As the popular series, Banana Belt came rolling around the corner this year, its notorious reputation of being a dangerous course weighed heavy on my mind. Many collar bones have met their demise in this race which circumnavigates Henry Hagg lake. However, the allure of a new Fuji carbon bike frame, the momentum of a 2nd place finish at Sublimity, and the forecast of dry weather convinced me to give it a try. In the first race I was cautious, staying out of the wind and near the front of the pack. There were several crashes, but I was lucky to narrowly avoid them.
The laps ticked by and as we came into the final kilo, the pace quickened. Everyone was anxious to be in a good position for the sprint. With 300 meters to go and racers coming around on all sides, I went for the only opening. So I stood up, moved over to the shoulder and sprinted. The timing was right, and I was able to get to the front and hang on for the win.
It was my intention to just race the first race in the series, but now I was looking at a 2 point lead in the series and even more momentum than the previous week. How could I not race the rest of the series? So I approached the second BB like a stage race. I was in the leaders jersey, and all I had to do was finish in front of my closest competitors. I planned on going for the "hot-spot" points on the 2nd lap to increase my point lead and was lucky enough to have another racer attack right before the approach. So I jumped on his wheel and was carried away from the pack where I was able to sprint for the bonus points.
The rest of the race I spent trying to cover all the breaks, with Team Oregon watching my every move. After 4 laps, and 1 to go, Trevor Spahr and Mitch Lee got off the front and I decided I had better save my energy for the final sprint, so I didn't chase. They got away and although Mitch came back to the pack, we never saw Trevor again, he was able to TT for the last lap for the win.
Meanwhile, back in the pack, at the bottom of the finishing hill, the pace was heating up. Chris Dubois was being led out by a team mate, so I tried to get on his wheel. I was tired at this point and was not able to get around him, so I finished 3rd in the pack sprint and 4th on the day.
This was enough to give me a 9 point lead on Dubois, but John thought we had better call in reinforcements. So, Jake Hansen and Alex Lightman joined me for the 3rd BB. It was fun to see the dismay of the field when they noticed that I had Jake and Alex there to help me. "Bedford's got teammates!?" people asked. With an "epic battle" between Team Oregon and Word-RCB being touted, it was an exciting race. All I had to do was mark Dubois, let Jake and Alex chase down attacks, and protect me. Thanks to my fast and powerful team mates, nothing was able to get away, and with 200 meters to go I followed Dubois' wheel right to the line and went around him for another 4th place finish and a new Fuji frame!
A great showing of teamwork by Cyclisme!