Fall Fling 2016 by ABD
We are out in the cornfields beyond west Chicago. The technology park has been set up with inspirational names like 'discovery way' and 'innovation drive', there is immaculate tarmac on the sweeping roadways plus european style roundabouts and...that's it. They built it and no one came. Just a whole lot of space to let. Still, it allows ABD set out a nice course with a few cones and two marshalls.
The weather is just perfect, 80 and sunny. Why is there racing every weekend in April with pissing rain and 50F instead of now?
The thing about these technology park races, especially ones with no technology like this one, they are basically windswept fields. This is true here in spades, with a brutal headwind on the start/finish. From the whistle it’s dominating the tactics, as we roar down the back straight barely needing to follow a wheel, shoot through the second roundabout and turn into the long looping curve. Immediately the wind has you struggling, an echelon position at about 8 o’clock is needed for some relief, which as you drag round the long curve turns into a straightforward wheel sucking job into the finish line. Don’t know what an echelon is? You are fucked. This group does and lines five or six wide fan out over the road.
Did I mention my 40+ 1-2-3 race is thrown in with the 1-2s and 3s race fields, all combined into one mega-race of 75 minutes? Scored separately but raced together this is going to be interesting. The only tactic I got from racers who have done it before is, race the race. You might finish better than you think.
I take an early turn at the front. It’s so easy flying along with a tailwind, then wham you are toiling in the crosswind while glancing at the neat line over your left shoulder, none of whom are coming by. Then a headwind that’s breaking you slowly. After a lap I’m exhausted but I’ve learned plenty. No small breakaway can succeed, and a field sprint will be taken by patience not an early suicidal dash.
The laps ebb and flow. Some are slow while the field snakes around banging off each other as riders refuse to lead, other attacks go off. One or two are allowed to go, and brought back when they quit fighting the wind. When two go and then two more follow, the chase is furious fragmenting the pack behind. So far I’m OK but some of the surges are so fast and intense I’m feeling bile rise in my throat. Keep near the front as someone letting a gap open would kill your race.
By 60 mins I’m into new territory in criterium racing, but there’s no breakaways and I’m sure I can finish somewhere. They ring up five to go and the adrenaline is pumping. How crazy will it be, can I hang on? Answer. Not crazy at all. Two to go is a slow edgy lap of positioning, so, amazingly is bell lap. Into the last and I’m up to 3rd wheel through the roundabout, echeloning off our angry sacrificial race leader, and waiting, waiting waiting. For eternity, nothing happens. Finally the attack over my left shoulder I’m waiting for. A big mob already up to speed. It's then 10 seconds of absolute fury accelerating into them and bouncing from wheel to wheel picking up places. Finally to the line I come around a fading challenger and bury myself into the wind trying to cross a gap. At the tape I’m fifth or sixth overall, but I am certainly done. I just pull to the side and stop, no warm down lap. Nothing but deep heaving breaths.
I find I’m 3rd in my race - picking up a cash prize, and a little bronze medal. Nice end to the road season for 2016.