So three weeks ago we started working together. It has been a lot of hard work but I think I am already seeing a lot of improvements. This weekend really helped me to see that.
The Great Egyptian Omnium is a 3 stage race over 2 days in Ciro, IL. It is an amazing race that is completely embraced by the local community. Stage one was an 80 mile road race and us lowly cat 3 racers were thrown in with the cat 1s and 2s. At first I thought this was going to suck, but it was actually pretty fun, hard, but fun. I enjoyed it because there was a lot to think about while racing for four + hours. Most of the race was just surviving. The 1s and 2s were beating up on each other, one of our guys was off the front, the rest of our team just road the waves of guys trying to take off.
The course was pretty great. It was hard enough to keep things interesting, but not hard enough that it was what was going to kick everyone's ass. There were only a couple climbs, and none were too long, nor were they too steep. The roads were great, and those people we met on the roads were so friendly.
For most of the race I tried to stay near our protected rider Keith. Early in the race we were both feeling pretty shitty. But Keith has been working so hard for so long to get ready for this weekend that I tried hard to keep his spirits up and him in the race. I kept telling him that we just had to survive the race. As long as we were there at the end we were going to do well. Keith's wife Emily came and did us both a solid with handing up our food, water, and ice during the race. Doing hand ups is not an easy thing for new people, I consider myself new at this so I was about as nervous as Emily was I think. The last time I did hand ups with a musette bag I crashed. But she was flawless, the bags were always there, full of water and ice. We also got a great spot in the feed zone so it was easy to get to her.
As the race wore on there were only 3s and a couple 2s left in the pack. Jeremy Bock from cat 2 from Dog Fish lead us around the course after his teammate went on the break with one of our cat 2s. Our cat 2 Mark was just chilling in the pack getting a few miles in his legs. Towards the last lap a couple guys in our race started to try and break away. The problem was these guys always tried at the worst times. They were always pretty easy to bring back but just kind of annoying. The one rider from Athlete Forward tried maybe 20 times to get away. I have to give it to the kid, he had heart. I heard he was from a mountain bike background and just doesn't have the feel for the road yet. He will be a guy we watch out for though as he gets a hang of it. With the miles ticking down the cramps in my legs started to multiply. It was hard to eat enough without overdoing it with the heat. I decided to error on the side of too little food, this might have lead to me not having enough minerals in my muscles but I never cramped too bad at the wrong time. As long as I was able to stay in the saddle I could work certain muscles and stay way from the tired ones. Getting closer to the finish I took a spot in the lead of the group and tried to hold a steady tempo and slowly bring up the speed. The problem was we probably didn't finish quite to Keith's strengths and he was having cramping problems like me and could not stand to sprint. He went a farther out than I thought he was going to and didn't go hard enough As we hit the final climb to the finish with 200 meters Keith blew up. I tried to hold my speed and finish as strong as I could. I ended up passing Keith getting 5th and Keith getting 7th. This wasn't the best finish we really had hoped for but Keith was still in striking distance and his strength the TT was up next.
All of us cleaned up our team stuff and Mark, Bj, and I went to get some food. Keith and his wife enjoyed the fine food in Creal, IL. They had a pretty neat set-up for the race with a bunch of people selling stuff, and even a dunk tank. I again was pretty behind not really thinking out how long it took to change over parts on my road and TT bikes. Bj was awesome and did a lot of work to help me get ready. He got my ice, filled my water, and even fixed my helmet with I ripped the straps out. I rolled up to the start with about 2 min to go which was awesome! I hate standing in line for a TT and I hate standing in the heat even more. I did't really look at the course profile nor did I drive it before hand. So I had no idea what to expect. I was surprised that we started on and uphill! Note to self, check that crap out next time! So there was some pretty good climbing for a TT in my opinion. Nothing like a pro race or anything, but I think it was more than maybe the hilly Hermann TT? I thought that doing a 7 mile TT was going to be easy, but after a hard 80 doing 7 more all out sucked A$$! Talking with my new coach before the race he gave me a target to shoot for wattage wise. This made things a bit easier when hitting the uphills allowing me to meter out my effort a bit more. When I began to catch my 2 minute man I decided that I would just try to get a bit closer by the finish and not worry about beating him. I wasn't racing for the win more of just training. It helped me to keep my speed up though as I was really hurting for some motivation. I finished the little over 7 mile course in 18:33 min with a dropped chain. This was good enough to put me in 5th place again. Keith did much better even after having to make a quick wheel change only minutes before he went off due to a flat. He came in with an 18:12 putting him into second for the TT. This also brought him up into a tie for 3rd in the GC.
The next day Mike was going to come down to help out in the cat 3 crit. As we were waiting for the race to start Bj and I watched our cat 4 teammate Rob race in the cat 4 race. He looked super strong and never in trouble. The bad thing was he never looked like he was in the correct spot of the peleton either. When he finished he was telling us how easy the race was and that he was just too far back for the sprint. After further discusion we talked him into racing the Masters race later in the day and worked out a plan for him to race with. Instead of worrying about about racing other people's weaknesses, we told him about racing to his strengths. He was able to take his considerable strength and solo'd away to a victory. It was awesome seeing him go and see that no one in the pack even had a chance!
After Rob's race the 3s were up. I said something about Keith doing something similar to what Rob did, and we talked about taking points from other riders and trying to get Keith as many points as we could. There were preem points that were being offered on 3 separate laps going out 3 places. The first preem seemed to come pretty quickly and Keith was not ready. Luckily Mike and I were at the front so Mike lead me out and I took first adding 3 points to my tally but more important taking away 3 from the guys beating Keith. Mike also stuck in there and took 3rd steeling 1 point. As we came up to the 2nd preem lap I actually made a mistake and lead it out a lap too early. But it turned out to be a happy accident as Guitar Lab also thought we were going for points and sent all 3 of their guys sprinting for nothing. Keith was paying attention this time though and yelled that it was the next lap as he flew by me. At first I thought crap I blew it, but then I though, shoot I can do that again, no problem. This time I got it right leading Keith out, again he went earlier than I thought he was going to go but after he went we never caught him again.
Mike and I started working to block the rest of the pack from chasing Keith down. For the most part it was really easy. I think most of the attempts were fake attempts to try and get others to chase Keith down. We would simply just sit on the front and ride slow. Anyone at any time could have ridden around us, but when everyone is tired no one wants to chase. While Keith was off we still raced for preems to keep his competitors from getting more points on him. Then as we neared the end of the race we actually got a little help from the Guitar Lab guys as one went to the front and tried to keep the speed up. I think he was a little tired though because we didn't quite make it all the way. This caused me to get a swamped and lose Mike's wheel. I was really mad at myself for that. I was sitting in a perfect spot 3rd wheel and now I was more than 10 guys back! I tried to keep looking for an opening to shoot to the front and it opened about 300 yards from the line. The gutter on the inside of the road all of a sudden opened and I took off. As I hit the front of the field everyone else was jumping. I had a slight stutter when I rider jumped into my line, but I was back on the gas quickly. I had a pretty good gap but I started to wain and two riders on my left started gaining on me. When we threw our bikes at the line I knew I had missed it. At first I was bummed until I saw one of the other riders was my teammate Mike! Now I was pumped! We ended up Keith 1st, Mike in 3rd, and me in 4th. So close to a podium sweep, but we were all still really happy. Keith's win ended up catapulting him into 1st place in GC. We were really looking good for the day. With such a good thing going I decided to sign up for the final race of the day, the cat 123.
Mark and Bj wanted Mike and I to just try and go with anything that tried to get off the front of the race. We were also supposed to make sure to watch for guys going for preems that they didn't keep on rolling. As we went through for our first preem we just made sure to keep the race together. A few turns later a rider from Off the Front jumped off the front. I was close so I jumped on his wheel. My job was to just sit on his wheel and get dragged around the course. He made one really long pull and then asked me to come around. I shook my head and told him I wasn't going to pull. He wasn't very happy but he kept on going. After more than a lap we were gaining time, and I started to pull through. We quickly got into a pattern of when to trade off pulls. As the laps counted off it seemed to get hotter and hotter. For a long time we were pulling away and I thought for a little bit that maybe we were gonna make it. With about 8 laps to go I started to see Gateway Harley pulling on the front. I tried to put in some hard pulls but I was hurting. I was out of water and the heat was really getting to me. With 5 laps to go we rolled through for a preem, I wasn't even trying for the preems during the race as I was not in the 1,2 GC at all. When we went through however I heard cheering quite close behind us. Then the pack was there and what little gas I had left in the tank went fast. I tried to hang on the back for a short bit but I was empty. I rolled back around to our tent and dunked my head in the ice cooler. With my break having been brought back a few other strong attacks went but were not successful. With 2 to go though a strong flyer went off the front and Mike and Bj had to put it all out there to pull the break back enough for Mark to sprint. He had a very strong go of it and came out of the bunch in 2nd place. Another great race for the team.
I had so much fun this last weekend and really look forward to going back next year. The people down in Cairo, IL were so nice and the organization putting on the race did a great job. I hope they grow over the next few years to have a huge even that brings in riders from all over.
|I'm getting close! I was #370 Mike is #380.|