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Jack’s Final Words & 2018 Race Recap
13th Jun 2018Posted in: Blog, Featured Posts 0
Jack’s Final Words & 2018 Race Recap

I can still remember the two exact moments that were pivotal in my decision to pursue the crazy bike race dubbed Little 500. It was my freshman year, and former teammates John Hyndman and Aj Sood took me on my first road ride, a Forest loop. It was after the first descent on Firehouse hill, one of the largest hills in Bloomington, I knew I had discovered something special. A month later, I found myself behind the fence on race day to watch an incredible 3rd place finish by the 2015 Beta team, and this is when I knew I would fully immerse myself into the sport. My stomach dropped as I watched Chris Craig carry the lead with 2 laps to go. I thought to myself, I can’t even imagine the feeling of being the guy on the bike to close out the last few laps against other elite cyclists. Little did I know, however, that I would have this privilege 3 years down the road in the 2018 Little 500.

Just as I now feel while penning this, I entered the 2018 Little 500 season a bit nostalgic. Saying goodbye to two dear friends in Joe Laughlin and John Hyndman, and realizing I was never to have another year of training with them in Bloomington, was certainly challenging. It also meant that I was now the only senior. I was the captain, and it was time for me to take on a whole different realm of responsibilities. I also was somehow given the role of Riders Council President, so it was clear from the get go that my entire senior year would solely be devoted to bikes and the Little 500, just the way I like it.

The fall season was magical for me. I not only got to ride with the Beta Bikes team, but many other Riders Council members and their teams as well. Our team was slowly assimilating into the Little 500 culture, which would pay dividends in the spring. A big alumni ride during homecoming and some interesting fall series events highlighted our fall training block. The winter training trip in PCB was a blast as always, and the team managed to have one of their best years of training down there.

Sam holding solid position during the race.

The spring had now sprung, and long story short, a spring series filled with tough and disappointing results taught me more about myself than any other thing in my life ever had. My teammates Colten Renier, JJ Jaggard, and Sam Hagedorn can attest to the same lessons. We became hardened, resilient, and focused on doing things our way, the right way. And then things began to fall in line with our top 5 team pursuit finish. One of our strongest riders in Colten had a 102 degree fever, and we were still able to go out and do our thing. Not only was that a super proud moment for myself, but it was the moment I knew we had just as good of a shot to win as anyone. We carried this momentum into April 21st. We were going to continue to do things our way.

Per usual, the Bloomington forecast for race day did a 180 and ended up being a hot and dry day. Race day started out as any other, and there was a calm confidence lingering in the air. All of the boys finally felt healthy, and we knew what our legs and bodies were capable of. We also were rocking the swaggy red and blue Spooderman jerseys from 2015. Will Kragie, our wrench, had our bikes absolutely dialed. Our tough Qualification position of 21st had everyone slightly concerned, even though no one would admit it.

Laps 1-50: It was now Colten’s turn to step up and start a race, albeit in a very challenging position. Our coach, Eric Anderson, had me sit in the infield for the beginning of the race as a precautionary measure against an early wreck back there. Like a lightning bolt, Colten shot up from 21st position and was leading the 2018 Little 500 after just 1 damn lap! I jumped out of my seat, screamed something at Colten as he whipped by, and then I returned to my road bike to prepare for my first set. Our race order was Colten, me, JJ, Sam. Colten and I did monster first sets of about 20 laps a piece. And then, JJ came on for his first ever set. He looked poised and fit, ready for whatever the race may throw his way later.

Laps 51-100: Sam then hopped on for his first ever set, and similar to JJ, looked like he had been there before. The race was quiet here, and we made it a point to ride at the front and avoid any sketchy business. The last thing we wanted was a fluke wreck like 2017 during this time period. We all knew this was a time to ride safe and smart, as well as rest for what lie ahead.

JJ during his ITT off the front in the late 180s.

Laps 100-150: Surprisingly, these laps were not filled with a whole lot of action either. I can distinctly remember hopping on for my third set and yelling at Jake Cohen, a 3PH rider and good buddy of mine, to wait up for the pack in a joking fashion. Shortly after this, I engaged in a conversation with Xavier Martinez, a BKB rider and friend of mine. It was eerie that the pace was not hotter, and there was a buzz in the air because everyone knew something was going to happen shortly. I went for a burn and Xavier shot off my wheel in what looked like a 2017 move from the BKBs. They had a minor gap, but it turned out to be a false alarm as they were pulled back in a few laps.

Laps 151-180: The pace had picked up a bit, but again, it was quiet. A bit too quiet. It had been a generally slow race up until this point, and surely someone had to light some fireworks soon. We knew we had the strength, and we decided we had the guts. We went for it.

Laps 181-200: I had told Colten a few minutes before he got on that he was going to be the one to make the move. He shot a strong burn on lap 180 as Anderson and I frantically waved him on past our pit to do a burn plus one, as we call it. Just as we had practiced, the move had been made and we had over a straight-away lead with less than 20 to go. I hopped on the bike knowing I would have this set, and I would also have another set with a chance to win the race for us. I rode three laps as hard as I could, and our lead had blossomed to a bit over a half lap. JJ was next and absolutely threw down 4 laps to extend the lead even further. Sam then jumped on and did 3 blistering laps as well. The lead was still big as Colten hopped back on at lap 193. This is the moment when I turned around, looked at our fans, and thought to myself we actually could win this thing. Colten poured his heart into those last four laps, but was gassed from the earlier 12 lap set and his move. Anderson kept him out for a 4th lap, a very savvy move as commentated by announcer Jordan Bailey, so as the pack wouldn’t catch. They both gave me a shot. I was delivered the bike with 3 laps to go, and a narrow lead of about 3 seconds. I decided to go for it. Little did I know, Joe Krahulik, the ITT champion, was hammering to bring in the Beta move. He pulled the field back in a heroic effort, and now there were just under 2 laps to go. Just as Joe was gassed, so was I from the move. We did our best to prove that we were top sprinters, but the last few laps had taken too much out of us. We crossed the finish in a very exciting bunch sprint, but not in the positions we had hoped for.

Colten’s last ever exchange to me as I go for the win.

Initially, I was disappointed. That feeling of disappointment then turned into one of pride. We had gone out there, played our hand, and had made the race exciting. To me and the rest of the Beta Bikes program that was there, it felt like a win. I became overwhelmed with emotions seeing my current teammates who I had battled with all year, and then gazing upon all of the past teammates I had grown so close to in the past seasons. It was all over.

I will cherish every memory from every season that I was fortunate enough to have. Every teammate from when I was a freshman till when I was a senior molded me into a better person. The Beta Cycling program gave me purpose, best friends, and an outlet to compete in a professional way. To everyone that helped make this incredible journey possible, I thank you from the bottom of the heart. I can’t wait to embrace a new role within this Beta Bikes family.

in_kai_,

Jack McNamara

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