We left Chicago with plenty of time and arrived with only two minutes to spare. The forecast was rain before and after the morning races, but not during. I was hoping the road would be able to dry out before the 4/5 field started at 10. I rushed to the registration table and was hurried through, told I had a minute to ride to the opposite side of the course to the start. I pulled up and could feel the cold water already soaking through to my back.
The race started downhill at a pretty slow pace. It wasn't raining but was still very wet. I started at the back, said hello to my two teammates as they rotated through the field, and pretty much stuck there, never getting more than ten riders into the pack of 40 plus. My only goal was to finish with the pack and try not to get caught in the back half of a break, but I wasn't holding out hope. The flat at the bottom of the first hill was rutted and marked in several spots with pink paint, puddles covering assumed pot holes. There was even a designated course marshal directing us around what must have been a killer crack, waiting to eat our rims and send us sliding.
The only sharp turn in the course, an acute right, came right before a slow uphill that killed my legs every time around. This was where I assumed the break would come, it was perfect. Every rider came to a slow creep at this turn, not wanting to be the one to crash and end his race, and that of everyone around him, early. I expected at some point, even if just on the last lap, that the peloton would be broken into the lead, the chasers, and all the rest of us that had nothing left.
After the turn and first hill there was a short flat and another hill where the entire group routinely bunched back together, no one wanting to push the pace. A fast downhill then the final hill to the line completed the course.
Halfway through and we were all still together, maybe a couple riders having dropped off, not enjoying the spray in the face, the cold water dripping off their faces and through their jerseys, the soaking wet socks. The rain picked up and the wind whipped it into our faces as we rode over the line and down the hill into the roughest and wettest part of the course. My glasses had been fogging up and I hooked them into the neck of my jersey, squinting into the spray in front of me. I gave up moving into the pack, knowing I'd be a danger to myself and everyone around me with my limited visibility.
Coming up to the sharp turn a little over halfway though and someone in the middle of the pack slid out, causing at least half of us to slow to a creep and shift into small rings for the climb ahead. I was on the inside and couldn't believe more people didn't crash as Ben VC braked to a halt with his front wheel almost touching the rider on the ground. I figured that was the perfect queue for a break but everyone must have been a bit squeamish from the crash as most of us regrouped at the top of the hills.
I could feel the energy sapping out of me as we completed the last few laps, three two and one lap announcements coming without committed breaks or even large speed increases. As the entire group sped down the final downhill into the uphill finish, one more rider crashed, veering over the left hand curb and into the grass, from my vantage point, seemingly without cause. I tried to finish the last 30 yards strong, standing up and sprinting over the top, past one more rider and over the line.
It wasn't my strongest race, but it certainly was memorable with lots of water and more hills than this Chicago based rider has seen all year. As others have pointed out, one of the Superweek road races uses these roads as part of the course later this summer, and it'll probably be drier than today was.