Jun O’Fallon Grand Prix Road Race
With no team race on the schedule, Brian and I decided to head down to O’Fallon, Illinois, for two days of racing aimed at boosting our fitness for the harder racing ahead. About five-hour’s drive south of Chicago and just east of the Mighty Mississippi River, O’Fallon is a suburb of St. Louis, Missouri. The course was a 40 km loop through mostly narrow rolling rural roads, the rows of early season corn lining the course lush green and just inches above the soil.
With the point of the weekend being training, I was hoping to get in some hard racing. Well, I got it! Not because of the field, the course or even the intensity of the race. It had entirely due to Mother Nature. With temperatures soaring above 45 degrees (high 90’s) with humidity to match, a cloudless sky, and a stiff headwind on most of the longer straights, the race was one of attrition. The women’s race was two laps (80 km) of suffocating, energy draining heat. I tell you what, that was plenty. Brian’s mater’s race was three laps and the Pro/1/2 guys had a brutal 150 km.
I wanted to make the race hard without blowing myself apart, so around each corner (the course had 27 per lap) I went to the front and rolled through so that anyone breaking into the corner would have to work to get back on. About halfway through the first lap, the field was struggling. I upped the pace around the next corner transitioning from head-cross into a tailwind and the bunch splintered, leaving a lead group of six. With two of the three bigger hills on the course in the last 8 km of the lap, my legs and arms began to feel like jelly as we passed through the start/finish and a nap seemed like quite a good idea.
Having finished two of my three bottles, I was grateful to grab a fresh ice-cold one through the feedzone (Thanks Jane!) where, unloading my empty bottles, I accidentally threw my remaining half-full one. Being a bit loopy, but not crazy, I stopped to retrieve the accidentally discarded bottle (Thanks again Jane!). A modest attack after the feedzone meant a bit of work chasing back on but the heat quickly demotivated much output of effort from the girls and I was quickly back in the group.
One rider tailed off not long into the second lap and we were soon five. The remainder of the race was relatively uneventful as we each struggled to conserve enough energy (and water) to finish the race. By about 15 km to go, I had just a splash of drink left in my bottle. Heading into the last 5 km of the race, all of us dragging in the heat, one rider attacked up the climb. I dug deep and followed with Chris Roettger (Revolution Racing) on my wheel. We pulled hard over the top, I took my last sip of water, and heading into the last hill at 2 km to go Chris attacked up the climb. And then there were two.
Cresting the hill I felt pretty blown, but the 500 m to go sign boosted my spirits. Gasping for air I stayed on Chris’s wheel out of necessity rather than tactics. She put in a dig for the line but when I stayed with her she sat back down. I stayed on her wheel, sprawled on my bike, melting. Two-hundred meters to go and Chris let loose again. I had just enough left to come around. Chris sat up and I was able to cross the line solo in a full victory salute. My first 2011 US win!
5 Jun O’Fallon Grand Prix Criterium
Thank goodness for morning clouds. Temperatures on Sunday dropped to almost tolerable and the breeze even gave an ever so slight coolness to the air. The crit was a fun albeit bumpy hour glass-shaped course with an exciting chicane corner heading into the finishing straight. The turnout for the women’s Pro/1/2/3 was disappointing at only six riders. But quality isn’t necessarily related to quantity. The race was brutal. When Chris Roettger and Carrie Cash Wooten (Revolution Racing) lined up on the start line, I knew it was going to be a tough race.
I went out hard from the gun, hoping to split up the two teammates straightaway, but with both women experienced strong riders, my plan came to no avail. After a couple of laps on the front I began to question the intelligence of my tactic. My enthusiasm faded, soon to be replaced by a slight feeling on dizziness and perhaps a touch of nausea. We shelled two riders straight away so it was a race of four. Carrie came around and she and I shared the load for a few laps as I regained a bit of equilibrium. Then the attacks, as expected, began in earnest. Chris flew by to my right. No sooner had I grabbed her wheel did Carrie put in an explosion of speed. I chased her down and Chris countered with another effort. And so it went.
At 15 minutes the prime bell rang and, being the optimistic and often nonsensical rider that I am, I put in a big effort, only to be rolled on the line by a very speedy Carrie “I’ll take the Cash” Wooten. We had a big gap after the sprint, so I pushed the pace hard for a few laps, taking advantage of the opportunity to get away from the constant one-two attacks. But with a good 25 minutes to go in the race and Carrie catching a free ride on my wheel with no incentive to work, I was conscious that too much effort on my part would give away the race.
A couple of laps and we were again four—and back to one-two attacks. Thankfully, Chris was now a bit tired from her chase effort, mediating her attacks, the fourth rider, Natalie Carroll (Dogfish Racing) hanging on for dear life, teeth firmly wrapped around her handle bars. Final lap, I had the advantage going into the final chicane, but in a deja vu of the earlier prime, the speedy Carrie came around at the line to take the win. I took second with Chris crossing the line in third. Definitely a good race to work the molasses out of my sprint. A weekend of good hard training accomplished. Thanks to Metro East Cycling for putting on a great weekend of racing.