29 October 2006

Top 5!

What a day! It all came together ... the weather, the bikes, the course ... and I scored my first-ever Top 5 finish in Wisconsin!

After the rains on Thursday, Washington Park had just enough time to dry out and stay soft (especially with all the geese in the area). It made the course super-fast and just enough of a power course to play to my strengths ...

I did end up having to do a bike clean yesterday -- the Cannondale found its way into a massive mud bog out at one of the Cook County Forest Preserves. Plus I checked the tension on the Colnago, and it was time to replace the chain. So I did a bit more work than I wanted, but thanks to Renee was able to recycle my drivetrain!

I was up early (see my post from 4 a.m.), but then managed to get a bit of sleep again before getting up for real. That extra hour made a huge difference, and I felt much better at 6 a.m. than I did at 5 ...

There was no traffic through Waukegan, so we got there early to get registered and set up. This course was a lot like Natz in Providence -- only without stairs and without any snow. It would be a perfect UCI venue (hint! hint!) ... large areas, lots of grass, a bit of elevation change, a bit of pavement, and a wide-open feel with lots of great vantage points ...

Before too long it was time to warm up, and Lou, his brother-in-law Mark, Jim Holmes, Brian Conant and a host of Wisco folks were rolling around getting ready. The start was a bit delayed, just enough time to "cool down" a bit too much ... This week it was a split start, the 15 Cat. 1/2s ahead of the big 30+ field.

We got lined up and BAM! off the line, through the finish area, up the hill, and I'm in 3rd place? WTF? Down the hill, into the barriers, I'm falling back ... just a bit, cut off in the corner ... 4th ... 5th ... Jesse jumps past ... Jim gets in there ... 7th ... 8th ... OK, we're settling in.

Through the very cool ampitheater, around to the run-up, I'm following the guys in front of me to figure out the best lines. Very cool shortcuts, awesome "jump" on the backside, so glad I prerode ... just hanging on through the S curves and tagged onto the back on the pavement uphill ... but it's OK, it's into the wind ...

Down and around, still hanging on lap 2. Not going too hard, trying to conserve just a bit, up the run-up, through the S curves, to the pavement and CRAP! There goes Holmes! No one is chasing! He's getting a gap!

I'm hanging on, knowing I should go but too scared or something to try. So I hide out from the wind and am happy that I'm in the chase group. Will he last? Can he?

Around and up, down and over, around and up again, a few small attacks, nothing major, guy from Alterra on a MTB is making my life rough by bunny-hopping the barriers after the start and taking bad lines into the corners. I try to surge past him, but can't quite make it, so I settle on his wheel ... only he's opening small gaps ... and then it's back into the headwind and the front two guys are going! CRAP! Not again! I'm out of position! Go! Go!

Jesse's going, JESSE'S GOING! GET ON HIS WHEEL! DIG! DIG! DIG!

Top 3 are gone, second group forming ... four of us? Five? Not sure just stay with them, stay with them ... Jesse's not bunny hopping? Alterra is ... stay out of his way ... get in front of him ... 5 to go ... Around, up, feeling OK, still have top 3 in sight ... you're in 6th, don't slip back to 7th or 8th, 8th is chasing hard ... someone yells for the markness ... there! Move up! OK, you're in 5th. Sit on Jesse ... sit on Jesse ...

Four to go ... down and around ... Jesse still not hopping? Huh? Still small group but Alterra is huffing ... through the ampitheater ... go! NOW! GO! Up to the front, push it, there's Jim ... he's still in 3rd ... drill it, DRILL IT!

I led for a full lap, from the ampitheater to the run-up with 2-1/2 laps to go, when Jesse (aka "The Last Boy Scout" for Halloween) and the Alterra guy got around me at the barriers. I pulled a huge chunk of time back on Jim, and all of a sudden we were in the game. Jesse surged at the top as Alterra was to my left, and I dug deep, surprising Jesse when he surged toward the uphill, and dropping the Alterra guy as we saw 2 to go. Surging, slowing, cornering, surging ... we were catching Jim in 3rd, as he was getting close to catching Kyle, who was fading in 2nd ...

I finally lost the wheel just as we caught Jim on the run-up with a lap and a half to go. They were just out of reach in the uphill into the wind, and by the time we hit the barriers my part was settled ... Jesse would fight valiantly for 4th, with Jim just holding on, as I rolled in about 10 or 15 seconds later for 5th, losing the most on the final run-in to the line from the run-up to the finish.

This was, by far, the best race I've ever had in Wisconsin. Everything just clicked, and for once I had the presence of mind to actually make part of the race -- just like C'ville, I maybe could have tried a bit harder sooner to go with the leaders, which I will take away as a major learning opportunity. But to finish top 5 in a field like that, midway through the WCA Series, after never finishing better than fourth or fifth from last ever before ... wow. Can't wait to take on the rest of the season!!

Major kudos to Jesse for a race well-fought. And to Jim for another podium -- he's in the hunt for the overall WCA now. And to Lou and his brother-in-law Mark for tearing it up in the 30+! (Brian too -- I hear he rode away from the field and was just playing with them.) Thanks to Dave and Renee and Shannon for the cheers, which were especially helpful! (Good racing by them as well today!) Kudos, too, to MountainGoat, who finally found out what real racing is all about ... there's no substitute for 'cross baby! And finally, thanks to Kim for the encouragement and the great photos ...

... honey, I didn't end up in the graveyard!!!

5 comments:

Ryan Baumann said...

Great race today Chris, you had good legs! By the way, "Alterra" is actually Mike Phillps--quite the acomplished mountain biker. Check the Cheq 40 and WORS results this year.

mountaingoat said...

"Bad lines in the corners"

That was funny. Those are called mountainbike lines. He also recorded the fastest lap at 24/9 this year. Better hope he never gets a cross bike.

Real racing is done in the summer...this is a supplement.

Mike said...

Heh...had to have some advantage riding a mtb...you cross guys go around corners like an old lady on a Rascal scooter!

Thanks for sticking up for me guys!

Joe said...

Nice finish Chris! Keep it up, brotha. I love getting my fill on midwest racing at your blog.

Real racing in the summer (comment above)? Hell, down here in Texas we only race MTBs in Spring and Fall. Well, roadies race in the summer, but who cares about them.

Mitch Man said...

Hell, down in Texas the cows are dates on a Sat night.....