Sherman Park Criterium, 6/14/08
Race #8

4th place/50

xXx AthletiCo did a great job, from what I can tell. I was (and still am) pissed about my result but my prize was by far the nicest trophy I have ever won for anything. Thanks, guys! Trophies like this make it easier to justify so much time and compulsive training on the bike to non-racers, people like my wife.

I really didn’t care about going for a result in this race until it started. These last two weeks I have been tired, bordering on exhausted or suffering from possible burn-out. Instead of obsessing with riding, I had been trying to focus on the end of school (I’m a teacher) and being responsible there rather than preoccupied with my rather serious whims on the bike. Shirking my responsibilities for the bike must be mediated by some kind of maturity.

So, I spent little time on the bike and it felt pretty damn good.

This was by far the sketchiest race I have entered. Iowa had crushing wind causing people to loose their line, today many riders just couldn’t hold their line. I was in midpack and in the back for most of the race so I saw nearly everything bad happen. I also got to quickly identify the nuts I should keep behind me and then moved to the front half as the race progressed.

The course was a ~1 mile loop around Sherman Park at 55th and Racine. Nice park. Built in the same era as Humboldt park with separate changing rooms for men and women on either end of the park pool. Several Spartan cement pedestrian bridges linked the pool area with the playing fields banked by the park’s lagoon. The course was a closed park drive that circles the lagoon, with a slight downhill start and a slight uphill final 50m to the finish. There were no corners and just a few minor spots of rough pavement. The soft edge of the course caused a few close calls and the drenching rain we’ve had put a bit of mud in my eye. All in all a nice course, I’d rate it 8/10.

Short version: The race was not eventful. There were a few attacks, none stuck. From midpack I kept an eye on any breaks and they were all 1 or 2 riders and were eventually sucked back in. I felt pretty strong and with 10 min to go, I was confident I could earn a place. With two to go I was quite sure I could get a podium at least, on the bell lap I got caught out front and lost the sprint for 2nd and got toasted at the line for 3rd. I placed 4th and got a damn nice trophy for the effort.

Nice shot of Grant throwing the bike for 2nd and me about to finish 4th. After closely examining the photographic evidence, Grant must have been moving at light speed because he was pretty far behind me in the previous shot and then is more than a length in front in this one. I must have been more dead than I thought. (Thanks to Luke for taking a perfect finish line shot!)

So the last lap is all that really matters for me. As the bell rang, I was 3rd wheel crossing the line and before I knew it I was on the front. Fuck. I pulled off and grabbed 2nd wheel (perhaps I should have dropped back a few more, but I was concerned that everyone would have been too guarded). This guy was on the front for like 2 seconds, so I’m on the front again. Fuck.

Now my options were jump and go for it/try to hold ‘em off for 1k; not pull and hold for a bunch sprint; pull off and see what happens. I did the stupid thing: stayed on the front and didn’t do anything. I let the pace drop just a bit, but then nothing. The winning move came from a xXx rider who jumped at 200m and pulled away so damn strong and smooth that even as the race was happening I couldn’t help but admire it. It was so strong decisive that I knew it was the win. I tried to jump on his wheel but didn’t really “try” to jump it, I just accelerated a bit and held a higher pace but not enough to keep with him. Looking back, I think I had the strength; I didn’t have the — I dunno, the blood lust, I guess. With 75m to go I jumped and thought I could hold for 2nd but at ~50m Grant (xXx) came around my outside. I was not holding my line too well because I was reaching my limit and we bumped shoulders while sprinting out of the saddle, but not badly enough to knock him off his momentum (congrats Grant!). I came into his lane and after the race joked that it was because I saw him coming around. That was not true, and not funny–though I didn’t realized it until I was riding home later on. That shit can be dangerous. I didn’t do it intentionally. Another xxx rider who was way on the inside took 3rd, we both threw the bike, he won the throw. (edit: he had me by a wheel, at least…damn. Two Half Acre guys were watching the finish (thanks for the beer!!) and one had me for 3rd, the other 4th. I guess it was pretty close.)

Once again, I was the lead out man for 2nd. I’m starting to feel like the horse that xXx rides in on.