Tour of Galena 2011 (Cat 3)
A hell of a good time
I came across the Tour of Galena months ago and was incessantly reminded by Dave Mindick (who’s son, Kyle, took 2nd this weekend for xXx int he 15-18 category) who happens to work in the same office complex as I do. I’ve been to Galena and was under the assumption that they wouldn’t haphazardly let a team come in and run a race half heartily. If there is to be an omnium in this quaint tourism town–it’s going to be run well.
I’ve participated fully in one other omnium before, 2 years ago as a 4 I raced in the Fall Fling. I enjoyed the added twist of having an overall winner, and I did ok. I wanted to do it again in a harder race (Sorry Mr. Fling) at a higher level. I wanted to win the whole damn thing.
I’m confident though that had my results been much worse than they ended up being, I still would have had an awesome time. Good food (mostly), better ice cream (certainly) and great weather (kinda) on top of a beautifully run event. Cops rolling us out of town with sirens blaring? Cool. Cops at every intersection stopping traffic? You bet. A town that seemed welcoming and interested? Absolutely. Enough of that, lets make this happen in 2012 mmk?
The weekend started with a rolling 4 mile prologue defined by a twisty steep decent that turned into a gear grinding climb nearly immediately after the turnaround. I wanted to pre-ride the course but hadn’t actually figured out the logistics of that. A frank conversation on the topic with Le Coach (thank you Wayne) and a Thursday afternoon windfall (do late-paying clients count as windfalls?) meant I had the ability to get a room for Friday night so I could ride the course Friday and not have to worry about an early morning Saturday.
Kyle Selph was my 90 second man and Chris Koster my 1-minute man (no 30 second person). I thought the likelihood of catching either was slim so I had only myself and my HRM to gauge my effort. As the timer ticked the 10 second warning I was flushed with the feeling of “Shit, the tour of Galena is full on”. And off I went. I knew I had to pace myself, and ease into fast. I started to feel the lactic burning a little sooner and harder than I wanted to, I told myself to ease off a bit. I knew that winning this thing was going to be about being fast, but I also knew it would in part about being able to have some gas left for the hill climb.
Having ridden the course, and gotten some advice from Master Simon, I knew that the entry to the decent was going to be key. Fast is important, but not crashing was more important. The friendly and always-cool face of Dave Fowkes greeted me at the hay bales and was a friendly reminder to keep the pace sane down the hill. As soon as my bike straightened I forgot about the breaks, tucked in and bombed the final right turn as hard as I could. My turnaround was probably an 8 out of 10 and looking forward I saw Chris starting to climb the hill–I was gaining on him.
As I started my climb I told myself “easy & steady”. I saw Chris struggling, wrong gearing perhaps. Halfway up the hill I noticed my breathing. Deep, rhythmic and relaxed; I focused on keeping it this way. I passed Chris before the top of the hill and shifted into the big ring as I crested. In the distance I saw Selph. I wouldn’t pass him, but I definitely was faster.
I finished tapped out, lungs burning, and feeling that I couldn’t have done any better. A few hours later, I learned that I had scored 3rd behind two un-knowns from Iowa. That’ll do.
I had some downtime to recover, eat something (I opted for an Apple Cinomin Pancake from Victory Cafe, one of my better choices on the weekend). My legs were still a little spicy from the morning and I was growing concerned that maybe I over-extended myself for the road race. It was done, time to move on.
I studied up on the results and figured out who I had to keep an eye on, got ready and was at the line calm and focused. The idea was to not be stupid. The course would tire the peloton, no need for me to try and be bigger than the course and kill myself in the process. As we rolled up the first neutral hill I groaned a little. I’ve gotten better at climbing big hills, but I wouldn’t consider it something I enjoy doing.
The first 85% of the race played out about as I expected. Someone would attack on a flat, the pack would respond. Someone would attack on the decent and it would fail. The pace was heated up the hills, but nothing that fractured the field. Nothing was going to get away and I certainly wasn’t going to try my hand. The idea was to conserve, so I eventually started playing a game on the descents; how long could I go without pedaling and stay connected. Often times, probably due to the fact that my PSIMET wheels are better than your Reynolds, I would actually gain ground on the pack while not pedaling.
The course was beautiful but frankly the race was rather boring. It felt much more like a group ride, which was ok because most of my peers are good conversationalists.
On to the good stuff…
On the 3rd to final climb of the day I noticed Spencer Oswald (2nd TT), Louis Dewild (1st TT) and Ryan Fay (4th TT) were all at the front. Over the past 15 miles I also took note of the fact that much of the field was beginning to labor up the hills. The time was right for something to happen.
Just as I eased into Louis draft, Spencer hit it. Louis responded as did I. I heard Fay say “And there they go” and wondered to myself why he wasn’t coming. Perhaps he was more tired than I realized. Perfect. Suddenly, we were gone. We were all thinking the same thing “The top 3 TT’ers, the last 10 miles, alone with a gap. This is the race”. And it likely could have been. Louis was doing a good job of maintaining the peace for the time being, we were rotating perfectly when suddenly up another good sized hill his chain dropped.
“SHIT!” I muttered, to which he responded “It’s ok, it’s ok” as he tried to coax the chain back on. I felt bad but waiting wasn’t an option and Spencer and I continued on for another minute or so. I was thinking to myself that this wasn’t good, my legs wouldn’t take this distance with just one other guy. He felt the same and we decided to shut it down. We re-integrated with the peloton and I made the choice to continue to sit in the top 5 wheels. I actually felt pretty good.
On the final climb, one that I decided would likely be a game changer, Spencer nailed it. I could have responded but I didn’t think that he would stay away. He had been doing a ton of work all day and he was going to go it alone. A few of us did eventually counter. I didn’t see it, but Louis was one of them, along with Dustin Morici and Chris Sprock (Brian Arfmann may have been a 5th, I honestly don’t remember at this point).
Spenser was 15 or more seconds up the road and again Louis took control convincing the group to rotate through, steadily and smoothly. We were, but I sensed people weren’t really pulling with any urgency to catch 1st place. I may have read this wrong, but a glance backwards and I saw the peloton seeming to gain on us. We never did organize well enough to catch Spencer and we rolled into town with the 4 (or 5?) of us.
I talked to some xXx cat 4’s prior to the race on how the finish played out. The adivce: Be first into the turns. So I was. The final right hander took me a little by surprise but I was still front wheel into the final straight. I sprinted and narrowly held off Dustin for 2nd. Louis finished 4th, putting me in 2nd overall.
I was happy with my weekend so far. 3rd and 2nd in the first two events put me in a reasonable position to get 1st overall and if I played my cards properly meant that I should at a minimum be on the podium for the overall. Louis and I were separated by just two points, Spencer had 9 on me and I had 9 on Morici who moved into 4th after the Road Race.
My plan in the crit was the same as the road race. Sit in while others made futile attempts at breaks. That’s how the crit played out. It was blistering for the first half of the race. I rarely saw less than 29 on the straights. There was little chance that any sort of break would materialize.
The course was small and with even just 30 of us it was very cramped. For the most part, and frankly to my surprise, everyone was pretty safe (cramped fast cat 3 crits aren’t usually known for their safety). I tailgunned most of the race and beyond testing where I could move up here and there I expended little energy.
Again I saw Spencer driving the pace several times and to my surprise I saw Morici making the same decision. That was fine by me. I knew now that Spencer was an ox and would chase anything down. My plan continued to feel like the right decision. As the race wore on, the lap speeds began to drop (Garmin confirms it, average speeds of the 1st half of the race were 27-29 while halfway through they sank to 25-26).
With 3 laps left, they announced a $100 prime. This was good because I knew a lot of people would go for it and should mix things up a bit. As I anticipated, the pace picked back up. I thought that perhaps an attack after the prime was won would be a good way to avoid having to win in a sprint. I’ve done this in the past, my legs were relatively fresh (though they had the prior day in them) and the race seemed to be tiring based on the speeds I had been observing.
As the pace shut down after the prime was won, I attacked from about 10 wheels deep. My initial attack felt great and as I approached the three riders who were sprinting for the $100 a few seconds up the road (including Dustin) the notion that they would be a part of the move immediately went away as my closing speed was way too fast for them to catch on. I took the first turn smooth and fast (easy to do when your alone) and hit the back straight which had a steady headwind.
I looked at my speed and saw 29.5mph and thought “this might just work”. I took a glance back and saw the distinct kit of Kyle Selph driving the pace. There would be few people I would be concerned about shutting my move down but Selph was one of them. I had a decision to make. On any other day I may have tried to continue, but I wasn’t convinced Kyle and Spencer wouldn’t catch me. I sat up before I was tired and sat in.
The move was not all a loss and in fact it put me in a perfect position for the upcoming sprint. It also seemed to string the field out a bit. I maintained perfect position until the final turn which I took a less-than-ideal line and as a result had some ground to make up. I ended up passing 3 people, including Spencer and finished 5th just behind 3rd and 4th but well behind 1st and 2nd. I was the top finisher in the crit in terms of omnium contenders and knew that I sealed 2nd and potentially grabbed 1st depending on how far Spencer dropped back–turns out it wasn’t enough.
A win in the crit would have been like that crusty brown sugary top of a well made crème brûlée but honestly, 2nd place overall tasted nearly as good. The three of us that finished 1st-3rd overall held those positions all weekend and made for a fun weekend. Hats off to xXx for promoting this things and running it as well as it was.