2009 Race Reports #18 & 19: Downer's Grove Famine and Feast

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TreJry21jTg] Day 1: Downer's Grove Pro-Am Challenge

Yes, you can have the post-race vibe, even if you don't finish the race...

So I discovered Saturday night after the Downer's Grove Pro-Am. I won the race to the race and warmed up up well and got the front row of the huge field of 160 riders. The pace steadily escalated during the race, and my pulse never dropped below 180 during the hour plus that I was in the race. I stayed in the top 30, using the corners to wing up a few spots and dropping back a few on the long hard stretches. I made it to the halfway mark and then to 15 laps to go - and then there was a crash directly in front of me and I had to stop.

The crash was in the downhill corner leading back into the slight uphill finish stretch so I needed to accelerate from zero to 35mph uphill which really took its toll. Meanwhile riders were sitting up all around me to take a free lap (even though they had not crashed which is supposed to be the rule) and I was bridging gaps left by riders who had sat up. By the time I reached the hill, I was already off the back (along with 50 other riders) so I decided to throw in the towel and take a free lap as well.

But I made a significant mistake - instead of dropping down the backside of the course to get a push into the downhill section of the course (and get an extra half lap of rest, I dropped back down to the base of the uphill and joined about 25 riders re-entering there. With no push and an immediate accel up the hill I spent the remaining arrows in my limited quiver just rejoining the field near the rear, and meanwhile the pace had pushed even higher and it was single file.

A lap later and several bridging moves to stay connected, I threw in the towel and dropped backward, amazed at the stream of riders still attempting to regain contact with the field. Over those few laps, the peleton went from 150 down to 50 - over 100 riders dropped, spread all over the course - I've never seen carnage quite like it, and did not feel bad at all for it - in fact I felt a real thrill that I was able to ride up front with the top pros in the country for the majority of the race. I joined Gary and Matt for a glass of wine feeling great. But the night did not end there - oh no...

9 people joined me at the house and the pool party began almost immediately at 10pm when Randy Rodd took the balcony leap to the pool and Gary and Monica (their two sons sleeping), Katelina, Ray Dybowski, Brett Bedow, Matt Dula, Randy Rodd, and Alan Antonuk splashed and dove and talked with a beer or glass of wine in the 85 degree pool or 105 degree hot tub. At 11pm I put Katelina to bed, and at 1am, I headed in myself - I was racing just a scant few hours later. Meanwhile the boys continued to party in the pool until the wine and beer ran out.

Day 2: Downer's Grove Elite Category 2 Championships

2008 was the first time in 8 years that I didn't step on the podium at Downer's and I was determined to regain those painted wooden steps. I warmed up well and felt 'on fire' during the race - the pace was significantly easier than the pro race, and I felt I could do anything. However with 3 laps to go there was a crash directly in front of me (see video) around turn 2 that threw me backward in the peleton. Still I followed my instincts to navigate through the pack from the inside, shrouded from the wind. With 2 to go I moved up into the top 20, and with one to go, as the pace slowed, I pulled into the front of the pack and then slotted back into third up the hill.

There was a breakaway of 3 riders that had been out for a number of laps, but we hit the hill hard and ate them up by the top. Then it was decision time - the strong rider in blue hooked right and made a move... to stay or go?

I paused and then hit the jets, swinging into the contrails of his draft and we accelerated through the corner and down the backstretch, approaching 40mph into the final 3 corners.

I didn't know where the pack was and considered a counter move with 2 corners to go, but was worried about the headwind into the second to last stretch - sure enough even the rider in blue couldn't avoid slowing as we headed toward the final corner, and I should have hit it as soon as he slowed, but I waited, and two riders that had attached from the field attacked up the inside off camera. I jumped as well and by taking the corner wide, hoped for a slingshot to the finish line, but rider 2 took me to the barriers with his momentum and I had to slow a bit and by then had nothing left and could not come around, finishing third... Still I was happy to stand on the podium...