2009 Race Reports 12 – 13: Superweek Racine and Kenosha

Race Report 12: July 23, 2009 – Superweek Racine Master’s Criterium: a study in tedium – bumpy, lots of corners, single file, breakaways, and a slightly uphill finish stretch. After an hour and fifteen minutes of hanging on following the wheel, I ended up 9th – five or six guys were up the road. Yawn. Race Report 13: July 24, 2009 - Superweek Kenosha Pro/Am: 100 Kilometers, 100 laps

I ate well, rested well, arrived on time, warmed up, and was hydrated and motivated. With the retirement of the Manitowoc course, Kenosha remains my primary hope for a top 5 spot in a Superweek Pro Race. Over the years, the true sprinter’s courses have dwindled, and so too has the body weight and musculature of the racers atop the podium. 4 years ago it was the Robbie Ventura with his swelling thighs and massive calves atop the top spot. Now, 4 years later, after a 40 lap onslaught by the “new criterium pros” of today, 4 of the 5 top podium spots fell to men who weighed under 140 lbs and whose thighs were not much bigger than a typical male bicep. Pro criterium racing has fundamentally changed and rare are the huge field sprints so typical of just a few years ago.

The race was fast from the gun – 31, 32, 33mph on the straightaways, slowing to the mid twenties in the corners. I was sitting maybe 80th in a 120 man field for the first half. It was hard, but I was on my game and hit it hard each time out of the corners and felt fast. Then, just around half way through the 100K race, the teams decided to start chasing the breakaway – and we went from three abreast to two-up to single file. And there it stayed – for 5 laps, then 10, then 15.

I was nailing it full out from the corners and slotting up a few spaces each time – creeping forward through the pack – from 80th to 75th, to 70th, to 65th and so on. The pace was brutal and my pulse was straying higher and higher. At one point I looked back expecting to see the other half of the 120 rider field strung out behind me and I found myself 3rd to last – we had already dropped 50 riders. I panicked and tried to move further up, but the pace never relented and after 72 of the 100 laps of the race I found myself in a 3 man reverse breakaway that I couldn’t close – having bridged several gaps already.

 Rather than a heart bursting burning defeat, this was cold deep down searing pain close to the bone – I physically could produce no more power from my blood and bones and I watched the peleton pedal away as the wind roared around me for a few seconds until I bowed to its pressure and slowed as it quieted.

Getting dropped is the cold essence of defeat – no semblance of “almost” remains – you fall off the back as the wheels in front disappear around the corners even as you still pedal at 25 mph, and then you are alone, and the people who know nothing (spectators) continue to cheer as though there was hope. “Keep going!” “Good job!” “You can catch them!” No, no and no. True cycling fans turn their back and pretend you are warming up – they know the shame you carry. There is not a single solitary hope and I hate – absolutely abhor – those moments of drifting off the back of the wake of the pack. I can't wait to finally find the solace of anonymity on the sidewalk or backstreets. Ultimately the feeling you carry is one of shame.

 “I wasn’t good enough.”

 That’s what getting dropped is – it is admitting, “I wasn’t good enough.” We competitors usually find some excuse though – mechanical issues, improper warmup, too much racing, not enough racing, a dangerous course, dangerous riders.

At Kenosha I had no such excuse – I rarely do anymore. “I wasn’t good enough… TODAY.” That’s the only qualifier that allows some saving of face – adding the word “today” allows the possibility that it isn’t lack of talent, isn’t inborn, isn’t forever that I’ll fail again. “I wasn’t good enough, TODAY” provides a hope for the future. For me, I’ll have to wait until next year’s Kenosha race.

For the record, laps 50 – 72 were the fastest I’ve ever raced – over 30.5 mph average speed, AND (this gave me a little comfort later) three of the four Garmin Slipstream riders were already in the wheel pit when I drifted in – I had outlasted some highly paid pros. In all, only 45 of the 120 starters finished the race and it was a ragtag frayed line of riders that straggled in single file over the final laps.

 ‘Til next year…

The best part of the day was retiring in the RV to Gary and Monica’s house – a beautiful house on a hill in Lake Geneva, with a pool and courtyard, 2 and ½ acres. Yet, we never left the RV…

I can’t explain it, but there’s something special about the close (but not too close) space within the RV – once you are in it becomes the perfect place to tell tales and laugh and joke. Gary, Dave Dohnal, Eric Hankins, and Randy Rodd – yes his real name (don’t Google it – especially at work) a member of my Detroit based Wolverine Sports Club hung out in the RV until the wee hours, eventually joined by Gary’s wife Monica and Dave’s wife Kim, who were up to no good decorating the RV with fishing line and duct tape.

 Randy, almost 20 years everyone’s junior, was a bit of an amusement for the ladies and at one point in the evening as they continued their intrigues he announced, “Yeah, its true, I’m pretty awesome…” which had us all laughing.

The following night was spent in the usual Downer Avenue fashion – parked in the center of the course afterward, sipping some wine and snacking after watching the pro race and walking the course. Randy and I stayed up way too late, and he had to head out super early for his Cat 3 crit. I, surprisingly, overslept and in the morning began the usual “race to the race.” But that's a story for the next post...