Monsters of the Midway
I really enjoy this race. With half mile straight-aways on the front and back side with about 100 yards separating turn 2 from turn 1 and 4 from 3, the pace is generally really fast. Saturday was no exception in several ways. The pace was fast as normal, the rear of the field inevitably stacked up because some would slow going into the corners, and people would call out a significant bump on the back straight every lap. The braking isn’t necessary because the corners are wide open and the hole on the back straight hasn’t moved since I did my first race on the Midway Plaisance five years ago. Quick history lesson, this venue is pretty cool from a historical perspective. The Midway Plaisance was built as a grand entryway for the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago. A lot of the credit for the design of the Plaisance goes to Frederick Olmstead who also designed Central Park in New York.
Back to racing. It was a perfect day for racing, unlike most seen in May for the Chicagoland. Temperatures were mid 70s with a very week wind out of the WSW. Usually I found it to significantly windier and this is the first time I can remember there being a tail-wind for the finishing straight. I’d picked out a couple of guys that I was going to follow if they went and skated around the pack most of the race. One of the riders that I picked to follow around a bit is Josh Shough from the Chicago Cuttin’ Crew. He is the husband of PSIMET teammate Molly Shough and I’ve ridden with him on a training ride or two and in some races on the road and in cross. Unfortunately, Josh got caught up in a crash on the back straight coming out of turn 2, about 27 minutes into the race. Like any good opportunistic pack does, the pace quickened on the back straight and having pushed to catch back up I was glad to see the pace moderate a bit as we came onto the front stretch. I found myself behind Ryan Giuliano from Sammy’s and followed him for the next lap an a half as we received the notice for 4 and then 3 to go. On the back straight, Ryan G. made a move and I followed. After a decent push we caught and passed a rider attempting to bridge to a Team Got Wind? rider who was up the road a bit. Our surge caught the lead rider and that’s where I made a mistake. Initially, it looked like Ryan G. was going to roll onto the TGW wheel and establish a 3 man break that I was envisioning. Ryan G. actually ended up swinging back out and putting another surge on and increasing the gap. I was indecisive and found myself in no man’s land about 15 yards back by myself. I didn’t thin a two man break was going to make it for the final two and a half laps and ended up rolling back into the pack. After thinking about it more, I believe I made the right evaluation but given the chance again I would have worked to establish the two man break to see what would happen. Live and learn. I ended up finishing in 19th.
Wash, rinse, repeat… The 4/5 race is back to back with the Cat 4 race. This race was pretty uneventful. There was a two man break of John Polmochak of Region Racing and Nathan Bridges of Bloomington Cycle racing established with about 5 to go that did end up sticking. I thought it wouldn’t work because of the number of laps left, but eventually either everyone forgot about the break or didn’t have enough interest in reeling them back in. Nathan Schneeberger from Johnny Sprockets took third in a field sprint. I’m happy for him because he is a really nice guy, a heck of a photographer (you may recognize his work at SnowyMountain) and semi-regular training partner in the Fall on our Tuesday night group CX rides. I ended up at the tail end of the pack in this race. I compounded some bad positioning choices on the back straight for the bell lap by hitting the hole. My bars rotated down and caused my brakes to rub pretty significantly. I didn’t realize it at the time, but does help explain why my legs suddenly felt like molasses with a half lap to go. I ended up cramping my right calf coming out of turn three and eased in to the finish, shedding positions the whole way. I ended up in 35th.
Lincoln Park is an interesting course. Some slight elevation changes and a wide open course. It is the second time I’ve raced year here out of the three years it had been held. It runs on some of the roads that surround the Montrose Harbor cyclocross course. I don’t know if it is the proximity to Lake Michigan, but wind seems to be a normal factor in the race. A strong thunderstorm rolled through the Northwest suburbs around midday but thankfully rolled north of the city. We instead got to contend with sunny skies and a steady 15+ mph wind out if the south.
For the Men’s 4/5 race, I made the same mistake as last year. I didn’t warm up well enough. I wasn’t ready for the surges at the beginning laps of the race. I blew up too quick and led a group of stragglers around to be pulled by the officials. Fifteen minutes of racing in a thirty minute race. Not good. I placed 31st out of 52 finishers. John Cline joined me in this race.
The Men’s Cat 4 race went better. I surfed around the pack most of the race but found myself in a bad position going into the hairpin last time. I’d planned to come up the inside and cut the corner tight, sprinting off the turn and picking up positions. It had worked in earlier laps, but unfortunately I was not the only rider with this idea. Finding myself in the middle of the pack going up the incline to the hairpin I could see a food of riders going up the inside on the left. I found some open space on the outside and took it. With the crush of riders inside I ended up getting pushed all the way to the curb coming out of the corner. My post was clear, but required bunny hopping a storm grate and nit being able to cleanly accelerate out of the corner. Bad positioning going into the corner = bad positioning coming out off the corner. I really need to concentrate on better positioning at the end of races. I think I end up subconsciously trying to save something for a sprint I don’t get to participate in because I’m too far out when it starts. On contrast, watching and talking to Katie Isserman after the traces have me some good insight into a good strategy. Katie hung toward the end of the pack most of her race and moved to third wheel in the pack with three to go. (Teammate Sarah Szefi made a bold move with ten to go by soloing off the front. Ellen Ryan of xXx and Dani Marie of Ego pb Sammy’s tried to cover the attack but ended up in no man’s land not being able to bridge to Sarah but staying away from the rest of the field. On the bell lap, Katie gapped the remaining pack on the back stretch and cruised to fourth. Way better planning and something for me to chew on before my next race. In my opinion. The women’s 123 race provided some of the best racing off the day and was very entertaining to watch. I finished 32nd out of 50 finishers. Andrew Lowe, John Cline and Randall Swanson joined me in Men’s 4 race.
Some things never change, until they do. Spring Supercrit can usually be described as being a wide open course, that perplexingly ends up with a bunch of crashes that should never happen. It can also be described as having rough weather. The thing that changed for this year’s edition is the weather was pretty nice for an early April race in Illinois.
Supercrit is held on a car race track. It is a 1.8 mile road course that provides for some right and left turns and is pancake flat. Given that I had a whole 80 miles of outdoor riding this year, I appreciated the pancake flat part. What better way to start the race season on little training than to triple up and do three races? The first race was the 4/5 race. Usually the most “interesting” because it has a large spread of ability from the newest Cat 5 racers to the Cat 4 racers that will soon upgrade to Cat 3. This creates the inevitable situation that riders end up riding over their head and desperately hanging on. This inevitably causes their decision making to deteriorate. I had little expectations for the day. I finally took some time off from training after Cross season this year. After State Championships at Montrose, I didn’t touch a bike until January. January and February I rode about once a week in the PSIMET Computrainer Pstudio. Given some lingering injuries (and some new ones) I didn’t start training in earnest until March. All this is to say that I wouldn’t have been surprised if I blew up spectacularly and were pulled in any of the races.
The 4/5 race started uneventfully and thankfully stayed that way for most of the race. I think that early season races can get sketchy as people apparently forget over the winter how to ride in groups and lose bike handling skills while turning the pedals on a trainer. This can be the only explanation for bikes travelling 25mph apparently becoming unable to stay on a course that is designed for cars that travel significantly faster. The 4/5 race stayed relatively uneventful until the finishing sprint. Unfortunately it gobbled up my teammate Jeremy Ostrowski and the (in)famous Tien Ngyuen from xXx. I say infamous because this was Tien’s first race back after a spectacular crash at the Capentersville cyclocross race that left him with a broken collar bone. Tien has had a stretch of bad luck and I hope it turns around for him. I saw the resulting damage to his rear wheel, it didn’t fare nearly as well. Somebody let Tien know that I’ve got a guy that can probably help him out with that wheel. For me, I was happy to be able to move around in the pack and carry one some conversations during the race. I finished mid pack and didn’t get caught up in any mishaps. I’ll chalk that up for a small, early season victory. Teammate Andrew Lowe took second place and teammates Randall Swanson, Hall Songwriting, Adam Loete, Mast Sebo, John Guentz, Steve Hardman, Jeremy Ostrowski & Rob Haffey joined in.
Next up was the Master’s 4/5 race. This race is similar to the 4/5 race except most of the riders have a lot of years and miles on their legs. I think the misconception of Masters fields is that they are slower because they involve older riders. Nothing could be further from the truth. It just means these riders have been training longer and are a little more knowledgable in how and when to turn it up on the competition. Teammate Kurt Bentsen joined in for the fun for this race and spent a lot of time near the front. There actually ended up being two finishing sprints in this race. We received the “2″ to go sign and on the next lap, not hearing a bell I saw that the “2″ greeted us again. The end of the next lap, things got a little spicy and riders began full out sprinting for the line, only to be greeted by the bell and the “1″ to go. The field had become pretty stretched out, but consolidated going in to turn 1. Wash, rinse, repeat and we had another, thankfully, uneventful sprint. Again, another mid pack finish with no mishaps. This race saw Rob Haffey, Kurt Bentsen, John Cline and Matt Sebo flying the PSIMET colors.
I also did the Cat 4 race. It was back to back with the Master’s 4/5 race which unfortunately got me to staging late as I needed some assistance shedding a bib number. Fortunately I saw some nice spacing on the inside lane in row 2. In true ‘Cross spirit, I took the space that was available and lined up behind my teammate Kurt Bentsen. This race was definitely different in that my legs were starting to protest the day’s effort. I kept managing to hang on one more lap until I’d made it with the pack into the last lap. I was at the back of the pack when three riders went down in front of me. I avoided the carnage but didn’t have the legs to latch back on. I rode solo the remainder of the lap and my not quitting was rewarded with passing five or six riders going to the line. Unfortunately, this was because they’d all gone down on the front stretch during the sprint. I did see a very classy move from South Chicago Wheelmen rider and USAC official Steve Fearhy during the race. I the middle of the race, Steve was taking the time to coach up a Junior rider that was in the field. I’m not sure what precipitated the impromptu lesson, but Steve’s tone was level and I even heard him make sure that the young rider understood. I’ve seen riders talk to others after a race, trying to coach somebody up. I’ve seen riders complain or get into verbal altercations because of a perceived slight on the bike. What I’ve never seen is a rider coaching someone up, on another team no less, during a race. Not in an angry, calling somebody out way but just trying to make the other rider better while a race is in progress. Again, very classy move and a hit tip to Steve and the South Chicago Wheelmen. We’d all be better off if this approach were more common. For me, I finished off the back at the tail end of the lead lap. Adam Lowe placed fifth with PSIMET riders Hal Stinespring, John Cline, Kurt Bentsen and Rob Haffey following behind.
All in all, a good day racing. No mishaps for me, three races in one day for the first time and getting to see a lot of people I haven’t seen for a while. I didn’t perform as well as I’d like, but it is early in the season and it was a solid start to the season for me.