Monday, June 28, 2010

Tour of America's Dairyland

This past weekend I traveled up the Milwaukee area to race the final two races in the Tour of America's Dairyland series. ToAD is a ten-day quasi stage race that has grown quickly since its inception last year and may surpass Superweek next year as the most popular pro racing in the Chicago/Wisconsin area. My teammate Zens raced the whole series (you can get the full coverage here.) Drew and I went up to join him for the final two days and provide some motivation.

The first day I raced was the ISCorps Downer Classic in Milwaukee. The Downer Classic is a fairly short three (ish) corner crit. The notable part of the course comes in turn two, which is less than 90 degrees. The corner is fairly wide though and scares most people into slowing down enough to make it safe. ToAD only has Cat 4/5 fields so I would be racing with a lot of 4's, and quite a few who would soon be upgrading. This was a bit intimidating, but I figured worst case scenario, I get dropped...and get dropped is what I did.

I intended to take the 2 or so weeks before these races to work on my fitness and lose a bit of weight. Due to work and in some cases, bad luck, I didn't find time for the training that I wanted. I did lose some weight and rolled up to the line about 5 pounds lighter than my previous race. I mean this not as an excuse, but a learning experience in how quickly I can lose my race fitness, even during the season. Back to the racing...

The overall leader of the Cat 4/5 series attacked off the gun and quickly got away with another rider. Since this was a Cat 4/5's race, of course no break was going to stick...but this just meant that the pace was fast from the start. My staging sucked and I started all the way at the back of a 50+ field without any of my teammates. I was able to move up a couple spots within the first few laps, but sitting in 40th place in this field was brutal. The main reason was turn two where we had to scrub all of our speed and then try and catch back up to the front of the field with only a short straightaway to do it. The other reason was that people were falling off the field at a rapid pace causing me to continually get caught behind huge gaps. I like to think that a month ago I would have had the fitness to overcome this stuff, but alas I did not have it. So about halfway through the race I dropped off the main field and was on my own.

I rode for about 3 laps by myself and eventually waited for the group of about 5 people that had formed behind me. I rode with these guys for the remainder of the race and did a lot of the work on the front. It was good training, and nice to be able to ride with people even when off the back.

In the second to last lap, I was sitting 3rd wheel in the group and wasn't paying enough attention on turn two. I was slightly overlapped with the rider in front of me going into the turn and he took the turn all the way to the curb...which meant that I had run out of real estate. I did a fairly good job of trying to save it, but my back wheel slid out in the sand in the gutter and clipped the curb. I went rolling off the course and hit a cement post that fortunately had padding around it! My bike was fine and I landed in the grass somehow completely avoiding any road rash, which was awesome. I threw my chain back on and jumped in with another group that had dropped off the field.

After Saturday, my goal for Sunday was to warm up better, stage better and try to hang on to the pack for more laps, hopefully all of them.

Sunday was the Carl Zach Cycling Classic in Waukesha. Another fairly simple course with six turns, a small ascent coming out of turn 1, a windy, bumpy back stretch, a small descent in turn 5, and a 250m slightly uphill (not so slightly) bumpy finish. I warmed up and staged much better on Sunday but simply did not have the legs to hang with the pack. There was actually a break of 4 riders that ended up staying away and the chase group was down to less than 10 riders in the end. So I didn't feel so bad falling off the back. I rode a much better race and was able to shut down most of the gaps that formed in front of me. But after about 30 minutes, I was about 25m behind the field for about 2 laps. I was trying to close the gap but I started to realize that it was not going to happen. Repeating Saturday's race report (without the pole), I rode with the same group off the back and got to sprint out the end with them this time.

Overall, I had a great weekend, even if the racing was not so great. I have the motivation I need to get my fitness back, so hopefully that will turn into an increase in my hours on the bike each week...and I really can't wait to get back to the 5's (even if it's short lived!)

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