South Chicago Wheelman have been putting this race on since before I started racing. The first year for me was 1985 and I was yelled at many times. I was a fresh Cat. 2, maybe 3 races old and was in way over my head. My point is, this should be considered a classic event. The course has been re-paved in the past few years making most of it silky smooth. The test this course presents is speed, it is a very fast short flat course, no matter which direction the Wheelman run the race, it is very fast!
The Enzo’s team plan today is simple, Marc, Gene, and I will be very aggressive. We figure 40 minutes makes for a short race so it will be difficult to crack guys, everyone can go hard for 30k’s, laughter.
We also have a few allies in the ScarletFire boys, Yoda, Stone Pony, and Ricardo. Lets not forget Andy Kerr, Bicycle Heaven, who has plenty of speed and also knows how to race his bike.
The whistle blows and we are off, I move to front lap one in the crosswind section, gutter the field and crank it up to 30 something, holding this until almost the first corner. Everyone now understands we are going to race, not just think about it. So there is not much to talk about since every move had an Enzo’s guy in it and the race was constant attacking. The last 6 laps were really heated and when we read the lap counter, 2 laps to go the field kind of sat up. I understand why, it had been ball buster pace and my body agreed, lets slow down and prep for the sprint, nothing is getting away. Wait we said aggressive shit, and I stand on the pedals one more time, full sprint speed. I do not see anyone try to jump on the wheel and by turn one I have about 8 seconds. I peek after the turn and no chasers, good for me and I kill myself for the entire lap. Next time check maybe 15 seconds, 1 lap to go, the head wind section after turn 1 is not good, I am starting to tie up. Cross wind section stand on the pedals and say this is my sprint. I make it to the final turn and have to stand and dig, because 1 or 2 riders are coming fast. OH well, seems they were not going quite fast enough, holding on by 10 meters for the W. Thanks to my teammates who I know blocked in a turn or two.
Oh yes, I almost forgot, this is for who ever the guys was yelling up,up, up, or on the right, during attacks.
Just in case you have never been told, yelling that bullshit is not a part of racing. What do you think the guys on that side of the pack are looking at? Everyone sees the attack you idiot. All you have to do is jump and get on the wheel, yelling does absolutely nothing! See this video on how Master’s should cover an attack!!!
Race number two will be a motor pace session for me after the many digs in the old man race. This round we have John Whipple, a new member to the 2012 Enzo’s Master’s team. Marc has to leave, family duties, which most of us know about. So we have fresh legs as well as Psimet rider Jason Senffner. Who technically is not an Enzo’s team member, but a family member none the less. The race start, after a few laps Tom Doughty says, this race is slow and we laugh about the lack luster pace. Soon enough things change and we are covering attacks again. That would be the others guys on my team covering, while I watched, saving the few matches I had left for serious moves. The group slows and Doughty rolls off the front, not looking really really fast, but this is one of Tom’s tricks. He looks like he is not going fast but he is and the couple guys with him establish a quick gap. Gene has seen this before so he is in the move. A quick assessment counting heads along with who is represented, looks like this could stick. I move up before turn one and slow the group for the corner with help from Jason. By turn two the break has a solid 12 seconds and looks organized, sweet. Gutter in the cross wind, speed up a little for the sweeping corner, gutter the start finish straight, looks like almost 20 seconds now. Good to go, they are on their own.
Now the group realizes the race is gone with Luke Seeman being the only guy to keep trying to close the gap. Luke is racing with most of his teammates down south at a training camp. Anyway, I am now sitting at the back, relaxed and watching the break on the other side of the course, when I see Gene off his bike in the grass after turn 2! WTF, Gene are you OK? GO GO GO, he yells. I am confused thinking he meant, NO , I am not OK. This means Enzo’s is not represented in the break, and he is not going to get a free lap, due to being injured or broken equipment. Clearly I am not thrilled because now we need to bring the race back together. I move to the front and set a fast tempo for a full lap, then Luke takes over. This is going to hurt, but we are here to race not ride around while the race is up the road.
Two laps later and I see Gene in the pit looking like he is coming back into the race? I back off the pace, and sure enough, he is back in the race, back in the break where he was when he crashed.
Now we have 5 laps to go and a hard attack goes away from the group. I am smiling because John Whipple is with the 3 other escapees, nice cover John, way to follow the wheels into a break.
We get the bell, I go to the front and drill it for half of the lap and sit up. The rest of the small group are going to sprint, they can have my part of that. The wheelman are paying 5 places and there are 11 riders up the road. I am old but the idea of sprinting for nothing does not thrill me. Do not get me wrong, it is good for the other guys to do it. I have used much energy today and am happy with the effort, 1 more sprint is not going to help me.
So Gene finishes 7th and John gets 10th. I am happy with this since Gene was cleaning the Pave’ with his Enzo’s kit, bike and skin, way to finish it off Gene, you too John.
Last race of the day, normally I would be on my way home, but the Enzo’s Elite team has three boys racing today. John Whipple will double up helping the kids when they need it. The crew will be, Nick, Tim, Joel and John. We talk in a pre-race meeting discussing our tactics, who to watch and who to watch out for. The sky is darkening and with rain in the afternoon forecast, we talk about tire pressures as well.
The plan will not be shared, the fact we have one is a good start for the kids. These guys are far from kids, though they all race like kids, only having a few seasons under their belts, if that. The whistle starts the race with the first lap being really slow. I am sitting in the South Chicago Wheelman tent heckling the group for their lack of pace. Next lap is different, they are going about 34-35 past us as we laugh again, some contrast. Lap 3 and one of the kids attacks as he crosses the start/finish line, what is he thinking. The group is going 30-31 and he attacks 5 minutes into a 60 minute race. Sorry, I do not see this as a good move, a waste of energy. So I watch the kids riding hard, working together, but using way more matches than they should this early in the race.
I say to myself, let’s see how this plays out. The race stays fast for 35 minutes with no one getting away, then an attack with a little separation with one of the kids is in the move. I am excited though after they go by the second time together, I see the kids pedal stroke and it is not good. The two other riders are rolling well and the kid looks in trouble. Sure enough, two laps later he is gone, spit out of the winning move!
Anyone that has learned this lesson knows how painful it is, painful between the ears! Now plan B comes into play and we help set the tempo in an attempt to bring the race closer.
I digress, The kids think that the need to bring the break back, when they only have to get close enough for one of them to bridge across solo, or maybe one other. Finally they are close enough about 12-15 seconds. I yell at Joel, go across now! Click, his gray matter digests the info and he stands on the pedals hard. He bridges in less than a lap, impressive, and we are back in business.
This is a double edge sword, the kid needs the experience of being in a break with some 1-2 guys, but we also want to try to win the race. Learn or win, learn it is! So the kid does not allow himself to recover and starts to pull with these guys who have settled into TTT mode. After 3 laps of seeing his mouth be open like a freakin bass, I yell to sit on for 1 lap and recover. Now 4 others bridge and they have eight. With the addition of the others, the guy who wins this race starts to sit on, watching the other younger’s do the work. I am now laughing watching him resting for the sprint, pulling only when he has to, what we call the soft pull.
The group gets caught with 1.5 laps to go but the chasers have nothing left to fight with. The kid has put himself in the perfect position and I almost believe he can pull this off. Maybe he would have if he did not look at the other 3 guys drag racing with him twice in the last 50 meters! He gets 4th by a bike length loosing to the oldest guy in the field. There is no shame in this, he was beaten by a wily old sprinter from his old team.
I am pleased with this race for the kids. They learned much from this event and have some momentum going into the Champaign weekend. They will need it because the racing will be faster and the fields deeper with talent down south.
Safe riding everyone and see you in Champaign.