While riding through the countryside is far superior to tight criterium courses, there are inevitably hills, organizers simply cannot resist them, and my 190lb body doesn’t really do hills.
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While riding through the countryside is far superior to tight criterium courses, there are inevitably hills, organizers simply cannot resist them, and my 190lb body doesn’t really do hills.
3, 2, 1, and we’re off. I shift down and try to find an uncomfortable but sustainable rhythm. I look at the big screen. This feels way too hard to be only doing 21mph and stuck in fifth place. Keith Morris is whispering sweet nothings in my ear. Oh wait, I’m looking at the wrong column, I’m doing 25 and I’m in first . Second place is close but third through sixth are nowhere close to touching me. I think I’ve always enjoyed time trials? I keep my head staring down at my heart rate and cadence. These are the only things that matter until it is finished. I have found a comfortable rhythm at 103 rpm only deviating up and down to maintain 183-185 bpm.
Every once in awhile I look at the board to check second place's pace. I am a sweaty mess and drooling from the mouth, the triathlete next to me looks at me in disgust. The last minute or so, I drop down a gear, kicking, to maintain the cadence. It’s getting darker but I have some good motivation in my ears. Iggy has always sat in my corner right next to Eddy. Turning yourself inside out never felt so good and then...I’m done. I reach the end, sit up and spin easy; lungs burn. Second place finishes 40 seconds after me, the remainder in minutes. I average 24.6mph for 10k in 15 minutes 10 seconds. I come in 7th overall for the day of 83 or so riders. I apologize to the triathlete with a smile. We have now returned to our regularly scheduled broadcast of Mutually Assured Destruction.
Going into last race of the WORS series, I was tied for second place overall in the
series age group. With my talented opponent grabbing the early lead he ended
up flatting in a creek crossing leaving the gate open. It was mine to win.
The course was a mudfest of sticky clay and forest loam from 2 days of rain. At one point, I was running up a steep hill basically dragging my back wheel up, then had to remount my chain at least 7 times, and whacked a post pushing my brake/shifter back to a point awkwardness to ride. Again, I had to stop, pry them back into place.
All in all I still may have caught my opponent if he hadn't flatted. I really had a good feel for the drifting effect you get in mud like that. I really feel bad for his misfortune, we both really wanted the win, so no telling what would have happened in the end. Got to hand it to him though, he finished the race on the flat. I'm feeling humble for the win and will know in a few days if I secured the 2nd place series win. It was a tough season again with some very good riders which always make it fun and exciting.
WORS#10 Sheboygan. Oct 2nd
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.
Ski hills - I must have a love hate relationship with them.
In 2015, Mt. Morris I did great, WORS CUP Cascade Mt. not so good, Treadfest Grand Geneva great again. This year was no different. I think it has to do with the layout of each course; Mt Morris and Grand Geneva have a good mix of single track and leg burning climbs. Cascade is almost one-dimensional in that you’re either climbing or descending. They are all equally tough, but something about throwing tricky technical aspects into the mix just get my batteries charged. So it was no surprise I was going to have a good race this past Sunday at the WORS #9 Treadfest. How I going to place? Well that was the only mystery.
We have a ringer, Jamie, in our midst this year, though he is not entered in the series; meaning he doesn’t accumulate points for the year-end win. Jamie has been taking top step for much of the year. I did beat him at CamRock by zipping through some technical loose rock section and dropping the hammer to stay ahead. Other than that he has finished with a pretty good margin above myself and the other two top competitors in my age group, Todd and Brian. Sunday was no different.
The key to this race is the start - Get up the side of that ski hill as fast as you can. Once you’re up then its right back down again. Recovery is short because the course goes up a second hill - not quite as steep as the first. Once your legs have burned off and you’ve maxed out everything your body can handle you descend into some sweet single track accented by short punchy climbs. Momentum is crucial in punchy climbs. If you don’t carry enough speed to the top you”ll stall and either fall or waste a lot of energy trying to get over the hump.
Jamie and Todd broke into the lead. Brian and I trailed behind. The course is set up so that it crisscrosses back and forth. I could see Jamie was creating a gap so my goal was to stay with Brian and see if we can rope in Todd. New to the course this year is an uphill section of 7 switchbacks. A switchback is a trail feature that gets you either up or down a steep slope and aids in preventing trails erosion. Picture 180 degree turns on a CX course, then imagine having about a 2 foot width of track going either uphill or down at a pretty steep angle. Add in some loose dirt and reduced speed it becomes a test of balance and power. Sometimes going downhill on a switchback can be even more intimidating than going up.
As the race progressed I lost Brian when he stalled on a climb and fell to the side. Checking to see if he was injured, I got the ok to leave. Knowing Brian, he would be on my tail soon. Aside from the climbs and switchbacks there is one more obstacle to tackle; a short steep “rock-pile” climb with a nasty trait of loose gravel. Mountain biking is a game of seconds. It is so important to stay on the bike; falls or a foot down can cost those valuable seconds. Both my attempts at this feature were successful. I was lucky not to have traffic commonly found at these obstacles. I was able to gather steam on the firmer lower section, then scoot way up on my saddle and will my way over the top.
Now were getting into the last lap. As I come around the corner I find Jamie walking the course with a flat tire, big break for us all. Todd is the only one left to catch and motivation is high with Jamie out of the game. I was feeling great throughout the race, feeding off some tasty black cherry CarboRocket fuel. I pass my best supporter and private paparazzi Yvonne. She yelled out “25”! But all I caught was “5”. Four more single-track sections and I was able to make up the seconds I was behind. Todd was in view. Being aware of my presence, he tried putting slower traffic between him and I.
As we exited the last single-track section we rolled side by side up the double-track. After some friendly banter I took to the front thinking, “A short descent and then it’s an uphill battle to the finish”. I gather as much momentum before the steep climb and just went all or nothing up that final hill. Topping the steep section there is a false flat followed by a short up-grade. Todd made his move there. I saw him off my shoulder and resisted the temptation to get up out of the saddle. At this point the key is to get all the power possible. As I peaked the top I start downshifting, getting ready for the sprint to the finish. The Niner RKT is an amazing bike. As soon as you stomp on the pedals you are moving. It did not fail me this time. I hit the bottom of the hill and charged to the finish. I crossed the finish with a 2 second lead for the win.
Brian, Todd and I are neck and neck in the series standings. So having a first place finish is big for me. And doing it at Treadfest is big too. Treadfest is one tough course, a trademark of the Treadhead Cycling team’s trail builders. Grand Geneva trails were once exclusive to only Treadhead members, but are now open to the public. The cost is $10 dollars to ride there, but I can guarantee you will not find anything like it in Illinois. A big thanks goes out to my supporters Half Acre, Johnny Sprockets, CarboRocket and Mad Alchemy. They were all part of my day. My biggest thanks to Yvonne, the support she provides before and during the race have been a big key to my success. Introduce yourself and you’ll most likely end up in her camera lens out on the course.
Bloomington CRIT 2016 Illinois State Criterium Championship
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.
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.
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.
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