"It never gets any easier. You just go faster." ---Greg Lemond
"Don't buy upgrades. Ride up grades." --- Eddy Merckx
"You drive like shit." ---The Car Whisperer

28.7.08

Superweek: Downer Avenue

The Great Downer Avenue Bike Race. For 40 years, they’ve been racing this course on the northeast side of Milwaukee, and it’s rated as on of the top three ProAm races in the country. This year was the first time they would be opening it up to the lower categories and I certainly couldn’t pass up an opportunity like this one.

The party was already well underway as Katy and I arrived, even though they were still setting up the course for the first race of the day. It was a hot, sunny late morning, and there were beer vendors up and down the street as nearly every bar and restaurant were trying to get in on the action. People crowded the barriers in anticipation.

The course was unique and somewhat technical, with a 100+ degree turn and a fairly potholed surface. Once again, the headwind was coming down the finishing stretch and it looked to be an omen for a hard-fought sprint. The 4/5s race broke up immediately, into several groups, and with less than 10 to go, an Illinois Tech rider, Ryan Friend, broke off and continually increased his lead to over a minute as the field resigned itself to a fight for 2nd place with about 3 laps to go.

As I got my numbers at registration I noticed several XXX names on the starting list, but as we lined up more than an hour late, the field itself was no more than 30 riders for the Category 4s and I was still alone. Chris Padfield just laughed and said, “welcome to my world!” I laughed along with him, knowing this race was probably going to be no different that any of his other 5 plus (I think) solo wins this year. I knew that in order to crack the podium in this race I’d need to go with him, or bring him with me on a preemptive attack myself.

It was a surprisingly smooth race after the chaos of Kenosha the day before, and I recognized several riders from that race. But with the smaller field, there were no swarms, and the accordion effect was only mildly present. I sat in on the back and flat-out enjoyed myself until about 7 laps to go when the attacks started. Until then I stayed out of the bullshit on the front with several riders swerving to get out of the wind and just stayed glued to my wheel.

Towards go time however, it started to string out single file with some attacks and I knew I needed to move up right then. Coming up on five to go, I was moving up hard on the left side, and it was good I already had a full head of steam because that was when Chris went off.

I just kept going, taking it up to 110% past my screaming girlfriend and family members banging on the barricades as I desperately tried to reach what I knew was the winning move. I dangled behind Chris by about 10 meters after Turn 1 until a third rider came past and bridged us up. We were off with 4 and half laps to go.

But immediately I was hurting badly, and it was obvious I was the weakest link. We’d slow on my pulls just a bit, and coming past Turn 2 after seeing three to go I lost the wheel. My breathing was out of control, my ass was about to seize up in protest and I was pedaling boxes. I heard Chris yell at me to “get that wheel!” but I had nothing. It just kept going further ahead.

Chris was still behind me as I looked back to see the pack sucking us in. Just as I cracked, Chris joined the spearhead of it and off he went. I just got spit out the back like shit through a goose. Pretty much what I was feeling like at that point.

I had visual contact with the group all the way until the end, and I finished the race. At least the team got some decent mic time as I heard my name mentioned several times over my ignominious end.

Chris Padfield attacked again, and held the field off for yet another win.

Some guys do. Others just watch.

2 comments:

Chris said...

hey man it really made me feel good to see you in the break. it ain't easy to make these things stick and you've gotta try. your chances are way better for the win 1/3 than 1/30+

The Car Whisperer said...

Absolutely man, I don't think the race is a loss at all...it was the best DFL I've ever had...which is way better than any 18th place I've ever had, too...I mean that. You made my decision to go very, VERY easy...hahaha.