Race Report #11: Sunday, July 14. Category: Masters 1/2/3 30+, Weather: 84 degrees, 22 mph winds with gusts to 30mph. Course: 4 corners, .55 miles – super short, with slight uphill finish stretch and slightly downhill backstretch into a sharp corner with a tailwind. Distance 50 laps, ~50 riders. Average speed, 25.3 mph, Avg. pulse 172
This was probably the shortest course I’ve ever raced –it was supposed to be longer, but some road repairs to a manhole cover took a few tenths of a mile off the overall course. Actually, if it were not for the brutal wind, this would have been a great course for me – as it was it was still pretty good… It will also represent the single most documented event in my whole career as my friend Matt took over 2000 pictures and some video, and I captured some video from my handlebar cam until the batteries ran out. The sum total of my 32 years in cycling probably has about 50 pictures total until now...
The pace started fast and the wind raged right through the riders in front of you on the home stretch - no way to hide: the first 100 meters of the finish stretch were like riding into a wind tunnel – facing 30mph winds while riding at 30mph felt like sticking your head out of the window of a car racing down the highway.
As usual, I stayed as hidden as possible, though I did ride the first few laps up front to make sure I didn’t miss a pack split.
My friend Kent Savit made a solo attempt and almost lapped us, but we eventually caught him. After that the pack never really reformed – we were single file against the wind and the course and seperations formed. Sure – I’m not going to go for breakaways – but I’m not ame for another reverse breakaway either… So with about 10 to go I found myself in a situation of bridging between small groups. At that point the pace, and the wind had broken the peleton into more than a half dozen single file pace lines.
(Video – Olympia Fields Mid-Race: In the first segment you can see the pack totally strung out, in the second segment, a tripleX rider in black loses contact, creates a gap, and waves me through. Its a short gap, but its into the 25 mph headwind, so its tough to close - but I found my legs had lots of power and I drift right into the pack. Finally, in the last segment, the pack falls into complete disarray as Chris Black mounts an attack when we are all dog tired and as we head into the backstretch, there's not a single rider on a wheel (except me, of course) Unfortunately my battery died so I don't have the finish - but my friend Matt has photos I'll post when he makes them available)
As the field continued to break up, I strung a few bridge attempts together and leapt up to the first chase group of 7, with the “field” of 10 re-forming behind us from smaller sub groups and several other smaller groups chasing. Meanwhile we almost caught the breakaway with about 5 laps to go – but to no avail.
I was starting to have that feeling of “I can do what I want” in the peleton like times of old and as we came around with the buckling and swaying of my chase group with 1 lap to go, I set my plan to attack on the backstretch.
We rounded the finish stretch and weathered the wind at speed putting a hurt on all of us, and then the pace stayed high around the top two corners, and we headed down the backstretch at over 32mph, going hard. I was dead tired, but I knew my plan was a solid one - catching a surpise lead on this downhill, combined with taking the turn at the bottom with reckless abandon was bound to set me apart far enough from the chasers to win the field sprint. So I put everything into the pedals there and then – into the tailwind downhill with a hairpin corner at the bottom. I quickly leapt around the lead riders and each faced a choice - go with me and risk that same downhill at the 38mph I had already hit, or consider the real possibility I wouldn't actually pull it off.
It was hard to quell the fear of that pending corner given the speed I was carrying - and at the last minute I realized there was no possible way to make it at the 40mph I was now traveling at - so just prior to the turn I hit both brakes and slowed to about 30, shimmied and shook a little, and then shot through the swirling winds buffeting me around the corner safely. Now a mere 200meters to go traveling at 33mph uphill, with a 25mph headwind, and some seriously strong riders on my tail....
I layed flat on my top tube and gave everything I had left into the wind and the pavement.
The blast furnace of the wind hit me hard and slowed my pace but I kept fighting, my pedals filling my legs with molten lead, my lungs rasping – but I stayed low and never looked back.
Eventually I rounded a small bend of the barriers and crossed the line – first in the field sprint by 50 feet, and 7th overall..
I was pleased. I collected my first check of superweek and then drove home for a swim in the pool, and some relaxing in the hot tub…
Next stop – Bensenville on Tuesday (Masters 30 again)