An omnium. Sounds so final. All encompassing.
An omnium is a multi-stage race where a racer can earn points in each race that will count towards the overall placement. So what makes an omnium different than a stage race? A stage race’s winner is determined based on overall time – not points.
Why have an onmium?
Back when I started racing in the Chicago area I happened upon the ABD Fall Fling series of races. They had 4 races over 2 weekends including a circuit/road race, 2 crits, and a time trial. I quickly learned that having an overall score and earning points was a lot of fun. The next year I learned it could be strategic and really allow a bit of what people refer to as “team tactics”.
Just about every rider/racer who learns that early on they don’t have the talent needed to trounce the field right out of the gate almost looks for some sort of identity for themselves. Pack fodder has that nice derogatory ring to it, but the romantic amongst us start to think of themselves as a “domestique”. Since they have no hope of winning anything overall they would like to believe that they can sacrifice themselves at some point during a race for the greater good of their overall racer for their team.
In general you get about 0.2 chances per race around here when just racing crits. It just isn’t a factor in the lower categories at all when the form can vary immensely just across the same category on the same team. Not true in an omnium – even a short one.
Calculating points, overall standings, etc is what racing an omnium is all about. It’s what makes it more than just a couple of races back to back. I learned this back then and brought it to light on my own races last year when I introduced the Fox River Omnium.
Many know the story about how I came to run the Fox River Grove Criterium. The existing promoter for the race (going into it’s 4th year I believe) simply dropped the permits on it claiming a lack of sponsor interest. The Fox River Grove Criterium is a relatively short course that includes as it’s main feature a STEEP but semi-short 3 grade climb at the beginning of each lap. How steep? Steep enough that on the other side is one of the country’s oldest ski jump. Yup – the agony of defeat kind of ski jump
There aren’t climbs like that around here. It’s nice enough that a few key pro racers that are within a few states tend to come by and race it when it’s on. This wasn’t a parking lot crit that was disappearing, this was a race with an actual unique draw. I felt that it needed to be saved.
After a while I reflected on the race. Honestly it’s not the kind of race I would race in myself. I am too fat…err…I’m more of a “sprinter”. I also realized that this race, while unique, seemed to only draw out those “climbers” that only came out for this race. Many of the racers who come out every weekend just didn’t come out. They knew their skills were better suited to sitting in a pack for 40 minutes and then sprinting – or as I like to call it – they prefer the “Chicago Power Test”.
While I knew I couldn’t and didn’t want to change the fundamental nature of Fox River Grove I knew I needed to create some reason for these racers to be interested in at least giving it a shot. Anyone who has raced the Fall Fling or even the Chicago Cyclocross Cup (heck even the 2 or 3 that really race for the Illinois Cup) knows that it’s really difficult to not go out to a race when you have a decent standing in the points as a part of the overall. So it was time to add a race to Fox River Grove and to start an omnium over the two races. One day we will also add a TT making a true mix.
The new race had to be completely the opposite of FRG. It needed to be relatively flat. It also needed to be the kind of race that I personally love when it comes to flat crits: It needed to be slightly technical. A course that was run a few years back (2008 or so) in Elgin came to mind. After digging up the old route, reversing the direction, cutting a section out (all things I had told myself the first time I raced it that I would have done it that way if I were to have done it) and approaching the city – we had a 2 race series.
Never content to do what others do I also had to mess with the scoring. You need to pay attention to it. In most omniums it is pretty apparent after the first race that there are probably only 1-3 people still in the running for the overall. I didn’t want that. I wanted the first day to be the flat crit (Elgin) and the points structured in such a way that a sprinter who is good at doing the Chicago Power Test would have enough points to feel like they could at least save their overall with a solid race the next day at FRG, and that a climber could still be in the running when they look to shine on the second day.
So what do you win? Bragging rights. If you win this omnium for your category then you are most likely the best racer this area has across the array of courses we do here. If you’re a Cat 4 or 5 – you need to go get your upgrade. Off-Season team trades should be based off of everyone’s points totals from this omnium. Oh…and you get a jersey. You’re the “GC” winner….you’re the stage winner….
…..and you helped support a (of course biased opinion) great series of races here in Chicago.
There is still time to register and to learn just what omnium style racing is all about: Register Here
Went down to C-U with Kelli, Leah, Katie, and Shannon - both days were dreary with rain falling and clammy cold air - but that is not what it felt like to race. The enthusiasm and smiles – not only of us, but also our Curtis-family led Psimet support team and our competition, wiped away that weather reality.
Druber and his team pulled off an awesome week-end. Mark paid attention to details which the women racers greatly appreciated – timing of the races on Saturday, entry fees, payouts, and special hand-written notes of appreciation on our numbers. Oh – and the tator tots at “Cracked”, the food truck at the Sunday race. OMG - Mark, if you had anything to do with that menu – over the top.
Tour de Champaign, Saturday: There was only one race scheduled for the women - a mid-day “Open” race. The rain did chase away a few competitors, however, Druber was still proudly able to claim that with 18 at the line, it was the most ever for this race. Way to go, Ladies! The first lap was somewhat slow as everyone seemed tentative, getting their rain-race legs under them. Then LPV and Psimet started attacking/counter-attacking each other. Eventually, there was a break of 2 – our Kelli with Jannette Rho of LPV – off the front. With the break firmly established and Kelli in it, the rest of us Psimet did our job to protect her position as well as try some attacks to see if we could get someone else in a 2nd break. Most of the action/attacks seemed to be on the backside of the course where the wind was most brutal and there was a slight uphill. Katie and I each tried attacks at the start/finish line – more to give the audience and refs a bit of a show – they were such troopers for hanging out on such a miserable day.
Going into the final laps, it was apparent that there would be no further breaks – it would come down to a field sprint for the peloton. Now… before I go there – don’t we want to know what happened with our break-away? Kelli and Jannette worked well together to maintain their break. In the final lap, Jannette initiated her sprint early with Kelli closing on her heels – if the finish line were a few more feet away, if… Fantastic race for Kelli!
So back to the field… I led out the final couple laps trying to keep the pace high enough to prevent any fliers. On the final lap on the back stretch, the other LPV-ite, Cady, attacked and got about a bike length gap on the rest of the field. Leah was almost in good position – but a racer too far back to make it around Cady at the finish – but a terrific 4th place knowing the work she put in throughout the race.
Saturday evening we had a bit of a Cinqo de Mayo celebration at Dos Mios – the recommendation of our very generous hosts, Lorrie and Jeff. Thanks you two for opening your house to a bunch of wet, sweaty, and dirty bike racers – making us totally comfortable and re-energized with the benefits of home – a warm shower, comfy beds, and a washer/dryer!
Urbana Grand Prix, Sunday: Two races – the W3/4 at 9:40 and WOpen at 3:30.
W3/4: Shannon and Katie lined up with 17 others for the W3/4 race. Many strong teams were represented, in particular, Cuttin’ Crew, Half Acre, and XXX. These racers were not timid. Attacks started early and continued throughout the race. A slight hill on the back side of the course had a lot of action – as did the widest, longest stretch of the course at the start/finish line. With a few laps to go, Cuttin’ Crew’s Daphne got away and built her lead until she crossed the finish line as the winner. Her teammates did a good job blocking. On the final lap, the field came up the hill together. At the quick left and then right corners, some of the racers, including our Katie, got pinched which limited their positioning for the final sprint. Exciting race to watch, to see the strategy/tactics unfold.
The competition in these women’s races is not only at the front. With the surges, some racers fell off the main pack – but that didn’t mean they stopped racing. The tactics were obvious within the sub-groups as some worked together to try to work their way back to the peloton, some attacked their competitor to try to get away solo. In this way, Shannon maintained her determination for the entire race. Great to see her energy and enthusiasm. She, and the other women, did not ”give up” – and that is tremendous success, success from which they will continue to reap benefits as the season progresses. I am looking forward to watching this story unfold!
WOpen: The last race of the day was the Women’s Open. 11 racers lined up. The wind was much stronger on the back side of the course than it had been all day – would it play into the race?
After a few quiet laps, I attempted an attack as we crossed the start/finish line – attempted because at the same time I was going, Cuttin’ Crew was ramping the pace at the front of the field. I didn’t think I made any separation but kept my head down and pushed anyway. A lap later going into the wind, I pulled off to settle into the pack but was caught out when only Daphne of Cuttin’ Crew and Brianna of Racing for Riley pass me by with a gap behind… I WAS in a break! Darn wind - I couldn’t muster the strength to catch back on.
As the next batch of racers came upon me, Kelli was in the lead and she powered off the front, creating separation and putting herself in position to take 3rd if she could hold out on her own, battling the forces of nature. The rest of us slowed and the field came back together.
With Cuttin’ Crew and Psimet each having a racer off the front, neither team was inclined to do much more attacking. The wind was a force that probably kept the other individual racers from thinking about going off on their own – so I settled in at the front to keep the group at a reasonable pace in preparation for the field sprint. With Katie and Leah in the mix, we had a good chance at taking at least one of the remaining money spots. At the second to last corner, the field came around me, the sprint gearing up. Down the final stretch, Leah passed Marie Snyder of Cuttin’ Crew to take the field sprint and 4th place. Kelli held on to 3rd – great job!
What fun! Teamwork – both our own and that of the other teams, the weather – wind and rain increase the racing challenges, active and competitive racing from all participants, fan enthusiasm supporting us throughout the weekend - and fantastic organization from Mark’s team.
So it’s finally road season, our cross bikes are relegated to storage. Back on the road bike and it just feels… right.
We didn’t get our 80° March from last year, and I’m feeling the effects of a winter with less riding than I’d prefer. I lifted more than usual, and rode enough to stay competitive, but it requires more effort than I’d prefer.
So first crit of the season, a whole shload of new PSIMET riders, possible rain, possible 60° high- sounds great. Figured I’d go early and support our riders…seven hours of racing later it would eventually be my turn. Great turn-out and great racing from our women’s team. Leah, Monica, Natalie, Gina and Shannon. Leah ended up 7th in the women’s open due a moment of hesitation once the attacks ramped up in the last lap. An early season lesson she surely will not forget come next week.
Kurt, Sebo, Stephen, Alan, and what’s left of Rob Haffey raced in the various men’s and master’s races. Rob Haffey went for the three-peat racing in the cat 5, cat 4/5 and master’s races. If he keeps that up there will be nothing left of him by cx season…We won’t be able to tell him apart from David Lombardo.
By the time the cat 3 race came around, the sun was out, however it was still bloody windy. The race turned out as expected- not content with a bunch sprint, a four man break got away early. With the wind the way it was, without a lot of shared effort there was no catching it. I went into this race saying “I will not go after any breaks solo”, I’m not quite in that shape yet. It was about 15 minutes in when I started to mentally fight myself, thinking that if I attack hard out of the chicane I think I could bridge to the break. Luckily (for once) I stuck to my plan. I don’t think much when I race, I just pedal hard and often, so me sticking to a pre-race plan is in its own way a small victory. Nonetheless, no one really felt like working and pulling the break back in, so the break stayed away and gained time on the field. Like my legs, the field today was little hairy. A few twitchy riders, gusty winds and deep carbon, and since idiot who clipped a spoke on Bowden’s pedal…Well built wheel though. So the break stayed, the field would be fighting for fifth. I’ll move up in the pack over the last two laps, but I’m only gonna fight if I happen to be in a good position, no need to get tangled up in an early season pile up fighting for fifth. So the acceleration came, I was probably sitting 30th coming in to the final straight, I put in a safe sprint on the outside edge of tarmac content to just stay out of trouble. Pack fill 25th finish. First race of the season done- time to grab a full bottle and hop in the cat 1/2/3 race.
1/2/3′s put in stronger accelerations, but the average speed is within 1-2mph of the cat 3. I’m here merely for a training ride (read as “wake up call”). I’m planning on sitting in the back and riding and staying out of the way. I did just that, until 3 laps to go, when I started cramping up and I decided to stay WAY out of the way, dropped off the back, rather than to dnf, I recovered did a lap and knew if I come across the line with good effort the officials probably won’t pull me, so I recovered my legs and rode the last few laps at 75% effort. The field lapped me out in the wind by myself, and I was pulled in the last lap. Good training, no worries.
Add in one freaking awesome flat bread pizza at dinner with Rob, the Bowden’s, Haiduk & Mara….pretty solid Saturday.
and Nick Ramirez showed up for the 1/2/3, decked out in his new team Texas Road House kit…but no, unfortunately he did not have any of that Texas Road house bread
I really like that bread…
Before I get too far in this season, I need to re-work my race day nutrition. I need some gel and some new drink. I cramp if the ride is over 3 hours and I get headaches after every race or hard training ride… it’s got to be my hydration, I don’t have any other symptoms for it to be hypoglycemia…
If I can only remember to get Rob to order me some hammer stuff..
Or maybe some of that Texas Road house bread…crap it’s midnight and now I’m hungry…