So most of our Cat 5’s signed up for heat one, leaving Dave Moyer, Grant Davis, Sean Kozak, Andy Heidel, Herb Seitz and myself to hold down the 2nd round. After watching the first heat, two things were very prominent in my mind. This was going to be a fast race and the officials were pulling dropped riders without them even being lapped. I wasn’t too concerned with the speed, but given how my season had shaped up to this point and the fact I had family in the stands I was determined to not let the second situation occur. With that said, I made sure I was up in the second row of our 36 rider field.
So the whistle blows and after a slight delay in getting clipped in I get up to about 15th wheel and sit in. Pace remains calm at about 25 mph for the first two laps. Four of our boys were up in the front in pretty good position, so on lap three Dave livens things up for a lap to try and break the field. It did some damage and strung us all out and as soon as they were done, some unattached rider countered to prolong the agony going into the kicker on Balbo.
For the rest of the race, things stayed pretty much together until about 5-4 laps to go. Dave and another rider get in break and get a pretty good gap. I’m back in 20th somewhere and see that Grant’s up front blocking. I do my best to get up and help, but by the time I get towards the front, it looks like the break is running out of steam. Some riders in the pack see this and try to bridge, but the break either sees/senses this and takes back off. The bridging riders give up pursuit and reintegrate and somewhere on 2 laps to go, the second rider who was with Dave just sits up and calls it off, leaving Dave to fend for himself.
So with one lap to go I find myself 12th wheel in a race for 2nd place as Dave is far up the road and there is no realistic chance of bridging up to him. The group raises tempo going into turn one and I try to get as many spots on the downhill and corner three as I can. We come out of turn 4 and I turn on the turbo, gun it up to about 33 mph and throw at the line against another rider. Ultimately xXx would go 1st, 3rd, 6th and 9th and I’m happy to say that I was that 9th rider (even though I was convinced I was 8th).
So the Inaugural Chicago Criterium was a first on many fronts. xXx took 1st in not just the first heat, but the first two races of the day. On a personal note, this was my first “legit” top 10 finish in my two seasons of racing. Congrats to all our riders in both heats, those who got on the podium and everyone who unselfishly did the hard work.
That xXx juggernaut just keeps rolling on…