Mile 57 was a very lonely mile. I thought about my future, the meaning of life, and how good beer was going to taste at the finish line. I was silently commenting to myself about how my legs have never felt more useless in my entire life, and how this next climb may never, ever end. But let's go back in time a little bit...
7:00 am, Galena, Ill.
Early wake up call! At 7:00am, Anthony Vicino and I rolled out of our plush cabana (thanks Eagle Ridge!) and into the rising sun for the morning Time Trial. Driving like Dale Earnhardt from Valparaiso the night before, I hadn't gotten a chance to preride it like many other had the day before, so I was just excited to get out there and get real pain cavey for about 15 minutes. I don't really enjoy time trialing, but the constant undulation of the course made me feel like I may not really have time to think about that. After a quick coffee and a great warm-up, I toed the line.
9:01am, Galena, Ill.
HOLY SHIT MAN! I yelled to myself as I cornered the descent (you know which one I'm talking about, Veinhuizen?). I was not quite halfway in and I knew the rest of the TT was going to be an interesting time. My legs felt pretty good though, so I kept pushing and ended up with a solid 15:01 time, landing me a respectable 8th place. I was happy to grab some points, but knew well my competition that was ahead of me on the standings, and knew I would need a big day at the road race.
4:00pm, Galena, Ill.
So, the road race. About that. Being basically raised on the hills of Bloomington, Indiana while at school, I've always enjoyed (and had some good success) at climbing. So when I saw that there was a KOM jersey up for grabs (ed. note: make it polka dot next year!!!), that immediately became my goal. The first lap and a half or so of the race were pretty uneventful; although I had little problem staying in the front group on the climbs, the descents were a little tricky for me and I kept rolling back to the back. After awhile of this yo-yo, I was kind of fed up. The nice thing was the climbs were starting to play the attrition game with the peloton, and right before the 500 to go mark at the KOM on lap 2, the lead group had been whittled down to about 10 riders, with Vicino playing enforcer at the front. We gave each other a nod, and I started my ascent. Forrest Russell from ISCorp started the attack, and Andrew Schmidt, a 15 year old junior from Hincapie who weighs roughly 72 pounds followed, and I stuck to them like glue. At our current pace I knew I would be able to pop around them, but wanted to wait for the perfect time. So with about 175m to go, I swung around and dug deep until I crested the top for full KOM points (and the still-standing Strava KOM, if I may...). Right as I crossed the line I sat up, looked around, and saw myself alone.
Now, let's get something straight: my goal WAS NOT to go off the front, alone, for 30 miles on a blustery day. But I knew that I had only downhill with a slight tailwind behind me, so I decided to work my gap and see what could happen. I mainly just wanted to make it to the feed zone alone to get some solid #facetime and show off a little, so I threw caution to the wind and went for it. After making it through the feed zone still alone (and with my gap seemingly rising), I started to think this move could last in earnest. I'm well-suited to both the sharp punchy ascents, as well as the rolling flats (Northwest Indiana and all). So onward I went, for some looong and lonely time in the saddle.
7:00pm, Mile 57, Galena, Ill.
I'll never, ever forget what the back of an orange Subaru Crosstrek looks like, because I stared at that thing for a long. ass. time. It was about now that we return to where our story started, and I am hurting more than I ever had on a bicycle before. Not that quad busting, ripping feeling some have when climbing steep things or doing squats, but that 'I may never be able to walk after this' feeling of having absolutely nothing left in the tank. But up I climbed. I knew that after this, I would get a bit of respite downhill and then and hit the KOM to claim my last points to lock up the KOM jersey. It was about here that Rob Whittier's pink socks refused to let me have any of his water, but his words of encouragement were enough to will me up over the climb, for the points, into the downhill into town. It was about here that I knew I had it. So I kept pushing and rolled in for what will probably be the most satisfying win of my entire cycling career, no matter where I find myself. Nothing beats the feeling of rolling in with your hands off the bars, not a care in your mind. Special shoutout to Anthony Vicino who enjoyed RELENTLESS bitching from the chase for not pulling or doing much of anything besides being annoying, and to the rest of the #cat3squad for helping me throughout the entirety of the race.
3:00pm Sunday. Crit time.
Now, I don't really like crits. I like the idea of crits, but in practice I'm not great. I was in the leader's jersey though, so today I had to like crits. After missing out on the mid-crit omnium points and becoming the virtual not leader, I got kinda pissed and decided to do what I do best: break away solo again. I quickly built up a 23 second gap on the field and thought there was a possibility I could do it again, as there was only really one dude (Hincapie) who was going to chase me. I kept rolling and picked up a nice little merch prime (still need to pick that up...) and some sprint points. Suddenly, my gap of 20ish second was pulled down to 6 in the matter of about a lap, so I knew my fairy tale was over. I sat up and let the tide of a testosterone-y cat 3 peloton wash over me. I tried to stay at the front, but the weekend's work made my legs completely useless. I rolled in for a field sprint, disappointed in myself that I had let the team down and lost the leader's jersey. Everyone was awesome, though and told me how great my mid-race move was. Next year!
Thanks to everyone for putting on a great race, and I'm so happy to now have some familiar faces to look at around the xXx tents on racedays. See you all around, add me on Facebook, and I hope you enjoyed this rather long-winded report!