I have asked Gene to write this race report, since he was the captain of the team today, being the only Wisconsin resident on the Enzo’s team. Enjoy, I know the worker hole’s had a great time bringing home the bacon! – Enzo
“No pressure!” The more my five teammates kept repeating that phrase in the week before the WI State Criterium championship, the more I kept hearing the underlying subtext: “We’re all IL residents coming up solely to support our one WI teammate at a crit that we wouldn’t otherwise do so you’d BETTER BRING HOME SOME HARDWARE. But, hey, no pressure!”
So it was that six of the eight members of Enzo’s Masters squad gathered in Mukwonago, WI this past Saturday.
The course was an eight-turn neighborhood route around a public library, roughly shaped like a “T” tipped clockwise 90 degrees. Roads were reasonably wide and in good shape, with the exception of some sun-softened tar strips. A fair NE wind produced a headwind leading up to the finishing straight, but also gave us a nice break from a long stretch of 100+ degree heat.
Roughly 40 racers lined up and got instructions, then it was Go Time. There were some early break attempts but everything was quickly neutralized. I saw all of my teammates at or near the front during the first 15 minutes, so nothing was going to get away without at least one of us along for the ride.
After about 20 minutes, Billy Jones from ISCorp and someone from Velocause (Chip Pieper?) made a serious move on the finishing straight. They got a small gap, and were soon joined by fellow Hole Bob Karlow. Three others moved to bridge; it was clear the train was leaving the station, so I hopped aboard. Everyone in the break except me was from a different team and had teammates at or near the front of the field, and we quickly established a 10-second gap.
I did a quick survey of my fellow breakmates, and knew the biggest threats would come from Billy J, Mike Klapperich (LAPT) and Velocause. I didn’t recognize the riders from Team Wisconsin, Trek Midwest and River Valley Cycling Club, but watched them for a few laps and decided they wouldn’t generally be a threat. Having my teammate Bob – a strong racer and savvy tactician – in the break opened up opportunities for us and would prove a huge advantage.
Five of us took regular pulls, while the remaining three either took soft pulls or refused to contribute. That said, part of reason I never saw those three was because Bob had outed the break squatters and started letting gaps open in front of them, forcing them to chase and generally messing with their heads.
With about 10 laps to go, we could see the field chasing hard and apparently gaining time. I later learned that the one team not represented in the break – Cafe Hollander – was drilling it in the hope of reeling us in. At this point the break was starting to lose focus, so I dropped to the side and shouted that the field was closing and we needed to work. Bob also realized this and took up the chorus, hilariously badgering “you WI racers…this is your race and the field is right behind us!” down the entire back straight. That seemed to get everyone’s attention, because after that we at least maintained our lead over the field.
However, on the next lap I glanced over my shoulder and saw we had been joined by Andrew Feuersthaler from Velocause. He and his teammate Ryan White had apparently bridged. I haven’t raced much with Andrew but he’s built like a beefy trackie, so I knew he needed to be marked. I didn’t see Ryan after the bridge; I believe his role was solely to help pull Andrew up.
Billy J jumped hard on the back side with four laps to go, but was quickly marked and covered. Billy jumped again with two laps remaining, and Mike K jumped on his wheel. The two got a small gap, and after a couple of beats everyone realized the win was disappearing up the road and took up chase. We caught them just after the start line of the bell lap.
Billy dropped off but Mike stayed up front, and I got on his wheel entering the back straight. I knew the final series of turns would be fast and tight, and whoever entered this chute first would definitely podium and probably win. About halfway between turns 3 and 4 Mike stood to wind things up, but as I was preparing to jump around him Bob came around my right with what can only be described as textbook timing. I jumped on his wheel and we were 1-2 coming through turns 4 and 5. Just after the left-hand turn 6 I shouted “inside!” and Bob drifted slightly to the left. I took the right-hand turns 7 and 8 as hot as I dared and then jumped hard. Bob’s move had opened a one-bike gap behind me, into which Andrew F gave chase. He almost caught me, but I shifted up, gave another kick and crossed the line first.
I haven’t won enough races to become jaded about winning – its still an awesome feeling. However, winning as a team magnifies that feeling tenfold, making this one of the most prized moments of my racing career.
A big shout-out to John Van Susteren and his Lakes Area Physical Therapy teammates for hosting the race. Thanks also to A.L.L Masonry, Lucky Brake, Giant Bikes, Psimet Custom Wheels, and of course, Enzo’s Cycling Products for support our team. Most importantly, thanks to Bob, Wayne, Marc, Brian and Ward for all their help and support.