Eben recently returned from the Colorado Junior Challenge in Silt, Colorado, where he raced for the USAC composite team.
Words by Eben Horacek
The Colorado Junior Challenge is a two day Omnium in beautiful Silt, Colorado. I was given the opportunity to ride in a USA Cycling composite team after attending the talent ID camp in Forest Grove. I was my first time to be able to race under the colors of the US. Our 5-man team raced together in the 15-16 boys category with other boys from around the country.
The first stage was a slightly uphill 8.6k time trial that would decide the starting Omnium leader and who we would be working for the overall win. Fortunately we started in the earlier morning instead of the blazing hot 95 degree heat that it was supposed to be in the afternoon. I had a fairly good result with a 4th place and the rest of our team went 1st, 5th and 7th and 12th, respectively.
We were very happy to have the leaders jersey coming into the crit and just had to make sure to get some of the primes for some points and get our leader a good shot at the sprint. Our crit started off fairly slow partly because of the extreme heat and much of the pack was looking at our team to try something. Fortunately it got fast for the first prime and that was when our race leader got away. Many of the other teams did not realize that he would try and stay away after the first prime and he was able to get a good gap after a few laps. After the gap was established, we were able to sit on wheels and just make sure that nobody made up any ground on our leader. As it got closer to the end of the race and we knew our leader would be able to stay away, we started to launch a few attacks to get the race going faster and really string it out. I attacked with a lap and a half to go. One of my teammates caught onto a rider’s wheel who was trying to chase me down. As I was caught, my teammate attacked and took 2nd while I battled it out for 4th.
The road race the next day was going to be fairly easy for us because of the gap we had due to our race leader winning the crit and the time trial. No one could pass us unless he failed to finish the stage. The road race also served as the Colorado junior state road race championships. The only thing left was moving the rest of us even farther up the podium. I was in 4th overall and was just a few points off of 2nd. The course was a beautiful and brutal, with a good climb straight out of the start/finish followed by a downhill with a few hard kickers until it turned around and we went back the way we came up. The race started with just one person going up the road and we let him go due to the low threat he was in the overall Omnium. Near the end of the first lap, I tried a move and was surprised to see that no one was really chasing. I had a gap and was one my way! The race was 3 laps in all, so I was not particularly looking forward to the next two laps in the blazing hot heat. I caught the lone man in front after about a lap. He held on for a little bit but eventually dropped off on the climb after the start/finish. The last lap was definitely the hardest. I was exhausted and dehydrated even after making sure to drink both of my bottles. The good news that that I had 3 minutes on the rest of the pack coming into the last lap, so I hammered my way around and at the turn around I heard that my gap to the field had grown to 4 minutes! That gave me the little boost I needed to carry it into the finish. I managed to kick it in for the win on the final day which moved into second overall for the Omnium. It was amazing to be able to go off the front of a race like and make it into the finish with time to spare. Our team ended up getting 2nd and 3rd in the final field sprint.
I was incredibly happy to get 2nd overall with the rest of my teammates getting 1st, 3rd and 5th, respectively. I was very happy with my performance on the weekend. Having such great teammates to control the races and hangout with in-between races was an amazing experience. I was also very happy to have the skills and experience of the coaches from USAC to guide us through the weekend.