I think it was about the middle portion of our 8 Day Disney Extravaganza Vacation when I signed up for this race. It is the Illinois State Criterium Championship and my first race as a 4. Typically 3 days off the bike and I get a bit crazy and do crazy things. This was no different.
After 3 days of chasing my fitness Sunday arrived and I headed to Peoria with Joe. He was fresh of a 2nd place finish at the 2010 USA Cycling Paralympic Road Nationals in Bend, OR. In typical PSIMET fashion Joe was sure to mention he wasn't feeling the best form. His recent travel and racing had him wore out.
Did I mention I was off the bike for 8 days?
As we rolled up to the starting line I felt nervous. Not anxious like in races before, but straight up nerves. Did I have my number pinned correct? Would I get clipped in? Am I in the big ring? Will I be able to hold onto the group? Don't take anyone out Rookie!?!?
Three turns into the race and the nerves were settled. A rider dived turn three cutting myself and one of the race favorites off. We had to slow to avoid him clipping us. The little non event calmed me because I realized I was not the worst bike handler in the field. :)
I spent the first half of the race in the back half of the pack. I spent the second half of the race in front half of the pack. I followed the wheel of the previously mentioned race favorite for most of that second half. Another solid learning lesson for me. Following a strong rider with excellent handling skills is always nice.
I would have loved to follow Joe, but he was too busy being tired AND Off The Front gapping the pack. Dude is a beast. The field was marking him too. At one point the pack slowed going into a turn and he strolled up on the outside. Strolling, not hammering, not surging, not nothing. Yet I hear someone yelling "ATTACK, ATTACK on the outside. ATTACK on the left."
Onward: I was almost gapped twice on the stretch into wind due to poor corning and a gust of cross wind. Around the 30 minute mark I started wondering if I could keep this effort up for 10 more minutes. With two to go I moved towards the front behind Joe. I lost him somewhere though with one to go. Coming into the last two right handers Eric from BH went zooming past. I grabbed his wheel (Or was that tried??). I was there for a bit, but was toast as we hit the final stretch.
I was passed by many riders on that final stretch. I was pushing it and the legs were burning. At the end of the race I felt like I had nothing left. However, today I am recalling something Joe said and I realize I could have pushed harder.
"You sprint until you turn your insides out."
Despite being boxed in the last two turns Joe still managed 7th. I think I spotted him picking up his insides before getting his payday.
I really enjoyed the course. Eight turns, closed roads, wide roads, smooth roads... The race was fast and smooth. 25.8 mph for 40 minutes is no joke.
Team PSIMET had a smaller turnout for this race with it being 2 plus hours away for most of us. Still, we brought home a 9th in the Masters 30+, 5th in the CAT 3, and Joe's 7th. Nice work boys.