A cool, crisp morning rise at 5:30 a.m. to drive up to Vernon Hills. I ate my traditional morning race breakfast - a bowl of Grape Nuts. I heated up a cup of coffee and took the dog for a walk just to wake-up. The season of criterium racing lay at my feet and I was ready. The car was packed the night before with my trainer. The only thing left to load was my bike and bag. I left our parking lot at 6:30 with the windows rolled down and beating it up the expressway to the northern suburbs.
I arrived in the Vernon Hills High School parking lot and walked to registration. On my way, I ran into Vince who drove me the next quarter mile down the road to registration. Once registered, we went back to the parking lot and set up our trainers. Danny and Tim arrived shortly there after and we began to warm-up as the lot slowly filled with other riders. I had a good laugh with Vince's new Sidi shoes. They looked so shiny that I was blinded. I threatened him that the next time I would bring sand paper to buff them out or by him a patent leather hat to fill out the pimp uniform.
Trainer time came to an end. While greeting our teammates along the way, we rolled to the waiting area for the Category 5 race. Tom and Stan, who was fighting a chest cold, joined us in the waiting area. Once called to the line, we looked around at our competition and with 6 riders in the race, we knew we had a fighting chance to get someone in the top ten.
Race started without a hitch. I hung in the middle of the pack. I was comfortable. Bob's coaching instructions were running through my head "Stay in the middle of the pack and keep a nice tempo." My wife was in the other ear reminding me that I never finished a race. I hung tough. I stayed near Tom and Danny. Stan was up there as well with Isaiah. The first laps were breakers but once we settle down, there was a rhythm. Slow down going into the wind and then jump on the pedals on the back stretch with the wind behind us.
As we were on the final lap, we slowed going into the first corner. By now were used to the set-up. Everyone was saving energy going into the wind. Not me, I saw Danny on the outside and took a flyer to the second corner. No one was expecting an attack so far from the finish. I had legs and wanted either Danny or Tom to jump my wheel and come with me. Neither did and I lost gas in the tank.
It was a futile effort but one I had to take and learn from. If I would have held back and made my move later, I would have finished higher than 25 but that was not my goal. I was there to shake it up and let others know our team had some strong riders. The season is young but we made some noise.
Kudos to Stan who did well fighting a virus. To Danny and Tom, thanks for the fun. Isaiah, I apologize for my cornering.
- Eric Shivvers