On Saturday his team took the pole position in qualifications. On Wednesday junior Joe Krahulik of Sigma Alpha Epsilon looks to take the top spot in individual time trials for the second year in a row.
That won’t come easy, though, and Krahulik knows it. He said Cutters’ Nick Thiery and Charlie Hammon and Xavier Martinez of the Black Key Bulls could present him with a challenge.
“There’s all these great guys from great teams who have the capability of doing well, and I know I can be right there with them,” Hammon said. “With ITTs if you lose to somebody by a quarter second that might be two places, and a quarter second feels like nothing.”
Last year Krahulik posted a time of 2:17.24 in ITTs, more than two seconds faster than anyone else.
Hammon said he won’t let Krahulik win without a challenge.
Last year Hammon finished fifth in ITTs with a time of 2:21.38 and strives to take the top spot. Hammon said he knows bringing his A-game will be critical because in ITTs, split seconds matter.
Outside winning, one of Hammon’s goals is to break the 2:20 barrier.
“Coming off of 2:21 low last year, it would be silly of me to not break the 2:20 barrier, which is kind of the big barrier when it comes to men’s ITTs,” Hammon said. “I think there’s been less than 15 people that have done it before.”
Hammon said he has felt pressure to perform well in ITTs but has reminded himself to have fun in his last season as a member of the Black Key Bulls. Of all returners, Hammon has the third-fastest time from last year.
“I have an opportunity to do very well but I don’t want to look at it that way,” Hammon said. “I’ve come to the realization that this Little 5, it’s ill-advised of me to focus on the pressure and instead focus on having fun.”
ITTs present a distinct challenge for bikers because their performance depends all on themselves. For Hammon, one of his fiercest competitors Wednesday will come from teammate Xavier Martinez. Hammon said he would not be disappointed if Martinez beats him — he might be happy.
“Xavier is an athletic monster,” Hammon said. “I know some people would think it must be tough being the leader and not being the best on the team, but what does it matter? My ego’s not in this. It’s a team sport. I want him to do his best, I want him to win.”
In terms of strategy, Krahulik and Hammon both said they believe the biggest hurdles are mental rather than physical.
“You’ve got to get up to speed quick,” Krahulik said. “That second lap you have to hold back a little bit or else you’ll burn yourself out. Lap three is kind of a build, and that fourth lap you gotta finish. That’s the hard one.”
Hammon said he would be grateful to win Wednesday. If he does not come out on top, he knows the biggest prize is still ahead.
“If I were to win ITTs I would be beating phenomenal riders, but the only result that matters is April 22,” Hammon said. “I would rather get 50th in ITTs and win Little 5 than win ITTs and not.”