Monday, July 13, 2009

Tour de Champaign

July 11-12 witnessed the running of the first Tour de Champaign series of criteriums. Wild Card Cycling and Scarlet Fire Racing, a semi-pro team spanning the Illinois-Indiana region with several local riders, sponsored and produced the event. We hope it becomes a regular annual weekend of races. I competed with several teammates in the weekend's first contest, Saturday's category 5 race.

Ready to start the cat 5 race

At the suggestion of teammate Tom, I had planned to launch an early attack and use my relative strength in time trialing to try to stay off the front as long as possible. The short loop (about 1 kilometer) presented the possibility of getting out of sight more easily than usual. I wasn't planning to go as soon as I did, but immediately after the first turn onto Main Street, we encountered a light headwind. No one seemed to want to work on the front and the speed was really low. I figured the time was as good as any.

On the attack!

My attack allowed my team to relax early in the race while the responsibility to chase me fell to the other teams. However, it was doomed from the start. The field included a very strong Scarlet Fire rider, a successful ironman triathlete and former varsity cross country runner at the University of Illinois. He led the chase and pulled me back after about 4-5 laps. A lot of riders couldn't keep up with the chase and it thinned out the group. A cat 5 rider on the Scarlet Fire team is a rarity indeed, but he certainly is on his way up.

Cornering is one of my weakness, especially in large packs. I can usually go faster through corners on my own, so I rode with more confidence while on the attack. The smaller group I found after the catch helped compensate for my cornering weakness as well. I found that I could handle the bike and fight for position reasonably well in the small group.

The group nonetheless did not shed a particularly erratic rider with very poor bike-handling skills. (My skills aren't great either and I don't dish criticism loosely.) He made me very nervous when he was in front of me. Whenever he was on the inside line, I moved outside, and vice versa. It me a little uncomfortable moving up through the pack, which I did successfully only a few times, when I could jump hard enough to get around him. Inevitably I would bleed a few positions through each corner. This rider also mixed it up with my teammate John, who pushed back on him with some authority at one point.

With two laps to go, I successfully moved up to second wheel, but the pace lifted again on the final lap. I again lost position in the corners and found myself on the back. A tailwind on the stretch before the final turn pushed the speed to about 35 miles per hour and I had no luck gaining position. The finish line came up pretty fast after the final turn and I finished last in the field sprint to take 15th place of the 28 riders.

I'd like to think my attack played a part in opening the door for Big Jay, our strongest teammate in the race, to jump into the winning break. He wound up 4th. If I were paying attention more and if I were strong enough at the time, I might have tried to go with him. I continue to learn a little more after each race.

Rain crept into the morning for the women's cat 3/4 race and became really heavy for the men's cat 4 race, which was delayed for several minutes due to lightning. When it resumed, a xXx rider who had crashed and fallen off the back before the delay, was able to rejoin the pack, launch a solo attack off the front, and steal the win. The wet roads made cornering much harder for the chasing peloton. It was nonetheless a pretty good day for Wild Card Cycling. Complete official results for Saturday's downtown criterium are here. The Wild Card summary:

Men's cat 5:
4 Jay Yost
9 John Sturmanis
15 Scott Dahman
19 Dan Shunk
21 Art Hess
22 Shea Nangle

Women's cat 3/4:
1 Anona Whitley
4 Becky Chan - though we are fairly certain she was 2nd

Men's cat 4:
3 Mark French
4 Alexei Perelet
5 Chad Knutson
7 Tom Carlson
8 Luke Taggart

Women's cat 1/2/3:
2 Anona Whitley

I was unable to race on Sunday because I had previously agreed with a friend to swap days for duties at church. Sunday's cat 5 race was announced only about 5 days before the race and it was too late for me to rearrange commitments. However, I was able to get there with Zach in time for the kids' races. This was Zach's second kids' cycling race and his first on a training wheel bicycle. He contested the other on a big wheel. Jennifer, Faith, Kay, and Len also arrived just in time to catch the spectacle. Zach had a great time and pedaled hard.

Zach lines up for his race

Sprinting for the finish!

A well-earned ribbon for a promising young rider

Wild Card had another successful day, including a podium sweep in men's cat 4 to cap our first effort as race hosts:

Men's cat 5:
2 Jay Yost
5 John Sturmanis
7 Art Hess
15 Dan Shunk

Women's cat 3/4:
1 Becky Chan
4 Anona Whitley

Men's cat 4:
1 Mark French
2 Alexei Perelet
3 Jay Yost
6 Nick Hand
7 Chad Knutson
8 Quentin Capista
9 Luke Taggart

Women's cat 1/2/3:
4 Anona Whitley
6 Becky Chan

Masters' 35+ cat 1/2/3:
19 Greg Youngen

More pictures from Sunday's action:

My Album

Teammate Rob's album
Professional event photographer

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