Monday, June 14, 2010

Sherman Park Criterium

I know it has been awhile since I've posted any racing updates.  It isn't that I haven't raced, though Saturday marked only my 4th race of the season, it is just that the races have not been terribly exciting.  Though I often tell my tales from the back of the peloton, the tales of me fighting alone after being dropped are just rather dull.  It has been good to race with Stephen and Chris, and see that Jason is coming close to joining us in the 4's.  This past Saturday at Sherman Park was better.

It is great to get to race at the 105 year old Sherman Park.  Designed by the Olmsted brothers and Daniel Burnham, the 10 new parks created in 1905 would serve Chicago's burgeoning immigrant population and Sherman Park with its water, bridge and beautiful field house and pool is lovely.  The road was also designed for bicycle racing, a very popular sport in the days before the automobile.  One of the magical things about racing bikes in Chicago is the opportunity for us to race on courses like the Midway, Sherman Park, and Grant Park. 

According the results, 53 riders showed up to contest the 30 minute criterium.  We'd hit the field limit of 75, but 24 riders did not start.  On our warm-up lap, it started to drizzle and as we reached Turn 3 I looked to Stephen as the black sky came into view and muttered that it didn't look good.  By the time we'd reached the line, the skies opened and the rain fell and the thunder boomed.  We all scrambled for some cover.  After 10 minutes, we lined up in the rain, received our instructions, being told not to worry so much about wrecking in the rain as we'll slide and shouldn't get as ripped up, and then we set out.  As I said last year when writing about Leland, this just confirms the difference between bike racers and our other adult sports cousins.  We don't have rain-outs, we suck it up, pull on our big-boy-spandex-shorts, and ride - fast.

I opted to race my steel Cherry on Saturday.  Had I really thought it would pour I'd have probably raced the Bianchi, but of all my bikes, my Cherry is indeed my favorite.  I did have the forethought to run my Bontrager Race Lite wheels with Bontrager Race Lite Dual-Compound tires. While I really love my Easton EA70's with the Conti 4000S tires and think this may be the smoothest setup I have ridden, I've raced the Bontrager setup in rain and I know I can count on sure-footed traction in the turns.

We quickly jumped up to racing speed and the 53 rain sodden riders sped through the left hand turns with nary a brake tapped.  The nature of this course is that all of the turns are wide and curved so that we don't have a traditional crit course's 90 degree turns.  The result is that this race was really consistent in speed and there were not a lot of hard accelerations beyond the prime laps of which we had 5.  This suited me perfectly.  Though we were often riding 25+ mph the lack of braking was gentle on me and my overall lack of race-fitness. 

The grit and spray from the wheels ahead made for a grind, and I got in the drops and just followed wheels, trying not to be too far back.  Stephen was ahead usually fairly near the front.  I was able to check in with him a few times.  I don't quite recall all of the primes, I know Clif and probably Get a Grip had provided some, but the others I just don't recall.  There was a breakaway midway through and I do remember a $50 prime offered to the first rider if we caught the solo rider.  At one point I realized that I could feel metal under my fingers and I glanced down to discover my handlebar tape unwinding.  Now I've never been great at wrapping bars, but this was pretty embarrassing.  I dropped back so as not to be erratic and tried winding it up as best I could.  I'd fight with it the rest of the race.  It made me look like I was riding a kid's bike with a streamer from my bar-end. 

With 2 to go we got another prime and I noticed Stephen towards the back with me.  Hmmm.  He was unhappy with his position.  I should have fought with everything to get up to the front and drag him up.  I got caught up in the euphoria of knowing that I'd finish with the field, my goal, and I didn't realize till the cool down lap I'd never gone hard once - never crossed threshold, never been remotely near max.  Without a lot of racing this year and questionable fitness, it just didn't click the way it needed to.  We got the bell and hammered around the course.  Till now we'd been safe and so I hoped that we wouldn't turn in a last lap wreck.  We did not.  We flew through T4 and sprinted to the line.  Being so far back I rolled through for 44th and Stephen ended in 38th.  I found out after, that with it being such a short race that Stephen just lost track of the laps and didn't realize that we were in the closing moments.  He, too, had gas in the tank. 

XXX Racing put on a great race in the conditions.  I'm hoping that with some home-time I'll be able to get my fitness back on track with Superweek looming large on the horizon.  I'd like to do a long ride on Saturday if anybody has interest.

I did attend Wheel Fast Racing Sponsor Two Brothers Brewery's For the Love of Hops festival after the race.  It was a blast with plenty of great beer and music. 

Thanks as always for reading,

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