SpeedWeek was originally on my calendar for this past weekend. It’d be a good trip back down to my favorite cycling city of Greenville, SC. However after the solid ass kicking we all recieved at Joe Martin, we needed an easier set of races to recoup our legs and egos. From the looks of all the crap that went on at SpeedWeek, it’s most likely a good thing we skipped things down there.
The Tour of Champaign – Urbana crits have always been a little on the rough side for us. The first year I participated it was the first weekend of superweek with a bunch of P-R-O ringers in attendance. Two years ago I got tag teamed by the now defunct Verizon team for 3rd on Saturday and pretty much suffered heat stroke Sunday after doing a team time trial breakaway with Ryan Knapp one lap into the race (last year I was in Greenville).
So even though we were the strongest team on paper, I was still a little unsure about our prospects. Thankfully my worries turned out to be pretty unfounded. Saturday returned to the traditional 4 corner flat wide open campus crit. Things played out exactly how you’d expect such a course to play out, nothing got more than a 10 second advantage. Going into the closing laps Aitchenson and I were arguing about who felt crappier and would sprint. I eventually won, pulling seniority and American-ness and lead him out for the sprint, which turend out pretty well since he won.
On a side note, there is much more rest time required from a 4 day stage race than I anticipated. I definately didn’t take it easy this past week and was feeling it in my cement like legs. Lesson learned on to the next race.
Sunday’s course shifted from campus to downtown Urbana for a tight 8 corner 1 km crit. Being super technical we knew it wouldn’t end up like Saturday’s race so the plan was to wait until things were starting to get a little broken up then attack hoping one of the other “Diesel” type riders would join up with us. Things went pretty much according to plan except for the waiting part. After only a handful of laps I attacked a smallish group that had seperated itself from the front of the race ( I actually didn’t know we had broken away before the attack, and just thought things were strung out). Turned out to be the right move since Jonathan Jacobs joined me shortly afterwards and we put in some good efforts to build up a good gap. In case you don’t know JJ is the Elite time trial champion and I am just about the worst Cat 1 time trialist on earth. I put in some good work early on but quickly, um, started to suck. Here’s a power plot from the race, I’ve smoothinged the data a bit so you can get an idea of my general trend of suckieness.
By 15 or so laps to go (around 20 minutes left in the race) I was seriously hurting. I was doing my own threshold to stay on JJ’s wheel and we’d go about 5 mph slower every time I’d pull through then have a pretty hard time getting back on the wheel. The 90 degree heat and humidity (the first hot race of the season) also amplified my deteriorating ability to ride fast. Knowing the rest of the team behind was putting in work to cover attacks and keep things locked down I decided to sit on to try and recover a bit. I also heard over the speaker that another Panther rider was chasing in a 2 man group at 20 odd seconds behind us (we were also 20-30 seconds off lapping the field, but small group sprints are kinda my thing and I didn’t want to be involved in any last lap nonsense).
With some 4 odd laps I tried my hand at pulling through again with some pretty painful results.
JJ attacked on the back side of the course just as I pulled off but I was able to catch his wheel. As we came onto the finishing straight I jumped and took the Win.
Behind Ryan A outkicked Enzo’s Nick Ramirez for 3rd place (it’s so nice having a bunch of quick finishers on the team).
All in all it was a pretty satisfying weekend, it was a great team effort both Saturday and Sunday to take 3 of 6 podium spots. We really had our team’s tactics nailed down for these regional races and I’m looking foreward to the rest of the summer.
Thanks to Mark Swartzendruber for putting on a good race and getting us set up with some awesome hosts for the weekend.
For now it’s going to be a pretty easy week of recovery for Tour de Grove in St. Louis next weekend (which has a STACKED field).