Viewing entries tagged
Downers Grove

Not Such a Downer

One of my goals this season was to race a crit. I chose Downers Grove because I’ve watched Bob and various teammates and friends race there and because it always draws a big crowd.

On race day I warmed up on the course while my cheering section (Bob and Bobby) headed off to the start/finish line. The majority of turns weren’t too bad, but seven would be pretty tight, as would eight heading into the finish. I was nervous.

I got to the start a bit late and ended up in the back. There were 34 riders including myself. I thought about the tips Bob had given me on the drive over—Hold your line in the corners…turn 7 is tight…you should feel like you can’t do another lap at the end. Ok, sounds easy enough.

And then we were off. I tried to pass some riders along the outside before the first turn. Unfortunately that didn’t work very well because everyone else around me was doing the same thing. So I fell in line and it was all out to the hill, at which point the pace quickened. I started counting riders ahead of me. Ten, eleven, fifteen, ugh. I wondered if the pace would settle down any time soon.

The long downhill to the figure eight was crazy fast with everyone jockeying for position. A couple riders passed me. I passed a couple back. When we got to turn seven there was a lot of braking but everyone made it safely through the turn. Turn eight to the start/finish line was uneventful, though the pace was getting faster.

The second lap was more of the same, but toward the end of the lap a small group of us fell off the pace. And even though we went into the third lap hard there was no way we were going to bridge up. For the first time in a bike race ever, I thought I might throw up.

At some point the second group I was in split apart and for the remainder of the 25 minutes I tried to work with a couple riders from Spidermonkey and KCOI/Boulevard. Eventually it would come down to the Spidermonkey rider and me. I sprinted to the line and managed to hold her off for 21st place.

We went back on Sunday to watch the men’s pro race. Unfortunately there were some crashes due to the rainy/wet course, but it was still really awesome to see how the pros do it. They make it look so easy.

Guess I’m hooked. I’ll be back next year!

-Kristina Meinig


Race Day at Downers

For the past week, I have been watching Robbie Ventura's Race Day video which was shot at Downers a few years back. I took notes about the course, printed them out and taped them to my top tube. While in the waiting paddock, a rider from Tower Racing looked at them. He wasn't amused. I needed them for reference. I rolled to the line and banged my way in. It was like a cattle call. Everyone wanted to be in the front of the line. Stupidly, a rider moved off the start line and I took his position. When the horn blew we were off. My goal was to be near the front. I had a "Cutter" on my side who was there for the laughs.

When we got between turns 2 and 3, I was losing ground but I could see the short climb in front of us. Being a lover of the climb, I was in heaven. I stayed to the outside to avoid the bottle neck. A lap later in the exact same place, I did the same thing as a crash enveloped the field. I sprinted as hard as I could knowing there was a crash but could not get back onto the main field. Eight of us grouped and we worked OK together. The heat of the day was still on and I was feeling sick. I remembered one of my reasons for riding, my mom, a few months away from hospice. I hung in and wanted to finish the race. The final criterium of the season.

As the laps were counting down, our pace was not. We were 30 seconds off the main pack. Lapped riders scattered the course making it difficult to pass. Some jumped on our group. I shouted, "lay off if you've been lapped." Commotion came when we headed across the start finish line with three to go. A crash lay in front of us as we climbed to first corner. Everyone was attending the crash and not telling us the lap count. The paced slowed as we discussed where we were in the race. I knew it was two to go and kept quiet. We got confirmation with the bell at the next passing of the start line.

As we headed to the third corner encountered the hill for the last time, I was in the middle of my group and staying away from the squirrelies, ie the old men wearing there gray beards and lack of cornering control. I took the outside and weathered the hill. I came through corner four seeing Curtiss Street lay ahead. The pack was slowing. I decided to make my move on the inside and attacked at 30 mph headed for turn five. I was the first in and the first out. The same for corner six. I was leading my pack! I did my usual swerve down Maple to shake up the group and put a little scare in them. I led into seven, still in the lead. Three guys passed me on the way to turn eight. I knew the coming corner would be tight. A possible crash impending, I slowed and took it easy. I made it through then pumped the pedals as hard as I could to get to the finish line. It was such a blur, I don't remember who passed me and who I beat. I just pedaled as hard as I could.

I did everything right today: stayed out of the crash zone, fluid cornering and rested where I needed to. If corner eight wasn't so dangerous, I would've had a better result. I didn't care. I came here for one reason and that was to prove to myself I had grown as a racer. I lead for the finish of my group on three of the last four corners of the race. Bob told me I had power. I had to prove it to myself that my jump drills at 6:00 a.m. for the past five weeks were not all for naught. He was right, I took the chance flying down Curtiss to Main to Maple to Washington. What a way to end the season.

 -Eric Shivvers