The Fox River Omnium is a race consisting of three stages all with their own character hosted by local Chicago staple and owner of Psimet Wheels, Rob Curtis. Personally, I had very little hopes or ambitions entering the race. Ideally, if I could score a Top 5 result in a stage, support my teammates, or just simply have some fun getting some good workouts in - I'd be pretty happy with the weekend.
East Dundee Cycling Shootout
This course was fairly simple with the only real note being a sharp 120 degree turn very shortly after the start/finish line. Austin was super active per usual early trying to find the move. Several went off (most with Austin in them) but none gained a significant enough amount of time to stick. With about 10 laps to go I pretty much assumed it would come down to a sprint and started moving up to just get in a better position. Two local teams: Sammy's and Intelligentsia were two of the most active teams throughout the day and with about 8 laps to go a rider from each went up the road. I was third wheel behind two Intelligentsia riders who started to spread across the road to block. A small hole opened up that I knew if I shot through no one else would be able to follow. I launched to make sure we had representation in that move. After about a 20 second bridge I was connected and we were off. It took a small while to gain full cooperation and effort within the break, but eventually everyone was working pretty well. I heard time gaps of 10, 12, 13 seconds shouted by Michael Kirby on the side of the road...and then 8 at which point I put in a serious dig and heard the gap jump right back up on the next lap. With about 2 to go I had a good feeling we were going to stay away. On the final lap at the 120 degree turn the Intelligentsia rider jumped around me to close a small gap up to the Sammy's rider. As soon as the catch happened I attacked (with about 1/2 lap to go), got a gap, and held it to the finish line for the win. This also meant that I'd be wearing the leaders jersey during the next stage and would have a full team around me to try and defend it - which would be the heavy goal. Funny how quickly things change.
Elgin Cycling Classic
The course is simple with the exception of one off-camber chicane 200m from the finish line which is tricky. Luckily, the forecasted rain stayed away for our race which made for a safer event. There were two intermediate sprints during the day (3,2,1) which I'd have to go for and the Top 5 places in the race would all receive 13 points, so ideally, I needed to score points at the intermediate sprints and finish in the top five of the race to retain the jersey. The first sprint came, I was in decent position and ended up second to my main rival on Sammy's which left us tied currently on points. The second sprint came and I was way out of position. Luckily there was a lull in the pack and I was able to move up significantly on the backstretch and kicked after the chicane good enough for 2nd in the sprint while my rival on Sammy's failed to score points, giving me a two point lead virtually on the road. So as long as I finished Top 5, I'd be in the leaders jersey entering the final stage. With three laps to go I was in great position...until the riders in front of me slowed on the backstretch and it felt like the entire field swarmed around me pushing me all the way to the back at the most vital moment of the race. I needed to move up fast without blowing myself up. Luckily, I found Ben LaForce on the backstretch with two to go and he shot me through half of the field. On the last lap I positioned myself as well as I could. Two riders got off the front late which meant I'd need to finish Top 3 in the field sprint to take max points. On the final lap, my rival on Sammy's shot up the road after the chicane and there was no way I was catching him. I kicked as hard as I could and could feel the entire pack behind me. I crossed the line...good for 3rd in the field sprint and 5th overall, which meant maximum points and we'd retain the jersey. Winning East Dundee was awesome, but getting through today still in the leaders jersey behind a full team effort felt just as good.
Fox River Grove Criterium
This course is just not my cup of tea. A short little circuit with a serious climb each lap meant that there was a good chance with the caliber of riders at the race that I wasn't going to finish in the Top 10 and score points at the finish (Top 10 score points). There were however two hilltop omnium sprints during the race. I decided that it would be more prudent to go all out after those points and see where it took me. At the start of the race I was 2 points up on second and several points up on the rest. The first sprint came and I was locked into a serious position battle with my rival from Sammy's. We hit the climb and I was terribly in the wrong gear. Regardless, I stood and just hit it as hard as I could. I looked behind and it was clear I was going to beat the rider from Sammy's to the mark, but a young local pro from Jamis overtook me at the line. I was good for 2nd and the Sammy's rider 3rd - giving me a 3 point lead. We crested the top and I was completely fried. By the start of the next climb I was moving back hard. Everyone on my team did what they could for me, but I just couldn't make it over in contact. Nikos, a teammate of mine, was there and tried to pace me back for a few laps, but it was to no avail. So at this point, I'd need my rival to not take points on the 2nd hilltop sprint or finish no better than 9th to remain ahead of him. At the final hilltop sprint with two riders off the front and my rival looking to score a point in the hill climb, Ryan O'Boyle, shot up the climb and took the remaining point available just ahead of the Sammy's rider. This officially meant that my rival needed 8th or better to overtake me in the Omnium at which point 8 riders where up the road, so I was likely safe. My rival hit the line 9th meaning I was ahead of him, but the Jamis rider overtook us both in the standings by winning both intermediate sprints and soloing to victory. I finished the Omnium good for 2nd. A huge weekend for me and the team.
Our Elite road 1/2 team has been outstanding this year, but at this race Austin, LaForce, Fay, O'Boyle, and Nikos were incredible and without a doubt put me on that podium. I don't know if we're riding with a chip on our shoulder or not given where people thought our team would be this year after losing some key members - but rather it's more likely just a whole lot of hard work from our guys paying off. We're riding smart, we're riding confidently, and we're riding as a unit. Needless to say, it's been a fun spring.