To say I was surprised at the firepower that showed up to this race would be an understatement. Four pro teams (Kenda, Exenergy, Pistachio and Optium) with basically full squads, one US Pro National Crit Champion and all the top local teams. The course was one of a kind and a great atmosphere to go along with it. And so with Tiff holding down the fort, I was able to get out and race my bike.
The race started fast and stayed fast. The pro teams packed the front of the race and wasted no time launching attacks. I quickly realized I would need to be at the front if I was going to have a chance at making the break and possibly some luck. Basically what was happening was that the pro teams in front would launch attacks and their teammates behind would sit up and let the attackers get a gap. Because there were about 20 pros at the front if you were behind them by the time you could get to the front there was already a sizeable gap and that gap would grow quickly.
About 15 minutes into the race I saw two Kenda guys, two Optum guys, an Exergy guy and the Columbian start to get a gap. That was most of the powerful teams and figured I better get there. So I went across with one other Kenda guy in tow and an ABD guy joined shortly after. Thus there was a total of 9 and we organized pretty quickly and got to work.
The course was pretty open and thus very fast. Even with 9 strong guys and my teammates Tim and Nick in the field trying to shut down the chase, it took some time for us to establish a gap. With 3 Kenda guys and 2 Optum guys, they had most of the responsibility however I felt pretty good and was actually motivated by how hard some of the guys were pulling so I figured hell why not give a few tugs at the front. I probably owe Brandon of ABD a little bit of an apology as I did go out of my way a couple times to make his life in the break a little harder.
I know that he had no responsibility to really work in the break but he’s fast and I didn’t want him to out sprint me. The legs felt pretty good so I went for a couple of primes however, that only resulted in getting pipped at the line by the Columbian.
With about 10 or so laps to go, the Columbian went for another prime and Scott (an Optum rider) followed. A Kenda rider also followed but was too slow to respond. They were going for the prime but Scott stayed on the gas after and the three looked like they might form a group. I immediately responded to this and attacked up to this group. As I was going up the Kenda rider and Columbian were going back. I stayed on full gas and bridge to Scott. We were full gas for the next two or three laps and established a small gap. Mike Friedman then bridged up to us much more quickly than I thought would be possible. It was at this moment when I realized ‘yeah these guys are fast’. Well now I’m with 2 teammates who happen to be pro riders and I’m thinking “I’m really not sure what to do here”. I let them do most of the work as our gap grew rapidly. I put in a couple of digs near the end however they were straight on my wheel. It came down to a sprint and Mike lit it up like he was shot out of a cannon. I got pipped at the line (again) for second. Not terrible but definably not great. The team rode great.
Thanks to Gwennen for the lucky rocks before the race (probably the only reason I made the break), PSIMET, All Masonry, Enzo’s, Lucky Brake, Prairie State Cycling Series, Sammy’s and St. Charles. Also thanks to Tiff for watching the dogs and baking me cookies for my return and my family for coming out to the race.
Now time to get ready for Elk Grove.
The View from Tim Speciale
Once we saw Ryan get up the road, the pace slowed from “insane fast” to “pretty fast”. Aside from a few primes (one of which I made a pretty unsafe and unnecessary move to try and get, my apologies to anyone involved), much of the rest of the race was rather uneventful. As the laps ticked down, we could hear Kenny on the speakers around the course telling the crowd that the three-man break that Ryan was a part of was closing in. Nick and I went to the back to do what we could in the event that the break connected, Optum had 4 or 5 guys back there as well.
They never got more than 15 seconds to us. Running out of laps, Nick asked “Are they going to catch us?” I didn’t think so, but I wasn’t sure. To be honest, with Ryan outnumbered 2-1 in the break, and with Nick and I outnumbered 2-5 at the back waiting for teammates to connect, I wasn’t really sure what we would have been able to do anyways. Nick finally made the executive decision, he would go attack and I would sit back for a little while longer just in case. This was the right move, Nick is much better suited at the 9 lap effort required for an attack at that point in the race. He moved up and attacked and got away clean with two others. Very nice.
With 2 1/2 laps left, I realized that no one was catching us and I should probably think about trying to get some money. As we came out of turn 3 the pack sat up and bunched. I swung to the right from the back of the pack and attacked as hard as I could, clearing the peloton just in time to make turn 4. I got a nice gap so I sat down and settled into an effort that I would hope would get me to the line. I’ve had success with this in the past, but it’s a different ball game with this caliber of field. It’s awesome how the sidelines change from a collection of fans from other teams, to a collection of fans cheering you on when you are attempting something bold. The roar of the crowd as I came through the start/finish on the last lap gave me a little more go, but it wasn’t enough. Fortunately Bossman Enzo was in turn 3 and saw that I was about to get caught and advised me to get out of the way.
Hat’s off to Nick and Ryan, awesome show for a couple of dudes with day jobs.