Thursday, June 28, 2012

Wonder Lake Criterium

This was my first time racing in Wonder Lake and I enjoyed the course and the atmosphere very much.  The promoter did a great job, and I love the idea of  having a lake right next to the finish.  In fact I am going to the next ICA meeting and propose that all of the races should end next to a body of water.  Nothing better after a race on a hot day than jumping into water and submersing yourself in a nice cool down.  I guess a portable pool with the ICA logo on it would do.

Ok let's talk about the actual race day.  Bob and I showed up early to set up our tent and get ready for everyone else on the team who was showing up.  Bob was racing right away so that gave me time to settle in and finish setting things up.  I am much more relaxed when I can get there early and take my time getting ready and know that I can get a good warm up in.  We had brought hotdogs and sausage to cook up on the grill after the first race so we could be ready for the later races too. I also had time to step out 100meters and 250 meters to get ready if it came down to a field sprint. The day could not have started out any better.

I first competed in the Elite Masters 30+ race which ended up being a pretty fast race.  In fact the average speed of this race was faster than the P/1/2 later in the day.  I think that came from the numerous attacks during the race.  I had three teammates (Tony, Curtis and Bob) which always helps with confidence because they are great riders on their own and really shine as support riders.  I had tried to get a break to go but to no avail.  Seems like pack continued to reel every break in after a lap or so.

The atmosphere of the pack changed at the end of the race with three to go when everyone came to realized that it was going to be a sprint finish. So the pace slowed.  Almost every break that got away during the race went on the back stretch into the headwind.  And with two and half to go a lone rider went off. in the same spot.  Everyone just watched as we figured he would never survive.  But the gap increase quickly.  There were some lame attempts to start a chase but so many were worried about saving themselves for the sprint. With just under two laps to go Curtis pulls up along side of me and said Tony had flatted.  That was a let done because I know Tony would through it all out on the last lap to string it out for me.  But no sooner than that Tony pulls up along side me as the paced had slowed again and said he would still lead me out.  I looked down trying to figure out what Curtis was talking about and noticed Tony was riding on a flat front tire.  I yelled out ‘No’ very loudly.  I could only think about how unsafe that would be.  But ya got to love this guy.  He would give his right testicle to help me out in a sprint and get a good result for the Beverly Bike/Vee-Pak. 

That inspired me and I knew we need to reel this solo break in.  And with a lap and a quarter to go I  put in a bigger dig than I wanted to but figured if we did not work we would be racing for 2nd.  I pulled the pack from the top of the hill through the start finish and then pulled off before turn one. And that effort sparked the pack which is just what I needed and wanted.  Now I could get back into the draft.  And then coming up in four wheels was Curtis.  That really got me going.  I know how strong he is and the kind of effort he can put out.  I knew he could make it safe so I road back up to him in turn two and told him to string it out and give me a good interval.  And just like that it got crazy and I waited to catch a good wheel and got in line.

Curtis put the pressure on into the headwind the whole backstretch and there was another big acceleration right before turn three which I did not miss.  Now sitting fifth wheel I was just waiting for that 250-meter mark that I paced off earlier to go all out.  We still had not caught the solo break and it was going to be very close.  But I knew the downhill could help us.  As we got to my mark I was already standing going around turn four and started to pass the rider in front of me and just as I started my sprint number two and three riders from the pack pulled out and made the most perfect leadout for me.  I was able to accelerate right into their draft and by the bottom of the hill squeak through the small opening that was on the left side of the road.  And as I looked to my right I could see I had the pack beat and better yet also passing the solo break.  I powered up the hill a little more and was able to sit up and post up.  The day just got so much better.

As I have said before I owe this win to the team.  This is my second win of the year and just like at Monsters it was a team effort.  Curtis had thrown his heart into that last stretch just like in the beginning of June on the Midway.  Tony is always giving his all chasing down attacks or attacking himself so I can find time to recover.  And although Tony and Curtis were the ones in the race helping out with direct support, there is more to a team helping out an individual win a race.  All my teammates there cheering on the sidelines, calling and texting good luck, or calling after to see how things went.  There are the sponsors in Beverly Bike and Vee-Pak that make sure we have everything we need to accomplish our best performance.  This has been a much better year than I had expected for my goals were to chill out and relax.  Maybe the fresh start on the southside, great teammates and sponsors is all I needed to get me out of the rut I was in last year in the fall.  So for not expecting many results this year I am very ecstatic about my performance, but more so of our team's support. 

This was another excellent Team win for Beverly Bike/Vee-Pak Racing.


P.S.  Great job to the lone three officials taking care of the day.  Nice job, Nikki, Brenda and Loch.  Also thanks again to the promoter for a fine day of racing that ended up with me jumping in the lake after each race.  I can see it now the ICA portable pool.  I will bring the hydrant wrench and the hose to fill it.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Race the Bend Weekend P/1/2/3

It's hard to believe that four weeks ago I raced in leg warmers and long sleeves at Monsters of the Midway.  This weekend was a scorcher.  Driving from Chicago to South Bend on Saturday I left 90 degree weather and drove through a torrential downpour where my thermometer dropped to 74 degrees.  It was going to be a rainy one.

As soon as the race before ours finished, the sky opened up.  Bob Murray told me about his race, which was a crashfest but a good result.  I was glad it was raining.  I simply haven't raced in the heat enough this year.  I blew a gasket at Spring Prairie in the heat last weekend and only lasted a lap of the road race.  During the rain before the race I rode around the course to warm up while everyone else in the field huddled under a willow tree.  I don't mind crittin' in the rain though and I figured getting wet was inevitable so I figured I'd embrace it.  The race started slow and safe.  A few gaps opened up here and there but nothing lasted.  I spent the first 20 minutes trying to make a split happen but then I gave up.  A promising move went with a few laps to go.  My field sprint strategy was to hang back and drill it to get to the front on the backstretch, but I got caught out.  I coasted in for 20th or so.

Sunday was another hot one but not as bad as it could have been.  I went on the attack a few times.  The weird thing was I kept ending up off the front with local South Bend guys that I know.  It seems to me that if guys know me well they'd know I haven't been riding well and they'd NOT want to attack with me, but whatever.  Somehow the few teams that were there let a killer two man move go.  Every other serious move from then on attracted attention from the one Optum Kelly Benefits pro team rider, which (due to no fault of his) killed the move since everyone wants to piggyback on the strategy of the pro guy rather than think for themselves.  So I gave up the chase and committed to the field sprint again.  Whoever lead it out on the backstretch did a magnificent job.  It was totally strung out.  Yet again I was caught out and rolled in outside the money.  I've felt so terrible on the bike lately I can't complain.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Race the Bend

This weekend I headed out to South Bend IN. Yes, there was a race in downstate IL, but I’m a Hoosier. And let’s face it, a 5 hour drive each way was not my idea of a good time. Now a 90mi trip was ok.

I entered the Cat 4/5 race thinking the field would be small. I’ve been having a hard time this year finding my race legs, so nice easy race would be right on time. Well, I was wrong. We had 41 starters on a .6mi loop with a small hill on the back of the course.

At the start of the race I moved into 4th wheel and decided I would try and stay in the top 5 riders to stay out of trouble. We did the first few laps at a good pace that’s when things slowed down, like way down. So I went to the front and put in a really hard effort for 2 laps. I looked back and saw 3 riders from the Spin Zone team leading the pack on my wheel. So I flicked my elbow and moved over, but none of them would pull through. So I sat up and soft peddled. That’s when someone else made a big attack. The guys from spin zone did the same thing. They shut it down than sat on the lead rider’s wheel. I told myself that’s fine I will slide into the middle of them, and let them do all the work. The only problem was they slowed way down and the pack would rush up the sides. It caused a lot of turmoil leading to several crashes. Midway into the race I got caught in one of them. 2 riders got their handle bars caught up and then freaked out. I was directly behind them and had nowhere to go. I had my front wheel hit, but was able to put a foot down and saved myself from crashing. When I tried to clip back in I was hit from behind by a group of riders off the back. I managed to get back to the wheel pit and change out the front wheel to get back into the race. I went right back to the front to reestablish my spot.

On the last lap the field got ugly again. The field rushed the inside to turn 1 and the front guys were not going fast, so the field bunched up, and down they went. This time I was sitting mid pack on the outside. I had to hit the brakes to avoid the carnage. I saw around 8 riders in front of me with a huge gap. So I hit it hard and passed few of them before the last turn. I was able to sprint past 1 more on the final straight away before the finish to take 4th Place        


Friday, June 1, 2012

ABD Memorial Day Weekend

I received an email from Pat saying he was headed up to the Monday’s race in Wood Dale. This is the long course, they combine the Saturday and the Sunday courses to make a long 1.6mi circuit race. I have raced the Saturday race before and I liked the course. It was wide open and fast with only one turn you couldn’t peddle through at full speed. So I figure that I need to do this race because I’m still looking for my race legs. I think they are still in the basement hiding. 
When I arrive at the race, who do I see? Paul, he’s out to do the masters 1/2/3. Looks like Pat and I weren’t the only ones looking for our legs. Paul road well but faded in the end with a lot of pressure being put on by a very strong field. It was still good to see him out racing. 
Now to the Masters 4 race. It was a 30+ rider field with some strong riders in it. I wanted to get to the front as soon as possible and try to push the tempo. In the first lap, 2 other riders and I went out fast putting 20sec gap into the field, when the guy from Tower sat up and wouldn’t pull. So the field quickly pulled us back in. I stayed in the top 3 riders for a few laps and then faded back to get some rest. That’s when they let a guy from xXx got off the front. No one wanted to try and bring him back, so I decided I would try and bridge the gap. When I talked to Pat after the race he said they were going to let me go, and that I would die in the wind. Then all of a sudden they ramped up the speed and dragged me back.  As soon as the caught me Pat tried to make a counter move. But the field quickly jumped on his wheel. By this time we only had 4 laps to go so I sat in and tried to recover. 
On the last lap the field was getting a bit crazy with everyone trying to gain position without putting their nose into the wind. That’s when a tire blew or someone touched wheels. All I saw was bikes flying through the air and one of the coming right at me. I was able to calmly avoid the carnage but huge gap opened up. So I came rolling in just behind the field.  All in all it was a good day. My race fitness is slowly coming back. As Brian and Seegs keep telling me, you have to race, to get race legs. It’s impossible to simulate the tempo of a crit race without racing.