Can't Catch A Break

Monday, July 14, 2008

A flat and a check

And superweek has begun. Three of us drove down to Chi from the Ill Mill. We had an Endeavour team car for the weekend. It's a Honda Element from a sponsoring dealership with magnets on it that say Endeavour Cycling Team Car.

Blue Island:
We had four riders in Saturday's Race in Blue Island. From the start it was clear that it would be a different caliber of race from a run-of-the-mill WCA race. Despite being almost twice as long as most crits in the rest of the calendar, competition for positions was fierce from lap one. It was a long rectangular course with a little broken pavement and some slightly dusty corners. Four guys got away halfway through the race. Endeavour's Chris Arndt tried to bridge but could not make it go.

I noticed my rear bottle cage was loose. I tossed my front half empty bottle and swapped the the other bottle to the front cage. Messing with that nonsense immediately cost me half the field. I was able to move back up eventually, but it was costing me. With two to go, someone took a weird line through the back stretch, leading the pack through some debris. I flatted. Damn. I tried to gently coast down on the inside before the corner. I almost took out teammate James Pradun who thought I was swinging out to bring him to the front. And that was it for me.

James went on to win the field sprint for 5th overall. And Endeavour's Chris Arndt took 9th overall. The field averaged 26mph. And the break had half a lap.


Meanwhile, it's dawning on me that I have a flat tubular and no spare wheel for the next day. I didn't bring spare wheels down because the races have neutral support, but they won't cover you if you show up with a flat tire. Luckily teammate Nick Newton was coming down the next day with a spare Ksyrium Campy 10s wheel.

Ryan Law and I watched the delayed Tour coverage in our hotel room and went to sleep.

Olympia Fields:
Sunday was Olympia Fields. This course had some sketchy elements. The asphalt was an inch lower than the cement gutters. All the way around. Turn 3, in addition to the lips of death, was sharp, narrow, dusty, and at the fastest point on the half mile course. Turn 1 had a raised manhole cover on the inside.

On lap one, someone came screaming up the inside to turn 3 and fishtailed into the corner. Nice. That would set the tone for the day.

I started in the back of the 70 rider field and it took me half the race to make any progress moving up, even though it seemed like I was constantly passing riders. The acceleration out of turn 3 at the back was tremendous. Eventually I made it up, and the announcer even called me out one lap. Riders were still fighting for positions every lap, but now I was able to stay toward the front. The pack was frequently came through turn 1 too wide. At one point, I had to hop the gutter lip and ride up the curb to keep it upright. In that case, it was my fault for taking that line through the corner. But it would prove to be a foreshadowing of things to come. I heard there's a video floating around somewhere. I'm going to track that down for you, my loyal readers.

With 3 laps to go, the carnage started. Apparently everyone realized it was their last chance and simultaneously tried to move to the front. In the same place at turn 1, someone to the outside went wide, and rather than going off the course, sharply corrected. I would never swerve that sharply in a race unless it's to avoid a collision, because it's likely to cause one. Which is exactly what happened. Next lap. A rider two in front of me slightly left went down. Touched a wheel perhaps. Chris Arndt got caught and flipped. His rear wheel flipped up seemingly right in front of my face before his whole bike conveniently veered to the left. That cost me a few spots. Final lap. Single file in turn 3. The guy in front of me clipped a pedal hard, but managed to stay up. He lost a lot of speed in the process, and I was still stuck behind him. I sprinted and managed to salvage a spot in the money. 17th.

Tomasz Boba soloed off the front with 12 to go for the win. Once again James Pradun won the field sprint, and is now tied for the overall points lead.

There was another crash after the line. Someone got pushed into a barrier. Casualties from the race included a broken arm, collarbone, some guy hit a pole, plenty of road rash.

No one liked this course.

In P/1/2 news they actually had a conference to discuss cancelling the event. In the end, they did not, but offered refunds to riders that did not like the course. Over 100 riders covered almost half the 0.5 mile course. We didn't stay to see the exciting conclusion, but after two days of racing, Rock was controlling all the jerseys.

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