jammed pack with people getting ready to see the blair of cycling taking over the streets of Downtown Charlotte.
The gun goes off and “prime on the first lap, prime on the first lap” the race announcer screams into the microphone. I hate when this happens because I’m not as young as I use to be and it takes me more than a few laps to get myself warmed up and going. Luckily our young gun JM was off covering the first major attack of the race. Within a few laps he was back and a counter attack by a solo CashCall rider took off. The one CashCall guy was very impressive because he was off for at least ten laps and collected a total of $2,000 in cash prime’s – “Jealous”. Halfway through the race the now wealthy solo rider had been reeled back and the attacks again started. I was amazed to look back at one point and not see anyone, I was at the back of the pack of maybe 50 riders left. I had to make an effort and get myself back to the front. As I had the momentum coming to the front, a group of ten was up the road without no Predator riders so I scooped up Emile and launched him across. It seemed like the right break. With more riders trying to get across I just did my best to follow wheels and like that I was across to the break joining my teammate. The break was about 14 deep and leaving the field behind quickly. With 3 United Healthcare guys in the break I figured this was the place to be. The break was fast but there was a lot of unwilling passengers. Smart Stop Mountain Khakis seemed to be sleeping in the race and was not present in the break so naturally the whole team came to the front of the pack and reeled us back in. With 9 laps to go it was gruppo compacto and I was hoping I didn’t burn too many matches in the break.
The “Blue Train” of United Healthcare began to ramp it up as soon as the break was back. I did my best to stay away from the dangerous riders and put my nose in the wind when I absolutely need to. With 2 laps to go the blue train was full gas and there was no changing positions and this is how I like it. I’m not a sprinter, but I can hold any wheel at high speeds and have finished well in big crits that way. Coming into the last couple of turns I had to tap the breaks do to riders clipping pedals and lost a lot of momentum. I was able to get by them though and still manage to finish in 4th. The damage was done behind me and I was lucky enough to be close to the front and get a good result. With myself in 4th and JM and Emile finishing top 20 it was a decent pay day, mission accomplished.
The following day was the local amateur race the “NODA GP” in the suburbs of Charlotte. With some of the pro teams staying after “Presbyterian” it was set to be a very hard and fast race as well. The course was super cool in a nice neighborhood with a lot of elevation changes. A dangerous break got up the road and we made a huge mistake not being there, so myself, JM and Gevan got to the front and slowly brought them back. We were working for Emile, so as soon as the break got close Emile launched an attack and got across in the blink of an eye. The field panicked and attacks started flying with what was left of the field. I was pretty dead at this point after chasing the break, but I covered the move after Emile’s group came back and boom I was off with two Hincapie Devo riders and one United Healthcare of Georgia P/B 706 Project. All three riders were pretty fresh and had the legs to make the break stick to the finish. Myself, I did the best to hang on and cover the many attacks the Hincapie boys attempted. At the end, I could only manage 3rd on the day and Emile won the field sprint for 5th.
I’d say that “Team Predator” have found their legs and big things are coming our way. I’m also currently sitting 6th overall in the “USA Crits” points, so the goal is now to be on the podium in Vegas for the finale. It was a successful weekend in Charlotte and I couldn’t be happier with my team. Next stop is in Anniston, Alabama for the “Sunny King Criterium” which is a part of the NCC and set to be another fun exciting race so stay tuned, thanks.
Above Photo – Sergio Hernandez (Team Predator Carbon Repair) attacked off the front for several laps at the Redlands Downtown Criterium.
Photo © Christy Nicholson / EchelonDesignPhoto.com