THE SEASON BEGINS
BIKE RACING IN THE YEAR OF THE ETERNAL MIDWESTERN WINTER
Two days ago, Saturday May 20th, I woke up at 4:00 a.m. with designs on making a 4 hour drive to Hooterville, IN to arrive on time at the Cummins Employee Recreation Area for a race called the JWD CERAland Challenge.
The previous night I had a meeting in the Lakeview neighborhood of Chicago (Wrigleyville) with Michael Ebert. I’d used the CTA Brown Line, the terminus of which is exactly 1 kilometer from my home, for transportation. After the meeting I took the train back, and then walked the 1 k home in a driving snow storm that appeared, unexpectedly out of no where.
The next morning, I was packing the car to leave for Hooterville before 5:00 a.m. it was still dark, 30 degrees and there was a half inch crust of snow on the ground. I started the car to embark on my journey and turned on the radio. I heard the traffic reporter telling me that three of the 5 major expressways around Chicago, some of which had been closed due to standing flood waters earlier in the week, had frozen over during the night. There were several multiple car accidents being cleaned up after unsuspecting motorists encountered sheets of ice early in the morning of April 20th, Year of the Eternal Winter. Fortunately for me, my egress from Chicago was not one of those expressways under water or covered with sheets of ice.
I comforted myself with the thought that I was heading 4 hours south – almost to Louisville, KY and the projected high temps for the day were, while unseasonably cool, would still be comfortable. Or so I thought.
BURNHAM SPRING SUPER CRITERIUM
I’ll back up to April 6, Year of the Eternal Winter. Some fluke in the weather pattern allowed the temperature for this normally frigid IL Cup season opener to rise slightly above 50 degrees. I drove with the Scarlet Fire Racing web master Oz Ozguc, the Turkish Delight; who was manning the camera and hanging out doing research for the web site http://www.scarletfireracing.com/ The race is held on a pan flat SCCA Automobile track nearly two miles around with many curves and turns, which require some skill I’m sure for the drivers of the cars that race on the track, but require no breaking or interruption of pedaling for bike racers. There was a steady 25 mph wind blowing.
JBo, Mongo, Ottomobile and I represented the Red and Black. Though it was a combined 35+/45+ field of about 40 riders, we threw categories to the gusty wind and decided we’d all just ride to win the race. And, that we did.
The race busted up after Ottomobile, who is one of the finest time trial specialists in the country forced the pel to chase him for 3 laps. A nice break formed and we had a guy in it and our sprinter in the pack behind - a good situation for us. Then, Ottomobile, who has a tachycardia, got a bit over heated when his HR spiked to 220, had to sit up to regulate and out of the break he popped. This was not ideal. Mongo attacked and got a small chase group started but they were not gaining any ground on the pel and losing ground to the break. I saw the chance to jump across to the chase group and got there just as Ottomobile was recovering. With him, Dan Burner and Scotty P. helping we integrated with the lead group with 2 laps to go. Problem was P. Swinand was 15 seconds off the front.
I laid it down and we caught P. Swinand with a half lap to go. I stayed on the front to keep things strung out and fast for Mongo. A. Rizzo launched a tough attack with 1k to that I could not answer so the break split giving chase to Rizzo who entered the final 500m with about 3 seconds of clear space between his back wheel and the chasers. Up the road I saw Mongo open up the sprint at 400m and I hoped that with the tail wind aiding, he’d be able to close the gap on Rizzo before the finish line.
Oh yeah – Mongo with his hairy legs, pockets full of Twizzlers and stale Peeps can finish. Ottomobile and I finished 3, 4 in the 45+ segment of the race.
LINCOLN PARK CRITERIUM
The following weekend, the xXx Athletico club tossed a party on the Lakefront at Montrose Harbor. I’d registered for the Masters 50+ and 30+ races. It was 36 degrees and there was a steady 25 mile per hour wind blasting in from the West but with the exception of about 150 meters after a 180 degree turn, it felt as if the entire course was laid out into a head wind.
I couldn’t warm up and as such, I spent the first 20 minutes of the 45 minute race literally dandling off the back of the race, contemplating a DNF. I missed the winning break of course.
This is Sven and I chasing the lead break.
Eventually I was able to catch onto the main group and recover in the draft for two laps then I decided to make an attack and it worked. I got away with J. Timothy Radcliffe and a German guy named Sven. J. Timothy was struggling and eventually got gapped and Sven and I rolled strongly to the finish. I ended up being the second 50+ rider to cross the line as a gentleman by the name of James Brown was in the winning break with 4 40+ guys. Yes, it’s THAT James Brown.
Readers of the (Feed)Zone are by now surely aware of the back injury from which I’m recovering so I won’t belabor the point, other than to note that racing in near freezing weather does not make my back happy. Thus, I recorded a DNS for the 30+ race and went home to sit in a hot tub.
The next day I did two time trials in weather that looked like this:
I was in an experimental mode because I have recently acquired the ability to make “numbers”. “Numbers” in case you’ve been hiding under a rock for the past ten years have become the only way to train and prove that you’ve actually ridden your bike. My “numbers” come via a nifty piece of equipment called a Quarq. That is, a SRAM Elsa crankset installed on my Leader Mark 1 road bike. It records the amount of pressure I’m able to exert on the pedals and stores them in the Garmin computer that I have on my stem. I’m then able to upload my “numbers” onto a web site called Strava and win bike races called “segments”. When I win a “segment”, I get a pixilated crown and some times I receive things called “Kudos” from other Strava members who “follow” me and the rides I do. How does this relate to “numbers” you ask? Well, without the “numbers” transferred by the Quarq Elsa unit into the Garmin computer, it is impossible to verify that I indeed won a KOM legally, rather than just activating the app on my phone and driving my car down a segment at a rate of speed fast enough to win the KOM but not so fast as to raise suspicion that I’ve been cheating. Get it?
Anyway – I don’t have “numbers” on my time trial bike, so I did the first time trial on my time machine and the second one on my road bike so I could get an idea of what kind of “numbers” I can make in 20 minutes, which I’m told is important in the design and implementation of a proper training program. Anyway, my number is 385. And oh, by the way, I won both of the categories which I’d entered so my other number of note is “1”.
CERALAND AND MOORESVILLE
A tree in bloom as a sign that at least in Hooterville, the Eternal Winter may be fading.
The week after the time trial was absolutely horrific from weather standpoint. We endured temps barely above freezing and driving rain all week which resulted in epic flooding in the Chicago area. The ejector pump in my basement gave out and I had water gurgling up through the drain hole in my laundry room. As good luck and fortune would have it, a friend who lives just down the street knows a bit about plumbing and we were able to pull the old pump and install a new one with a 171 gallon per minute flow rate. Even at that, I still had more water come up two nights later.
I’d had enough. I just needed to get out of town and find some warmer conditions.
I pre registered for a couple of races in Hooterville. I called The Right Rev. William H. Stone esq. informed him of my plans and requested that he have his cleaning lady sanitize and prepare the guest quarters for me. Rev. Stone lives about 20 minutes from the Cummins Employee Recreation Area in Columbus, IN. He is a gracious host and I figured he’d give me some of the beer in his fridge.
This brings us back to the beginning of this set of stories. As I drove south toward Hooterville, the sun broke and began to rise. I kept an eye on the thermometer in the dashboard of the car, waiting for it to rise above the 33 that was registering. As I hit Indianapolis, about an hour north of Hooterville, the thermometer only registered 34. I stopped at a truck stop and bought a pair of full finger work gloves.
I hadn’t packed for this. Being optimistic that the weatherman would be accurate, I’d made the mistake of packing for the projected high of 58 degrees rather than the actual concrete experience of the Year of Eternal Winter. Thus, toeing the line I was shivering. I’d put every piece of clothing I packed, plus the newly acquired cowhide palmed royal blue full finger truck stop gloves. Two pairs of socks (no shoe covers), knee warmers (no tights), two base layers (neither thermal), arm warmers, a long sleeve and short sleeved jersey. It was 40 degrees and a stiff wind was blowing.
Per the unwritten rule of Masters racing that a break must be formed within the first 10 minutes of the race or Armageddon occurs, The 4 strong Zipp Factory team boys lined up and amped the pace from the gun. One does not ease into a Masters race. It is a shocking jolt from static to anaerobic in 5 pedal strokes.
In the first lap of the rolling 1.2 mile circuit there were two break attempts that launched and were reeled back by the relentless pace of the Zippers, primarily driven by B. Gavette. A mere 12 minutes into the race, between the pace of Zippers, the rolling terrain and the wind, the race split in two. I was in an 11 rider selection that was riding away from the peloton. It was a good mix of guys, all teams present and basically cooperative. The only thing I didn’t like was the fact that 3 of the 4 Zippers in the race were present and all 3 are quite strong.
As we rolled along under constant pressure from the Zippers who’s turns were long and strong, signs of fatigue became apparent from some of the lead group, who were skipping turns, soft pedaling when on the front or simply sitting on the back. I decided to see if I could whittle things down a bit and hopefully get rid of some chaff along with a Zipper or two. I made a surge over the top of the small climb at the start/finish line and the group of 11 became 7. After another surge the 7 became 5 with 20 minutes yet to race. 1 McDonalds, 1 Scarlet Fire and 3 Zippers. Not ideal. Working together, we lapped through the 40+ and 50+ fields twice. We were flying.
I tried an attack with 2 laps to go to no avail. My back wasn’t happy and I was, quite candidly, hanging on at this point. Zipper C. Eigenbrod moved forward and towed his team mates Weaver and Sherman toward the finish with E. Barnett from the MCD team on his wheel. I was destined to finish 4th – which is better than last out of the break.
Those guys deserved the W, they were strong the entire race and did everything right from a tactical perspective.
The next day, I was registered for the 10:30 a.m. Pro 1,2 race just southwest of Indianapolis on a nice park course with a finishing power climb at the end of the lap. I’d won the only other race I ever did at that park, my first race with Scarlet Fire Racing in September of 2003. Many fond memories…However, on this Sunday April 21 in the Year of the Eternal Winter, the weather was like this:
I issued the following Tweet. My back doesnt like the temps. Going home. #eternalwinter
Next time – I hope to report on racing in actual race able conditions.