The Leland Kermesse is a race that is loved and hated by many. My husband's team puts this on, so I get a first hand view of how much work goes into it and how many people are needed to make it run smoothly. Thanks Flatlandia!
I have to admit I was irritated that they combined the women's field with the men's cat 4 field. As a rule I don't like this situation. Other than the obvious safety concerns, I don't think it makes for a fair race for the women. However, I totally understand why the folks at Flatlandia made this decision. With such a small team, they needed to combine fields to shorten the day, and make it more manageable for them. And as a bonus, I got to ride with some PWP folks--Max Riordon and Mike Morell from Cuttin Crew, Mark Misicko from Tower, and another Spidermonkey teammate, Dave Cushman.
The race is a 25K Loop consisting of windy flat barren roads with 3 gravel sections making up 40% of the loop. This year, the women and cat 4 men were doing 4 laps for 100K. The gravel's consistancy can vary wildly depending on what the weather's been recently. It can be deep and loose, or tightly packed, and if it's wet and sticky it gets all over you and your bike, and if it's dry it is incredibly dusty and gets in your lungs. Your positioning when you hit the gravel ends up making the race. Depending on the condition of the gravel, passing can be difficult or impossible, so if you can to the front on the gravel riders opening up gaps behind you can cause a split. When you hit the pavement, a fluid breakaway can be impossible to catch due to the wind.
Because of the gravel, the race gets a lot of attention from folks who normally race cyclocross. I am not one of those people and am terrified of the gravel. I just try to survive as best I can. Of the two times I've done this race, this year the gravel seemed more tightly packed and fairly easy to negotiate, and the dust that can generate in drier years seemed to be minimal.
We began the race and I have to admit it was really fun having a fast group to ride with, rather than braving the wind with the typical small field of women. I was in decent position when we hit the gravel, and when we exited the first gravel section I didn't see any other women with our group. I knew if I could just stay with the front group of guys I could get a free ride to the finish! It was so nice to have a friendly Spidermonkey Dave to chat with, and fun to see him easily maneuver around in the field. On the second lap shortly before the hitting the first gravel section again, Sarah appeared! I was thrilled. This was too good to be true. We hit the gravel when out of nowhere there was a big pile up ahead of us. I saw a line where there was just enough room to sneak around but another rider was heading for that line at the same moment so I had no choice but to jam my bike sideways and head into the freshly plowed field. I didn't crash but had to dismount in order to get out of the field. Sarah had gotten caught up in it too, but we jumped on and chased back on to another chase group. After the gravel, I was with a small group of about 4-5 of us including PWP'er Max from Cuttin Crew that started trading pulls and working hard, motivated to catch the front group. We were gaining ground and after an entire lap, right before we hit the gravel we caught the main pack! But being at the back on the gravel, I was not in good position and not able to close the inevitable gaps. I spent the next lap riding all out, picking off riders, and got within sight of the field. At this point I was riding with only one other rider and just not able to close the final gap. Right before we hit the gravel on the last lap, there was Sarah again! So exciting. We knew if we stayed upright we were guaranteed a 1-2 finish. Before we hit the finish, Sarah and I chatted and she graciously let me have the win. We came across the line together about 10 minutes ahead of the next woman finisher! Not only did we get a great finish, but we got a really hard ride in. Also worth noting was our Spidermonkey teammate Dave finished second in the men's race! Really fun hanging out after wards and hearing the stories of the other riders. Props to our Spidermonkey teammate Kristi Hansen for getting third in the women's cat 4 race! All in all a great day.
Lincoln Park Criterium
On Sunday we had the XXX team's Lincoln Park Criterium. It was at Montrose harbor, and it was a sunny but incredibly windy day. The race was on the lakefront and the wind off the lake was so brutal it felt nasty cold. Nonetheless all the Spidermonkies that had been hanging out and racing earlier in the day, stuck around to cheer and support Sarah and I.
Sarah and I discussed our race plan, and I was hoping to soften up the field by attacking, and hopefully the two of us would get away together. We both felt tired from our efforts the day before, and the headwind on the long start finish stretch was brutal. There was a nice sized field and a couple of teams represented.Sarah and I got call ups!
The LPV team threw down the first attack and then the second. Then somehow we had a break of 4, consisting of two Spidermonkies and two LPV riders. This seemed to be the break, when all of a sudden Psimet was there making 5. We started trading pulls, but it didn't seem like the group was super motivated to work well together. They called a prime, I went for it, got a gap and stayed away and held it for the win. Not sure how long, but I think it was about 10-15 minutes into the 50 minute race. I had hoped Sarah and I could have gotten away together, but as it was, she got to have a nice easy ride sitting in while the other three riders chased. She was able to have enough left to give an amazing attack on the back stretch of the course, and hold it for an entire half a lap to the finish. We were able to pull off another 1-2 finish!!! We had planned on jumping in the men's race directly afterwards but we quickly scrapped that and decided to just be happy with our results of the weekend.
Lincoln Park Criterium Podium: Sarah and I and Katie Iserman from Psimet who's result was notable because it was her first race back since being sidelined with an injury. Nice Job Katie!
An incredible fun day to ride in front of the entire Spidermonkey team who were all out in full cheering force! So cool to hear about the women's cat 4 race where Spidermonkies Kristi and Stephanie executed excellent team strategy to get Stephanie onto the podium for second place.