A Road Race in Crits Clothing

I picked the Elgin Denis Jurs Memorial Road Race out because it seemed like the king of all criteriums. An astonishing 3.7 mile long course around the streets of Elgin. Another old course being revived by Intellignesia Cup. They didn’t mess about back in the 70s - part 2.

But ho hey, this is being classed as a road race. So we know what that means. Yes, half way around the meandering but fully blocked off course is a little kicker of a hill. A 30 sec leg burner that will leave the rider gasping. The rest of the course is lots of left right lefts along suburban streets giving a breakaway a chance to get out of sight. Overall it’s a great course.
I'm already staged when Jacob tears up to the back - late as ever. I'm delighted to see him and have some HAC support in this.

We are off, and wary of another back of the race grinding I'm up to the front with a big lunge from the line. Single file seems to be the order of the day up front, and when PJ Cavotto slows I take over and lead up the zig and zag undulating streets I've never even ridden before. Just follow the Moto and zig and zag with it (try not to crash)

First time to the hill I'm scorching down the drop before it. Two go by and I hoon around the turn in third place carrying all the momentum I can while shifting back about 6 on the rear. 
Not enough.  It’s a dead-legging grind up in too high a gear. Cresting in about 12th place. Lesson learned, change down even more.

Jacob is upfront and leads the second half. I recover and pass him at the start finish, imploring him 'thats enough'. We drop back a bit. In this 4 lap race there is only just enough time for a hill prime (no chance) and a finish line prime (not today) before the final. That final lap I see Jacob looking itchy at the front, gapping 5 yards occasionally. I'm second wheel and figure his slender frame will go well up the hill and on into the all out thrash to the finish. So I take the lead and set a pace discouraging attacks and Jacob going on a suicide solo, but one I'm somewhat comfortable with. This also has the happy side effect of delivering me first to the bottom of the hill.

I take the most aggressive line in, slam up the gears to my 23 and then move over out of the way. At least 10 go by, but I'm still in the thick of it over the top.  Surprise. Rather than going nuclear to the line it slows way down at the front and the sketchiest cornering of the race starts as the bunch clumps up in amazement. I can hang on recovering while deflecting a fair bit of argy bargy. Ultimately the selection is made on the penultimate straight. Two get away and the jockeying for position among the remainder is intense - across the road shouting and barging intense. I'm still in the red but holding around the last turn in 10th. To the line I'm neck and neck with Joe Berenyi who pips me by (per the T&S) 1/100th of a sec. 

And where was Jacob? Crusing around wondering what all the fuss was, convinced there was another lap to do. 4 isn’t many, but this epic course has the length and topology to elevate it above most crits into the pantheon of great courses. Much respect and kudos due to the Denis Jurs family, Intelligentsia Cup and the City of Elgin for getting it back on the calendar. 

~Bevan Brookfield M35+ P11/35

No Recce and then a Pip

Second year of its revival sees the Tour Of Glen Ellyn reaching a peak of excellence. The back stretch has been repaved and is smoother than the salesmen driving the pace cars, the roundabout has had the barriers pulled back a bit, and presents an option, go round or hop over the low kerbs TdF style. Even the U-bend at the bottom of the course seems smoother and less troubling.  The setting is still magnificent, so picturesque. The eponymous lake glittering in the sun of a 78 degree day. 

So much for a recce (recon) lap. After the womens race ends we stage straight up, and some politeness at the gap in the barriers leave the HAC crew of self, Jacob and Jeff well at the back.
My ever recalcitrant keo blades finish the job, by turn one I'm probably 40 of 50.
The hot laps that then unfold leave me in a good old fashioned organ grinding, gasping and struggling to make up places. After about 8 laps I’m finally up to a comfortable position. Not great but within the smoother riding lead group, neatly cornering. I can make up a place or two a lap just on the back straight or surprisingly up the little hill. But what’s the hurry, I can cruise along for a bit. Get a breath.

Heres why.

Crash. The sound of carbon and rider hitting the deck and sliding. Just ahead. 
One has overcooked a turn, collected another and two more pile right in. I'm just behind. Brake. Swerve with surprising coolness over to the inside. Dodge the loose bike that slides across the road towards. Accelerate away from the mayhem hard, with the callous cruelty of a roadie.

I'm joined by one other but we are gapped 100 yards from the lead bunch of 12 who are similarly kicking their opponents to death while they are on the floor. From there on the chase is futile and we team time trial in swapping pulls and neat cornering lines to the end, when the devious bastard pips me at the line. Thats road racing right there.

~Bevan Brookfield, M35+ P14/52

Mine’s a Pint

Mine’s a Pint - Glencoe Grand Prix 6/3

I remember in one report remarking with perhaps a little exaggeration that Glencoe is where people pop out for a pint of milk, in a Ferrari. Today its Glencoe Grand Prix day, and as I unload the team tent from my Rover, lo and behold there is a F430 parked up in front of Grand Foods on Hazell Ave.

So yes, this is the fantasy land of Glencoe. John Hughes, 16 Candles, Ferris Bueller, fabulous wealth, private beaches et al

But once again the folk of Glencoe have embraced cycling for the day with a big heart, and generously turned over their town center and lovely leafy lanes to our sport. It’s the biggest race of the year here and I’m happy to be part of it - as is the Half Acre Brewery - providing beer concessions and extensive sponsoring signage.

The HAC tent is up, and I’m warmed up ready for my Masters 45+ all cats race. It’s a great field, Burnham, Weather Channel, Intelligentsia, Zipp yep the gang’s all here.  Glencoe does race numbers and callups by USAC rankings, and I’m bib #8, my best ever here, so I get to toe the line front row.

After the off, I realize I’m hardly #8, more like #last as I struggle with the criterium turns and the pace changes. My first crit of the year and skills feel very rusty. Gradually I get into the groove and it gets smoother. Sometimes the pace is electric, all out single line barely hang on. Sometimes it’s slow and the bunch swaps ends and bumps around. No breaks go off despite the primes and watch sprints. It’s generally a bit unmemorable mid-race, I wish we got to do the long course…

Overall the pace is high and riding exemplary, no crashes, no corner bombing. In fact, my going two wide into a corner causes unnecessary complaint at one point. Sir, you need to recall your last cat4 race 20 years ago or whatever, and the 5 wide crazy shit that went on there. A single line is not going to happen here and I don’t care who your sponsor is.

Unintimidated I work up the field from a pretty lowly position on the last lap and find a way around the outside on the back straight that gets me a few places. Around the last turn on the inside and charge the line, but the lead guys are so fast. 

7th isn’t bad, and in this company I’m happy. I improved on my bib # by one. High fives from the team tent on the warm down lap. Enjoy the rest of the day watching the racing and lapping up rays. No pint of milk, no ferrari, but I will be popping back to Glencoe next year.

~Bevan Brookfield

Cheesy Rider

Cheesy RIder - Palmyra RR May-27

I have a report from Palmyra WI, a small town out in kettle moraine country. Team Velocause are running a rare road race on memorial saturday. To spice up the report I’m including quotes from 'The Rider' by Tim Krabbe. If you haven’t read it, put down this and your chai latte or IPA and proceed to the nearest bookstore immediately (or I can lend you it).

Anyway, road races, hmm. I dont have the best experience with these. While riding through the countryside is far superior to tight criterium courses, there are inevitably hills, organizers simply cannot resist them, and my 190lb body doesn’t really do hills.  This course is 9 miles and we have four laps. And yep there’s the hill, just after the start. It’s a grinder, but it’s not that long and nothing like as brutally steep as ones around Galena. 

Off the line it’s me and Joe S representing HAC, a smattering of other Chicago riders and a lot of lean looking guys from the top wisconsin teams. Off we go bumping over two railroad tracks and on up to the hill. First time up it’s ok, big ring, smallest sprocket lug it up in the saddle. Resist temptation to drop to the small ring.

‘Shifting is a kind of painkiller, and therefore the same as giving up. After all, if I wanted to kill my pain, why not choose the most effective method? Road racing is all about generating pain.’ 

I’m always amazed how I can hurtle down the slightest hill far faster than anyone else, what (lard) goes up must come down - and fast. Hence I’m thrown to the front on a slight descent and take a dig as we head south, soon I’m joined by Joe and we are swapping the lead, a poppy red tete de la course.

Its rolling idyllic countryside as we make our way around in dappled sunlight. Finally we reach the 4 mile finish straight. Here we have a following wind, and downhill sections give you back some of that energy cruelly paid out. Result is a 40mph blast as you swoop through curves, avoid huge but well marked potholes and drop down to the start/finish.

My plans are simple, don’t get dropped on the hill, if you survive 4 ascents then we can take an assessment and see what’s possible. But above all, don’t get dropped on the hill.  So that’s how it goes, I survive 2 more ascents, 2 more laps, a sketchy line (mine) through a full speed corner that has me trading paint with another rider and we come up to the final ascent. Joe has disappeared so I’m on my own.

Oh shit.

I’m smart enough to be at the front, and I even pull away very slowly on the run up making it clear this is not an attack. Down the gears and into the pain cave. Halfway up riders are streaming by. At the top I’m last in our depleted field but not gapped. In the red and hanging on. 

‘My whole life had only one goal: making that last wheel, here, now. I was wasted.’ 

Four guys have attacked and got away 100 yards. We chase and as my heartrate drops into a range that will continue my existence on earth, I’m helping out with a few pulls.  The four remain tantalizingly close. As we turn into the wind I’m second wheel in our chase but I simply cannot (or will not?) help the pursuit into this wind, I suck wheel shamefully.

‘Racing is licking your opponent’s plate clean before starting on your own.’ 

But wait. The lead four seem to be fighting over who will pull them through the headwind too, and the gap is dropping by the second. A turn and a quick attack has us all together. All to play for.  Did I say all? My back is majorly smarting, I’m a bit hot and feeling and looking a bit ragged in the saddle. A last drag on my bottle and it’s time for the 40mph run in.

Nothing is quite as exhilarating as taking curves and dodging holes at such insane speed with 23mm of thin rubber between you and calamity. The centerline doesn’t exist on these farm roads, and its concept is, well, let’s say liberally interpreted on the descents leaving me mid pack in about 12 riders left.

The finish isn’t in sight yet but the sprinting begins and I go with it, finally coming over the brow of the last downward hill. There’s the line. 200 yards ahead. I go for the left, and finally wind up to full gas to make some places. Pass one rider then another then suddenly I’ve got the big MO, a speed advantage built up as I worked up the shelter of the field, so I slingshot by the rest of the sprinting mob and cross the line an astonished first with a probably unnecessary throw. Exhaustion turns to elation.  First place.

‘Because after the finish all the suffering turns to memories of pleasure’

Indeed, Tim Krabbe. Win or lose, (and be fair to me, I write up the far more numerous shoulda/coulda/woulda losses and the epic fails too) that’s why we do this.  

~Bevan Brookfield

15 Minutes of Voluntary Pain

ABD Indoor TT - 2/19

3, 2, 1, and we’re off. I shift down and try to find an uncomfortable but sustainable rhythm. I look at the big screen. This feels way too hard to be only doing 21mph and stuck in fifth place. Keith Morris is whispering sweet nothings in my ear. Oh wait, I’m looking at the wrong column, I’m doing 25 and I’m in first . Second place is close but third through sixth are nowhere close to touching me. I think I’ve always enjoyed time trials? I keep my head staring down at my heart rate and cadence. These are the only things that matter until it is finished. I have found a comfortable rhythm at 103 rpm only deviating up and down to maintain 183-185 bpm.

Every once in awhile I look at the board to check second place's pace. I am a sweaty mess and drooling from the mouth, the triathlete next to me looks at me in disgust. The last minute or so, I drop down a gear, kicking, to maintain the cadence. It’s getting darker but I have some good motivation in my ears. Iggy has always sat in my corner right next to Eddy. Turning yourself inside out never felt so good and then...I’m done. I reach the end, sit up and spin easy; lungs burn. Second place finishes 40 seconds after me, the remainder in minutes. I average 24.6mph for 10k in 15 minutes 10 seconds. I come in 7th overall for the day of 83 or so riders. I apologize to the triathlete with a smile. We have now returned to our regularly scheduled broadcast of Mutually Assured Destruction.

~Joe Schubert