I feel vain starting it like this but it was a good week for me. 3 wins for 3 races at the ending night of racing at Northbrook Velodrome. Getting a leadout from Al for the second win was one of the highlights of a well made season. It's a reminder how the enjoyment of having won pales in comparison to the moment when everything comes together amidst a race courtesy of great friends and teammates.
I was convinced it would be a good idea to bail on work Saturday to go do the Illinois State Road Race Championship. I literally got the road racer out of it's dusty hiding place, filled up the tires and put it together that morning to hop on it for the first time since June to join the majority of our cat 4 crew in one last hoorah for 2009 road racing.
Warming up we threw together a big plan for the race. Avi "The Ironman" Neurohr already did the morning masters with Mike "250+ miles last week" Morell so they had a good breakdown of the action. They were doubling up, Andrew was fresh and scraped up, Max was feeling good and our new boy Al Pearson was just upgraded and ready to roll. Then, the icing came on the cake when Mr. Daryl "I have a new kid" Van Essen surprised us all and rolled up to the bus in his kit and all ready to race! This was gonna be amazing.
The plan was a big leadout. The order was Avi, Mike and Max up front and Daryl covering Andrew covering me covering Al. This was gonna be Al Pearson's coming out party. The man's got thighs as big as tree trunks and a killer spin. He hasn't been in any practiced leadouts but we just gave him the task of stay on my wheel and blow by when I pop.
The race was a 40 miler assembled by Tower Racing and it was a nice course with some limited room for movement. It could have been 20 or 70 miles and the majority of the racers wouldn't have noticed with it being so tight between the lines. I'm DEFINITELY not complaining. Up front alot of guys kept the pace honest and I was chilling in the middle with everyone else at the easiest 25-28 mph I think I've ever felt. The pack broke all the wind and it made it a game of jostling for positioning over anything. Upper hand dealt to the track kid.
The finish was strange. It was a winding, climbing series of turns followed by a false flat and a short descent before a bummer 300+ meter hill and the finish line was right beyond the peak of the hill. The move was to take advantage of the widening right before the turn into the first climb. Come the last lap we were all making moves to get things down right.
"And there you see team Cuttin' Crew moving up" was in my head as I imagined an overhead shot of the race and Phil Liggett calling it (come on, we all 'play pro' when we do this, besides wouldn't be the first time Phil did the shout out). Without knowing the action behind him, Max took the initiative to move up from 20-something to top 8 or so spots. Behind him was Mike, then Daryl, then Andrew then me, then Al Pearson. Another rush the joy that comes from perfect execution.
Around the corner, Max gunned it and Mike went left of him. Then Daryl made the move around Mike and it was Daryl, Andrew, me and Al with the road to the finish widening. Daryl springed forward and moved out around, the final bullet through the first hill and Andrew jumped. I jumped right on Andrew's wheel and felt a good wheel rub and a fall behind me. I turned back quick to look and saw someone rolling through the peloton and turned back to see Andrew with a rocket up his ass. I went right back up to his wheel and he floored it. We were the only two out front and there was no one in the peripheral.
Photo courtesy of Gavin
We pedaled hard through the descent and Andrew started to fade, I gave him a shout and he put everything he had into those legs right when we reach the bottom of the final hill. Fuck. Time to commit. I pull to pass and just pedal my way hard into a jump. A fresh burst up and the matches start burning fast. I must be moving good cause there's nobody in sight by the time I reach about 10 meters from the peak. At that same moment, the flames grab a hold of everything and I'm hardly turning over the cranks. That yellow center line starts moving more side to side then it does forward. My good sense says shift but my body just wants to get it over with. And it finally does. First wheel across the line. I spied someone coming hard from under my right arm towards the end but thankfully he ran outta real estate. Dammit, Andrew. That boy had done it again.
Photo courtesy of DeeDee
The crash was Al Pearson. I'm gonna take this chance to introduce you to Al Pearson. He was pretty bummed to say the least and I can feel for him. The consolation is there is absolutely no doubt you're going to be seeing plenty of great results coming from Al Pearson in the future. I'm looking very forward to that.
The day closed in the best of ways. We waved farewell to 2009 with news of Christina getting 2nd in the 4's! Al Urbanski got a top 20 in a crazy 3's field. The Meshbergs had the foresight to bring beers, champagne and marinated chicken while we had the grill going at the bus well past sunset. Maybe Road Racing isn't so bad after all...