Technical courses were on the menu of pain and suffering this weekend and I was more than willing to face such an intimidating promise. First up was the Cobb Park Criterium: Flat finish, up hill hypotenuse of the triangular course and then a technical and FAST downhill, all turns were slightly more than 90 degrees. The race was going fine, fast paced and aggressive for the most part. It was the run of the mill criterium: go fast and hurt for 45 minutes then hurt more at the sprint. I was disappointed in my result only because I wasn't able to output my full potential on the finishing sprint because I was blocked in on the final turn.
That bummed me out but I brushed off the negative feelings quick cause I had the real race the next day.
Fox River Grove: Who thought there could be a 300 meter, 12-15% jut of land in Illinois? And a ski jump on top of it? Amazing. That's all I could think warming up on the course. I've been in hibernation with races that promise HILLS! but only give bumps. This race did not disappoint. 100 meters off the start, the group took a left hand turn and BOOM, 12 mph, 39-22 gear ration, and lung searing, heart pounding bliss. I started mid pack and my initial difficulty clipping in turned into a good bit of fortune. I road the hill at my pace, passing a couple people here, a couple there and then got in line and went down hill content to let those people up front work, and me recover. Three times up then I realize, "there's only 6 of us here." No more pack, just a group of riders riding along in a steady rhythm, taking the apexes of the corners to get up the hill the quickest.
Chris from Pegasus got the best of the group and just road away with about 8 laps to go. Then with 5 laps to go, a guy in a CSC jersey attacked and left the group behind. We were now racing for 3rd. Nick from VWT, two riders and I, pounding up the hill as hard as we could to cheers and encouragement. Final lap came, and tried increasing the power, it worked for about 20 feet then my legs gave out, and I was back to riding with the group. Some mechanical delays at the top of the hill with trouble getting into my big ring allowed the three other riders to pull away from me on the downhill. I took all the risks I could take to catch back up to them and then one of the other riders botches me final turn nearly takes Nick and I out and then sprints for 3rd. So much for a podium but top 5 is a pretty select group in that race.
As a note, Chris won by such a huge margin that he was cooling down when Nick and I rolled back to the finish line. He's got a huge engine.