Another weekend of racing and I had another weekend of unspectacular consistency. Outside of the first lap in the Cat 4 race, all of my lap times were within 10 seconds of each other. The lap times for the second race were all within 3 seconds.
Cat 4 4/5
First Lap 8:24 8:09
Second Lap 7:59 8:06
Third Lap 8:05 8:07
Total 24:28 24:22
No wrecks, a few competitive rubs, but nothing dangerous and it was an awesome setup. The first time this year I’ve really had to think about cornering. (Disclaimer, I missed Hopkins Park.) Caldwell Woods and Dan Ryan Woods were fast and great on a file tread. Carpentersville had gotten enough rain during the week by the end of the day the wetter areas were really tacky so there were no traction issues. Between the off camber and patches of dry, loose soil you really had to concentrate this week if you wanted to carry speed through some of the turns without washing out.
Last year I bunny hopped the logs every lap. This lead to me endoing on the last lap when I was tired and didn’t quite clear my rear wheel over the log. I had no issues hopping them on my pre-ride, but keeping last year’s experience in mind, and generally being around other riders every lap I decided to just run them every time by. This paid huge dividends when on the second lap of the Cat 4 race, two riders went down in front of me as I was getting to the barriers and I was able to pretend I was a running back carrying my bike through the hole and dodge the carnage without breaking stride. The rest of the day was uneventful, but a ton of fun. I was in and around other riders the whole time in both races and felt good.
Now I’m going into seclusion to prepare for Woodstock. I’m so focused that I’m skipping Campton Hills this year. (Translation – my wife and son indulge me in this racing thing a lot and they prefer to have me around for at least one weekend out of the month.) I’m looking forward to mixing it up again in two weeks. The racing, courses and participation have all seemingly taken a nice step forward this year and I think I’m having the most fun yet.
Cross is delightfully brutal. The ChiCrossCup is a series that brings suffering to life in always changing ways. This year, the season’s first race changed venues from Jackson Park, in downtown, to Caldwell Woods on Chicago’s Northwest side. I initially liked the change in locations because it cut about a half hour off my drive. After racing the course, I like it because it was awesomesauce.
This course had a little bit of everything: power sections; a little bit of technical; fast, sweeping sections; off camber; climbs; and a big, steep run-up. The only section that seemed like it offered a chance for recovery were the few tight turns after the run-up. That section was fairly short and then you were directly into a little power section into a downhill and then a short, steep climb. Just enough to catch your breath a little before cranking it right back up again. One of the things that I really liked about the course was it was super fast. Turns were tight enough that you couldn’t stay full gas, but if you chose good lines you were able to carry a lot of speed through turns and maintain speed. The layout also presented plentiful areas for passing safely.
It may be a euphoria just from CX season returning, but Caldwell Woods has immediately jumped toward the top of the list of courses I like. Great job by the xXx crew and our USAC officials. Awesome way to start off the season. From a racing perspective, my races were fairly uneventful. My only close calls were skimming my right foot over the barrier next to the beer garden on the second lap of the 4/5 race and hitting my rear canti arm with the outside of my right knee at some point during the first race (counts as an official race because I drew my own blood). My fitness isn’t quite where I’d like it to be, but I was encouraged by the consistency I had during the day. All six laps were within 18 seconds of each other and my overall time for the second race was 1 second slower than the first race. My last lap of the day was only three second slower than my first lap of the day. 34th in the Men’s 4 Race and 18th in the Men’s 4/5.
I managed to take a day off work and head North for a day of racing Tour of America’s Dairyland (ToAD). This is the second time I’ve done a ToAD race, the last race being 2011 in Thiensville. With Beloit added as a stop this year and being a little over an hour from home, I thought it was a good fit for my schedule. While there were some scattered showers on the drive up, by the time I arrived and started warming up, it had stopped sprinkling. By race time, the sun was coming out, the winds were calm and the temperature was in the mid 70s. About as nice of conditions as you could hope for.
I scored a spot on the front row for the start and after receiving instructions we were off. The course is a five corner “L” shaped layout with four rights and one left. The last right leading onto the front stretch was a wide sweeping turn that sent you through almost a 180 turn, but had you returning a block over from the backstretch. The corners were all really wide open with plenty of room. I learned later that there was a crash in the last turn on the last lap, but had no idea at the time. I found myself behind the series leader early on, figuring that was probably a better place than most and decided to follow him for a bit. There were a couple of attacks that went up the road fairly early, but nothing stuck. With the corners being so wide open, the speeds stayed pretty high and every attack was brought back in short order. Early on, I also found myself briefly behind Sean McCarthy for the South Chicago Wheelman. Sean has come a long way in the few years that I’ve raced with him. Unfortunately for me, he has still not gotten big enough for me to draft off of. Remembering the futility of even trying to draft him on Wednesday nights at Pella had me quickly finding another wheel to follow.
About twenty minutes into the race I found myself third wheel coming across the line and heard the call of “Prime!” The field was fairly strung out at that point because the pace had been up for the lap prior. I was on a Michael’s Cycles rider’s wheel and moved into second wheel as the lead rider dropped off down the back stretch. Heading into the last corner, another Michael’s Cycles rider came up on my right with another of his teammates all the way to the inside. The first arriving Michael’s Cycles rider swung in front of me and it looked like their teammate was starting to dig to try to create a gap going into the last turn. With no teammates in the race, I figured I might be seeing a chance to have someone else’s teammates block for me. I came out of the last turn second wheel and with about a 150 yards to go swung out, put in a little effort and took the prime. I hadn’t really intended to go for the prime, but I was lucky to be in a good position at the end of the lap and thought, “What the hell.” I scored a $25 gift certificate to Beloit Bicycle Company, the local shop that was right on the course.
Most of the rest of the race was uneventful. I maintained good positioning in the waning laps of the race, only to find myself in the middle of the pack with no room to get out and move up going into the last turn. This is the area that I’m consistently finding I need to work on. I really have to make sure that I’m either inside or outside heading toward the last turn so that I at least have an opportunity to move up heading to the line at the end. I ended up taking 14th.
No wrecks for me, a prime, I got to hang out with Rob Curtis to watch some races and I got to talk briefly with Laura Van Gilder her teammate Laura Jorgensen and Jeannie Kuhajeck as Rob visited with them. It was a good day all around.