The intention going into Monsters was to use it as training and for experience. I haven’t raced much and I want as much experience racing as possible. Also, it would be good training and would contribute to my Cat 4 license. Also, it was close – just 40 minutes away by car, in downtown Chicago. The race was raced on the University of Chicago Midway and was put on by the University of Chicago Velo Club. The course consisted of a 1.8 KM rectangle with wide corners, long side running West-East. Street conditions were pretty poor – the streets are usually used for parking so the sides of the street were cut up and there were three huge potholes in the back stretch. It would be nice for the race promoters to mark the holes w/ spray paint or something like that as it was hard, if not impossible, to know when they were coming. Generally, I would coast when I knew I was approaching one (using trees/buildings on the side for reference), which would put me at the back of the group. Wind conditions were out of the West at 13 KM/H, consistent the whole time.
Since the finishing straight was about 400m to the finish line out of the last corner, the strategy was to enter the last corner in about 6th position and follow wheels to 150m, where I would jump.
Category 4/5 Monsters of the Midway Race Report:
I went in feeling really good. I had been doing really great on the Tower rides and had been riding consistently and strongly. I started the race in the third row but didn’t try to get up to the front immediately. That put me in about 25th position, where I stayed for the first of 10 laps (30 mins). The chances of a break getting away on such a simple course were very slim, especially with the crosswind sections being 140m long, each, which ended up being more of a long U-turn than two separate corners.
The main problem I had during the race was that I kept ending up at the back. I would move up to top 10 or so in the tailwind stretch (800m), corner and maybe move up a few spaces (either people in the lower categories aren’t very good at cornering or I don’t know how much the accordion affect comes into play – although even when I was third/fourth wheel at times, I still had to brake significantly in order to stay behind the person in front of me. As mentioned, the corners were wide – you didn’t have to brake at all) through the turn. However, on the long headwind stretch, people would be constantly moving up on the left and right and I would find myself in the back half. I was never tailgunning but I still had to move up every time on the tailwind stretch. That wasted a lot of energy, I think. I need to, in the future, make sure that I’m constantly moving up so that I don’t end up at the back. Maybe that means being more aggressive in moving into trains.
Despite this, with 1 lap to go I was sitting 2nd wheel. About 200m before turn 3, three XXX guys moved up to the front and I jumped on that, thinking it would be a train to the finish. Unfortunately, the first guy blew in between turns 3 and 4 and the second guy blew going through Start/Finish. Instead of getting stuck on the front, the last XXX guy jumped, trying to bridge up to a break of 4 up the road. I should have been ready but wasn’t, getting caught out and having to pedal into a 3 meter gap. I couldn’t bring the XXX rider back and was off, solo, in front of the decimated field behind. I thought it would be smarter to sit up, try to recover, and then try to do something in the field sprint but I couldn’t recover quickly enough and limped in last of the pack, 34th overall (out of 60 or so). Maybe I should have put my head down and TT’d, but I was already at 200bpm and I don’t think I could have summoned the watts to stay out in front.
Category 5 Monsters of the Midway Race Report:
Strategy was the same as above. I lined up sort of out of it all b/c of the efforts of the 4/5. That probably wasn’t the best idea because I ended up losing focus and pulling some dangerous moves in the field. I’ll have to work on that. Anyways, the race was definitely slower than last time and I learned from the 4/5 race by following moves up the sides in the headwind straight. I was in the top-20 w/ 3 to go but was sort of mentally out of it. Even if I had stayed in, I don’t think I would have had the winning mentality to pull off a pack win. I ended up flatting out after hitting a huge pothole (RACE PROMOTERS!) and blowing the rear wheel. Oh well.
Overall, this was definitely a good thing to have done. I know I learned a lot about crit racing and definitely benefited from the workout (hitting 200bpm can’t be… bad for you, can it? I mean, isn’t it healthy and natural to have your heart beat that fast?). Takeaways from this race include:
- Always be in the process of moving up to the front of the race
- People don’t corner very fast – either be on the front and split the field in a technical course like Homewood or do something else (haven’t figured out how to approach it b/c even top 5 I had to slow down).
- My sprint power is pretty good. The lifting over the winter (max back squat of 235lbs, 1 rep) has definitely made my force out of corners and in accelerations much stronger than last year.
My next race is the Quad Cities Memorial Day Weekend (Snake Alley, Melon City, Quad Cities crits). Thanks for taking the time to read my report. Connect with me by following this blog via WordPress (footer), subscribe via e-mail (right sidebar), e-mail me (link here), or follow me on Strava. Thanks again!