Elk Grove is not your usual USAC race. To start with, not only does it not host the full array of category racing on both days. The Pro’s have their own separate race apart from the category ½’s. The women’s race is hosted on Sunday as an open race, meaning that there are no categories and beginner women race with the Pro’s. In addition to that, the format for the Pro race is a three day stage race with a time trial on Friday, road race on Saturday, and criterium on Sunday. All other categories race the criterium course both Saturday and Sunday. In order to avoid riot, the race promoters were wise enough to have master’s races on both days…thank goodness. On top of that there is a boat load of money, and when I say boat load I really do mean boat load. The purse for the professional race can be measured in the fractions of millions. The ½ race alone has over ten grand on each day of racing. Don’t get me wrong, simply because the race participated in excluded ‘professionals’ it was not filled with a bunch of slow pokes. Especially with teams such as Geargrinder, Championship Porche, and Hotel San Jose stacked with former professional riders.
The criterium course that we got to race on both days was a square, except on one of the left turns you had to do a “Michigan Left”, if you’re familiar with that awesome traffic regulation invention. The streets were also very narrow, especially the finishing straight, which provided for a harrowing sprint on the first day of racing.
So what about the first day of racing? I had some bad luck. As most people will describe their race, they would have won, or at least would have been in the winning move if it weren’t for some act of god, like a broken chain, broken spoke, flood, swarm of locus, etc. My particular excuse is that at the exact moment when the race winning three man breakaway was being established I got a flat tire, not only that, but I was in that initial tenuous split with the later three break away riders when it was only a breakaway of a few seconds…honest. So the rest of the race was spent attacking and following attacks, but always getting chased back. The sprint was really hard to play; the pack was cornering pretty gingerly, which meant a lot of big chopping and swarming was going on in the final few laps. On top of that there was a stiff headwind on the finishing straight, which was over five hundred meters long. So there was a lot of early sprinting and a lot of blowing up on the finishing straight. I ended up 20th right next to Ryan in the end.
After watching some high quality Disney movies at the la Quinta, I was ready to tackle the course again in some better weather. Unfortunately all the hanging on for dear life at super week seems to have dulled my tactical skillz. I had a sweet leadout from Vince for a $50 prime, and I totally had it. But, now that I’m the team sprinter I have to be overly cocky in my abilities…meaning after jumping off Vinces wheel and peaking under my arm I thought: “Psh, I got it” and all but sat up. My “Sprinter Cocky” attitude ended about three seconds later when Will Nowak piped me at the line. I didn’t say it after the race but: I’m sorry Vince. After that I immediately tried to turn the guys who sprinted for the prime into a breakaway. Then after getting caught sat back in the field of shame until the field split happened. It was pretty good at first, we had two in to too big of a break, and I stayed at the front to chase down things and keep the field together. After my lesson that I will never be a cocky sprinter, I also learned another lesson, never ever chase attacks down to try to keep a field together (unless we have our full Panther team there). I just ended up really tiring myself out…and more importantly gassing myself too much to jump on the important wheels that were going across to the winning breakaway. Oh well, with 28 riders up the road I didn’t have to risk my life in the sprint again. Greg finished in the top ten and Vince was also up there.
Anyway the Grand Rapids race is next weekend which I’m pretty excited about, not only is it practically in my back yard (only a 2 hour drive), but there is also a brick section. I did these bricks last year and I’m not talking, ‘Let’s make our town look quaint and put in a small brick road’, I’m talking really old ass bricks that wagons and horses probably beat the crap out of and are now really really rough…and I like it rough. Leaving the Zipps at home.