The Last (Feed)Zone Ever
Hopefully someone younger with a penchant for writing and humor and a much more interesting race schedule will take the initiative and start a new feature on the TrueSport site.
The Beginning of the End
I decided to start racing again in July, well racing being a fungible word, beyond time trials. The ABD cycling club puts on the theoretical ABR National Championships on a cool residential circuit in Winfield, IL. It’s generally low key, there is a race just for old guys 50+ so I figured that would be a great way to get back into the mass start racing where someone else dictates the pace. You know, ease back into it.
There was no easing. I rode around before the race with Li’l Wayne who was also doing his first race in quite some time and we talked about how it was when we were both fit and winning. Li’l Wayne was more prolific than I, winning a Masters National Road Race in Louisville and a Silver in the time trial the same year that I won the silver in the TT.
Li’l Wayne started Enzo’s Cycling Products – if you never tried the Button Hole chamois cream I highly recommend it – and his youngest went off to run cross country and track as a Jayhawk and he decided to spend time doing more important things than weekend warrior bike racing. This was the same time that my back blew up and though we’ve been team mates for 3 seasons, we’ve never raced together up till Winfield.
The course features a multi-tiered climb in the big ring followed by a false flat and a fast descent with 90 degree corners and a fast sweeping bend back to the finish line. We started the race with Kenny Labbe and Frankie Andreau announcing. No, really. Two former US Postal riders announcing a low key theoretical national championship featuring mostly riders from Chicagoland and a few Cheddar Heads. The first lap was pretty easy and I settled into the back of the pack because I wanted to get a feel for racing again. Lap two picked up considerably as James Brown and Li’l Wayne took off the front.
A lap later Li’l Wayne was back in the field and James Brown, the hardest working man in masters racing, fresh off winning the 50+ TOAD Series was off the front solo. Li’l Wayne told me he got torched by JB and was officially a piece of toast double done at level 6.
Knowing that it was the right tactical thing to do, I made an attack that was easily matched by half the field, pulled a half lap and became a piece of burnt toast as well. JB stayed off the front and I finished the race near dead last of the riders who didn’t DNF or get lapped with a max HR of 181 and an avg HR of 171. I was pegged the entire way. And decided that I hate being anaerobic.
Back to Familiar
The following day I had registered for a 2 man team time trial of 50k with my team mate the Croatian Sensation. Now as is well known about the Slavic people, they have an affinity to fruit brandy and vodka. I got a text message on Friday night from the Croation Sensation informing me that his bike had been vandalized along with a photo of his Trek that showed a gigantic hole smashed into the top tube. How did that happen? Well, he got home late from his daughter’s AAU basketball tournament in Tennessee, unpacked his car and proceeded to get high on vodka, left his bike out overnight and viola…some punk kids (presumably) came along and beat the hell out of his bike. So – he was out for the TTT. Now, I immediately became suspicious of the whole affair and called him out on it. He’d been getting stories fed to him for two weeks about how painful it is to do a team time trial with Druber, and he panicked, got likkered up but good and took a tire iron to his bike. He denied every word of it but I’m not convinced because he’s a Trump supporter and as we all know, whatever they believe is the truth regardless of facts and if he didn’t remember busting up his bike, well then he didn’t bust up his bike.
So – I showed up the next day and did the TTT by myself. 50k in 1:10:38. I felt okay doing it but then again, I was the one setting the pace.
The fine folks who promote TOAD also corroborate for a race series in Illinois once called the Prairie State Cycling Series, and now the Intelligentsia Cup. Intelligentsia for you Barbarians who still drink Starbucks and Folgers is a craft coffee roaster that started in Chicago and has gone viral. They seriously make some of the finest coffee you’ll ever taste – Black Cat is my personal favorite so go find you some or locate it online.
Anyway. Race one was the 50+ race in Glenn Ellyn, IL on a course with 574 corners and some terrain. James Brown was racing, along with Multiple National Champions Curtis Toalson, Mike Ingliss and some former pro guy named Scott Moninger. This was the 50+ group. Oh, yeah, some national champs from Florida Velo also showed up. Needless to say I spent the day just trying to avoid guys falling off their bikes, falling off the back with my heart beating in my neck. It was uncomfortable but necessary. On the last lap, I moved off the back, and passed several riders going into the final corner where just ahead of me several bikes slid out and I hear HeadsMACK yelling that he’d broken his leg (again). It was a truly ugly scene which helped to cement my resolve to not really do this stuff any longer.
With my business and the work I have ahead of me at #morningwood, If I were to break a leg or hip or wrist – I’d be fucked. It’s not worth it. The next day was the Illinois State Road Race. I was able to participate and actually felt like a racer more than a lickspittle hanging off the back of the race with burning lungs and a heart rate 10 beats above my anaerobic threshold. I was able to attack and recover and attack again and join moves but all for naught as the first half of the 48 mile race everyone was pretty fresh legged and even a 43 mph effort wasn’t enough to gain any separation from the group.
As we began the second half of the race, I saw JB fly up into the air as he smashed headlong into a metal barrier at full speed. I rode past with him laying on the pavement holding his face and decided that being a human being is far more important that staying in a stupid 50+ masters championship road race. I circled back when it was safe and stayed there with him until the EMT’s arrived. Turns out well, the impact with the fence missed his eye socket by a half inch and with some potential broken ribs, he was able to resume racing after two rest days.
The next race was on a course that I would have loved back when I was fit, a 1k loop with a sharp hill up to the finish line coming up from the Fox River in East West Dundee. The course was set in a beautiful residential area with a park and charmingly painted majestic old homes. Needless to say, it was all I could do to stay in touch with the main group while Moninger nearly lapped the field after taking a lap 2 prime of $100. Li’l Wayne tried a flyer with 4 to go and detonated with 2 to go but at least he was showing signs of life. It was all in all a fun time.
The final race for me was on the South side of Chicago along the lake front on a flat wide open course of 2.5 miles that the organizers labeled a Kermesse. A group of 4 got off the front toward the end of the race, and I waited just a bit too long try and bridge across. I was 5 seconds behind the leaders and 10 seconds ahead of the field for 4 laps. Finally on the last lap, the last 180 turn down the boulevard into the final 500 meters of headwind I couldn’t hold off the charging field sprinters and got passed by 8 guys 50 meters from the line. But – I felt like my old self again almost. It was a good day of riding and racing. I rode down from Druberstadt up on the NW side of the city 22.5 miles to the race venue. 10 miles from the race a summer squall blew up and I was soaked. The race in progress was delayed as the winds blew down the fencing and part of the official’s stage. Epic shit. After the race I rode back home for a clean 75 mile day of riding.
State Time Trial
The racing and suffering served me well as it was 3 weeks out from the state TT. I was forced to miss the TT last year due to the staph infected bursitis in my right knee which caused some fear of maybe losing my lower leg if the antibiotics didn’t work. That would have sucked.
I registered for the 45-54 age group. I raced in a misty rain and 20 mile per hour wind. It was a brutal day. Despite the conditions I rolled the hilly 40k course in 53:50 which won my group easily and was the 3rd best IL time of the day with Men’s Open riders Bryce Mead rolling a 51:51 and Ryan O’Boyle from xXx Racing coming in at 53:27. Justin Maciekowicz from STL who is legitimately fast and a top 13 finisher at Elite TT Natz came in sub 50 at 49:57. Very impressive indeed.
So, I got another one of these. It’s number 16 in time trials and one of 21 total including 5 road races. Never won the criterium but I’ve been on the podium. It’s been a good run. So many good times, memories, friendships along the way. I’m going to enjoy being a Grandpa, and continuing the everlong story of rehabbing #morningwood, and all of the other great things life has brought my way.
I’ll still do the TT’s and maybe you’ll see me toe the line at some mass start races. I’ll still run Scarlet Fire Racing with an emphasis on helping new young riders develop into able racers, supporting our women’s program. Cycling has been such a huge and formidable part of my adult life and now with the injuries gone and in good health and at peace and knowing I can go fast again, I’m moving on.
Seriously – someone needs to pick up the TrueSport race diary mantle. @Jingleheimer?
Thanks for paying attention.