The nightclub where I met and proposed to my wife had lost their lease and the weekend of the Chicago Crit would also be NEO's last weekend. It was also the weekend of the 36th NEO Reunion. Some things, though you know you're going to pay for them, you just have to do. We went out Saturday night to bid farewell to a Chicago institution. 

I woke-up Sunday to a fierce hangover and the discovery that the house's air-conditioning unit had died the previous day. I spent the morning trying to prep for the race, calling A/C contractors, and ignoring the complaints coming from my stomach. Nothing solid would go down, so breakfast consisted of CarboRocket Recovery and a salt/caffeine tablet. Lemme be frank, here, I may have found the miracle cure to wicked hangovers....

At least I prepped everything the night before and was able to get to the race on time. Check-in and setup were a breeze. I had a chance to chat with a few people before my race and, knowing I wasn't really in any condition to race, figured I'd use the day to sit in and work the pack.

Then the whistle blew. I love the moment when all the "feeling like crap" goes away and the adrenaline and endorphins combine to make you go, "I can do this". I was tired, but feeling pretty good. Bevan was sitting pole position, keeping a solid pace and causing pain. I was sitting mid-pack, just getting a feel for the day. Chicago Crit really isn't my race. I love it, but it's non-technical and the bunched pack has a bad habit of grabbing brake in the one tight(er) turn. It makes me impatient.

Mid-race, I was getting antsy. I felt decent, but knew there was no way I'd have enough for a good sprint when the time came. Then the announcer called a prime. I was up near the front of the peloton when everyone slowed down a ton for the first corner. I just flowed through it and found myself at the front. On a prime lap? I guess everyone was saving up for it. I just settled-in and kept the speed around 40kph. I went through the chicane and looked back to see everyone strung out in a line. I didn't think we were going that fast.... Going into the final two turns, I added a little heat. Everyone grabs brake and I went through at least 45kph. Coming out, I ramped up speed to over 50 and looked behind. Nobody. I held it for a few seconds and "felt" someone bridge. I dropped down to 50, legs screaming, and waited for my chase to make his move. Coming into the last few meters, the announcer gave me a call-out and my chase never jumped. That smile as I came across the line? Not a smile. Grimace. Pain.

By the second turn, I faded to last, just trying to recover. Luckily, I heard the moto and jumped onto the tail of the second-to-last racer. He pulled me all the way to the third corner, where the pack were riding the brakes through. With only four laps to go until the end of the race, it was all I could do to hang on. Endorphins and adrenaline were spent, leaving only hangover and pain. Yeah, I had a terrible finish. Yeah, maybe I shouldn't have accepted all those horrible Rumchata shots Saturday night. Yeah, and maybe I should diet and train 5 days a week. But I don't live to race, I race to live. And sometimes, you gotta make bad decisions and pay the price.

-Johnnie O.