Superweek is by far the hardest racing we do all year on the road. The fields are big, the money is big, and guys can make or break their entire season's budget in the 21 days of speeding around Wisconsin roads and streets. Within that, though, some races are harder than others -- tougher courses, huge cash, killer competitors.
Yesterday was one of those days.
Waukesha is a great crit, and I really began to enjoy the course last year after I figured out how to corner in a pack. It's fast and challenging, and always brings out a great crowd ... so by the time the announcer is yelling "Leeeeettttttsssssss get ready to rumble!", the start/finish barriers are packed with people, all cheering for their international, national and local heros.
I don't want to say that Superweek started "easy" -- to do so would be a disservice to all the winners and competitors -- but the results pretty much speak for themselves. Up until Thursday, there weren't too many pros in the pack, and several local guys had some pretty outstanding results, well above what I would have expected. That all changed at Shorewood, and continued through yesterday, when each race was listed on the "National Racing Calendar" (NRC), meaning that besides the cash, there were all-important ranking points on the line. The thermometer wasn't the only thing going in hot yesterday!
We lined up in 95-degree heat, a huge field packed with internationals, world champions, national studs, and a whole lotta pros. As expected, it was hard -- hard -- from the gun, as we funneled through a narrow alley, up and around the hill, and then came swooping down into the start/finish stretch, this year with a slight tailwind, at more than 50kph. It was a heck of a reintroduction to the world of bike racing.
The good news is, I had a fantastic start, and my legs felt really good. Unfortunately, the Clif Bar I ate four hours earlier didn't feel as good, and decided that now would be a good time to start jumping up and down and doing cartwheels in my tummy. I pitty the poor guy behind me in line as we snaked up the hill ...
I did well to move around a bit and get away from some sketchy guys in the early going. On one lap, a guy dropped a pedal in turn 1, so I made it my mission to get ahead of him on the hill ... thankfully I did, because the next time around, he stacked it hard in the same corner! In all fairness, it was a toughy -- at the end of a long, fast, tailwind stretch, it was decreasing radius into an alley with light posts at the exit and up a hill ... ouch!
The peloton did 80 laps in the heat ... I did 8 that were really good. On lap 9, I too dropped a pedal (turn 5), and started to lose grip on the front side of the course. I threw out the lifeline to the guy in front of me for one lap, but that was about it ... on lap 11, I drifted way to the back (thanks to Bryce Mead, of all people, for encouragement as we went up the hill!), and on lap 12 I dropped my bottle as we went into the downhill because I couldn't get it into my cage ... and that was it. When you can't stay in on the flat part of the course with a tailwind, you know you're in trouble, and so did the guy behind me, as he grabbed my pocket to sling himself around and back into the pack ...
At $3 per lap (not counting gas), this was a pretty expensive race all in all. But it was so worth it! Like I said, my legs were good, I was just lacking that lactic-acid-induced fitness that can only come with racing. And trying to jump back in with an NRC race will definitely remind you of that! As is normal when I haven't raced in a while, my stomach was a bit of a mess too -- another weekend, a few more interval workouts, and everything should be right as rain ... and boy did my legs feel good!
Couple of notes: I did a long ride afterward on the Gilman trail, heading west from Waukesha out to Summit. Great long, gradual downhill coming back from Wales -- totally cranking it, TT-style, did wonders for my morale as I came back into town.
Andy had a good race, lasting a bit longer than me. This has been a tough Superweek for him -- can't wait to get him out on the trails this winter to help him bike handle and corner better ... the strength is there, the technique will come ...
Finally, when you're done, you're done. If you get dropped from a Pro/1/2 field at Superweek, do the guys a favor and stay dropped. Exit the course. You're doing them a disservice as they go for the primes and the cash -- and you will get dropped again, so don't make them do the extra work to close the gap you will again open. I don't care what championship you may have won -- how would you like some spank to come into your operating room and start monkeying around with the BP cuff?
ONLY 154 DAYS TO NATZ!!