Monday, May 17, 2010

Monsters of the Midway 2010

Monsters of the Midway holds a somewhat special place in my heart. It was the first bike race that I attended in person. It was also where I saw my teammate lying on the ground moments after smashing her face on the ground. My emotions going into the day were about the same: excited to race another crit after a successful ride at Vernon Hills but weary of the course that for some reason is home to so many crashes. The 5's filled up before I had a chance to register, so I settled on the 4/5's thinking it would be a safer race and thinking I would probably only race once to save energy for Fox River Grove the next day.

One of the great things about Monsters is that it is only a quick warm-up ride from where I live. I jumped on the lakepath, met up with my teammate Ben, and dodged the four-seater family bikes and stray children and dogs all the way down to the Midway. I arrived with plenty of time to watch a couple races and get a good warm-up. When I got to the Midway my stomach felt like total crap and my hydration was nowhere near where it needed to be due to a late night out celebrating a certain teammates birthday the night before. I tried to take in as much water as I could, but the crappy weather was not helping me want to do anything but stand around. I got about a 30 minute warm-up in on the trainer and finally started to feel hydrated. I threw on some sweats and went to the edge of the course to watch the end of the 4's. The last lap produced a decent sized crash, but as far as I know, everyone (not everyones' bikes) came out alright. My teammate Drew took 3rd with a well-timed sprint on the outside.

They let us on to the course and I took a couple warm-up laps. I noticed that none of the turns seemed that smooth and all of them were a bit off-canter. My pre-race thoughts were mostly focused on the crash that just happened, the fact that I was racing with 4's and that I was racing in the biggest field I had ever raced in. In short, not the best place for my head. I was totally out of it...and the fact that we got about 8 more warm-up laps due to the ambulance on the course did not help. I lined up in a fairly good spot about 3 back from the front.

The whistle went off and the guy in front of me dropped his chain trying to clip in. My race was instantly going better than at least one other persons. I rode around him and was sitting mid-pack around the first turn. I am quickly coming to love the hilarity that ensues in the first couple turns of a crit. All of the nervous talking, profanity and of course, needless, but is starting to feel like home. I had some great pre-race advice from teammate (more like mentor) Bryan who suggested I shift down into corners 1 and 3 and start shifting up before 2 and 4. This worked out great and I think I was able to save a lot of energy compared to the people that had to stand up coming out of 1 and 3 (and subsequently, every corner).

The first few laps of the race were fairly uneventful. The field was too big to really drop any but the most out of shape. The pattern that seemed to develop was that people would try to move up on the back stretch when there was tailwind and sit in on the front stretch going into the headwind. The problem was that after the crash in the 4's on the back stretch, everyone was moving from the outside of turn 2 to the inside of turn 3 to avoid the bump in the course that had caused the crash. This meant that it was difficult to move up many spots on the back stretch.

Around 20 minutes in, my brain finally turned on and I started to consider what I was going to do. I decided to go on the outside of turn 4 and start moving up the outside. I was in perfect position on the second to last lap and moved up a ton of spots to about mid pack (I'm guessing around 20th.) Problem. I thought it was the third to last lap. Problem. As I was making my move up the outside, I realized (somewhat late) that there were 2 orange cones on the course next to the officials stand that I needed to avoid. In the adrenaline rush caused by the two pesky orange cones, I completely missed the bell. Oops.

I was able to maintain my position all the way into turn 3 when my teammate, birthday boy, did a hilariously bad job of taking the corner and almost crashed me out. I didn't really care, but the guy behind me definitely did. Oops. As I came around turn 4, everyone sprinted like normal...except a lot more than normal. After I was passed by a couple people I started to realize the mistake I made. I stood up and gave the sprint all I had, but everyone that wanted to sprint it out was lonnngg gone. I did nip a guy at the line to ensure a top 40 (haha) finish.

Overall, another great race for me. Being able to hang with the 4's was a good boost of confidence. However, nothing had prepared me for the pain that was to come the next day. Next stop: Fox River Grove.

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