First off, Ben Fietz is the man. Coming along for the ride to tune up everyone’s bikes, work the feed zone and get the grill going should earn him title of señor of the year.
Avi forecasted the trip best. I freakin’ love my team – (the edit provides the updated version of this year’s trip)
Well, if last year was the precedent, we head out after work on Friday,
get pulled over for no good reason in Hillsboro, the budget-conscious stay in a pine-panelled motel for $13 each, the budget-lacking stay on the bus with el capo. Wake up, get stared at by half the townspeople during breakfast (which cost like $2), stop up the restaurant toilet, make fun of each other, race, and drink Stag beer for the rest of the day.
Beyond that we have some results of note. Christina notched the top finishing result with a 4th place in a 50 participant Cat 4 field. Jamie got knocked off the pace by the treacherous crosswinds but still reeled in a 25th place finish. Jannette nabbed 28th in a stacked 1,2,3 field.
As for the wager. Well. Let’s just say I lost one of the greatest bets I’ve ever made. OK. Probably top 5? Whatever. It was an instant classic.
The opening lap was a comfortable pace and I just couldn’t shut my mouth over what a nice day it was to be out for a ride. I also think I was the first Cat 4 racer to shamelessly wear their State Champion jersey in probably at least 7 years. It was a nice start to what later became a shredded field and a total cop-out fin-ish for me.
The backstretch strung us out to single file pace of about 48-58 kph and then we hit the hill before the cobbles and everything went to hell. I naturally faded whilst a very large lead group developed and got out over the bricks. Separation was made big time and a considerably smaller chase group eventually assembled in which I took attendance. Our protagonist, Mike, made the massive lead group. Yeoman was with us struggling stragglers but still held pace.
I was, well, less than together. It was nice to be blamed for blocking even though our chase group was clearly outnumbered by, like, 20. The truth is I didn’t have any contribution to make when it came my turn to pull. All 200 lbs. of me were hanging from the edge of a skyscraper by a rubber band and I was developing a sunburn over my pain face wrinkles. Bad day to wear the jersey…
I clinged with all I had with the new goal of not dropping out (unless of course someone else in our group did). Well into lap 2 we took the umpteenth corner to turn a blustery crosswind into a headwind and I glanced up the road to see one man facing all oncomers with a rear wheel in his hand….it was the good Dr. Morell.
My mind was flying -Rear flat! -Yeoman’s hurting! -Mike’s got Campy! -Ten speed! -I’m fucked! -Stop! -Off with mine! -Switch! -Go Mike!
We swapped rear wheels. It was a panic exchange that took a little under a minute but I got him up on my wheel. I then gave him a shove and hoped for the best.
And Mike Morell gave ‘er.
Alas, it just wasn’t enough. He caught
Yeoman’s group towards the base of the final climb Yeoman 10 miles later, which would have put him on a 20 10 mile solo campaign in those winds. Apparently all other riders with them fell off their pace and it was just these two for the majority of the last 10 miles. They dueled up to the last stretch before the final climb when a bigger group passed and they got to sit in. Yeoman got his breath in the break shined up the climb. Mike was running ragged and couldn’t recover through the descent and the bricks. Dr. Morell didn’t have it for the closing distance.
(edit: for a first person account with more accuracy check out Yeoman’s report)
As for me, I wandered around in road shoes 6 miles west of town, almost stepped on two snakes and shot the breeze with some corner marshals before I finally got scooped up by the organizer after the race was declared done. I rode with dude and helped him with announcements and picking up signs. I also pushed a stuck car out of the mud, hopped a ‘faster’ truck ride back into town and arrived 2 hours later to get the news. It ended as a hot contest in which Mike lost by a reported “coupla hundred yards”.
It’s all beautiful if you think about it – Mike had a strong race performance going and the wager relatively in the bag. Andrew Y. kept pushing with all his might and, because he stuck with it, his opportunity arose.
With his plans of a top ten gone, Mike dug deep to make it a contest for the sake of the wager and vindicate my decision to abandon (haha! sucker!) I love picturing both guys dragging themselves through hell to maintain the contest. Yeoman ended my glorious vision to take what has to be the most interesting 42nd place finish in Illinois cycling history.
THAT right there is some real good ol’ bike racing.
I’m proud of both you guys. Thanks for putting on a show and providing this asshole with the best seat in the house.
Cale, no worries, you got some two day old gummy bears and some bike socks with gumby or something coming your way…
P.S. Shout out to Andrew Nordyke for
finishing right up there in the clinging on to finish dfl in the lead group!