This past weekend I planned to double up on the bike racing Saturday and Sunday while mixing in family activities all over IL. Saturday I took the wife and kids up to Chicago to visit one of Michele’s good friends from college. They’re expecting their first child and so there was lots of excitement with that - and the world cup. After a leisurely lunch at a café in downtown we headed to Kankakee for the Cobb Park Criterium. This is Michele’s favorite race of the year. The shaded park along the Kankakee river provides a very comfortable location for family viewing. Furthermore, the short laps taken at (relatively) high speed make it more fun to watch than say, Hillsboro.
Burnham lined up 6 guys in a 30 man field. I think XXX did the same. Needless to say, these teams have been having their way with the cat 3 races lately. An early move went and so did Nick. It got brought back and Jason (Burnham) went again. The move had a XXX racer in it and Nick took off to catch this one, too. He took a Psimet rider with him and they were out of sight for a long time. Eventually, John (Tati) decided it was time and went, and that was the cue for those in the know to not miss out. The rest of the field was split and I was the last man in this group on the road. I shouted that we had a gap, but John realized he was pulling the field and sat up. The split ended and XXX and Burnham went back to blocking. In the hours since I consider this moment a mistake on my part. After John’s big pull and subsequent field split (though it only lasted about a lap) I should have countered and taken whoever was hungry with me. We could have had 4-5 guys in a chase group. However, Nick was up the road and I thought I should sit in. I’ve still got a lot to learn!
Nick eventually made it up to the break with psimet, but popped. This is a familiar scene in the 3’s this year. One of us will get to the move of the day and then blow up. Leaving the other to counter or chase. But, Nick lasted until 7 to go. His fitness is right there. One of these races he’ll connect, I’m sure. Anyway, Nick comes back. ½ lap later I go. I get a gap but as it turns out, we’re at 5 or 6 to go. I don’t have the juice to go the distance, and the pack is not interested in letting me go at this late hour. Alas. I did get a “pizza prime” while off the front, but with a 50 second gap to bridge, well, it didn’t happen. After getting unceremoniously caught, a lap or 2 went by and I started telling myself that I “needed to check the lap count”. 2 to go. At this point I am SO glad I burned a couple matches off the front for nothing! I start thinking about how I can move up but we’re on the last lap. Going into turn 2 I’m on John’s (Tati) wheel. John is a big rider and I watched him win the drag race at the Urbana Grand Prix, so I figure he’ll move up and I’ll have a great leadout. John rubs the wheel in front of him coming out of turn 2 and sits up. He kept it up but I moved ahead for another wheel. I see Chris (Burnham) who I know has a good sprint, but he’s 4 riders ahead of me and I do not want to chop the last turn. Some other dude decides that IS a good idea and he proceeds to clip a pedal coming out of the turn, sending his rear wheel into a little slide in one of those slow-motion moments. I was looking through the turn so I was essentially watching it happen. Homeboy kept it up, but it was pretty harry for a moment. Newt (Ritte v Vlaanderen) checked up a bit to avoid homeslice’s powerslide – not something he was pleased about after the race. Well, if you’ve raced or seen Cobb Park before, you know that at this point it’s full gas for the last 200 meters around a gentle left hand bend. Everybody was up out of the saddle, but I was able to move through the group “easily.” I say “easily” but my HR was above 180, so that should be put into perspective. I saw Chris (Burnham) ahead of me move up the left side, and seperated by about 3 bikes I followed his line. He then cut right to the outside and I began going in that direction, too. I kept the gas on to the line but he still had some distance on me. Probably a bike length or two. I honestly think I was gaining on him, but not enough to matter without another 50 meters. He crossed the line having just overtaken the first two who took the last corner (we had started from outside the top 10 around the last corner). I came out of it 4th in the field sprint and 7th overall. It was a fun sprint but there was a lot to (re-) learn.
First, I was not in the correct position for the sprint. I knew this and had hoped to get a “leadout” from other racers, but still, I should have been 4th or 5th wheel around the last turn, not 12th. Second, while shifting down the cassette in the finishing stretch I was ready for one more shift but decided not to hit it. Why, you might ask? Well, on the previous Wednesday I had shifted into my 11 while sprinting for the Urbana town sign (at approx. 37mph on flat ground) and my chain began jumping. Being the fastidious bike mechanic that I am I neglected to do anything about it between the training ride and the race. In the finish I didn’t want my chain to start jumping, so I was “only” in my 12 tooth cog. I realize that I am entering an entire new world of whiney-bitchdom by saying I would have done better in an 11 tooth cog…but I would have. Having clocked 39 mph in the sprint in the 12, I’m confident I would have gone a little bit faster had I shifted into a reliable 11. Needless to say, I will get this fixed before the state criterium this weekend. New chain? Clean chain? Cabling? It’ll get sorted tonight!
After the top ten finish at Cobb Park, Sunday brought new challenges. My brother, who had been visiting for the week, needed to be sent by rail back to KS. I found the Gateway GI Babler Extreme Circuit Race flyer earlier in the week and thought I could put him on Amtrak in the morning and then do the race in the afternoon. Perfect, eh? There were 2 problems with this plan: first was the 4AM departure from the house that would deliver my bro to StL., secondly, I try to avoid close associations of the words “gastrointerology” (a.k.a GI) and “extreme”. Weighed in the balance I thought it was worth it for another race start, and frankly, racing in Missouri has been very very good to me this year.
After my bro was on his way and I had passed a few hours of work time at Panera, I showed up at Babler State Park. There were no signs of bike racing. Zero. I drove around, reread the flyer, and drove around some more. Nothing. The park ranger confirmed: race cancelled. The explaination was the lamest in cycling history: recent rains made the field planned for use as a PARKING LOT un-usable and therefore the race was cancelled. Beautiful pavement: check. Secluded, closed roads: check. Great course with a monster hill: check. Bike racers: check. All the essentials were present for a great race. For crying out loud, I will park 5 miles away and ride to the start if I must. Regardless, the race was cancelled. So I made the best of it and rode 6 laps around the park while thoroughly enjoying the terrain. The big hill would be difficult to get up in less than 2 min (I climbed avg 400W for 2:15 and ~10mph, to give you an idea; and I weigh about 190 w/ bike + bottles + etc). I imagine in a race scenario I could give a little more to hold a wheel while jamming out of the saddle (and weigh a little less – frame pump, spare tube, multi-tool, extra food), but it would still be a brutal climb at race pace. Most trips up I was riding in the saddle in a 39x21 or 39x23. I don’t think a 25 or 27 would be necessary unless the group is crawling (sub 8mph avg), you were doing 10 laps, or you just love to spin spin spin. On one of the downhills I clocked 47mph. I wasn’t “trying” to go fast by sprinting into it and then tucking, I was just in the drops. Yeah, fun times in a pack of 40 of your best friends, right? Well, it would have been good racing, but I got some good training in anyway. According to the StL forum (which I didn’t check before the race – doh!) they are trying to reschedule. A BIG thanks to my wife who gave me the Father’s day present of time – time to go play bikes in StL.
Next up: State Criterium Championships in Peoria, IL. THE race of the year.