Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Tour of Elk Grove

Sorry for the late post! Work has been crazy this week, and I was unable to find a spare minute until now.

Last weekend was the infamous Tour of Elk Grove. The Tour of Elk Grove is a 3-day long pro-race with 2 days of amateur criterium racing interspersed amongst the pro racing. It is known mainly for two things. One of the highest amateur payouts in the country and an 180 degree turn. Yes, 180 degrees. You literally ride down one side of a street with a median, turn around at the median and come back. For those that are still confused, here is video proof. Coming off of a bunch of 4/5 races I was excited to see what I could do in the 5's. I had also had the chance to go out to Matteson for the Tuesday night crits put on by the South Chicago Wheelmen during the week and had ridden pretty well. My game plan going in would be to stay at the front to avoid the accordion effect (an inevitable crashes) out of the 180 degree turn and see what I could do at the end.

I awoke Saturday morning around 3:30am to rain hitting my A/C unit. I instantly thought about how I was going to be racing around an 180 degree turn in less than 6 hours...and it was now going to be at the very least, a wet 180 degree turn. Needless to say I didn't get a whole lot more sleep. I ate a good breakfast (finally nailed by pre-race fueling process I think!) and met up with my teammate Katie to head up to Elk Grove.

I registered with plenty of time and pinned on my numbers. I decided to race both heats because well, why not? If I'm going to go out and race, might as well take as many opportunities as possible. I got out on the course with plenty of time and got in a nice warm-up. Back to that turn...yeah the 180 degree one? My first time around it, I slowed down what I thought was a lot and barely made it out of the corner without hitting the hay bail on the outside of the turn. Ok, so going through at 19mph was not going to work, or at least if it was going to, I needed to fix my body position. At this point, my nerves started to take hold. Adding to my nerves was the fact that the turn was soaking wet and had brick-lined sidewalks running through it. I had the chance to chat with my teammate from last year, Jason, which calmed my nerves quite a bit as we rolled up to the line. I staged well, grabbing the last spot in the front next to more W2 riders than I had ever seen in one place. The W2 guys are all fairly steady and entertaining people to race with, so I was happy to see so many.

The whistle went off and I was able to get a good spot at the front. The first couple times around the turn were slow and shaky. People were riding just about everywhere in the turn but seemed to get through it ok. The rest of the course was simple and did not cause anything too interesting. On the third or fourth lap, I noticed I was sitting outside of the top ten, further back than I wanted to be. For added motivation, I looked down at the guy in front of me and saw some hairy legs. I knew it was time to move up. Lo and behold, as I'm going through the turn, I hear the pre-crash yell and hear the sound of carbon and aluminum hitting pavement. I'm not blaming hairy legs (I have no idea if he went down) but I was glad to be in the front when the inevitable Cat 5 crash happened. We took off with a group of about 15-20. For those that had been caught behind the crash and not gone down, the race was completely over.

Predictably, the pace picked up after the crash and W2 started sending guys off the front. I knew this was a problem, but there was not much I could do about it. The other W2 guys did a great job of blocking and finally a break of 2 stuck. The other rider turned out to be an unattached rider that only races Elk Grove (he's raced 4 years of Cat 5 races at Elk Grove!). So we were left to fight for third.

Coming into the bell lap, I was sitting top 10 and knew it was time to move up. Coming into the third to last turn, I took a fantastic line in the corner and with my acceleration out of the turn wound up sitting third wheel. Coming into the final turn I was sitting second wheel. I couldn't have asked for a better place to be sitting. Unfortunately for me the guy sitting in front of me was not Mark Renshaw and faded at 400m to go. Thus, I ended up being the final leadout man. I gave the sprint all I could and rolled through in 9th. I was happy to be there for the sprint but the finish left a little bit to be desired...oh well!

I rolled around the course and tried to recover as much as possible in the 5 minutes I had between races. I got to know Sean from xXx who would become an ally of sorts in the next race.

The second race went off and my body was not ready, but my legs felt fine so I gave it what I had. I sat top 20 for most of the race. There was a break with 2 unattached riders that did not stay away but broke up the pack quite a bit. I ended up sitting in what I thought was the pack off the back. Sean and I were trading motivational words and jokes about where we were sitting in terms of position. Coming into the final lap, we were in a group of 3 with a sizable gap on the bigger group behind us. We thought we were sitting in front of the back of the race. As it turned out, we were actually the first chase group and there were only about 5 riders ahead of us! Coming into the final turn, we joked about who would provide the leadout. The other guy in our group took off so I followed and as he faded after a very short time, I took off. I was feeling fine and was waiting for Sean to come around me and take what we thought was a poor placing off the back. Then people started flying around us on both sides. We had not looked back in the final turn because if we had, we would have realized that the main field was actually sitting just off Sean's wheel! After we saw at least 15 people fly by us in the field sprint, all we could do was laugh. The results said 26th which is about how well I had felt I raced...even though had I known what was going on behind me, I probably could have two top ten's in one day...shwoops!

I came away from Elk Grove with some confidence and proud of my top ten. I had raced well and my fitness had been good enough. I am excited for Grayslake this weekend. I have to start thinking about when I'm going to make the move to the 4's...I'm fine holding off for one more weekend.

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