So…once it became apparent in May that my knees were healing up, I picked a couple of weekends that I would attempt to kill myself by doing as many races as I could. This was one such weekend!
Round One – Heat 1 of the Tour of Elk Grove
Ding, ding, ding, ding, ding; let’s get ready to rumble! Myself and six other xXx teammates toed the line for this race filled with 40 riders. First ¾ of the first lap were pretty tame. We all made the 180 degree “turn one” with no problems and motored down the backstretch into a mammoth head wind without many attacks going off. Sitting 8th wheel coming out of turn four, two riders bought it right in front of me which caused a group of four to get a gap off the front. Two xXx riders were in the break (Tom Briney being one of them) which would turn out to be the winning one. Another rider and I tried to bridge back up to the group, but the wind proved to be too much and we burned way too much gas motoring at 30 mph that I had to shut the engines down. I tried to reintegrate into the group behind us, but got shot out the back when they decided that they could bridge. Mentally I resigned as I wanted to save something for my next race and thank goodness I didn’t stay in that group - with two to go I rode up on the carnage of what must have been a horrendous crash that took out about 10 riders. Emir and I hooked up with two other riders and rode it in at a decent clip. I took 25th in a sprint and began to plan for the next battle.
Round Two – Heat 3 of the Tour of Elk Grove
So I go from six teammates to none and a field of 37 riders that is now mixed with teams with limited numbers and several unattached riders (like the one sporting the blue jean shorts). This is going to be interesting – TRANSLATION: stay up front! So we go off and everything holds calm for a while. Then a Tati rider launched with another rider and got a gap. Another rider bridged and that made a three man break about 100 meters up the road. So when the next rider came around me I grabbed his wheel and rode my lungs out to try and get up to them. After about ½ mile we made it lungs on fire and all – my first successful bridge in a race! However, it was not to be as the three riders blew themselves up and apparently (I wasn’t looking behind me so I'm guessing) I was towing a group of riders up with me. Drats, all back together now!
Things would ebb and flow for the rest of the race but what really mattered was what happened towards the end. We were headed down the back stretch and I glanced down at my computer. 18 minutes had passed – this should be ending soon. We passed the start finish line and I looked across the median at the lap counter, it read two to go. But as I rode off I heard the announcer say “there goes the field with 1 ½ laps of racing left.” Yeah, we’re about to get the bell lap; better get to moving my friend. Most of the race I was up in the top 10 so I just slowly made my way up to the front and was in pretty good position for the final lap. Going into turn 2 on the last lap that Tati rider got off again with another rider and I was sitting 3rd wheel. We swing around the “L” and coming out of turn 4 I get swarmed and am looking at 7th wheel. Mind to Engine: “We need more power.” Engine to Mind: “You remember that bridge back on lap two? You ain’t gettin’ any more power than what you’ve got now.” The result would be me holding on for an 11th place finish, but it was a little bit disheartening knowing that I was so close to a podium. But at least I wasn’t in the crash that happened behind me in the sprint and I would live to fight another day.
Round Three – Elgin Cycling Classic
Okay, so I almost had a top ten the day before. I’m beginning to like the taste of this and my chops are salivating because of that podium goal I set for myself this season. Elgin is kind of special to me as it was the first race I placed within the top 10 last year. But that result was because I got put back in after I crashed out, so this year I wanted it to be “legit.” So Alberto and I drove out to Elgin to a race that had changed from USCF to ABR and from the downtown course to one in Lord’s Park this year. The course was nice at 0.8 miles with one really nice technical descending chicane that went up into a power ascent turn, a small descent on the back stretch and wide lanes for that final sprint. Myself and teammate Emanuele lined up on the front after a mild warm up and got ready to go as the first thing we would see would be the chicane with a field of 38 riders. I had a HORRIBLE clip in and had to chase to get back up to the front. On lap two I had a good line going into the chicane, but some of the riders up ahead pushed out. Result? The rider in front of me got pushed towards the curb and bunny hops off course onto the sidewalk and I’m forced to do the same or crash out. I don’t know how I didn’t tear up my wheels, but I managed to make the jump and get back on the course, but not before I lost my bottle of Gatorade! Ugghhhh!
So I chase up the ascent turn and get back up to the leaders. "Man that Gatorade would taste so good right about now" was all I could think. Anyway, I managed to stay up front for the rest of the race but it was hard after riding full bore multiple times across two days. Then at one point I saw something up the road that I’ve "personally" never seen in my two seasons of racing – lapped riders! The only problem is that we were coming up on them with just under two to go. Two of the lead riders managed to get around them in turn three, but the rest of the leaders, including myself, got trapped for ¼ of a lap and then the volleys went off for the final lap. I stayed in contact with the lead group and came into the final turn not sure who I was sprinting against; but I was sure that I was having problems with my low gears jumping around (I switched my cassette a week before and only had 60 miles of testing on it). “Just dump it all the way down into the 11 and grind” my mind said so that’s what I did. I lost a position on the outside while I was shifting but surpassed and held off another rider for 7th. Man that podium seems so far away…
So all in all, it was a good weekend of racing. The mechanic at SRAM adjusted my derailleur after the race so sprinting shouldn’t be a problem next weekend. Grayslake and Glencoe here I come!