The Illinois Cup season opener was yesterday and this year my new team Spidermonkey Cycling co-hosted the event along with the Burnham Racing team. That meant a loooong day in whatever weather northern Illinois in March decided to give us. We ended up with overcast skies and a thermometer that started at 37 degrees and topped out at about 45 during the day. Could have been much much worse but it still made for a cold day in the elements. Racing your own race is always hard for the promoting team but most of us did it, and some of us raced twice.
(Awesome prime that I sprinted my heart out for. I will wear it with pride given my known love of cyclocross. The other was a potbelly sandwich! Thanks Potbelly :) )
My new teammate Sarah Rice and I were going to race together for the first time and we signed up for the women's open and the men's 30+; it was the first mens race that we were eligible for and we wanted to get it out of the way so we could get into "volunteer" mode for the rest of the day. Never having raced or even ridden with Sarah, we didn't really know what to expect.
The women's race was small, but had some strong riders in it. Sarah and I tried to mix it up but no one seemed willing to let anything get away. Having no opportunities to sprint this year I decided to go for the primes to test it out. I got both of them and ended up with a huge gap on the first one that I decided to try to stay away. I held it for almost a lap, but Sarah reported that Village Verdigris and IS Corp chased it down. At the finish, I was feeling confident in the sprint, and was in good position when Verdigris lead it out early. Sarah went up the right side and I went up the left and we held it for 1-2!! Especially fun that my old BH teammate Anne was on the podium with us for third.
We then changed and hung out in the cold doing some race volunteering until it was time to race our 30+ race. Getting back into the spandex was very unpleasant--it felt impossible to get warm. I tried to keep reminding myself that it could be so much worse! When the race started I actually had trouble clipping in and got a terrible start! I kind of pride myself in my good starts, so it was a little humbling. But I was able to recover and settle in quickly. My goal was to get a good hard training ride in and practice maintaining position--and hopefully make the break! The field was a little sketchy. The wide sweeping turns made it hard to see a good line through the corners, so more than once I found myself being shoved onto the grass, and seemed like I was constantly having to go around riders after they cut me off to take the wheel I was on. Sarah and I did some good work and at one point shut down a break together. But when the winning move got away, I wasn't in good position and missed it. Instead of trying to bridge or work to close it I spent the rest of the race just hanging out. It felt a little anti climactic and when the race was over I was kicking myself for not making more of an effort durning the second part of the race. However, mainly I was happy to be safely done and to change into warm clothes.
It was really cool to get to meet all the spidermonkies I hadn't yet met. What a fun and hardworking group! I was super impressed with Sarah--she's a newly upgraded cat 3 who held her own in the men's race, and worked really well with me in the women's. With a 1-2 podium on our first race, I'm excited to see what the rest of the year will bring!