Each and every criterium doesn't have to be based on cut-throat competition. Sometimes, cyclists have a mutual understanding.
That was the case on Sunday when Alder Matz and Brian Sheedy took an early lead in the Pro 1-2 division of the Watauga Orthopedic Criterium held in downtown Johnson City. The two broke ahead during the 15th lap and by the end of the race they put more than 40 seconds between them and the pack.
"We have a lot of strong guys with my teammates and they were attacking really early on," said Matz, a 21-year-old from Charlotte, N.C. "That was kind of the idea was to get someone off the front. It just so happened that my attack worked."
After the breakaway, Matz and Sheedy took advantage of a wide open course and pulled in laps as quick 1:13.
"We could go through the corners a lot faster than the group, for sure," said Sheedy. "Every lap we would ride consistently pretty smokin' fast. If guys are trying to advance their position through there, they are chopping at each other and slowing things down. We rode those corners so many times that we could take them at full speed."
Once they were at an advantage, it was obvious that the worst Matz or Sheedy could place was second. But instead of battling it out for the next 20 laps, they came to an agreement.
"It was mutually understood that Brian was kind of riding for the overall since he had done well the day before and I was pretty much riding for the stage win," Matz said.
The Watauga Orthopedic Criterium was the third stage of the People's Community Bank Omnium, which Sheedy was leading after placing third in both the Nor-Well Roan Groan road race and the Unicoi Time Trials on Saturday. Matz had a flat tire during the previous events, which put him out of contention and out of a chance for first in the omnium.
"Cycling is just that nice," Matz said. "You can have a bad day one day and it can turn around the next day."
To further solidify their spots, they decided to slow things down just a bit.
"Once we had the gap, if someone was going to catch us, they were going to have to destroy themselves and then we could attack them again," Sheedy said. "I talked to Alder and we actually backed up and decided not to pass the field because we didn't want to get caught up in the crowd."
Sheedy also said he was glad it worked out the way it did because he knew Matz had strong sprinting skills that he would have had a tough time beating. The 35-year-old cyclist, who currently resides in Banner Elk, N.C., ended with a second-place finish in the criterium and first place in the PCB Omnium.
Other than a mutual understanding on how the race was going to play out, Matz and Sheedy also used the it as a chance to redeem themselves from less than desirable finishes at the same event last year.
Matz found himself in a larger breakaway consisting of eight riders. He ended up with the seventh place spot.
"To get revenge makes it that much sweeter," he said. "It's great to come back to a race and finish it off right."
Sheedy also competed last year, but says he wasn't in shape and that caused him to suffer through the entire race. He attributes the performance turnaround to the motivation he gained after the death of his fiancé in January.
"I haven't been training a lot, but I've been racing a lot and it's kind of like medicine for me," Sheedy said. "It's nice to win, but I'm kind of here for selfish reasons too. It's kind of like counseling I guess."
Peter Haile, who took third place in the criterium, struck out of the pack with two laps remaining.
"Well that's kind of what I have to do because I didn't have any teammates in the pack. My strength is entirely a longer effort."
Haile is a former member of the Lees-McRae cycling team and currently rooms with Sheedy and fourth place finisher Scott Stewart. Stewart picked up a win at the Roan Grown and placed second overall in the PCB Omnium. Oscar Clark, who won the Unicoi Time Trials, placed fifth in the Watauga Orthopedic Criterium and third in the PCB Omnium.
Ashley James won all three legs of the women's pro 1-2 division of the PCB Omnium. Mary Cerkey took second.