The Chicago Criterium is billed as the best crit race in the country. I don't really road race, but i figured that a race downtown on a weekend would be fun as hell no matter what the quality. So, i signed up for the 2nd Cat 5 heat and waited.
Race day came and I woke up with a start on my couch at approximately 5.45AM. After figuring out what time it was, i got my gear together in my backpack and rolled down to Grant Park on my crabon Tarmac (the aluminum bike i usually race the oft-scary cat 5 races was having issues).
I found Jeremiah shortly after registering and started warming up on Bally's warmup bikes. I was soon joined by the other heat 2 racers including Dave, Ryan and much of Team Beer'd's road racing crew. We watched Jeremiah have a strong race in heat 1, coming in top-20 out of the 50-deep field. The organizers were desperately trying to keep things on time so the heat 2 field was called to the line immediately after all the racers had crossed the line. I managed to get myself lined up in between Dave and Ryan in a line, and after dealing with some numbers issues and an odd case of aero bars we were off with not much more than a warning. not like the 1-minute and 30-second warnings at 'cross races.
As i always seem to do, i had a bit of trouble clipping in, but after secured i sped to the front of the field knowing that holding the pace was the key to winning these 30-minute races the category 5 field enjoys. i formed up with Tyler from Team Pegasus and a number of fellows from Team Spidermonkey who were working together to control the pace. We traded the front often, flowing very well through the wide turns the course afforded us. Three rises over a mile of course kept the rest of the field from moving around us, and we were working on keeping attacks from behind from happening.
Over the 30 minutes i managed to take a lot of longer pulls at the front since i couldn't seem to get racers to come around. I quickly settled into the same level of continuous effort a 25-lap tempo at Northbrook would warrant, and we managed to keep a 25-28mph pace throughout. My efforts won me a shout-out from the announcers as i came across the line, and with that my day was made. The only thing left was a good showing at the end. We kept the pace and soon enough the final lap came around. We crested the final rise in the pack and people were off. I realized i had worked at the front too much during the race and wasn't quite able to match the speed of Tyler and the two XXX-Athletico racers who got in front of me on the back stretch. I came across 4th just inside the rear wheel of a XXX racer, and high-fives were had all around.
I hadn't gotten the podium but the amount of work i did got my friend (and faster racer) Tyler into the top spot. I call that a win.