Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Monsters of the Midway

On Saturday, May 16, I raced in the Monsters of the Midway criterium hosted by the University of Chicago Velo Club. I met Wild Card Cycling teammate Tom at his house in Champaign just after 8 am and we headed north. We picked up our race packets on arrival and headed several blocks east to warm-up on the Lakefront Trail. The weather was near perfect, with sunshine and temps in the low 60s.

The course was a long, flat 1.1 mile rectangle on the Midway Plaisance

Tom and another teammate, Nick, joined me in the category 4 race. I race the beginners' category 5 in USA Cycling races, but this race was sanctioned by American Bicycle Racing (ABR), which seems to have a regional presence mostly in parts of the upper Midwest and California. Nick recently joined ABR as a cat 4 and I preferred to enter this race with teammates, so I did the same.

Not that I really benefited from having teammates in the race, nor that I was able to lend any assistance to them. I had trouble from the very start. I finished my final warm-up lap a couple minutes after Nick and Tom lined up at the start. I tried to line up behind them, but a rider from Turin Bicycle Society slipped in front of me. He had trouble clipping in after we rolled out. My concentration lapsed and I fumbled my own clip-in. Our race was shortened to 30 minutes plus 1 lap due to delays from rain and crashes earlier in the day, so the pace was high from the start. By the time we entered the second turn, I was at the back of the race. The slowing and subsequent accelerations in the corners were terrible on the back. I moved up a few positions in each straight, but then dropped back at each corner.

I stayed connected to the back for about 1.5 laps, but then a guy in the row ahead of me let a gap open and I wasn't strong enough to jump around him quickly enough. I soon found myself in a group of about 10 or so, as the cord snapped. I made a last-ditch attempt to bridge back when it seemed the pack slowed in the headwind, but no one grabbed my wheel. If I could have worked with at least two or three riders, it may have turned out better. I wasn't strong enough to bridge alone. My small group off the back grew and shrunk throughout the race as we picked up remnants from the two crashes and as others dropped off. It seemed like I was one of only about three or four guys that were willing and able to work. Every time I tried to lift the pace from the front, no one followed, so I sat up and rejoined.

Scott on the front of Groupe Lanterne Rouge. "Work with me people!"
(Most photos by Anona, with Tom's camera)

During the last couple laps, I tried to encourage the other riders to pick it up. I told them we did not want to be lapped. I'm not sure if I'll get an official place, since technically I was lapped just as the main field sprinted through the final meters. I was surprised that the guy who allowed the critical gap to open on the second lap stayed with my group until the end. I didn't want him to beat me to the finish, so I sat on his wheel through the final corner and sprinted around him at about 100m. He did very little work through most of the race. Plenty of blame for the outcome lies with me, of course. I have a pretty short, lousy record with crits, and not all misfortune is due to factors beyond my control. At least I seem to be improving with each race. (I didn't finish the first two.) I'll figure it out before too long.

Scott, Nick, and Tom after the race

It wasn't all about me, of course. There was some good news on the day. Tom was about 9th in our race and Nick also finished with the bunch sprint. A few riders went off the front early in the race, but were caught on the last lap. Wild Card Fast Grrrl Anona cleaned up and put the team on the podium, taking second place in the women's category 3/4 race. Sorry we missed your race, Anona! It started too darn early.

Peace out, Anona!
(Photo by Tom, with Tom's camera)


LuLu said...

We're testing mom's comment making abilities...and we think you're cool.

LuLu said...

testing again...