I found out exactly what that feels like this past Monday. It was hideously hot and humid as I started the Whitnall Park Road Race at 10:00 in the morning. In my opinion weather shouldn't be unbearable before noon. On Monday, though, it was. Of course, this didn't stop any of us from coming out to race. 23 of us lined up to broast ourselves in the terrible heat for the Men's Cat 4/5 field.
Whitnall Park is where I won a race in April, so in some ways I had a home court advantage. The course on Monday was slightly different--longer actually--and in the opposite direction that I had raced at the Whitnall Park Criterium. The roads were in decent shape, but not fantastic. However, the course had only one sharp turn which was a hard left hander before heading up the finishing climb. The course was rolling and finished with a short steep section approximately 0.5 miles from the finish with a flat/slightly downhill section for the final 300 meters or so. The hill meant the finish would be difficult, but that the final sprint might actually be fairly fast if you could recover in time to give it a go. Although, there was a huge dent in the road just 30 meters or so before the finish (I don't really know what else to call it) that stretched about 70% of the way across from left to right. This meant that my plan was to give a burst of speed on the final climb and then try to stay along the right of the road through to the finish line.
We rolled out only a few minutes late (which is a pretty amazing feat for Superweek) and started our 11 lap (~23 mile) "road race." The race was operated as a road race instead of a criterium which meant no free-lap rule and there was actually a support car driving behind us. Our first couple laps of this glorified circuit race were somewhat blistering in pace as the 4/5 field always seems to like. There was a strong wind from the west, so the north side of the course was a bit difficult as we dove down from the start line and then climbed up into a headwind.
I decided to race this one with my head instead of my legs, so I mostly just sat in following wheels while I let the racers with teammates do most of the work. It paid off and I still had some energy left in the tank to race strong during the last lap. Coming through to the start/finish at one lap to go I found myself in front with a couple other riders as we all spread across the road waiting for someone to take the lead. We eased around our first corner and into the downhill, so I just let myself freewheel easy and wound up on the front. There were a couple piddly attacks as we headed into the headwind and I let myself drift back 5 or 6 places while others initiated the chases. With about a mile to go, an attack lifted the pace as we headed back towards the finish line and I was prepared to stay with them. I got onto 4th or 5th wheel and pushed hard. We hit the hard left hander uphill and I just hung on. I had a point on the hill where I wanted to go all in, but I was forced by the high pace to start my jump two or three bike lengths earlier than I wanted to. It meant that I didn't quite have the power at the peak of the hill that I wanted to, but I was still with the front runners and it stopped me from getting passed by anyone else behind me. I was on the left side of the road and with too many people to make a wild move over to the right where I wanted to be, so I just made the best of my side as I could.
Two guys were strong enough to go off the front over the top and the rest of us were in wild pursuit. Tristan Horvath from MACK racing managed another win against the KS Energies rider who finished second. Meanwhile 9 of us were stampeding towards the line in a group sprint. About 25 meters before the finish I got squinched by the rider on my right as he veered off his line and the rider on my left who was trying to move off the barriers. I sat up enough to avoid a crash and probably sacrificed a place or two in my finish, but still managed 9th. It was a good day, albeit a VERY hot one. Looking back at my heart rate monitor, I recorded yet another new Max HR. 207 this time! This racing back into shape thing isn't going so badly after all.
Next up is the Bravo Cucina Italiana Criterium in Whitefish Bay on Sunday. After that Superweek will be done I won't likely have another race until mid August. Although, I will have more adventures in Colorado to tell about in the interim. Stay tuned.
Before I go. Props to Tristan Horvath! He raced the entire race as a marked man and most of the group made him do work on the front despite being a lone rider without any teammates on Monday. He earned the win the hard way. Nice Work.