What a day! After a great AH race I (this is Brandon talking now) decided to make the jaunt back out West to Wood Dale for the ABR Illinois State Criterium Championships. The course was standard industrial park fare. It was tight at .7 miles but had fairly smooth turns and pavement with a slight incline into the start finish. There was a brisk headwind heading into turn three but otherwise relatively uneventful. When I saw the long incline straight away I said to myself, today's the day baby. Our race started at 2:00 allowing for a relaxing start to the day and a full breakfast. Nice. The downside was that it was fully sun, 90+ degrees and humid. Still nothing a little hydration couldn't cure.

In typical Cat 4 fashion, the race began quick but not killer. Two laps in I decided to take a flyer to test the legs. I jumped coming out of turn three from about 12 places deep, gapped and held the gap until turn one where I sat up. Yeah, feeling good. For the next few laps it was moderate pace, no one wanting to lead in the wind and some accelerations for the primes. With 15+ minutes of the race done, the group rallied for a Park tool prime (top two guys). Our very own Joel jumped for it and looked to have it but got boxed and took second. I watched the whole thing unfold, bars bumping but everyone staying upright. As we came through turn one following the prime the group was strung out a bit with a Team Mack rider off the front followed by Matt Fox, another rider and Joel about a half bike length back. I yelled to Joel to stay with them as I thought the break might stay - Brian, Pat and I could cover. Joel however was a bit wiped from going for the prime and 5 straight days of long riding in RAGBRAW (he got home Saturday!). When I saw Joel wasn't going to be able to hold it, I jumped and bridged to the two riders who were falling off of Team Mack (Mike Stevens). I rode through them and onto Steve who quickly yelled, "You on? Let's do this." I responded in the positive and we were off.

For the next 30+ minutes of the race Steve and I worked to build and maintain our gap - we even popped a $50 prime, Nice! There were two Vox (Higher Gear) chasers but they never closed the gap. Eventually with about 5 laps to go, we caught the pack and stayed just south of them to avoid any potential crashes, etc. Steve had really laid it out as I faded a bit, worn from AH. We formed a gentlemen's agreement and Steve rode into the finish first while I took second and the "Silver" medal. Crazy. Many thanks to Joel, Brian and Pat who were in the pack watching any move. Joel tried to bridge to the chasers mid-way through to cover but was left without any support (non-XXXr's.) Joel pulled a solid 10th with Brian and Pat pulling in with the pack.

I hate time trialing though I know it's so important but today I worked harder than I ever had. It's wild too when you don?t know what you have in you and then you throw it out there. Prime, prize money, medals, etc. aside, the greatest feeling was trying something new - taking a risk and following it through. This was honestly my best day of racing to date. I finally feel like I'm ready to play ball at the next level and look forward to doing so, at the end of this year of course?

A great weekend of racing. Now two weeks off, family and hills in WI and then Winfield, Downers and Sherman Park!