I wasn’t originally going to write a race report for the Glencoe Grand Prix, as my result was lackluster, and really, how many reports can you read about pack finishes? But, it is a personal/family blog, so here goes – another “my story.”
After 2 weeks in Phx for work (with weekend breaks for cycling in AZ and NM) I had been off of training for some time. Regardless, my goals (The Gateway Cup) remain the same for the late season, so I knew I needed to kickstart my training for this finish to the season. Glencoe was lined up as a competitive crit to gauge my fitness before beginning a block of intervals. Though I always think of raising my hands while crossing the line (it’s only happened once!) I knew it was a big ask given the circumstances. I was not a little intimidated to see the usual suspects at the start: what seem like a dozen burnham and xXx riders together plotting the demise of the pack. To see (Big) John Whipple (Tati) my friendly nemisis this season (though the competitive vibe is definitely one-way, as he continually beat me) cat’d up to the 2’s was a bit sad. Alas, I was hoping to have a(nother) crack at him at Hillsboro next spring and I highly doubt I’ll be rolling with the P/1/2 field come April.
The Glencoe course was a tight 10-corner route through a depressed neighborhood. If by depressed you mean $600K+ homes. To futher illustrate what I mean, I will only add that our pace-car (which I didn’t see very much), was a Jag. Tough times these.
We got underway and immediately I noticed 2 things: 1) after taking a racing hiatus since the Peoria Cycling Classic in late June, I was not used to such close quarters on all sides; and 2) everyone was braking about twice as much as I expected for the turns. It was as if we were trapped in a cat 5 race for the day. The funny thing about these observations are their seeming contradiction – usually someone unused to racing brakes too much into corners. What can I say? I’m a paradox.
The race was cruising at a good pace and I was content to sit in the bunch. I complained to Newt (Ritte v. Vlaanderen) about the braking and he probably told me to get a life. Attenuated by the wind, my complaining and his responses went unrecognized so I think we’re still friends. Newt finds himself singled out since he is one of the few “too cool for school” cat 3’s who is willing to chat with his competitors. And I am always up for chatting (unless recently, completely, sploded). The legs didn’t feel too bad, but I wasn’t going to start going for primes or probing attacks, mind you. I couldn’t afford to crack in that heat over the next 30 min. Regardless, there were some who did feel the “good sensations” and I watched a Flatlandia go and a xXx’er follow. Turns out, that was the winning move. I recall whining to Newt later on that “they had 30 seconds.” Like a papa-bear he gently demurred that we were both racing solo, and it was up to teams not represented in the break to bring it back. “You’re right” I thought, but the laps ticked by.
I stayed on Newt’s wheel for a while but when I woke from a short nap I found myself 20 riders back of him with 5 laps to go. My plans had unravelled. Moving up was difficult on the narrow streets, and was exacerbated by the field’s penchant to grab fistfulls of break into every corner, followed by a low grade sprint back up to speed. (Really though, I likes crit racing!) Entering the final 2 laps I just told myself to look for opportunities to move up and grabbed a few spots during the kicker of a hill on the back side. Entering the final lap I was too far back to fight for a significant placing, but I thought I might be able to get in the money (que the “lowered expectations” themesong). Going into the 1st corner, the wheel I was on belonged to a young man who decided the pavement would be a better kisser than any podium girl and promptly “ate it” after touching shoulders with the gentleman to his right. I am very glad I did not crash, however, I was not pleased with losing several spots and scrubbing a lot of speed in the process. You can see the crash on the left side of the screen at timestamp 10:34 in this youtube video.
Yelling (while sprinting) “way to keep it up!” at the guy ahead of me, I worked myself back into some kind of a draft and REALLY started looking for opportunities to move up. Obviously everyone (and their [insert cliché family member]) was looking for the same at this point. However, I sprinted up the kicker (while everone else was also keen to move up) and grabbed a couple of spots. I then kept the gas on through the false flat and surprisingly kept picking guys off. I was delighted to find this moment also captured in this video @ 12:16. In a way I felt my lackluster finish was somehow better, seeing as how I was fighting at the end, and I had the legs to move up.
Coming around the last corner I sprinted for a middling place (I know, I know, sprinting while out of the money, in my case 4 spots out of the money, is lame, foolish, and dangerous), moving up another 3 or 4 riders. However, I wasn’t sure how many riders were ahead so, while keeping it safe, I gave it a go.
This race was a reality check for me. Regardless of what the powermeter says, how do I match up in a big crit similar to what I’m targeting in September? The good news was that 1) I didn’t have a terrible day (getting dropped or crashing) and the fitness was alright; 2) I was able to move up, even during the last lap, which is usually hotly contested and 3) I genuinely enjoyed myself while racing, though there were moments (like the split second before the dude crashed in front of me) where I thought I would have been better off on a couch somewhere. The bad news (or critique, if you will) was that 1) I was waaaayyy out of position with 5 to go; 2) my fitness was NOT there to go off the front with the winners* (and trust me, there ARE winners and losers here – myself being the latter.); 3) I spent a lot of money to race bikes on the day without much to show for it. Oh well, that’s bike racing.
*Though I wonder about this point. With all the accelerations at the corners, I wonder how much less effort I would have used in the top 5 or off the front in a small break? Perhaps someday I’ll have the guts and legs to try it.