The atmosphere was festive: music, an announcer, more spectators than usual, and 90-degree heat. 37 riders lined up for the Cat 3 race. Among those present were the dynamic IS Corps duo of Chazz mini-Cavendish Martin and Scott Rosenfield (they went 1-2 in the Saturday race and have been killing it in 3’s races for some time), David Reyes (Fox River Grove winner), and four strong Burnham riders, among others. It was a tight five-turn course. The fifth turn, which was about 150 meters from the finish line, was 180 degrees.
Adam and I were hoping for a good result today (Jesse wasn’t able to race with us due to a lingering cold). We had ridden aggressively in two races the day before but we didn’t get the results we had hoped for (Adam rode like a man possessed, picking up two primes and riding four solo laps off the front). I was particularly motivated today because it was the first race of the year that Marilyn was able to see. But I knew I’d have to choose my efforts wisely as I was feeling the effects of doubling up at the race on Saturday.
Adam and I had great starting positions right on the line. Unfortunately I had my worst clip in ever and found myself at the back of the pack in a matter of seconds. I quickly realized that this was not a race to ride from the back. Going around the 180 degree turn the race basically came to a complete stop. The riders in the front of the group sprinted out of the turn and the riders on the back had to sprint like crazy (once they finally started moving again) to stay in contact. I got close to the front in a lap or two and started watching for moves off the front. Riders were attacking every lap right from the gun. After around four failed attacks I was sitting second wheel behind Jason K (Burnham) when Nick Ramirez (Burnham) bolted off the front from mid-pack and immediately established a decent gap. I jumped around Jason and bridged up to Nick in around a third of a lap. David Reyes soon joined us. We only had a small gap but this was a strong group. David and Nick were both willing to work and I knew they had the legs for a long breakaway. And with Adam and the Burnham boys blocking I knew we had a chance. We put our heads down and hammered relentlessly for the next five laps. As soon as we started to establish a decent gap on the field a five-person group broke away from the peloton and started chasing in earnest (the group included Rosenfield). The chase group cut our gap significantly but they weren’t able to make it all the way up. After about fifteen minutes of serious chasing they lost organization and fell apart. It was clear at this point that our break was going to stick. About ten minutes later we lapped the field, which was looking much smaller than it did when we left it (more than half of the riders that started the race didn’t finish it).
I thought we might get a couple of easy laps but this was not the case. Nick attacked again almost immediately (does that guy ever get tired?). Adam chased him down with me on his wheel. There were eight laps left and it looked like the race was going to turn into an attack fest. What the field didn’t know was that Adam was about to switch to Jens Voigt mode. He went to the front again and started riding high tempo. I was second wheel and the field was strung out behind me. One lap goes by. Then another. And another. The announcer takes notice: “Adam Kaye from TATI taking a monster pull. Let’s give him a hand ladies and gentlemen!” Adam pulls through the start/finish line first wheel to a well-deserved round of applause. I’m not sure of the exact count but Adam did at least six laps at the front of the field without a single break. During that time I never had a rider on my left or my right. I was able to ride at a steady (but very fast) pace and collect myself mentally and physically for what was surely going to be a crazy last two laps.
Adam had turned himself inside out for the sake of the team; that is the kind of effort that deserves to be repaid. I was exhausted and up against formidable opponents; I didn’t know if I could win but I was going to give it everything I had. With two laps to go Jason K came to the front and pulled hard for the duration of the lap. Adam stayed second wheel and I was third. At the start of the bell lap we were swarmed on both sides and I lost Adam’s wheel. Nick and David and a number of other riders passed me between turns one and three. The race was slipping away. I knew that there was only one way for me to have a chance of winning this race. I needed to be first wheel with a gap coming out of turn five. I took turn four hard on the outside and hammered full speed ahead for the 100 meters between turn four and turn five. As the leaders started braking for the final 180 degree turn I stayed on the gas just long enough to get to first wheel. I took a tight inside line on the corner praying that my Ultremos wouldn’t lose traction. They didn’t. 150 meters later I crossed the finish line first about an inch ahead of the hard-charging Reyes.