Beating the Stacker at Evanston

75 riders toed the line at Evanston. I lined up behind and slightly to the outside of my teammates. So happy to be racing with Danny, David, Eric and Tom. It is always a good feeling to know you have quality teammates in the same race so there is always a friendly wheel to follow. That was my strategy from the start.

At the whistle, everyone clipped in, the guys I was behind seem to do it better and faster and I was in a good line, was in about 30th place after the first two turns. At Evanston, it is all about positioning on the turns and how you come out of them. Of course, there were a few guys pulling heavy and fast from the get go so after about two laps into the race the accordian starting playing and all the riders felt the effect.

With the field getting strung out, large gaps starting forming. Choosing the right wheel to follow seemed like the puzzle of the day because every time I picked someone to follow they were allowing a gap between them and the front group, so I had to jump and close the gap myself. Noticing that I had done this for about 4 or 5 laps, I seemed I was the wheel that people were following trying to stay with the leaders.

At this point I only noticed about 25 racers in front of me and the only Half Acre rider in that group was Tom. A few more laps pass and I believe I am the guy who is creating too much of a gap between myself and the leaders. At first it is a wheel length then seconds later it is a bike length then two. I look behind and see if anyone wants to take a pull and two riders pass me and then a couple more. I jump on their wheel and settle in for a few laps but the gap between our group and the leaders is still growing. I pass a few of the guys who passed me a lap earlier but I notice that the tempo has dropped and our little group is not working together like it should to really catch the leaders.

I count the lead group as it rounds the turn in front of us and it is about 20 riders. Next thing I know our chase group is picking up some speed and we pick up a few more riders that have fallen off the lead pack. Now, the chase group has grown to about 10 riders. While going down the back side of the course we can hear the speaker from the announcer saying the group who is more than half a lap down from us has one lap to go. Sweet, I now know I am in good position and doing well. As my group rounds the bend and heads into the finish line we have 5 laps to go, there seems to be some jostling for position and right behind me I hear a rider go down, knowing that Tom was immediately behind me I pull off to the left and look and it is not him and the rider who went down got up immediately so I breathed deep and returned focus to the race.

With three laps to go, I hear a rider's tire blow in turn 2 and in turn three I hear a rider behind me telling me something about my back wheel.(I did feel something so I actually listened) I pull out off the paceline and look and nothing is wrong, so I jump back in line and shoot up to Tom's wheel and stay there until two laps to go. On the back straight I take my last sips of water for the race and yell something at Tom. I figured with the group we were in I could pull him and he could take the group. Unfortunately, talking during a race doesn't always come out the way you want it too. So I just said, "Let's Get Em," and on the last lap I was figuring how to move to the front of the group when Tom jumps the group and heads full speed into the BK stacker, I jump too late as two riders are between myself and Tom. I hear people (not just bystanders but other teammates who were not racing) yelling to slow down and I am like, I got this line and only one turn to race is over, just then I see people attending to a rider who is down and at fence on the outer edge of the course. My thoughts go with the downed rider for one split second and return to he race.

Tom is now flying out of the last corner and I am two wheels behind him. First I think he can take it all the way to the finish because he was moving but then I feel riders coming up beside me and I shift and stand and sprint for home. I pass a few riders but two or three of them beat me to the line. I was very happy with myself for staying safe and actually being part of a sprint finish. What a sport we love!

-Jeremiah Smith