no ill. and so ill. (Super Crit and Hillsboro)

Hillsboro Cat 3 Podiumby Al

I was lining up and shaking for the Spring Supercrit in South Beloit. My first 3s race was the 1/2/3. And it was raining. I wasn't expecting much from myself. I was just glad to model the spankin' new skinsuit that Stanley and I designed/ripped off. The plan I was just going to lead Stan out and watch the race from the inside. Get a Grip and Burnham both had 4 riders in the field. Their reputation for teamwork made them the teams to watch. Lap 2: when an unidentified Get a Grip rider jumped just after the turn from the finishing stretch, I didn't think much about defensively jumping on their wheel. I assumed I had the field on my wheel. I was wrong. After half a lap together, the Get a Grip rider sat up and went back to the pack. I don't know why. So I sat up, too, and waited for the pack. But the pack sat up while I waited. The rain must have made everyone a little sluggish. Out of the first turn, a different Get a Grip rider and a Burnham rider put in an attack (and a Comcast rider, I believe? He may have been in the earlier break. I forget.) I went with them, still expecting to get caught.

After a few laps, and the pack out of sight, it started to sink in that we had a good chance of staying away. My legs felt much better than at the start. I put in an attack out of the final turn with maybe 3 or 4 laps to go just as Chris Kelley/Get a Grip was pulling off, who I noticed was being overly cautious on the turns. He caught back up near the finish, though, and I pulled off. I knew Andy Daley/Burnham was the strongest sprinter here. I should have attacked him.

But I've been working on my sprint, and motivation is hard to come by in the rain. Would I blow myself up if I attacked? I had 3rd place locked away if I stayed with the group. 3rd would be great in my first big criterium race. I almost blew it and nearly rear ended Chris Kelley when my fingers were too frozen to brake. I shifted into a easy gear to spin some blood into my legs. I shook my arms which were cramping up. I guess that confused the hell out of my breakmates, who thought I was trying to pull off.

How was my sprint, anyways? Well, I saw people fade in every sprint that day over the final 500 meter straightaway to the line, which was also slightly uphill and into the wind. Chris Kelley was forced to lead it out, with me on Daley's wheel. Perfect. Daley jumped early, with maybe 300 meters to the line. I waited for 200. I tried to jump into a gap up the left side, partially protected from the wind. Kelley shut that down. I went around to the right, forgetting to jump IN his draft. I made up about half a bike length, he forced me right, and that's where I finished, half a wheel back from Chris Kelley, and maybe 2 and a half back from the powerful Andy Daley.

I biked over to the bus and started shivering uncontrollably until someone reminded me there were hot showers. Awesome! Oh, my fingers don't work. I had to put on some mittens until my hands warmed up. I ran outside and did a couple laps around the bus because I couldn't recognize the bathroom building. No blood in my brain, I guess. Someone pointed it out, though, and I am hard pressed to remember a happier moment than that shower.

Jeff went and picked up my glorious Big Race prize of a chain, a case of Red Bull, a pair of socks, and a gift certificate for a pair of socks that I can redeem if I call some guy and then go pick them up, which sounds like as much work as the socks are worth.

We headed to Milwaukee in a terrible ice storm. We went straight to the Stonefly, parked the bus for the night, had some awesome brews, and packed it in for the night where we learned Ben won the out of town spot at the MMI. A good weekend on both fronts.

Next week I did the Hillsboro-Roubaix. I got 3rd last year, but this year they had some sweet brick trophies, way sweeter than the gold painted plastic cup from last year, and I knew I had to have one. Maybe one mile into the race people started the attacks. After about 10 people went off, I went while there wasn't much of a gap. Danny Robertson/MACK whipped us into a fast echelon, where the lead constantly rotates and the pulls are short. I hear XXX threw down some major blocking for Peter Strittmatter, who was doing his best to keep people to do their workload.

After a mile of attacks and counterattacks, we settled into a group of 9 with 64 miles to go: one guy each from the Hub, XXX, Mack, ISCorp, 3 guys from Verizon/Lucas Oil, me, and someone in a orange kit(I forget the team). The Verizon/Lucas guys were really slacking, which is odd considering they had 3 guys in the break. There was some animosity there when I told them to work and they started whispering instead. Whatever their plan was, I don't know, but two of them dropped off after one lap of three, and the last one dropped after the second. Jason Meshberg kept us updated after each lap as we left the town section. It was the same after laps one and two. "Two minutes! Two minutes!"

The 6 of us kept a raggedy echelon going, but as we crested the mile 10 hill, I could feel my wheel going flat. I hoped I was just paranoid, but I felt the rim hit asphalt and waved to the wheel truck that was following closely. I changed my wheel as quick as I could, hopped back on and tried to catch a sight of the group. I flatted right at the same part I attacked last year. Am I doomed to torture by the final 8 miles of merciless crosswinds every year? An official rode by in a car and told the driver there was a "huge group" coming up. Great. That must be my field. Maybe I could hold on for 6th place.

I found the guy in orange off the back and traded a couple pulls, took a little break. He was dropped and worn out, though, and waved me on. My legs were screaming. Did the break feel the same way? I grinded on. I ducked my head into my handlebars to try and hide from the wind. I looked down and was suprised to be in a large gear. There must have been a tailwind? That bettered my chances solo. Positive thoughts. Soon enough, I could see them ahead in one of the open stretches, and no sign of the pack. I had a rabbit now. I caught them just maybe a third of the way up the climb, with 2 or 3 miles to go. The pace had gone way down since I left. I tried an attack at the top of the hill, but they had been holding back. They caught me just before the first brick turn. I tried to jump into the final turn and get them off my wheel, but they had no problem catching that, too. My legs had no more kick. They went flying by with about 400 to go, and I gave it all I had to catch a wheel. It wasn't enough for 3rd, and a brick trophy that comes with it. I looked over my shoulder for the other guy. I must have left him with my first attack. I rolled over the line for 4th place and collapsed onto the team's couch set up at the finish line.