Pulling into Blackhawk Farms this weekend was like coming home after a long trip. It’s not because I felt some sort of affinity towards the race track itself, or South Beloit in general. It was more a feeling of nostalgia mixed with anticipation for seeing friends you haven’t seen in a while. I’m an emotional dork – I know this.
The weather. Yes well all know by now that the weather was less than desirable. Most people around here can easily bundle up for a ride in the cold, and at this point most of us would do just about anything to get outside on 2 wheels but this level of cold was almost enough to make you want to turn around and go home. Never has 2 hours on a trainer, full zip jersey open and flapping in the breeze of the fan as you pretend you’re somewhere warm and inviting sounded so much more desirable than actually being outside and with friends.
Quick assessment revealed that the “Pro Cat 4” crew was there. All of us complaining about the cold and huddled up in their cars. Smells of embrocation and the sounds of nervous chatter both filled the air. I often wonder what normal people would think if they stumbled into this weird landscape of grown men with shaved legs and wearing lycra riding “children’s toys” in weather that could only be described as “Wisconsorific”.
With Jason Knauff at reg (“If I hear one more person complain about the cold…”) and the wise use of Chicago Cross Cup numbers left over from the season it was no wonder that I walked back outside and began heckling the cat 5 field and the popcorn that had already come off of their pack. The rest of the group in cat 5 seemed strangely impressive. There was a break that was actually working and stayed away until the end. Kudos guys.
The 30+ 4/5 crowd was called to the line to take a lap. At this point I had barely gotten ready. Needless to say there was no warm-up involved. That sucked because at this point I know for a fact that if I don’t warm up a LOT then my race will be a panic stricken endeavor filled with that constant feeling that I will pop any minute. This is in stark contrast to the “high speed chess match” that it should be.
Taking the lap I found the course conditions to be almost identical to last year. Nice wind at sections of the course. People taking the same goofy lines on the same turns – when you’re in a single file line going 60 mph on a motorcycle then sure – dive into the turn, but when you’re in a pack of cyclicsts – hold your distance from each other and don’t clip the corners. (hold your line). *end preaching*
So at this point we’re lined up and waiting for the actual start. I’m feeling like a tightly wrapped sausage – 5 layers of the same sized race gear can make you feel that way. The small amount of sweat produced in the pre-lap was quickly cooling down. I couldn’t hear the instructions. I was nervous too.
You’d think that after all of the racing I have done that I would be fine at the line, but I am always nervous right before the start. It’s kind of like the feeling you get when you ride a roller coaster. You’ve ridden it before and loved it. You’ve spent a lot of time telling everyone about how cool the coaster is and how you can’t wait to get back on it. Then before you realize it you just stepped back on it and buckled your seat belt. It’s then you start questioning whether or not you really liked it before or was it simply just masking it with good feelings so that you wouldn’t remember the shear terror you actually endured. Then before you can change your mind and get off you get thrown back in your seat….
“On the whistle….” *TWEET*
True to the precedent set by the weather and the numbers we had ourselves a little Cyclocross start. The sprint was right off the bat and instantly we were fighting for wheels to keep out of the wind. After a few laps the rhythm came back. Everyone was chatting. Well everyone except the cat 5’s who seemed shocked that anyone could talk.
Crit races around here seem to turn into a high speed version of coffee talk. “How you been?” “What’s going on?” “When did you start racing for…” “How’s the family.” “Can you believe the weather?” “How about we just draw straws for the podium and just call it a day?”
True to form there was some yelling, but in general the race was pretty subdued. Early on as we came into the main straight we had a few riders who were on the front and didn’t want to be. So they pretended like they were in the tour and began to snake back and forth on the course to shake their wheel suckers. I just about came unglued.
That kind of crap is interesting and may have its place but not at the point of cat 4/5 field down the straight with 70 riders fighting for wheels at all costs and blindly sweeping back and forth with you. If you’re on the front and don’t want to be then just slow down. If someone wants to go faster they will come around you. If not then no worries – you’re going slower anyway. Just hold your line and go about your business.
If you don’t want to be there then don’t put yourself there. You control it.
The rest of the race was uneventful for the most part. Some moves – chased down like the dogs we are. I was in good position for almost the entire race. Really I was just shocked that I was still there and in. On the last lap it started to get dicey as people started turning the screws and fighting for position. A lot of people were popping and shooting back through the pack. Just before the final turn there was a separation. I found myself right on the edge of it. A combination of being on the limit and my Spidey Sense made me decide that I had achieved what I wanted and that I should just let the pack go for the sprint.
As I rounded the corner and started my seated push for the end I heard the wreck. This one sounded different. Worse. I saw a few people on the ground. The ever “wreck” present xXx jersey, and a Spidermonkey. I slowed down of course. Spidermonkey looked like a sack of potatoes. Not moving at all. Got that bad feeling. Crossed the line yelling that they needed to get the ambulance down there.
It was hard to shake it but I was already thinking about the next race. We had 1 race in between. Ryan Handley and I jetted to the cars as quick as we could. I knew they layers of sweat were going to turn to ice quickly unless we got inside the car.
Standing at the line for the second race was horrid. I was literally shivering. I really didn’t want to do the second race at all. It took everything I had to make sure I didn’t just turn around and get in the car. The second race was pretty straight-forward. Nothing really of interest. An early break that looked interesting and then Jostein and Peter Kelly made it to it…the composition looked deadly and the size was right, but something happened on their end. They just didn’t go anywhere and it looked like everyone was just wanting to e in the move – not doing any work to make it go….so we chased it down like the dogs we are again.
I gave Peter Kelly (Bicycle Heaven) some crap about the fact that he is still racing on a set of bibs that he tore up over 2 years ago. Enjoyed watching him try to make things happen. It was exhausting to watch. J
This race was cut short and I caught out of the corner of my eye that we had 2 laps left. It was only 17 minutes in so I questioned it the whole lap. Then we saw 1 on the card and heard “last lap” but I didn’t hear the bell. Regardless I figured I would race it like the last lap anyway. It started to get sketchy as everyone realized that “they were out of time to execute their ‘master plan’” and resorted instead to playing ping pong with their bodies trying to take positions.
Someone crossed wheels and touched a foot down but kept it upright. The tension was mounting. With the previous wreck still fresh in my mind and feeling like I didn’t have anything anyway I begged off the sprint again. Before the last corner I waved everyone through and just rode it in.
The sprint looked like a slow-mo version. More like track tactics. The group spread out across the entire course. The Bicycle Heaven group ended up off in the grass – later heard Peter Kelly, true to form, tore up some equipment forcing his move off into the grass. Great things await Peter as soon as he can keep his bike together and keep the rubber side down.
Eric Christ and I talked down the final straight and rolled in side by side to finish a good day of racing.
Rhythm looked great, taking a lot of podium spots. Justin Somerville (Bicycle Heaven) made it out of the mess to still place in the top 10, and xXx member and local official Jared Rogers claimed a nice second place podium spot.
Richard Lenski (PSIMET Elite) picked up a couple of points in the first race and Joe Berenyi (PSIMET Elite) and him placed well in both races. Joe secured his cat 3 upgrade officially and now we are looking for Richard to pull through on his after Hillsboro.
Some early season victories – Tim Speciale put his mark on Kenosha the next day after riding up to the race (on his bike), racing/winning it and then riding home. Wayne Simon did the same thing for the first of many Enzo’s-PSIMET victories of the season.
Right now with Hillsboro prep I feel like I have been on a Vegas bender filled with the fog of all nighters of tubular glue and latex and carbon dust. I’ll be happy when the race starts and I can relax. Yeah…I typed that. So when you see me pop and go off the back in Hillsboro – don’t feel sorry for me. I will be getting in my riding for the week and enjoying the terrain.