Old Man Speciale: Fox River Grove (3, p/1/2/3)

Old man using walker.

Old man Speciale on his newest ride.

My intention as of late last week was to race Monsters and Fox River Grove.  I was going to play it cool in the city; sit back and enjoy the show, play my cards in a sprint if it came to that.   My main focus was Fox River Grove.  So when I woke up on Friday morning to find my hips crooked, I was a little peeved.  For the 3rd time in as many years, a muscle in my lower left back decided to spasm like some sort of old man.  Fortunately, experience allowed me to take care of this issue in time to race for Fox River Grove–to an extent–but Monsters was out of the question.

Fox River Grove

Since we were hosting the race, I had to be up fairly early and out to the course to help setup the stage, sound, and any other odds and ends.  Fortunately, in large part due to the hard work of PSIMET’s own Matt Archer who organized all of the races volunteers (largely consisting of PSIMET and Rhythm racers as well as several others) and the help of Jeff Sheppard who, alongside Matt, had already taken care of all of the straw bales along the course the day prior, there wasn’t a whole lot left to do Saturday morning.  I arrived around 8am and promptly helped get the stage and PA system ready.  I love the buzz of hard work in the early hours that lead to an event like this.

Everything was very smooth and I’m proud to be a part of the team that helped pull all of this together in such short notice.  I’d also like to take a minute to give a shout out to Art Osten of Fox River Grove and all of his people who helped us make this a reality.  And of course Rob Curtis for having the gonads to pull it all together.  There are several others but if I keep at this I think i’m going to start getting ushered off the podium to cheesy symphony music.

hanks to May’s lovely unpredictable weather, my Wednesday ride was cut short and with the intention of riding on Friday and Saturday, I didn’t ride on Thursday.  My back changed all of that and needless to say my legs were fresh but a little heavy come Saturday morning as I didn’t ride (due to my back) since Wednesday.  Every time I bent over my back let me know it still wasn’t right.  I could hardly walk without looking like I had been the victim of a very unfortunately placed corn cob (use your imagination, or don’t).

The Race (Cat 3)

The time was rolling by pretty quickly and I realized that 1pm would be there before I knew it.  I geared up and started to roll around on my bike with fellow Cat 3 Raviv Wolfe. Before I knew it was time to line up.  I felt funky.  I had been running around so much all morning that racing sort of felt like an afterthought, yet I wanted to do well at this race.

The first lap told me I wouldn’t get dropped this year.  Jason Knauff (Burnham) took it upon himself to set the pace up the hill on the first lap.  It was brisk but not brutal for me, I suspect the same couldn’t be said for a few in the field.  About halfway through the race, with Knauff pushing the pace up the hill again, a lone rider attacked near the top of the hill and a gap began to form between he and Jason, who’s wheel I was on.  I’ve been appropriately scolded lately for being impatient and reacting without thinking.  I did my best to assess what was going on.  The gap was growing but it wasn’t so large that a huge effort would be required to bridge/close it.  Jason was fading back but it wasn’t really him I was worried about, rather it was his teammate Dustin Morici who wisely spent much of the race mid-pack.

Tim Speciale at Fox River Grove

Hey look! There goes Speciale chasing crap down again!

Like the golden retriever I seem to have become, I went around Jason.  I figured the gap would either close or one or two more people would come with me.  I managed to bridge up to him fairly easily but unfortunately no one else wanted to play.   In retrospect that told me all I needed to know.  We spent the rest of the lap pushing the pace relatively hard but as soon as we climbed the hill, a quick look back told me that this was futile.  I saw up and reintegrated into the pack just prior to the crest of the hill.

I hadn’t wasted a huge amount of energy but I was a little frustrated that I wasn’t more patient.  The rest of the race we tooled around each time up the hill someone took the liberty of setting the pace. Each time ’round it seemed faster and faster and my legs weren’t telling me that this would end well.  I specifically remember the two climbs prior to the bell lap which turned my legs into spicy sauce.

Coming into the front stretch as we entered the bell lap, the field shut down.  No one wanting to waste any energy prior to what would likely be two hard efforts, the first on the hill and the second in the final stretch.  I had lost faith that I would have been able to stay in the top few wheels climbing the hill and I felt like I caught the pack sleeping.  I moved left and attacked down the front stretch.  Prior to the turn up the hill I looked back.  I hadn’t created as much of a gap as I would have hoped and I began to attack the hill as hard as I could.

I felt that I could corner faster than most of the field, based on the way people were braking into the turns all day, and so I felt that if I could just make it to the top of the hill alone I would have a pretty good chance of holding on.  This didn’t happen.  Halfway up the hill my legs began to shut the hell down.  The words of my mentor rang in my head, “Live and die by these choices”. I pushed the pedals as hard as I could but eventually I couldn’t move.  As the pack passed I cursed myself and actually unclipped my left foot in exhaustion.

I don’t recall who it was, someone from Rhythm watching on the hill asked me if I wanted a push.  I shook my head “no” and started pedaling as best I could.  I had never felt so exhausted in such a short period of time.  I couldn’t see straight and was seeing dots as I descended the hill.  That didn’t end so well.  As I made my way to the bleachers I plunked down and sat for a while feeling like I had just gotten out of a bar fight. Everyone assumed it was due to my back–it wasn’t (although, I couldn’t stand up straight).


Reluctantly I got ready for the 1/2/3 race an hour later.  The field was small and it paid 7 deep.  Liam, Rob Kelly, Freund, Wayne Simon, Patrick Fasse…I was content to just to sit in and see how I could do.  So for much of the race I just sat in.  On the second time up the hill Liam attacked.  I knew there was nothing I would do about it but I thought “That’s either really dumb, or really brilliant”.  It turned out to be brilliant.  That early in the race, no one seemed to want to go get him.  A lap or two later it was clear that Liam meant business and Freund launched his attack and rode away.  A lap later, Rob Kelly.  That was the last I would see them.

I continued to do as little work as possible. There was no reason for me to push the pace and I had already raced earlier.  With about 4 or 5 laps left, Wayne rolled up next to me and said “When I attack, just ride wheels and you’ll get a free ride to the finish”.  That sort of happened.  When Wayne launched his attack, it was so ferocious that those that did try to keep him from getting away gave up in about 50 meters.

Fox River Grove P/1/2/3 at start

Small field, lotta fire power.

I stayed 2nd and 3rd wheel until the bell lap.  My attack from earlier in the day was fresh in my mind.  I felt that the biggest mistake I made was launching it so far away from the hill.  Right as I was pondering if I should try it again, Cesar Hernandez who was on the front, stood up to stretch his back.  That was a mistake.  I shifted two gears down and hammered it across the line.  I continued up the hill. Looking back I saw that they were fighting to catch up but I knew it was futile. I wouldn’t make the same mistake twice.  Cresting the hill with a gap I shifted into the big ring and continued to push it down the hill.  I took the turns fast but respectfully.  Sat up on the front stretch with plenty of a gap and rolled across for 5th place, well inside the money.

It was nice to do fairly well in this race, losing only to arguably a few of the areas top riders. Still much to learn though.  I’m not sure I have the power to beat little Morici up a hill but I sure as heck didn’t need to take myself out of contention as I did.