Between being off the bike for three weeks and this being my first proper 4's race, I knew that my result in the Chicago Criterium wouldn't be pretty, but since it was the inaugural event and the start/finish was only 6 miles from home... you just gotta race it!
This course, wow. Holy awesome. A little something for everyone - small climbs, a technical backstretch, and WIDE sprinting lanes. These are the elements that criterium dreams are made of. I'm not sure if Chicago stumbled across this throu dumb luck or if they had experts design it, but this is what a crit is suppose to be... the fact that it's almost half a mile away from the closest Burger King sits well with most riders, too. It was clear that Chicago was on display for the IOC, with banners and inflatables touting the Chicago 2016 Summer Olympics bid. In all, for the first year of the event, things seemed to be set up and staged well from a race execution perspective.
After hearing about some of the carnage in the earlier races, I decided that I didn't want to crash a third time this season so I figured I'd sit in the middle and see how things looked from there. Bad move. I should have known it was going to be a hammerfest when Dave Fowlkes announced that we were racing 30min + 2 rather than the scheduled 35+1. A minor difference, true... but throwing a wrench into things by cutting the time always seems to move a race a bit uptempo. From the get go, this was F A S T. I've ridden with a lot of these 4's when we were all 5's and/or in 4/5 combined fields... but never on a course this wide open. 25mph on the short ends, 35mph on the front and back stretch, including the Congress Parkway semicircle. I floated from the middle of the pack to the back quarter, where the accordion effect was terrible. Several times I'd try to move up, but the 119 riders in the field managed to fill the spacious course and made moving up quite the chore. I managed to hang with the group for about 20-22 minutes until I popped off the back when everyone accelerated with a prime sprint. I did get lapped with one to go, but managed to get out of the pack's way in choosing the "wrong" line through the course so they could safely pass. I'm pretty sure I was DFL, but at least I wasn't pulled.
In all, the race was smooth and safe, with only one crash that I didn't witness as I was off the back - apparently someone went down on the Michigan/Balbo corner, causing many riders to slow themselves out of contention.
I look forward to this race next year - hopefully I'll be in better shape. I was dissapointed in my result, but I still had a blast.
You did good on dis one, Da Mare.