Viewing entries tagged
criterium

No Recce and then a Pip

Crash. The sound of carbon and rider hitting the deck and sliding. Just ahead. 
One has overcooked a turn, collected another and two more pile right in. I'm just behind. Brake. Swerve with surprising coolness over to the inside. Dodge the loose bike that slides across the road . . .

Mine’s a Pint

Mine’s a Pint

I remember in one report remarking with perhaps a little exaggeration that Glencoe is where people pop out for a pint of milk, in a Ferrari. Today its Glencoe Grand Prix day, and as I unload the team tent from my Rover, lo and behold there is a F430 parked up in front of Grand Foods

Build It And They Will Come

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.

~Bevan Brookfield

 

Flats Are Not Your Friends

Bloomington CRIT 2016 Illinois State Criterium Championship
Masters 1,2,3

Bloomington has gone nuts. The downtown streets that are part of the original route 66 have been eulogized in song, but are now being cursed by Cat 4 racers, dismayed organizers and anyone who believes in freedom, the pursuit of happiness through lycra and carbon, or basic american decency and tolerance.

Why?

Some mean spirited selfish arse has sprinkled tacks on the course, bringing down a string of riders in a nasty crash, and stopping the race.
This petulant act might feel to them like a protest prank, but it’s about as much a prank as cutting car brake lines. The crash results in a pile up that sends several to the ER, and throws one rider over barriers into a stream of live traffic. The consequences of that could have been death. It's that simple.

So Mr ‘I want to park my pickup in front of the bar without these damn cyclists tekkin my road’ or whoever you are, whatever your tragic little protest. I hope you die. You probably will, slowly, of liver disease and diabetes.
Teammates Jeff and Daniel are in that race, and it’s a mess. I’m not feeling confident for mine coming up. I already had to deal with an exploding tire of my own. Nothing to do with dirty tricks, just leftover damage from the last race suddenly failing in the hot sun of this 90 deg day.

Well the course is clear, a new tire is mounted, the 3s have run without a problem and some of Bloomington's finest are now present. It will be OK…time to line up.
It's an impressive field of Intelligentsia, Burnham, and Weather Channel guys massing at the start, while most of the local riders from last year seem to have melted away. This could be a problem.

Off down the course and one fairly easy lap before the hammer goes down and stays down. Each time up the hill and against the wind is brutal as digs lift the pace. I’m hot and in a bit of trouble hanging with these guys. Another turn up the hill, lugging a gear and there’s an explosion. My front wheel, my new tire, just bought and installed has let go. Damn this place, damn stupid vittoria, screw them all. I almost crash taking the turn then I come to a halt, but I’m close to the line and neutral service so I duck under barriers and make my way there, slowing just a moment for the bunch to come around the top of the figure of 8.  No way do I want to beat them to the line, get a new wheel, and be pushed back into the race on the same lap.
There are still spare wheels, so I’m swapped out and taking the opportunity to drain my bottle and catch a breath. Then back into it.

Feeling much better I settle in and pull up the bunch. One rider has gone away alone, and while that’s never going to work I’m happy to lead a lap and pull them back. Everything feels OK but the pressure is slowly going on. No massive attacks, but the pace just increases relentlessly until I’m at the back gasping with the chase moto in my ears like a siren of doom. It’s so hard the only respite is a freewheeling moment at the bottom of the hill clattering over the bumps into the fast turns.
I’m counting down the laps in exhausted overheated pain, it's willpower and no more keeping me in front of the ever present revving USAC sportbike. At 5 to go I’m close to cracking. At 4 to go I’m gapped but get it back.

Then a masters miracle.

The pace slows up the hill. Riders are cagily looking at each other, while I just follow quietly trying not to look like I’d be dropped instantly if they put the hammer down. Normally this phase of a masters race is frustration but today I’m saved by it. Ahh recovery.
Same with 2 to go and I’m able to pick up a place or two. Bell lap and it goes megadrive again, but surprised to find myself on the wheel of top riders from weather channel. They are done in too? Last time up the hill and I have no fight to take places anywhere except one, on the line. 11th.

Oh and my puncture wasn’t tack shenanigans, just a good old fashioned cut sidewall. Whoever spread the tacks was probably long gone by then.

~Bevan Brookfield

The Ole Crash and Chase

Intelligentsia Cup - Elmhurst Cycling Classic 2016

The cliche about crashes (and I have experienced it) is everything goes into slow motion, you see the danger, attempt to avoid it, desperate seconds taking minutes as the realization that your fight against the inevitable of physics is futile arrives. Then impact like a NHTSA crash test. Frame by frame.

This is not one of those occasions. Everything is so quick. I’m cornering mid-pack, middle of 3 wide, turn 1. Suddenly 2 bikes and riders are right where I’m going, absurdly sideways and on the ground, they seem so low below me, and blocked on both sides so utterly unavoidable. It’s a single snapshot, then wham, boom, crunch, sky, the pretty gardens of elmhurst, road, sky, road again. and finally I’m still on the deck.  I don’t recall flying too far, but I’m away from the bike. Riders are streaming by yelling. I pull my legs in and huddle. Nobody else collects us.

I can stand, and it’s like a crash on the tour, 3 of us standing up gingerly, bent over and taking a bewildered assessment. What’s hurting?, well everything, but nothing especially. Where’s the bike. In a heap with the others. Pull it upright. What’s broken?, seems like nothing but slightly deranged bars and shifter.

The USAC moto judges are on hand, ‘if you carry on you have to chase’ one offers as he sees me checking over the bike. This happened just after 3 to go, just after free laps go west.
I’m not sure what to do. The race is gone, but the race was gone anyway, a long chase against a breakaway of 3 with a pack that mostly wouldn't work together on a 95degree day of baking sun. I see if my wheels will turn, and with some tweaks to the brakes they will. The other two are in no shape to continue, so I remount and carry on alone, taking it around the course at increasing speed, too much adrenaline still in my system to feel the hurt yet. I have a bloodied elbow, knee and a scuffed up but remarkably untorn shoulder on my jersey.

I finish this race. Not even lapped, but DFL.

The ambulance guys patch me up and I pack up the remarkably unscathed Ridley to go. Not before picking up the $40 prime I won. A silver lining to go with some golden luck that I’m riding home in my car not superior ambulance elmhurst (a race sponsor) to the local hospital.

~Bevan Brookfield

Back to the Future, a Race Revived

Intelligentsia Cup - Tour Of Glen Ellyn 2016

It’s 1972 and the townsfolk of Glen Ellyn have removed their chevvy vegas and olds cutlass’ from the roads around their pretty, eponymous lake, to make way for a bike race.
Some of the houses fronting the course sport Nixon signs, not many McGovern ones. The high school is closed for the summer, its lofty towers empty. The kids are at the pool, or dazed and confused smoking weed behind the library.

The riders are tuning up their 6 speed Campagnolo or Huret gears, pumping up their silk tubs, tweaking the 36 spoke aluminium hoops that cost a weeks paypacket. Short shorts and wool jerseys are sported as the shaggy haired riders line up helmetless astride their steel machines to take on the course….


It's 2016 and I’m in the middle of a three wide cornering pack on the same course. I’m banging through the sram shifts while praying my GP4000s hold. A stench of pads on carbon rims pervades, as the colorful helmeted lycra clad pack race on up the hill astride carbon frames. Kids are playing pokemon go, while trump and clinton signs are a rare sight in a few of the immaculate gardens. The residents japanese and german cars are re-exported to side roads for the day.

So it’s back to the future today at the 70s revival of the Tour of Glen Ellyn. Unlike that simpler time this course isn’t simple. It’s impressively long and tough, with a technical layout of turns and hills in beautiful parkland around the lake. And it’s hard to get right. Some of the turns are downhill chicanes, the hills are little kickers that exhaust, there’s a 120 turn with a high curb to watch for by the high school, a pinching roundabout, a rough road on the fast downhill sweeper, oh and a U turn at the fastest point on the bottom end of the course. As a challenge it’s up there with the Glencoe long course, maybe beyond. They didn’t mess about in the 70s.

My race is stacked with solid mid-west contenders and a few from further, and they pace up the opening laps. Nobody wants to yield, so it’s 3 wide and hairy through turns, going so deep on the tires, bumping shoulders on occasion. After a few laps I’m feeling exhausted and slipping back in the pack. I take a gamble on the so called gamblers hill, a lung-bursting lunge up to first place and then racing line round the bend to the start finish. I’m back in contention and glad I made that move, as soon the sound of crashing carbon hits my ears. Don’t look, do go hard. This race is terrifying and awesome.

Coming up to the bell lap I’m maybe 5th wheel. Two go down ahead on the last turn. A sickening spill, and a front wheel shoots across the road still attached to shattered forks as I go by. Big crash. Up to the high school jinking right left over the roundabout then under the trees at full gas down to the U bend. 3 wide of course and I’m in the third row of riders. After some inevitable argy bargy I’m on the outside - where I don’t want to be, and take the turn bracing for dubious lines wiping me out. Make it round using the gutter and I’m locked on the wheel ahead, but the gambling money is going around on the left as we turn up the hill. I’m blocked and losing places by the second. Wait, there’s a sliver of space on the right opening up, a got wind rider sees it and accelerates into it. I follow and get back some slots before the last turn. Turn hard and sprint my exhausted body over the line in 8th.

It’s been a privilege to ride this revived old course, imaging the old champions and 70s heros who preceded us, and the superb challenge they established - so different from many modern 4 corner three quarter mile flat criteriums. So vivre this tour, lets keep it out of the vault from now on.

P8 of 50+ starters
~Bevan Brookfield

 

Once Again. Never again.

Monsters Of The Midway 2016 M1,2,3, race report.

Monsters of the Midway. I’ve done this race so many times, and yet I always ask myself why?
The course is basic, the surface is appalling, the prizes lean, there’s no neutral support, the wind always howls down the long midway dominating strategies and ruining attacks. Moan moan moan.

The reason I’m here, the reason everyone is here is because it’s here, in the heart of Chicago, at that precise moment in the season where everyone wants to race, is (just about) ready to race, needs to race. And hence everyone is here, making for a big competitive event you can test yourself against. So shut-up, harden (the fuck) up and line up.

I arrive in time to pay and register. Yes I decided, make that folded, into doing this thing at 10pm the night before. Actually, make that 10:20 after reviewing the tv weather forecast. Those lying sack of shit forecasters, they said nothing about the thunderstorm brewing up literally 10 minutes after I’ve committed and unloaded the bike. The weather radar looks like a Jackson Pollock, the sky darkens and wind is suddenly whipping around in every direction.

Too late to do anything now. Tents are blowing over and barriers on the course too, letting unaware motorists drive on. It’s not raining yet, we wait on the line freezing in the cooling breeze for the all clear and whistle.

By some miracle the winds drop, skies brighten, barriers are righted and we are off and racing. No rain.

Early pace is high and I’m struggling to keep up, but after a lap I’m warmed up and revving for action. The wind as usual seems to be a strong headwind in both directions. Down the straights the bunch snakes around, hunting for respite. Grit and gravel fly up from the gutters and riders curse each other, but we throw ourselves into the turns 3 wide glad the rain is holding off.

There are some classy riders here, Weather Channel have three and expect to dominate, Burnham are not so sure about that. Half Acre has one, and he’s holding 10th wheel with no expectations at all. Several riders flat out, one right in front of me. Nobody panics, hand up off to the side. I have my spare wheels in the median this year after last years calamity. Here's hoping they just sit there. Still no rain.

As usual there are drops in the pace that swap the order, as the back of the race swarms the front, followed by furious fightbacks. It’s fast and fun. I'm enjoying it.

An attack of six goes off, this looks dangerous, Weather Channel are weather making at the front. As teammates block I’m also working to improve my position and get thrown to the lead of the chase. A lung bursting pull up the straight, no help and we are up to the rear three who seem to have become detached. Gasping I roll off and let someone else mop up the rest. 4 to go.

One lap in shelter and I’m recovered and looking for better placing, in fact feeling pretty good. Up the gutter on the back straight, jink around the big pothole, avoid the hay bale marking a water filled chasm and hop back in line top 10 before the narrowing chicane around the center crossroad.

By monsters standards it’s only a small pothole, but hitting it blows my back wheel out instantly. Off to the right as I swear, brake and stop. No more free laps by now but maybe I can get back swap a wheel and get out in the time of the half lap I will miss. Astonishingly I think of all this in the moments it takes to pull up. Adrenaline surging I’m across the course and riding the grass back up to the wheel pit, all over the place on my flat. I grab my spare and throw it on - the ref yells me I have to chase as I sling the old wheel away - I’m off up the road in seconds but alas the bunch is past and I’m 100 yards behind by the time I shoot out onto the course. Maybe 10 seconds too late.

With two to go I’m pretty much screwed, but rushing on adrenaline so I chase hard burning it up. No dice, no way I can close the gap as the bunch revs up for the end. It’s the saddest bell lap I ever heard, looking like a dropped looser, which in many ways I am. I continue and finish, even mopping up a few riders who are shelled off the bunch as it charges to the line and a weather channel win. Final placing was 41/49.

So not much luck today but the 2016 road campaign is underway and I seem to be at least in the mix competitively.

And as for Monsters: once again, never again. See you next year.

~Bevan Brookfield

Skyway Classic Thursday Roundup

We made it to the last night!

Prelim results for the Thursday HERE.

Video by racer Jason Ward of the last Cat 5 race HERE.  Big thanks for him sharing and posting for all.

More stellar pics by the wonderful Ronit Bezalel HERE.

Omnium results and wrap up coming soon.