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Gran Turismo (Cat) 3

Its my first race as a newly minted cat3. I'm mixing it with a big field of handy looking guys as we line up at the Blackhawks Farms motorsport racetrack course startline for Spring Super Crit.

Off the line, its a giant lunge down the straight, wind behind us. Its tight and 5 wide through the first easy curve, with riders attacking and the field veering left and right as the wind gusts. I'm toward the back and for some reason favoring hanging left - probably instinct from growing up in the UK. All the corners can be rode through flat out and 4 wide, there should be no braking, but braking there is as a big pack reacts to the evil wind whipping across the circuit. The racing is close, but everyone is comfortable with that, except for some smaller riders getting pushed around a bit.

Whats different here than the 4s?, well its faster, and any inattention or slacking off is repaid with several positions lost in a heartbeat (and there's maybe 180 of them a minute at this pace), its just a lot more racey.

But I'm holding position and able to keep mid-pack, plus I have the advantage of size and heft (maybe 10lbs too much - ahem long winter)  to keep my space on the track. 4 go off the front, but I'm nowhere near it to do anything. Play it Again Andres makes an effort to counter, but no-ones helping and I'm boxed in. The four pull out 1/4 of a lap. The next few laps are all much the same. The break is held at 1/4,  while I try and work up the field. I can make places up the finish straight with the wind behind us, but I notice I'm running out of gears, I can't get into my 11 at the back. Damn it.

2 to go and things hot up. The cornering gets sketchier as tired riders barge for position. At one point I'm up on the race track curb and that's still not enough space and I'm over the grass on the apex. There's always someone trying to come round you but also riders fading and falling back, so the concentration required is just immense.
Last lap and its faster than ever but the lead group is well organized and still away, the pace has thinned out the field a little, and its safer. I'm midfield and happy to still be there as we dive through the apex and onto the finish straight. There's still gas in the tank so I spin up to speed hard taking a few riders but I still cant get top gear and cross the line totally out of gears running maybe 140rpm and probably looking pretty silly.


A decent start to the threes. I know I can handle the pace, but also that this is a new level where places at the front are hard work and held with significant effort, tough racing and serious concentration. To do anything here I'll have to race smarter.

Oh and be fitter, fix the bike, drop the winter lard and all that other stuff.

-Bevan Brookfield

Burnham Super Crit!

On Sunday morning, we all woke up at 8AM, had breakfast together (I had oatmeal, of course), cleaned-up after the previous night's excitement, and got out onto the road to South Beloit. Kevin discovered that Taco Bell for a late breakfast is not nearly as pleasant as Taco Bell for lunch – the food is marginally edible already – adding eggs to a beef taco in the guise of a 'breakfast' taco is just asking for gastronomical hellfire. We made it to Blackhawk in short time, registered and scoped out the course. A long straightaway, swung right, chicaned, and then went east, where it swung back upon itself, made a bend to the right, to the left and then straightened out for a 1/4 mile, where it turned right again for a long straight before the home stretch. 1.7 miles, lots of wind, and flat as a board. It was going to be a fast, hard race from the getgo. Since my race wasn't until 2:55, and we'd arrived at 10:30, I had plenty of time to hang out, spectate, and just take things easy in the sun.

At 1PM, the 4/5 race went off, albeit with a bad start, as Adrian managed to snag his jacket in the front wheel of his bike and endoed right in front of everyone. He and his bike were fine, albeit not for long. A couple of laps left into the race, he slid out and banged himself up pretty badly. His thigh, elbow, and brand-new Sidis taking the brunt of his fall. Oh, and his new Half Acre kit is trashed, too. While Adrian was the only Half Acre to take a spill, there were several other crashes in the 4/5 field, one of which caused by a rider who dropped his chain, and tried to put it back on while in the middle of the pack. I counted 6-8 riders who went down and went in to the officials' area to protest and/or get their free lap.

Kevin, Tim, and Dave Bowers had better races, especially Kevin, who finished with the main group. He didn't contend for the finish, which was understandable considering the sketchiness of the pack. And those guys wonder why I punish myself with the 3/4 race. Speaking of that, after warming up, I rode the course and settled next to Ed White, who was racing the 3/4 race with me. He wasn't feeling the competitive spirit, nor was I. I've made no secret of the fact that I don't like crits – I'm not aggressive enough, nor do I trust my fellow racers enough for them to hold their lines through sharp corners. I prefer hilly courses where my strength and climbing ability comes more into play than luck and peloton/breakway tactics.

This race was less a crit and more a circuit road race, albeit at a crit length. Strange, I know. As I said before, I predicted that this race would be fast and so it was. As we set off from the starting line, I was in my 53x13 by the first corner and it stayed in that gear for most of the first couple laps. At lap three, a break of guys went off down the front stretch and one took a spill for some reason (Ben said it looked like he just fell off his bike), as I was near the back of the pack, I fell off and struggled like hell to catch back on. It then became more apparent with every single second that I'd been dropped. I'll spare you (and myself) from all the cliched euphemisms for being dropped, but whatever it's called, it still sucks and is incredibly demoralizing.

However, since I'd paid my $20, came out all the way to this corner of Illinois, and had friends watching, I made a determined effort to keep from being lapped. I went into time-trial mode, practicing the artful skill of riding at the cusp of LT or whatever they call it (I need a powermeter badly), and fended off the pack for six laps or so. With two laps left, the breakaway and main field finally reached me, and I came back into the infield where I changed, loaded-up my stuff, and rode back into Chicago, just in time for the Half Acre meeting at Black Rock.

So, while I have yet again DNFed in a race, I feel that things are going to start swinging my way soon. I wasn't plagued with the jitters and utter sense of dread that I experience before the start of Hillsboro Roubaix, which is a major plus, as one reason why I didn't race much through 2007, besides 'cross, was that I was utterly scared of racing. I know I'm strong enough for 3/4 races; now I just need the guts to go along.

Zach Thomas