Monday, May 3, 2010

Vernon Hills Grand Prix 2010

My blog as it formerly existed is dead for now...but I am still going to use this as a place to post my race reports. For those that have never visited, please feel free to enjoy the 134 posts of complete nonsense (and 1 race report)...for those who were fans of the nonsense, call my bosses and tell them to give me less work!

Quick background: my teammates convinced me last year at a 312 fueled event (thanks to the generous people at Goose Island) that I should try out racing. I got a quick introduction by racing two races (in one day) last year at the Ronald Reagan Crit. I walked away from these races with a couple of thoughts: bike racing is exhilarating and something I want to do again, I am not in good enough shape to be remotely competitive and that was not as scary as advertised. I took those thoughts into the offseason, along with a CycleOps Fluid trainer that I snagged through a great deal from the people at Green River Adventure Sports before I left Dixon that day.

The next 7 months were spent in the gym and logging hours on the trainer with thoughts of what was to come in next season. For those that aren't familiar with winter training as a cyclist living in Chicago, here is a great visualization. As I signed up for Vernon Hills, I wondered (often) was all that misery worth it?

Sunday dawned early for the Cat 5's...we had the pleasure of an 8:10am start time. I woke up at 5:30am with enough nervous energy to power the lights in my dark apartment. Trent and I packed up the car and headed up to Vernon Hills. The ride up was rainy and definitely did not take any nervousness away. At least I remembered my shoes though, thanks to the inside collar of our 2010 jerseys.

We arrived a little later than planned and after Trent tried to register for the kids wrestling tournament, we realized that registration was not inside the high school. By the time we registered and pinned our jerseys, we realized that we did not have enough time to set up the trainers for a proper warm-up. I was not excited about this change in plans because, if you know me, you know I have a big engine that takes some time to get started. We headed up to the course to check things out and try to warm up a bit. The course seemed pretty basic and wide-open. I noticed that on two of the turns, there was a median after the turn that was probably not going to be a lot of fun to navigate with 50 other Cat 5's. I made a mental note to be either on the inside or outside on the turns if it all possible, to avoid making love to the nicely planted trees on the medians. I felt really good after the warm-up and lined up in the 3rd row behind Trent. Trent's number was on wrong so I found myself with something to do to distract me from getting nervous at the line.

The race started off smoothly with both Trent and I clipping in flawlessly. We were sitting about mid-pack as the race got started. At the second turn, I was shocked at how slow things got. We were slowing down to less than 10mph at the 2nd and 3rd turn every time. This of course provided the wonderful accordion effect...every time. After 3 laps of accordion-fun-time, I started to feel the work in my lungs and legs. As I had never finished a race without getting dropped, I only knew second-hand of the fact that crits tend to slow-down a bit after the first couple I kept telling myself that people were probably right and fought off the ill feelings my body was sending to my brain. The next thing I knew, I heard 5 laps to go.

Hearing 5 laps to go and passing a lapped rider was exhilarating for me because I knew at that moment that the months of training were worth it. My mental game turned on as my body recovered slightly and I realized that I was damn tired of sprinting out of every corner. So I decided to find a wheel I liked up front and stick to it. I had lots of choices, but I decided that since Joel Friedman had won this race the year before (and subsequently was a Cat 3 at the end of the season) and rode for Bicycle Heaven, that the Bicycle Heaven guy that had been upfront the whole time seemed like a good wheel. I made a good choice and was able to save a lot of energy not having to work as hard out of the corners. With (I think) just over 3 laps to go, I saw Trent sitting up front, so I decided to join him...which for some reason turned into me deciding to increase the pace and pull for almost half a lap. This was silly, and I knew it at the time, but at that point, I was joy riding. Luckily, someone was rocking a helmet cam and recorded the whole race...including my joy-ride on the front.

After my cheeky pull up front, I knew the race for 1st was pretty much over for me (not that it had ever started). At 2 laps to go, the pace increased and since I had lost my position near the front I was back to sprinting out of the corners. As the bell rang for the final lap I was sitting about 20th and remained there until the final corner. Everyone gunned it out of the final corner and (now back-to-back Cat 3 winner) Nate's words of wisdom from the previous week rang through my head "be patient because everyone will sprint too early." The problem was, at this point in the race, Nate would be sitting top 10, not sitting at the back of the lead group...haha, oops. So while everyone took off, I momentarily lost contact and had to sprint just to catch back on to the pack. I sat back down and got ready for my first field sprint...but then realized I didn't have any energy to sprint anyways. I saw the guy immediately in-front of me give up so I stood up to sprint around him and ended up catching someone else. Altogether, a great race and a proud 28th place finish for my first time ending with the pack.

Next stop, Monsters of the Midway.

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