"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


Twilight Delight

(Josh Carter wins the P/1/2 Twilight Criterium)

I have never done the Winfield Twilight or ABR National Championship Criteriums before this year, always opting to head north to Wisconsin for the Spring Prairie Road Race. It is the State Championship event, and the fields are so large, they actually split them into local and non-Wisconsin groups. However, this year the non-Wisconsin group was not slated to start until 5:05 pm, and the idea of not getting home until after 11 was very discouraging.

As well, XXX Racing – AthletiCo’s increased partnership with the Active Transportation Alliance has motivated me to race closer to home this year, in the spirit of promoting a more car-free culture. Winfield is much closer and both races were within a mile of the Metra station – Sunday’s championships were in fact only a block away.

Finally, I’ve heard so much about these courses from friends who have raced them. They’ve absolutely raved about them, and I’ve even read that Saturday’s Twilight Criterium is one of the top crits in the country.

We did indeed take the Metra out on Saturday, walking the mile from the Winfield station to course at Oakwood Park, just a mile north. A huge and lush green expanse, the start/finish line was on the park’s east side. The course then took a soft left and went uphill into the neighborhood, topping out after maybe 200 yards with a small stairstep in the middle to a prime line, followed by a 90 degree left turn.

From here, the next three turns would see the probably the most fun I’ve ever had in a criterium: a screaming descent, promising to be a single-file line, going right, then two lefts back to the line. I was nervous right up until the whistle that the threatened rain would finally arrive, turning these turns treacherously slick, slowing us down, and causing utter chaos.

And then we were off. No time to worry about anything except getting up front.

And upfront we stayed, fast and dry. As I’ve said before my descending has improved light-years over last year, and Liam’s confident wheel was like the driver’s seat of a Ferrari. No brakes, we swept wide and cut hard through the apex of the turns, keeping it single-file to the bottom every time. The squealing of brakes on carbon rims followed us through every turn except one on lap. Liam and I were in the middle of that mess only once – from then on we decided taking a little wind through the start line was the far better choice.

You definitely had enough momentum to keep your recovery before hill started again. I imagine the speed of the turns there did as much to shell guys off the back as the actual hill: getting gapped on the descent made you expend precious energy to close that you needed going back up.

(the Irish Resistance)

And so it went until just one lap to go, with the exception of Liam’s one early flyer. Knackered legs from Friday’s omnium win, plus a headwind on the hill brought him back before the top. At the bell there was a moderate jump, which became the huge jump I anticipated at the middle of the hill. I just a bit late in reacting, and my timing and panic cost me good form, acceleration, and about 3 wheels.

Approaching the first turn of the descent I hear behind and the left, “outside!” There was maybe six inches between and the curb. I saw a helmet in my peripheral vision, and replied, “don’t you $%*@ing DARE!” and cut right into the heart of the descent.

Speed picking up…wheel to wheel through the next turn…false flat descent to the last turn before the line. I’m setting up my turn and plotting my sprint for the win, when Mr. Outside, an ABD rider, goes inside on me and takes away my line. Dammit. I should’ve been going faster, not to mention taken a more aggressive and shallower turn. Right there my podium was gone.

I had to alter my line, slowed, and suddenly was gapped trying to catch 5th place. I put my head down to close, and threw at the line but was just a couple inches too late. I was pissed about the last turn but it was my own damn fault for not being aggressive enough and protecting my line. It was that exact move I had used at Quad Cities to position myself at turn 7 of that race, two weeks ago – so how could I really complain? That’s racing.

(Luke and SMITTY in the 2/3s)

We stayed to watch a blistering 2/3s race featuring Luke and Kirby, won by ABD’s phenom Ryan Freund, and then the main event of the Pro/1/2 field. It was blazing fast with several serious breaks getting off, but still coming down to a pack sprint at the end.


Jeff of MargaretAndJeff said...

That's Matt Smith. You can tell by the gloves. Also, Daley wasn't there.

The Car Whisperer said...

OOPS! Hey, Matt. You look pretty skinny...