For as long as I've been around bike racing Downer's Grove, Illinois has been the home of our National Criterium Championships for the Men' s Elite and Pro categories as well as the Women's Elite. Being someone who considers myself a crit rider, I've always had Downer's Grove as the highlight of my year and my career goal to win that race. I live within riding distance of it and the tradition of having everybody out to watch the big names of both men's and women's cycling is huge! In the last couple years I've actually been able to ride and hang in the race and each year I've crept closer to being competitive. The news that Downers Grove would no longer be hosting the championships, or even having a race hit me hard. From my understanding the town just got tired of it and decided not to host the race this year. All of the Championships except the pro men were held in June in Bend, Oregon. I was pretty bummed about this and since I could not afford a plane ticket out to Bend I was not able to compete.
Glencoe Grand Prix Race is a local race that is now in it's fourth year, and having a reputation of being incredibly well run, was able to host the Pro Men Championships! Even though it wasn't our national championships, or even on the National Race Calendar for the women, we had a large prize purse and rode the same course--a new longer version-- as the pro men. Vera Bradley, Tibco, and Colovita were well represented as well as some other strong individuals including Laura Van Gilder. Not sure exactly how many started but though strong, the field was fairly small. It was a long course, and there were lots of corners but 3 that were narrow and downhill and proved especially challenging. Even though I knew that positioning was everything I found myself struggling to stay in front. I don't take a lot of risks in races and tend to ride where I feel safe and while I think it's one of the reasons I don't really crash that often ( I know I know --Jinx!!) I often find myself wasting a lot of energy closing gaps. This was the case for the whole first half of the race. We had some good breaks go and get caught and I only watched. At four to go, I found myself gapped and was not able to close it. I really thought I was dropped and almost threw in the towel. It was so disappointing, but the screaming crowd which consisted of tons of friends, was highly motivating so I decided to make the effort to catch back on. I was able to go so much faster by myself through those corners that I did catch back on. At this point the break was in sight and when we hit the start finish at 2 laps to go I went to the front and made one final effort to bridge. I knew if I failed I was kind of blowing the field sprint, but with those tricky corners I didn't want to risk getting gapped again. It was covered immediately and although leading it out that early was not a great position I was happy to be in front through the tricky corners. Unfortunately I led for the whole lap until 1 to go when there was a huge surge and my effort had left me without resources for a sprint. I finished at the back of the pack, but was elated to find that I got the last money spot!
I had mixed emotions about the race. It would have been so much better to be in a break!! I felt pretty good and was mad that I had spent so much time in bad positioning and missed the breaks. It was exciting to catch back on and still be able to make a positive effort at two to go and just wish it had panned out.
Friday night before the race I was invited to participate in a press conference since I'm a "local". It was a lot of fun and I hope to be posting some pictures of it soon.