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Local Races in the Midwest
By Janna Trevisanut
Date: 5/30/2002
Local Races in the Midwest

By Rich Pink

Memorial Day weekend kicked off the first big race weekend here in the midwest, with four races in as many days spanning the length of the Mississippi river along the Iowa/Illinois border. All classes were racing each day, capping off with some serious action by the top domestic American teams, including 7UP/Nutra Fig, US Postal, Mercury, Saturn, and so on.

For a beginning racer such as myself, the weekend was looked at from a point of serious trepidation, "Will I be able to finish? Can I help my team? Will I end up in hospital?" were just some of the questions running through my mind. I only have a handful of races under my belt, and the ink is still wet on my USCF license. But, off we went my team mates and I, setting out from Chicago last thursday for the scenic drive to just outside where the two wheeled warfare was to take place. Myself, Matt, and Chris, all Cat 5 first year racers riding for the 2nd year squad Hotel Accomodations (sponsor of our Groundhog Cycling Club), wide eyed and ready for anything. Matt had already shown good form, winning two weeks early at a tough crit in Iowa City. Chris was trying to shake off a series of mechanicals and crashes. I was just hoping to stay in the front and be a factor in any possible way. It was nice to have our team captain there, a Cat 3 rider named Jason (out with a back injury), who was really informative as to what to expect, how to ride, when to attack, etc. He was there in support of his wife Kristen, a Cat 3 rider for Trek/Volkswagen Midwest. We listened to him like children around a campfire hearing Grandpa tell horror stories.

Captain: "How many laps is your Snake Alley race?"

Me: "Eight."

Captain: "That's four too many."

Scary stuff.

So, here's how the races broke down, from the peon amatuer perspective. If you'd like the pro look, Kenny Labbe's recount is at the US Postal website.

Race 1 : The Wapello to Burlington Road Race, Iowa

Not too much to say about this one. Our 4/5 race was 33 miles, a point to point along the Mississippi river. Our field numbered 100 riders. It was fast (avg 24.6), mostly downhill, and mother nature was good enough to hold the rain off and afford us a light tailwind. There was one split which we all made (by all I mean my mates and I). We hung in, got Chris near the front at about the 30 mile mark. One big crash took out about 10 to 15 guys, we all stayed rubber side down, and we all coasted in inside the top 30. Chris rocked out pretty hard and finished in the money in 10th. He's fast on the flats, no doubt about it.

Race 2 : The Snake Alley Criterium, Burlington, Iowa

We woke up the next day after a good night's rest to face the biggest challenge of the 4 days of racing. You may have read my post on the message board concerning this mother. There's a picture attached for those who have trouble visualizing. This meanspirited little devil has grades varying from 12 to 20% in some places, all cobbled, and is constantly switching back. It has the nickname "the crookedest street in the world". I was scared, really scared when I saw it. I am not a natural climber by any stretch. At nearly 6'5", and about 185 lbs, this sort of gradient and terrain is my natural sworn enemy. And sure enough, it damn near killed me. The front group had my man Matt in it, and he eventually crushed (and I mean CRUSHED) everyone else and sailed to victory. My man Chris earned the kudos of the crowd by halting midway up the dastardly climb, and simply falling over into the grass to join the spectators. He stayed there for the remainder of the race, and it was most comical. Me, I just tried to get up the thing eight times, as I was never a threat to anybody but myself. If it were not for the crowd, I certainly would have put my foot down. The first two times up hurt, the last 5 were excruciating. However, Matt's win washed away the pain, and we ate burgers and drank beer at the restaurant patio on the course and watched the other races. I slept pretty hard that night. Photo of Snake Alley

Race 3 : The Melon City Criterium, Muscatine, Iowa

Cool, a race on a paved trail around a city park, in near perfect sunny weather. What could be better? Shaded trees surround the course, and it's pretty much half up, half down, with a funky little 70 degree hitch near the top. It's mostly round, but the weird thing is at the bottom of the descent there is, of all things, a speed bump. Pretty nifty to hop this thing at nearly 30mph. Our field is 26 riders, and the race started with some crazy sandbagger jumping out front never to be seen again. For the rest of us, it was all about me and Matt hanging in the middle while Chris slaughtered everyone else lap after lap, gunning on the descent and hammering up the other side softening the will and resolve of our competition. . So, when the last lap came, Matt and I jumped, passing nearly everyone in the field on the last climb and cruised in at 3rd and 5th. We got some silly BMX trophies for our exploits. We stayed around for a lesson in speed, watching the pros eat that course (and the speed bump) at nearly 40mph. Wow.

Race 4 : The Quad Cities Criterium, Rock Island, Illinois

We crossed the river back into our home state feeling pretty good. Things had gone well for our squad so far, and this last course was all about strategy. Fast, flat, and shaped like a figure 8, this race promised to be a true humdinger, especially since the entire course was lined a'la Blues Brothers with 7 foot high chicken wire. Not kidding. Our field is near 30, with a large contingent of a local racing squad, themselves fielding about 10 riders. We have 3. After the first few laps, a break is established, and it's us 3, and 3 of said local club (Quad Cities Bicycle Club/Dice, a great bunch of guys and classy riders to boot). So, discussions are held as we cruise around 25 mph around the course. "It's just us, 3 on 3, so we work together and duke it out at the end". Most agree. All this talk has allowed a solo rider to bridge. He promptly tells me after I compliment him on his solo bridge "I'm not doing any work." Fair enough. The alliances are snapped though, as the Dice guys send one up the road. We reel him in, only to be countered by another Dice rider, this one stronger, who gets a good 15 seconds on the rest of us. I pull. Matt pulls. Chris stays in because he's our best chance to win in a sprint. Matt keeps pulling, and this Dice dude stays away. I gain my wits back after another pull and at 2.5 laps to go, pull the far-to-the-right-and-hamer-down move, forcing the other Dice riders in the break to take my wheel, allowing my other mates to rest. I ride my eyeballs out for a few laps near 27mph, nearly but not quite reeling him in. To avoid projectile vomiting, I sit up, and Matt takes up the rest of the work, getting Chris to the breakaway rider. When they passed him, it is said he lamented "Aw S---" with much conviction. And just like the plans said, Chris whales on everybody else with his formidable sprint to take 1st place. (I failed to mention he took all the intermediate points too, winning us $45 in primes) Dice takes 2, 4, and 5. Me and Matt are happy to coast in with 6th and 7th after all of our hard work. But really Chris was the star, with his tough sprint.

So, all in all, for 4 races, we rack up 2 victories, several top 10's some hand-me-down BMX trophies (why, I don't know) and about 80 dollars in prize money. For the bottom of the bucket racing, we felt prett a-o-k about it.

This weekend, a pair of doozies in Madison, Wisconsin. I'll be sure to report if we survive.

Thanks for reading.

-Rich Pink (Photo)

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