Saturday, April 28, 2012

Leland Kermesse, Leland, IL, April 21, 2012

Today was the day that all area bike racers both look forward to and fear at the same time...the Leland Kermesse.   A 15-mile circuit in the middle of the still-barren cornfields with five miles of gravel and barely a tree to block the wind.  

I had made it my mission to finish the race this year, come hell or high water.  I had finished (and taken 8th) in the 2009 race, but that was on a shorter, 10-mile course with only one mile of gravel.  In 2010 the organizers expanded it to the 15-mile loop.  I abandoned after one lap...despite sunny skies, the winds were horrendous (30+ mph gusts) and I had absolutely nothing in the tank.  I sat out the 2011 edition, as it was just a few weeks after our son was born.  I thought about going, then looked out the window at the horrible weather and said ""

So it was with a great deal of determination that I swore to finish it this year.  The weather was actually quite nice...mostly sunny skies, and manageable wind.  Early in the morning I met up with newly-minted Cat 3 Bryan Fuller and his friend Tom, who was going to work the feed zone.  Along with Jim Spanish, and with the gentle, melodious strains of Steel Panther caressing our ears, we carpooled down to Leland.  

The Cat 4s were scheduled to do 4 laps/60 miles.  About 75 riders had pre-registered, but only 66 rolled to the line.  I had numerous Bicycle Heaven teammates in the field, and my old WFR komrade Jason R was there, too.  The officials sent us off for the mile-long neutral roll-out, and although there isn't supposed to be any jockeying for position during this neutral time, tons of guys were stealthily moving up and around.  

We hit the official start line, and the hammer came down.  For the first few miles of pavement we were crushing it at 27-28 mph, but with the usual Cat 4 slowing/accelerating/slowing/accelerating for no reason.  The follow moto was constantly blaring his horn for yellow-line violators.  Despite the high tempo, I was feeling good...HR was moderate, breathing was fine, and my legs were responding to the accelerations just fine.  So far, so good.

When we hit the first gravel section, though, I got caught behind a few riders who allowed a gap to open.  About 20 or so riders opened up some ground on my position, but I just couldn't get around to bridge up to them.  They didn't get too far up the road, and I was confident that once we exited the gravel I'd be able to close the gap.  I spent the next section of pavement as "the tip of the spear" trying to chase down the lead group.  We were gaining ground on them as we neared the next section of gravel.  And that is when the day took a turn for the worse.  

I was still in the lead of the chase group as we negotiated the right-hand turn.  I took it very slowly and cautiously, not knowing what the condition of the gravel was.  I took a pretty easy line at no more than 10-12 mph.  But the gravel in the turn was very deep and very loose, and in a nanosecond it had grabbed my front wheel and I went down hard on my right side.  A rider directly behind me ran straight into me and got tangled up.  As I lay there in the gravel with my right calf almost cramping up, this guy starts screaming "f--k!  F--K!!!!"  I think I even said "I'm sorry," but what could I do?  It happens to the pros, too, dude.  I couldn't tell if his profanity was directed at me or was just general venting that he was now losing time on the lead group.  

I picked myself up and dusted myself off.  The corner marshal asked "are you OK?"  My response was "mostly."  The palm of my right glove, and the skin underneath, were shredded.  I knew I had some road rash (gravel rash?) on my right hip, but my shorts weren't even torn.  I could tell that my right knee had been chewed into a little bit, along with my right forearm.  But all in all it wasn't too bad.  For a brief moment I thought "crap, 12 miles into the race and I'm gonna have to abandon."  But then I resolved to do at least one more lap and see how I was feeling.  My bike seemed to be OK, but for the fact that my left brake lever was turned 45 degrees inward from where it should have been.  So I wrenched it back into place, hopped back on the bike, and rode off.  

Lap two went pretty well.  I connected with teammates John and Matt F, and we worked together.  At one point we came across the lead group of Cat 4 women, where Mara was riding strong.  We overtook them, and moments later they overtook us.  This back-and-forth went on several times.  Technically, the different fields aren't supposed to "mix," but it was difficult here because we were all riding at about the same tempo.  Staying separate proved to be difficult.  John and Matt ended up getting a small gap on them, but I was momentarily gassed and hanging on to the back of the women to catch my breath.  At which point one of the women sniped at me "you've gotta get off of our paceline, dude, this is the Elite women's field."  Uh, not're Cat 4, not Elite.  Get over yourself.  If the roles had been reversed, and a woman was hanging on to the back of the men's field to recover, I never in a million years would have yelled at her to get out.  Whatevs.   Duly "chastened," I stood up on the pedals and cranked it to get back up to John and Matt.    

Aside from some stinging pain in my hand and hip, I was feeling pretty good, so I made the right turn to continue on to Lap 3.  I snagged a fresh bottle from Matt H as I came through the feed zone.  John, Matt F and I continued to work together until the later stages of that lap, as I fell off of their pace and ended up alone.  I choked down part of a Clif Bar and some gel, and resolved to tough it out through the rest of the race.  As I made the turn to start Lap 4 I grabbed another bottle from Matt H and off I went for the final 15 miles.  

My low point came at mile 50.  I was going solo into a headwind, and I had to force my legs to keep them turning over.  I kept telling myself "10 more miles, you just have to do 10 more miles, and in a few miles you're going to have more favorable winds."  I gritted my teeth,kept going, and watched the miles tick off on my computer.  I was pretty elated as I made the left-hand turn to ride out the final kilometer to the finish.  Despite crashing and riding 48 more miles with less skin than I had started the day with, I had conquered the Leland Kermesse and upheld my promise to finish it.  

In the end, only 47 riders of the 66 starters finished the race.  Of those 47, I took 36th (John and Matt had come in just ahead of me to take 34th and 35th).  Bicycle Heaven had a pretty good day, overall.  Rob Kelly took 4th in the 1/2 race, Andy Swims got 4th in the 3s (and Bryan finished his first Cat 3 race), David Ross and David Pratt took 2nd and 6th, respectively, in the 4s, and Mara took 4th in the Cat 4 women's race.

Call me crazy, but I can't wait to do it again next year.  

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Burnham Super Spring Criterium, South Beloit, IL, March 31, 2012

After missing the 2011 edition of the Super Spring Criterium (mere days after our first child was born, so I think I had a good excuse), it was great to be back in South Beloit.  Some sunshine and warmth would have been even better, but this is March behind the Corn Curtain.

I was there to mix it up in both the Cat 4/5 field in the morning, and in the Cat 4 field in the afternoon.  In both fields, I had a bunch of Bicycle Heaven teammates, so I was hoping that we could put in some good teamwork and post some solid results.  The course is an auto / motorcycle speedway, and is a 1.9 mile circuit with wide roads, perfect pavement, and lots of twists and turns.  Despite these perfect road conditions, I knew from years past to expect some sketchy riding...

CAT 4/5

With that in mind I rolled to the Cat 4/5 line with a field of 70 riders for 30 minutes of racing.  

Sure enough, the entire race was a mess of poor riding and near-misses.  Much like Sherman Park last year, I spent the whole race tense and just waiting for a huge crash to occur.  Somehow, though, everyone escaped unscathed.  

I was feeling good and was making sure to stay parked next to my teammates.  Maintaining position in this race was a challenge, though.  Because the road is so wide, the field is constantly "swarming."  Just when you get yourself positioned where you want to be, swarms of riders come up either the left or right side and the next thing you know you are further back than you were mere seconds before.  Which meant that after the final turn I was nowhere near where I wanted to be.  And since the start/finish straightaway is so long, you really have to be in position before the turn.  

The good news is that despite going into the final turn somewhere right next to me, Bryan was able to find a hole that I didn't see and rocketed himself up to a third place finish.  I kept sprinting as hard as I could and nearly rear-ended some goob who decided to just sit up.  As I sped around him I screamed "ride it out!' or something like that.  I get the concept of not wanting to spring for 20th place.  But don't sit up and soft pedal, people.

Of the 66 finishers, I ended up in 29th.  In addition to Bryan's 3rd place, Bicycle Heaven rounded out with top ten with 9th place (Stephen Pedone) and 10th place (Ben Jenkins).  


Next up was the 40-minute Cat 4 race.  The field was smaller (50 riders), and fortunately it was a much cleaner race than the 4/5.  Again, I had a bunch of Bicycle Heaven teammates with me, with high hopes again of being able to animate the race.  

There really isn't much to tell about this one.  We rode in circles.  We finished.  There were no near-misses and no crashes.  But there really were no attacks to speak of, no breaks to chase down.  For the most part it was   gruppo compatto for the whole race.  There were some prime laps thrown in here and there to make it more interesting.  

My legs, lungs, and heart were all feeling great.  I realized about 2/3 of the way through that I could have carried on a normal conversation with someone without even having to take a heavy breath.  Perhaps, given how I was feeling, I should have tried something more aggressive.  But I didn't.  And again, I didn't have good position at the end, and finished up 25th out of 49 finishes.  Total pack fodder.  But Bicycle Heaven had a couple guys in the top 10 with Shon Zeller's 8th place and Scott Bowden in 9th.  

In other categories, Bicycle Heaven had a good day.  Patrick Fasse pulled down 4th in the 1/2/3 race, and Ben Jenkins took 2nd in the Cat 5.  

Next up...the Hell of the North, also known as The Leland Kermesse.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Kenosha Velosport Spring Training Criterium #2, Pleasant Prairie, WI, March 18, 2012

Well, today felt like a step back.

We lucked out yet again with another unseasonably beautiful day for mid-March. Temps were in the low 70s with plenty of sunshine. Plenty of wind to go along with it, too, but I suppose that is a given.

Just like last weekend, I raced both the Masters 30/39 race and the Cat race. My plan for the Masters was just to sit in and get a respectable finish while keeping myself as fresh as possible for a strong finish in the Cat 4.


The 25-rider field started out a lot mellower than last week, but was surprisingly squirrely for an experienced field. On the 2nd lap a Velocause rider almost took me out when he made a quick move to the right without even looking. I had to swerve to the right, and fortunately my path was clear. But, yeah, I swore a little bit.

At 10 minutes in the attacks started coming fast and hard. I stayed with them, and at about the 26 minute mark I ended up in a 2-man break with a Velocause rider. That lasted a couple laps, and then we got absorbed. Instantly some more attacks came, and at that point I was just hanging on for dear life. At the 32 minute mark I got popped but got absorbed in a group of 6 or 7 other riders. With a few laps to go we caught back on to the field, but just barely. I blew up hard on the last lap and ended up dangling off of the main field. I ended up taking 17th out of 25, and could only hope that I had saved enough in the tank for the 4s race.


After a nice between-race warmup, teammate David Ross and I rolled to the line to find ourselves in a 10-man field. I am not kidding.

Seriously, what is going on? Here it was, an unbelievably warm, sunny day, with good racing a mere hour or so away from Chicagoland, and we had 10 guys show up for a Cat 4 race? Hung over from St. Patrick's Day? Afraid of being involved in a bad crash like last weekend? I don't get it.

But I digress. The official sent us off for our 35-minute race, and two KV riders led us around the course for the first lap. When lap 2 came around I did the gentlemanly thing and moved to the front to take a pull. I led for the entire lap, at which point I moved to the right to let someone else pull through. No one did. So, I figured "what the heck, lets do another one" and led for the entire 3rd lap. As we turned out of the start/finish, I moved to the right yet again. And no one came through. No matter what I did, or how much I slowed, I could not get anyone to pull through. I could almost here the pack say "no thanks, we like you right where you are."

After another lap of this, Dave came to the front and relieved me. Still, I was never further back than 3rd wheel. Eventually a Colavita rider came around, and we spent the better part of the race working together at the front. No one else did a thing until with about 8 minutes to go a Team Plus rider spent a few laps at the front.

With two to go, it was me and Colavita marking each other. We were still in the lead halfway through the last lap. About 3/4 of the way down the backstretch, he jumped. The riders that were just biding their time started streaming past me on the left. I was tapped out. I fought as hard as I could but had nothing. A Pegasus rider came around me shortly before the line, and there I was...the lantern rouge. A top 10 finish feels pretty cheap when you finish DFL in 10th.

Dave had another strong showing, though, taking 2nd, so another great result for him and the team. I'm betting we'll be seeing him in the Cat 3 field before this season is over.

So, it was a disappointing day, but lessons were definitely learned. Family is coming in from out of town, so I won't be able to make it up for the 3rd and final weekend of these races. Up next is the Burnham Super Spring Criterium at the Blackhawk Farms Speedway in South Beloit on March 31. I missed this race last year, since it was just days after our son was born. I'm looking forward to being out there again for the morning Cat 4/5 race and the afternoon Cat 4 race.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Kenosha Velosport Spring Training Criterium #1, Pleasant Prairie, WI, March 11, 2012

At long last the offseason was over and it was time to start turning the pedals in anger. First up, as usual, was the 1st weekend of the Kenosha Velosport training criteriums in Pleasant Prairie, Wisconsin.

The weather was unbelievably beautiful as I drove north to race in both the Masters 30/39 race and the Cat 4 race. I had come fully loaded for chilly weather, but in the end all I needed were shorts, a jersey, and arm warmers (and even those I could have done without). Temps were in the mid-60s, with a pretty stiff breeze that was going to hit us after turn 3 and continuing all the way through the start/finish.


22 guys rolled to the line for the start of the Masters 30/39 race. Given the great weather, I was really surprised at the low turnout. Now, since this was a race based solely on age, it meant that I could be mixing it up with anyone from a Cat 1 on down to a Cat 5. The Velocause team had a big showing in the field, as did Nova IS Corp. I was the only representative of Bicycle Heaven.

The pace was fast right from the whistle. The field instantly splintered into a few groups. There were a couple guys up the road, followed by a few more, and there I was with my heart in my throat trying to catch up to them. Right from the start I heard my brother's voice yelling in encouragement...he was going to be joining me in the Cat 4 field, and had arrived early enough to cheer me on in this race. The first 3 or 4 laps were crazy fast, and I was just hoping to hang on, while also being mindful of conserving my strength for the Cat 4 race.

The race did settle in to a pretty comfortable groove, and I was able to stay with the surges. Unfortunately, we let a 4-man break get away, and they stayed away to the very end. I kept myself comfortably in the peloton, trying to stay out of the wind.

On a side note, the difference between riding in a very experienced Masters field and riding in a Cat 4 field is like night and day. During the course of this 40 minute race, the only sketchy moment for me came when a rider directly in front of me blew a shift and his whole bike stuttered. He kept it upright, and on we went. Later in the race, two guys drifted into each other, but no biggie, neither of them reacted and they went their separate ways.

During the sprint I gave it what I had, but some of those boys were burning some much bigger matches than I have. I'm stuck with those small crappy cardboard matches that you find in a fishbowl at the Holiday Inn, whereas they have those big, long fireplace matches (and don't read anything Freudian into that...let's all be adults here). I eyeballed about 8 guys in front of me. And I was right...the group of 4 stayed away, 8 other guys beat me to the line, and I took 13th out of 22. All in all, not a bad showing and I still felt pretty fresh for the Cat 4 race. In between races, I warmed up with my brother and watched teammate David Ross crush the Cat 5 field in the sprint to take the win. First road win of the season for Bicycle Heaven! The first of many, to be sure...

Cat 4

A slightly bigger field rolled to the line for the 35-minute Cat 4 race...a whopping 25, including my brother (riding for Wheelfast Racing) and the aforementioned David Ross. who was OK'd by ABR to do that Cat 4 race. ABR tends to be more relaxed about the categories, especially for training crits such as this. There was a good mix in the field...some Half Acre, some KV, some Team Mack.

My plan was to sit in and do absolutely no work. I wanted to shake out the legs from my efforts in the last race, and conserve as much energy as possible for the sprint. And right from the start, that plan went out the window. Just like in the last race, there were attacks right from the start. And I worked hard to cover them.

I was feeling good. It was becoming clear that one of the good effects that all of those Computrainer classes had on me was my ability to recover. I could put in a hard effort to stay with a surge, and moments later my HR would be low, I wouldn't be gasping for air, and my legs would feel just fine. And you can tell from looking at some of the photos that have been posted...when I'm suffering, I tend to pull what I call the "Bucky Beaver" face, with my mouth gaping open and my front teeth bared. In the pics that I have seen from this race, I look calm, cool, and collected.

But I digress. As to be expected from a Cat 4 race, this was much sketchier than the Masters. Lots of near misses, contact being made here and there, guys yelling at other guys about how poorly they took a corner, etc. And coming out of Turn 4 the lead riders must have thought that they were in the Tour de France, for many a time we would follow a line that would take us to the right side of the road, but then they would instantly dodge all the way to the left side of the road and the field would snake right along behind them. Uh, guys, it isn't any less windy 10 feet to the left then it is on the right side of the road. Very bizarre, and very unsafe.

I hadn't seen my brother for much of the race, and just as I was wondering whether he was hanging off the back somewhere I heard his chipper voice right behind me, asking how I felt. He, too was feeling good and sitting pretty comfortably in the field.

With just a few laps to go I was still sitting right toward the front of the field, and was feeling great. My downfall came in where I was positioned, not in how my legs responded. When the final surge came along the backstretch, I was boxed in and couldn't escape. And then to make matters worse there was a terrible crash in turn 4. The wheels of a Half Acre rider slid out from under him, and I saw body hit pavement and bike fly into air. I was juuuuust far enough behind that I could hit the brakes (my wheels did briefly skid) and get around him. As I went by, I saw another rider plow directly into him. Not good.

In the end, I wound up taking 8th. A solid finish, but a disappointing one. After his Cat 5 win, David was able to bunny-hop to the grass to avoid the crash and ended up in 10th. Kev took 15th.

I can tell that I have the strength, now I just need to work on positioning. In the final laps I need to make sure that I always have an "out" so that I can escape the surly bonds of the peloton and maybe...just maybe...score myself a podium finish one of these days.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Time to race!

Hard to believe, but here it is...March 11, 2012, and the 1st weekend of the 3-week ABR Spring Training Criteriums in Pleasant Prairie, WI, sponsored by Kenosha Velosport. The weather for these early-season races is always unpredictable, but the forecast for race time today is mid-50s with moderate (11-12 mph) winds.

I enjoyed a great off-season, and am coming into these races with more miles under my legs than I ever have in the past. Thanks for that, in large part, is due to the Computrainer classes put on by Bicycle Heaven and taught by Patrick Fasse and Rob Kelly. On a twice-weekly basis from December to the present those guys put us through some killer 90-minute or two-hour workout sessions that pushed me harder than I ever could have pushed myself sitting on the trainer in the basement.

And now it is time to see what effect that training has had on my ability to post up some results. My biggest problem in the past has been fading on the last lap of the race. I'm hoping that the strength picked up from these classes will allow me to better conserve my energy during the race so that I have plenty left in the tank for that final sprint.

So, what are my goals for 2012? Podium finishes. Never in my racing career have I ever climbed up those steps and put my arms in the air. I badly want for that to change this year. And, depending on what kind of results I post up, perhaps an upgrade to Cat 3? Bicycle Heaven already has a great 3 squad, and several 4s are on the verge of movin' on up. I'd love to be a part of that group.

Keep reading to see how it all shakes out. For now, its time to race.

2011 Fall Fling Wrap-Up

Disclaimer...I am writing a wrap-up of races that took place on October 1st and 2nd 2011 as I sit here on March 11, 2012. I don't know why it has taken me this long, but I hang my head in shame.


October 1 was the DuPage Tech Park Circuit Race. A 1.8 mile, rolling circuit that us Cat 4s were set to do 14 laps of. This race didn't go so well for me in 2009, as the combination of hills, brutal wind, and burning lungs were my downfall. However, my fitness this year was vastly improved over 2009, and while there was some wind it was certainly manageable. It was also a big mental boost to have my wife and son there to cheer me on (even though at just over 6 months, Ethan wasn't doing too much cheering. He was sitting up by himself, though).

The Cat 4s lined up in front of the 40+4/5 field, which was to roll out a minute or so behind us. The whistle blew and away we went. It was pretty fast right from the start, but I was feeling really good. As we came around to the start/finish, an official was standing in the road, waving us to a stop. Turns out they had started the two fields too close together, and we had to roll to the line and re-start. Oh well, that was a nice warm-up lap.

We took off again at a good clip, and the pace stayed pretty elevated throughout. I was mixing it up in the field, staying out of the wind, and feeling pretty decent...until about 10 laps in. A serious attack was made, and when we accelerated to reel it in, all of a sudden I had nothing left in the tank. I was chewed up and spit out the back, where I rode the remainder of the race alone. I never lost sight of the field, but I couldn't catch up to them, either. Still, it was a better showing than 2009 and I was able to head off for the day with my dignity intact.

October 2 was the grand finale, the Wood Dale Circuit Race, a 2 mile loop through a business park that featured plenty of twists and turns and elevation changes. The points race was razor-thin between Bicycle Heaven and Tower Racing going into this last day, so we knew we had to put in some strong performances to try to take home that $2,000.00 check.

The Cat 4s lined up for 45 minutes plus two laps, and away we went. In the field with me were Scott Bowden, Jim Spanish, and Stephen Pedone. Scott was the man that we were hoping to get on the podium at the end.

I don't remember much about this race, but it was fast. Lots of attacks. At one point, three riders got away up the road and I heard Scott say "you gotta get me up there." I put my head down and started drilling it...and in a few short moments we had bridged up.

I was feeling good for most of the race, but my legs didn't have much for the sprint and I had to content myself with 11th. Scott took 3rd, however, and Jim and Stephen were right behind me in 13th and 14th place.

All in all, the team had an incredibly strong showing that day. Lots of wins and podium finishes. Unfortunately, it just wasn't quite enough to take home the grand prize. By a margin of just a few points, Tower Racing walked away with the $2,000.00. Kudos to them, and mega-thanks to ABD for putting on a great series of races. The friendly competition and team camaraderie that it fostered were pretty incredible to be a part of. And thus endeth the 2011 racing season.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

ABD Fall Fling Pella Criterium, West Chicago, IL, September 24, 2011

Today was my 15th time racing at “The Pelladrome” during the 2011 season. Every Wednesday night From May through September, ABD puts on training criteriums at this flat, 0.80-mile, near-oval stretch of pavement next to the Pella Windows factory in West Chicago. I was able to make it out to those races 14 times this summer, and today it was “for real.”

ABD has upped the ante for the Fall Fling series this year, awarding a cool $2,000.00 to the team that scores the most number of points (based on results) during the 4-race series. Bicycle Heaven has the numbers and the talent to make us serious contenders for this windfall of cash.

So it all started today. I mixed it up in the Cat 4 race with two other Bicycle Heaven teammates, Scott and Spanish. Skies were cloudy, the rain held off, temps were moderate, and the wind was manageable. A whopping 19 riders took to the line for 40 minutes plus two laps of racing.

Allow me to go off topic for a moment. Seriously, only 19 riders? This is a great series with serious cash on the line, and the weather was just fine. I know that road racing numbers have been down this year, while CX is on the rise. But 19 riders was just sad. And it meant that only the top 10 spots would score points for the $2,000.00. Had the field had just one more person, the points would have gone 20 deep, and I actually would have contributed to the team effort. But more on that later.

I had an added incentive to avoid embarrassing myself today…right as we were rolling off of the line, my wife and awesome 6-month-old son arrived at the course to shout out their encouragement. They were joined shortly thereafter by Stephanie’s sister, and I had a nice little cheering section.

We took off at a brisk but easily manageable pace. Here and there some guys would drill the speed up a few notches to soften up the field, but the tempo always backed down shortly thereafter. There was a prime sprint early on, and I was in good position. But a couple guys really wanted that 10 dollar prize more than I did…I wound up for the sprint, but backed off when they got a small gap. I decided that I would rather keep myself fresh for the final sprint than waste myself for $10.

Shortly thereafter, a Team Mack rider took a flyer with one guy attached to his wheel. Scott was next to me and predicted “they’re not going anywhere.” Moments later, another Mack rider flew up the left side to bridge up and Scott changed his mind. “OK, now we have to go.” “Yes we do” was my reply, and we hit the gas and reeled them in.

Another prime sprint for $10 came and went. I halfheartedly hit the gas, but backed off when it became clear that I couldn’t close the gap.

About halfway through, I was up front with a xXx rider. He looked over and asked “do you have any teammates in the field?” “Yeah, I’ve got two guys.” He asked “do you want to try a breakaway?” I gamely responded “why not?” He stood up and hit the gas and I followed suit. I don’t know whether we ended up with any sort of gap, but we each took a pull before I realized that the field was nipping at our heels.

This xXx rider and I spent most of the race near the front. In fact, I don’t think that I was ever further back than 5th wheel position the whole time. At one point, xXx said lamented that “we’ve been up at the front the whole time…this probably means that we’re going to lose.” And it is true, I spent way too much time working at the front. I could have pulled off and let myself be swallowed by the bulk of the field, but on the other hand I wanted to be up at the front in case there were any breaks or primes to cover. And it was fun to hear my name called out by the announcer one time when I led the field through the start/finish. Hey, I’m easy to please.

The rest of the race passed pleasantly enough. Surges here and there, but nothing that I couldn’t cover and there were no serious threats. It was fun to see my wife and baby every time I came past, and I was feeling good enough that I was even able to smile at them a few times.

The pace went nuts with two to go, but as we came around with one to go, it settled down a bit. Guys were jockeying for position, taking a quick breather for the grand finale. On the backstretch is where things went crazy again. As we approached turn four, I was still in about 5th or position and giving it everything. I tried to shift down but quickly realized that I was already on my smallest cog. Crap. I stood up and smashed on the pedals, my face locked in a vicious rictus of pain, thinking “too many guys, I see too many guys in front of me.” I badly wanted a podium finish (top 5 would have done it), but in the end I had to settle for 12th. Which, as mentioned previously, put me just out of the points for the omnium.

The good news, however, was that Scott took 2nd and Spanish took 10th. In all, Bicycle Heaven had a great day…Patrick Fasse won the Cat 1/2, Andy Swims won the Cat 3 (in fact, we took 4 of the top 5 in the Cat 3), Rob Kelley won the Masters 40+ 1/2/3, Andy Kerr won the Masters 50+, Hal took 2nd and Mike took 4th in the Masters 40+ 4/5, and Karen Enockson made the podium in the Women’s 4. So, at the end of Stage 1 Bicycle Heaven was holding the lead in the omnium, with 104 points to ABD's 102.

Personally, though, it was a disappointing day. I badly wanted a podium finish, but just couldn’t make it happen. However, racing has definitely become more fun for me. There was a point in my racing career (OK, years and years and years of my racing career) where I would suffer like a dog, hoping to just hang onto the peloton and get a field finish. Hoping not to get blown off the back and pulled for being “out of contention.” But, thanks in large part to the ABD training crits, I feel like I have really improved my skills and can really feel like part of the race…mixing it up for primes, chasing down breakaways, actually being a part of the final sprint and not just dangling off the back (although that did happen a few times earlier this spring).

I can’t make tomorrow’s time trial, but will be at both the DuPage Tech Park Circuit Race next Saturday, and the grand finale in Wood Dale next Sunday. Two more races, two more chances to get points for the team. Stay tuned…