Sunday, December 07, 2008

Fin

Today marked the end of racing and riding for me for 2009 in the form of the Illinois State Cyclocross Championships at Montrose Harbor. This would be my second go-round at Montrose, and the conditions were lining up to be almost as epic as last year.

I rolled out to Montrose from my apartment, a 3 mile ride. Great way to warm up. However, it meant packing creatively to have enough dry clothing to keep warm apre race. Temps at race time were 21 degrees, with a "real feel" of about 15. Snow over the past couple days deposited about 3 or so inches on the already wet, slick ground. I'm pretty sure this is exactly the kind of thing that would make your mom say "You're Crazy!!"



And the course promised nothing but FUN! The start lead to a nice set of switchback turns,and then to the first tunnel. A loose downhill to 90 degree left hander. On the other side was a rideable hill (though I was concerned about a bottle up on the fist lap, more on that later). Cricket Hill last year was a suffer fest. Two runups in 6 inches of snow. This year not only was the snow tamer, but there were NO BARRIERS on the hill! A quick up and down, excellent for passing. A long back stretch led to the first set of barriers. A nice zig zag set of doubles that alone weren't all that bad. But the ground on the other side was SLICK! I had to be very carefull on every lap as it felt like I was just an inch away from being on my ass! A sketchy, deep snow section lead to a short steep hill and the second barrier, sitting atop the hill. Pre-riding paid off here as I learned that the quickest strategy was to dismount at the bottom keeping stride, running up and remounting for the off camber downhill lefthand sweeper. A fast stretch out the the beach lead to my favorite feature of the course. Not only did we have to deal with snow, but they worked in the sand :D And they used a nice step-up that required some mt bike skill. Then along the shore, utilizing lots of fun, off camber, twisty turns. Finally my second favorite feature. A long pavement section leads into a hard right hander with about a 6 or 7 inch step up from the pavement back onto the dirt which immediately become a short, steep downhill to hard left. A couple more sharp turns leads back to the start/finish straight. Awesome!

Earlier I mentioned my concerns about the first short rideable hill. Typically in the Cat 4 fields I'm used to riding in the first lap is a series of severe bottle necks due mostly to the sheer number of riders, and in part to some lack of technical skill. But today I would be making my Cat 3 debut. I was excited to see what the smaller, more experienced field would be like.

During my pre-ride I noticed the right side of the start was very bumpy and kind of rutted out. But on the left was a man-hole cover, and the first turn was a left. Lining up I decided that since the first turn would be so slow anyway that starting left and going left of the manhole cover was the way to go. Man was that a good call. At the "GO" I took off down the left, trying to move up as much as possible before the turn. Suddenly I hear the unmistakable sound of bike carnage, and to my right I see bikes go flying! A rider had hit one of the deeper ruts and did a superman over the bars. His bike went flying, and I think the rider behind him was thrown as well. The crash did help to sort out the field a bit, and by the time we got to that first rideable climb it was a breeze.

At the start line Naz and Tim from Half Acre said they were marking me, and I know Naz wanted to finish the job he started at Carpentersville. I had my sights on Zach and Kevin also from Half Acre, and just hoped to be lucky enough to be able to see team mates Paulo, Luke, or Greg. Now on course I could see Paolo a bit up ahead of me, but I think I was clear of all of the Half Acre guys. Lap two or three confirmed this as Kevin went f l y i n g by me. He was on fire! a lap or two after that and Zach got around me on the pavement. Around a couple of the parts of the course where it switches back on itself I was marking Naz and Adrian behind me. They would gain a little on the flats, but the I would extend through the technical sections along the waterfront. But overall they were holding position which gave me concerns for the final laps. With them racing each other they could ride back into me, and having stated his goal at the start Naz would be highly motivated to get around me. Naz had a bobble on the first step up which gave me some breathing room, but soon was was back on Adrian's wheel. Coming into the last lap I was bracing for a shootout. Just through the start/finish with the "1" showing on the lap counter I heard someone bearing down on me FAST! To my surprise Nevada Dave goes around me at the first switch back. "Are you lapping me?" I asked (silly question becuase there's no way I stayed out in front of him for 6 seconds let alone 6 laps. He answered in the affirmative of course, so I said "you're done dude!". Spectators on the course confirmed it. What was important to me, though, was that this means I'm the last rider on the lead lap, and everyone else that was lapped should have been pulled. A couple quick looks over my shoulder confirmed that no one, especially my stalkers, was behind me. I passed a rider climbing Cricket Hill, but for the rest of the lap I was able to just pleasure ride. A great ending to a so so season.

And...

Today not only marked the end of the season, but also my time with one of the most recognized, well run, and successful bike teams in Chicagoland. Next year I'll be hanging up my xXx Racing/AthletiCo. kit and don the colors of Half Acre. I've made some good friends on xXx, and I know those friendships will continue. There is a lot of support and comraderie among all the teams in Chicago. My discision basically came down to the convience of meeting site, shop support, and riding schedules. So I wish all of xXx the best in 2009, and I look forward to some great rides!


Ok, it's now way past my bed time. Hope everyone had a great weekend, racing or no. I'll be sure to share anything of interest over the next couple weeks, but I'm cleaning and hanging the bikes up until January.

Photo Credit:

Photo 1, Nikki Cyp
Photos 2 & 3, Ed White
Photos 4 & 5, Amy Dykema

4 Comments:

Blogger Luke said...

Sorry to be losing you, but you'll be with a fun squad, that's for sure. Look forward to racing against and with you in '09.

8/12/08 11:30 PM  
Blogger Soupy said...

Thanks, Luke. Of course not much changes but the color of the jersey. I'm sure we'll still get some rides in on Saturday mornings.. ;) I'm looking to re-dedicate myself to getting racing fit, so I'll be gunnin' for ya next fall! :D Congrats on a successful year!

9/12/08 12:50 AM  
Anonymous Paolo said...

OH yeah - its been great getting to know you Soupy. But the trail doesn't end quite yet - we are on like donkey kong in the woods g!!

Endurance MTB ehh?? Just you wait....

9/12/08 2:05 PM  
Blogger Mary said...

My discision basically came down to the convience of meeting site, shop support, and riding schedules...

<...decision...convenience... only a MOM would do this...

I am so jealous of you and your biking and stamina. Keep writing and I'll keep reading.

15/12/08 3:05 PM  

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