My wife and I left for Wisconsin early morning on Monday. I was going to race but I didn't want that to be the whole focus of the trip. Katie is amazing about my obsession with racing my bike and I wanted to try hard to make sure she had a good time as well. That meant we would spend time together, go places, see friends, and I would not get crazy about competing. Now I'm no where near what I used to be when it came to competing but I can still get a little tough I bet. We drove about five and a half hours up to Milwaukee WI to visit mine and Katie's good friends Bob and Laura Rogers. Bob was my roommate in college for 3 or 4 years and we went through a lot together. I was one of very few that was invited to his wedding which I took as a huge compliment. We got there before Bob and Laura were off work so Katie and I stopped at the Milwaukee open market to look around. It was a lot like downtown St Louis in the Central West End area. We walked around and quickly got hungry. We happened to walk into this little restaurant/cafe/bar called Cafe Benelux. What a cool place! Turns out it was all bicycle stuff! Historic pictures of old racers on the walls. There was a huge work of art on one wall of a cyclist taking a fast turn. Most of the burgers or sandwiches we named after bike parts or cycling heroes like Eddie Merckx. I had the sprocket burger which was awesome! They also had a huge selection of beer, although it was a little pricey and they were out of a few that I wanted to try. But check it out if you are in the area, I bet you wont be disappointed. Once Bob and Laura were off work we bought Brewers tickets and went to a great game between the Brewers and Rays.
The next day we woke up around 9 and went with Bob before he had to be at the hospital to start his 12 hour shift in the ER to get some breakfast. I have always like pancakes in the morning before competition, even as a gymnast. It keeps me full for most of the day and I don't worry so much about getting the "hunger knock". After breakfast we went to the course. I had no idea about what type of course it was going to be, I just wanted to be surprised. I really didn't want to even make any kind of plans for the whole week as I like to have "adventures" and just see what happens. Turns out there was a good sized hill on the course only 2-300 meters after the start of the race. You turn right and go up for 2 blocks at almost 9% grade. then it is another right turn on a flat 2 block straight and a right turn down hill. One block later and it is a tight left then another block and a right into a sweeping right turn and a tight bumpy left then right chicane then 75 meters to the finish. The field was a cat 2/3 and had about 40-50 guys lined up. This was the 6th race in the series and I was hoping that I would be able to do well as most of these guys might be tired from racing already. Well I was wrong, as the race took off with a shot and up the hill we went. I started in the small ring because I was thinking it was going to be very similar to the Snake Alley hill. It was not as hard but the small ring was good for the first lap. The bad thing I did for the race was taking a practice lap instead of getting lined up early as this was a course that was tough to move up on for me and I had to spend a lot of energy to move up, especially on the hill where I just didn't have the power to match these guy's strength. It might have had a little to do with Saturday and Sundays racing and then sitting in the car all day the day before. I wasn't having too much trouble for the first 8 or so laps of the race but then I noticed that I was not recovering as fast. Then on about lap 10 I think I popped and had to let the pack go. I was close to calling it a day but I couldn't face my wife if I dropped after driving all this way. So I kept hammering. After about a lap or two, 3 other racers caught up with me and we worked together for a few laps when the pack came back around. I don't know if this is legal but I jumped back on the back of the pack and road it all the way to the line. This time it wasn't as hard to ride with them. Either they had slowed down or I hadn't warmed up correctly and just needed some time for the legs to come around. As we were coming into the finish I noticed I was feeling pretty good and that was a new feeling for me. I am usually hypoxic by the time I am close to the line and can barely pedal let alone sprint worth anything. So I thought lets get some sprint training in. I let the pack get ahead of me as I didn't want to interrupt their sprint and I let it rip. It felt great! I put out some very good power numbers for me and I was just excited that some advice that I had gotten from one of our sponsors Russ and Mesa Cycles about how to better sprint worked. I took Wednesday off to go see one of Katie's best friends and her husband, and old teammate of mine in Madison WI. Thursday we would drive back east to Sheboygan WI.
Sheboygan was a flat wide four corner crit. The pavement was okay and the streets were wide. The big problem was it was raining like crazy and that made the race crazy. I tried to get away at one point but I just don't have the engine to get away on my own in that kind of field. I also tried to bridge to a break but stalled out half way. After that I decided I would try my luck with my new sprinting knowledge and see if I could make it work again. The rest of the race I spent all my energy staying in good position and watching out for the corners where we were losing handfuls of racers every turn. There were plenty of time that I went through corners with both wheels sliding or chattering. I only had 75 psi in the tires and I am glad I didn't have on pound more. I ended up going into the last corner in the top 20 and was able to pick up 5 spots for 15th place and a little money for my pocket. After I spent the night with my uncle Kurt and his awesome family. Kurt was like a big brother to me growing up, he is only 5 years older than I am. He has a great life, wife, and kids. A cool home and a seemingly carefree attitude. He is who I want to be when I grow up.
The next day we went to Fond Du Lac WI for their crit. It was another flat 4 corner crit but this time the ends were very narrow making it almost a hot dog course. I am sure that the old pros of the pack hate races like this but I was having a blast. The speeds we were doing were awesome, much more than any race I had ever done before, but I was doing just fine handling it. In the FDL crit I was going to be much more aggressive, try to go for preems and make sure I was in a very good position for the finish sprint. Part one of the plan happened okay, I jumped for the finish early but brought along the races biggest gun who easily jumped me for the line along with 3 other riders. Then I was in a bit of a pickle, I was in no-man's land between the pack and this group of four strong riders who could be riding away for the rest of the race. I decided to chase and try to go with a break. I caught in about a lap and started to work into the rotation. It was not smooth enough nor hard enough though and we were brought back. The tightness of the course, size of the pack, and the abilities of some of the riders made it very hard to hold position in the pack and the surge was very difficult to handle and predict. With one lap to go I was at the back coming through the finish line and had to do something a little stupid. I dove to the inside of the corner cutting off a lot of riders and risking taking down a lot of guys. I can turn pretty fast and smooth though and made it no problem. So all of a sudden I am sitting 5th wheel behind the big gun from Papa Johns KY team. I was grinning from ear to ear. I also notice that there were two riders from World of Bikes/Bikes to You in front of me and was sure the one on the front was going to lead it out, stretching the pack out and keeping me 5th in line. Boy was I wrong and not ready to adapt to the surge that was coming. The pack closed in around me and I was boxed in with no where to go. I shot a little gap to my right and gunned it around the side of the pack trying to dive to the inside of the corner again. I made up a few spots but not enough, I started my sprint much farther than I thought I should in my pre-race walk and hammered. One rider passed me but I was making up huge ground fast on others. I was so close to the money again placing 17th but I was happy with my sprint again and had a ton of fun. After the race I drove to Chicago to stay with my folks and get ready for the IL state crit in Glencoe IL. More on that tomorrow.