Tuesday, June 19, 2012

O’Fallon Grand Prix Weekend

After the River City Bicycle Classic I drove home, packed and flew out at 6am the next morning for a five day work trip to Cali.  I took the tarmac in the hopes that I would get in some riding.  Monday I was booked.  Tuesday was the same.  But Wednesday I went in early and was able to sneak out for a little five and half hour spin.  Not too bad.  I like to get all my hours for the week in one ride.  ;)
The best way to taper is to do 4000ft+ of climbing 3 days before the state RR.

I was hoping to link up with my friend Rob but between our disparate schedules, the B.A.R.T. fire, and the U.S. Open, well, neither of us was up for crossing the bay for a ride with the other.  Well, I’m pretty sure riding Mt. Diablo is not the best taper for the state road race.  But that was just the thing: I had zero expectations for the race.  I literally was going to use it for training.  My season goal was the state crit and I accomplished my goal.  My coach told me to “enjoy riding your bike – don’t worry about it.  Just remember why you love riding.”  Exactly the words I needed…

O’Fallon Road Race – IL State Championship

The field was heavily populated with Dogfish riders.  A few riders from central IL (Wheelfast) and even fewer from upstate (Sean of Sammy’s) balanced out the Dogfish/GatewayHD/Korte numbers game.  The big equalizer was a U23 squad who stopped in from LA on their way to nationals.  The Stage 17 Devo squad certainly changed the game.  Who were these unknown riders?!

The race kicked off with a few moves but nothing serious.  A Stage 17 rider went off the front solo and forced a decision from the other teams.  I jumped in a small move just to make people think I was in the race.  The truth was that with BJ’s strong finish at the MO State race (7th – flying solo), people would think he was working for me (as this was the IL state championship) but in fact we wanted him to get a result.  A long break with all the teams represented had a good chance of sticking, especially if a big motors from Dogfish was in the move.  So when the time was right BJ put himself in a move with Brett (Dogfish, IL), Matt Pence (Gateway Harley, MO), a pair of Stage 17 racers (CA), Robo (Wheelfast, IL), and maybe someone else that I’m forgetting.  Unfortunately Brett flatted out of the break.  This alone killed the move.  With Dogfish keeping the gap in check, it had little hope of success.

B.J. in the "suicide break."
Photo Credit: Elizabeth Rangel

Moves went and my plan was to sit (surprise, surprise, I know!).  Brett recovered and on lap 3 started making moves off the front.  Surprisingly to me I was able to cover them.  Zach Reed (Dogfish, IL) countered one of these and was up the road.  I saw the jersey going with him.  Maurice Hessel (Korte, IL) attacked up the one serious climb on the course and drove a break over the top.  Things get a little fuzzy here but it wound up the MoHess, Zach, Trevor Lister (Wheelfast, IL), and Daniel Williams (Korte, IL) were up the road in a group with Joe Tortorelli (Scarletfire, IL) working his way up to them while dragging Jim Vandeven.

As was my habit I sprinted to the front of the pack going into the feedzone to get a clean feed.  I watched last year as guys crashed in front of me, so I was extra careful here (though it should be said that the P/1/2 field handles feeds a little better than the cat 3s).  Well, after grabbing a fourth feed from the excellent crew in the Quantum Mesa tent (thank you Rickey family, Ceecee, and Jason Wulff!!  You guys kept me alive!) I looked up and saw Joe and Jim with a 10-15 second gap on me.  Behind me everyone was still sorting out their feed.  Hmm…10 miles to go.  I put down the hammer and tried to get into the moto ref’s draft (feeling rather PRO doing so) and as he tapped the brakes I swung inside and continued hammering up to Joe and Jim.  We traded pulls and I thought I was going to pop several times but we made it up to the Lister/Reed/MoHess/Williams group.  Once there, if I was a real racer, I would have attacked and taken a few strong racers with me.  But alas, I wanted to catch my breath. (HINDSIGHT ALERT: Probably could have broken away with a group and been the freshest sprinter at the finish since Williams was hurting and Dust wasn't present.)  Unfortunately, nobody else was interested in working (though I recall rotating through once and nobody coming around).  Not surprisingly, what was left of the pack caught us a few short miles later.  Maybe it wasn’t miles and it was just yards, I’m not sure.
So with zero IL riders up the road, the jersey would be won out of this group, and it looked like it would come down to a sprint.  Is this tailor made, or what?!  With 5km to go Matt Brandt said adieu and stuck a solo move for fifth place.  (HINDSIGHT ALERT: I should have jumped and gone with him.  Had I done so I might have won the state championship.)  

Dogfish kept pace and I just sat on Bohanan’s wheel with one eye on Anthony Dust (cat 1, IL).  A stage 17 rider attacked as Jeremy Bock (Dogfish, MO) was done setting pace just before the 1km to go sign.  The finishing straight had a cross (maybe cross-head) wind which forced everyone to the right curb.  I was on Dust’s wheel coming into the finish as we passed 500m to go.  Now Anthony Dust is a VERY fast finisher.  I don’t think I have yet beat him in a head to head sprint.  I sure thought he was the wheel to follow and I would try to get him at the line.  However, the strong wind from the side meant I was pretty well pinned against the curb and didn’t want to get boxed in or worse yet – highside the curb.  When a few riders passed on the left I switched wheels to Williams.  Now Williams is also a very fast finisher and crushed a downhill sprint last year in a race.  With this being a slightly downhill finish I thought this was the new wheel – protected from the wind and fast to the line.  I switched lines away from Dust.  Fatal error.  Williams cramps.  Dust explodes up the leeward side.  He’s already jumped by the time I react and I’m forced to come around Williams on the windward side.  Completely botched sprint.  No soup for you!

IL State RR Championship P/1/2 Podium.
Andrew Lister (Wheelfast, Bronze), Anthony Dust (Dogfish, Gold), me (Quantum Mesa, Silver).
Photo Credit: A. Dust
A silver medal is so far beyond my expectations for this race and this season.  On the one hand I'm over the moon.  On the other hand I'm pissed - I was pretty close to getting another jersey.  My own second guessing put me out of contention in the sprint and with racers like Dust - you have no second chance.  I know easily a dozen guys that are stronger than I when it comes to a race like this but for many reasons they weren’t present.  Will they all take a hiatus next year?  Will it come to a sprint again?  It’s probably best I’m headed back out to Cali.  I’ll take this one up with Mt. Diablo.

Thanks are due my teammate BJ who pushed all the chips in on the break Saturday, and even covered a move after he was brought back.  After his chances were gone he did what he could to help me.  I’m very proud of how he rode this weekend.  Also, thanks to the friends who fed me.  I was well watered and that made all the difference on a 90F+ day.

O’Fallon Grand Prix Crit P/1/2/3

I missed the early move/selection of ten but my teammate Jason was in there.  I knew it was the race as they started to get away but I wasn’t decisive to bridge when the gap was manageable.  So of course I tried to bridge when the gap was well established and steady around 40sec.  I tried 3 or 4 times but all I did was wear myself out for the sprint.  Trying to think of the last time 3 guys came around me in a sprint...

The Stone Pony, Williams, and I trying to get away from the pack.  7 man break has us by 40 seconds.  Ouch.
Photo Credit: Brian Keller

Jason had a rough time as he and a few others were gapped off the break.  He fought valiantly but the heat, pace, and second race on the day took their toll.

BJ and I got a little teamwork going in the last lap and that worked much smoother than the attempt at the Urbana Grand Prix.  However, after a great leadout from Beej I stood up and went backwards.  Thanks for playing!  Gotta love life in the P/1/2's!!
A little toasty after 91miles the day prior.
Photo Credit: Elizabeth Rangel.

Regardless, it was a great weekend of racing and the opportunity to race both days was a sweet Father’s Day gift from my family.  Thanks to Korte Hammer Down Racing, Bike Surgeon, and Metro East Cycling for putting on a great weekend of racing in O'Fallon, IL.

Next up:
More work travel to Cali, so I won’t be racing till late July/early August.  I’m going to miss some great events – ToKC, ToLawrence, Morton Crit, ToAD, Superweek.  That’s a bummer, but I’ll use this time to recharge and finish the season fast(er).

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