Sunday, November 9, 2008

Northbrook Delivers First Time Out

Being new on the calendar, you never quite know what you are going to get when you arrive at a new venue. The boys of Flatlandia surely did not disappoint with today's stop of the circus we like to call the Chicago Cyclocross Cup. This course offered up a little bit of everything, and in extra servings in case anyone was hungry for more.

I drive 294 maybe once a week and I swear I have never seen the hill that was thrown at us today. But I know every time I drive past it in the future I will never forget that it is there. Off the start we hit a technical section that kept you busy between braking, shifting and re-accelerating out of every corner. After the that, there was a brief power section before hitting the first climb of the lap. Stairs or run-ups have never been that difficult for me in the past, but because of the spacing of the stairs getting a good rhythm going proved difficult. After ascending the stairs you had the pleasure of riding the most challenging section we have ridden all year, three off-camber muddy, greasy turns where if you had too much speed, or hesitated just a bit you found yourself upside down. And believe me, more than a few people were trying to ride that section who had no business doing so, and some were making it look easy.

After that you were shot back into some off-camber, twisty technical stuff that tested the traction of your tires before heading back to the hill for more running, more off-camber insanity that prompted a bit of puckering if you know what I mean. Off the hill and onto the pavement for a bit of power and then right back to a short twisty section and a hill climb that wasn't so bad at all. Down the hill and towards "4 guys on a couch" with a serenade from a trumpeter and a bull horn, into a pinwheel, through some chicanes and then back towards the finish line. Definitely a sweet course, but a really difficult one at that. This race to me would be more a matter of staying upright when others hopefully couldn't, and minimizing any mistakes.

After the call ups, Tony, Elvis and myself wiggle into the 2nd row. Whistle! Go! I am a bit over geared for the start, but Tony and I are riding strong with Elvis just a few behind us. Up towards the hill and I decide to run the corners and save myself from crashing. I think Tony and Elvis both rode it cleanly. I wasn't losing any ground, nor was I gaining any though. Tony and I are still together heading toward the 2nd hill where he opens a gap on the decent that I cannot close for the rest of the race. Meanwhile, Elvis is closing down every chance he gets.

First time going through the tennis courts and I think Tony lost his chain, as I can see him running up ahead. Now is my chance to close it down, yeah right. He just has so much raw power, that I do not possess. Back towards the hill and Tony is still in sight, I run the section again, this time passing a few riders in the process. Into the technical section and now Elvis has joined me in pursuit of Tony. As we hit the pavement, I let Elvis come past to take his wheel and a breather. Through the pinwheel and past the "4 guys on a couch" and we have now been labeled the Olsen Twins by Al and crew.

Elvis and I continue to trade pulls, and continue to reel back in Tony. At some point he drops his chain again, and we move that much closer to him. But again, his power is incredible and he hangs on just in front of us. Elvis makes a great jump as I get caught behind a lapped rider as we enter the finish chute, Tony 22nd, Elvis 23rd, me 24th.

The B's line up with Jorge, Bob, Sergio and Joe. Jorge and Bob make it into the 2nd row again but get a bit swallowed up at the start. They still probably make the top 20-25 though as they head for the hill of death. With Bob leading the way and Jorge just a few wheels back, Bob charges toward the first corner with confidence and BAM! He goes down, it looks terrible, but he quickly gets to his feet and remounts. Jorge manages to pass at this point and never looks back. Sergio, then Joe make it cleanly through the first of 3 laps.

Every time I see Jorge on the course, I shout encouragement and instructions and he listens. Everyone takes the downhill off-camber cleanly and then head out onto the backside and out of sight. On the second time up the hill Jorge cleans every corner, puts his back down and hammers, trying to close the gap in front while putting some time on those behind. At this point I was sure that Bob would run the corners, but not Bob, he comes into the first corner again looking good only to have his front wheel come out as he exited the bottom of the corner. He manages a quick remount with only losing two places, a testament to his drive for a top 15 finish.

The second time through wasn't so good for Sergio though. He cleans the first corner and is about to enter the 3rd when he is taken out from above. A crashing rider from turn 1, goes careening downhill just as Sergio is passing by. BAM! He goes down hard, but quickly remounts not losing any position in the process. Luck would not be with later as he slid out twice on the off-camber downhill, luckily no damage was done though. Joe meanwhile is slogging it out and passing riders in the process.

Bob is making up ground every lap on the back half of the course where he is able to put down the power. Bob is able to pass Sergio and make it stick after the Sergio slide out and he hangs on for 31st. Sergio finished just behind, but I'm not sure where exactly. Jorge rode an impressive race and again finished in the top twenty at 19th, racking up even more points in the overall. Joe finished just a bit behind Sergio, but again I'm not sure where.

This course was definitely the toughest we have had all year. I look forward to the flat course next week at Lansing and the dreaded "Pit of Despair". A little inside info between you and me, I was told there will be a corner introduced into the sandpit this year. This course suited all of us last year, so I know we will be placing high again this year. Bob should be able to realize his top 15, and Jorge could shoot for a top 10. Hopefully the weather will cooperate with us, and if it doesn't so be it, that's one of the things that makes cyclocross so special.

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