27 Sep Sun Prairie USGP Race Report
Still tired after the mud festival in Sun Prairie, I am happy to be in the office while the rain continues here in northern Illinois. This was the first stop of four USGP weekends this year; with some saying it was a bonus filled weekend. Yes, many CX racers love the mud; I am indifferent, not caring one way or the other. The conditions are the same for everyone, though some are better in the grease than others. I seem to be an average racer in these conditions.
Because of the longer cross season this year I allowed my fitness to drop, making for less power output. Less power in the mud does not work very well, though I knew the start of this season was going to be humbling. What I did not know was Sun Prairie was going to be a full bore mud party, which was a surprise to many. The last 5 years at this race have been quite dry, making for very fast racing.
While sitting on the starting grid, I am accused of being a cherry picker by Mike McShane (the overall 45+ USGP winner 2009 & 2010) only racing on Saturday in Sun Prairie the past two years. The facts are that my youngest daughter is a fast cross country runner and races every Saturday. This schedule lasts to the first weekend in November, which is the IHSA State CC Championship. I will not be racing any Saturdays until after that date, same as last season, and the same next season until she graduates.
Mike, I will see you in Louisville both days, so keep going fast kid. You know we all have the bulls eye on your back.
Lucky for me I had points from the 2010 USGP season, which gave me a first row start. This did not give me the advantage you would normally have from the front row. I missed clipping my pedal 3 full rotations and by the time I was clipped, my position was about 25th, nice. I will chalk this up to the new shoes I am using, still not being used to the feel of the carbon sole, this will improve over the next month. I am literally 30th after the first turn and have to gas it hard moving up to 20th by turn two, which brings us back to my warm up.
I have the TDI hatch open and under the Psimet tent since it was raining quite hard, my warm up would be on the trainer today. The canopy was nice to have since Enzo left his tent at home, a mistake. Anyway, I am about to hop on the trainer when one of my old teammates shows up to say hello. Kris Ruckle lives about 30 minutes from the race venue so he came out to watch. It was nice reconnecting with Kris, though my warm up was not nearly hard enough. In years past this would have stressed me out, take into consideration the long season and my lower level of fitness, I did not really care. Hearing about his family and current state of being has more value than a bike race.
In 20th position and my heart rate is starting to rise, though I can feel it is somewhat blocked, clearly an indication I did not do enough hard efforts in my pre ride yesterday. It is weird for me to be so unprepared for a bike race. I take my place in the line and slowly start to advance 1-2 riders at a time. I also have not seen the course this year so that was cool, an unknown. The conditions were slow enough that this did not hurt me; the track was very similar to the last USGP courses held here. After 1 full lap I am 7th wheel and connected to the leaders, well almost connected. Tom Price was off the front solo, with McShane and Tim Butler giving chase, the next group was 3 others and myself. I could see Tom had the diamond legs and was extending his gap on all of us. I came off my group a little at a time, allowing the lactic to subside for a minute knowing there is still 30 minutes of racing in front of us. I also do a bike change, since Rob Curtis was in the pit, which was so freaking awesome, thanks Rob. The pit bike felt really light as soon as I jumped on it was a huge difference. I came out of the pit and Tim Boundy (The Ex-Pres/Verdigris) has bridged up taking the lead. We ride together for a lap, I return into the pit, changing back to my A bike. The B bike is still not shifting correctly, new components though I will not say which manufacturer. Sitting on Tim’s wheel is fine figuring out where on the course I am faster, planning my attack. I wait until his pedal stroke starts to look slightly square, then go around hitting the gas. Not too hard, since I am not feeling great, but a definite increase in tempo. At the off camber dismount in the woods, I think it was there that Tim crashed, though I did not see or hear this. It was not until after the pit straight when I noticed he was gone. He said to me later that he had crashed.
I am finally starting to feel better with only two laps to go; it is time for the hot lap, as I start to go much harder. By the start/finish line, 1 lap to go, I have bridged up to 4th and 5th place, now we are a group of 3. I will follow wheels for the next 2 minutes, taking a short rest before my final attack. After the pit section I take the lead dropping one of the other riders. Now it is my old teammate Chris Lombardo and I going head to head. Chris owes me an ass whipping from last season’s Beverly CCC race, so I know he is going to turn himself inside out to finish in front of me. I see this as a huge attribute and respect the competitive attitude. Making a slip in the off camber running section, Chris opens a 1 second gap on me; normally I would not think much of this. Today the playground section is very technical and I have to give Lombardo props for being a great bike handler in the mud. He took that 1 second and turned it into 4 by the base of greasy steep wall. I closed about 1 second on the run up, only to lose it in the final muddy turns, show’s over. I sit up and go easy to the line, enjoying the one up battle in the closing laps. Congratulations Chris on your best finish to date at a USGP 4th. I am feeling good with a 5th place finish today; it was a perfect gauge of where my fitness is and where it needs to be come December/January.
I want to thank Rob Curtis for his tireless efforts helping Enzo this year. Also Kris Ruckle for spending a few hours away from his family to visit Heidi and myself at the race, it was great seeing you.
Next up is DeKalb, which will be quite a bit easier. Thank you all reading the blog and remember, I have Enzo’s Embro and Oil Sticks in my car at all the races, usually giving discounts after my races, being all jack up on endorphins, stop by the TDI wagon anytime.