Gutter Boy: Welcome To The Podium!
A milestone has been met. A goal acheived. A simple plan seen to fruition: get a podium finish. And lo and behold naysayers, it has indeed come to pass. At the ABR Illinois State Criterium Championship in Wooddale, Illinois, yours truly set foot on hallowed ground; the podium, mine being the mud covered ground in front of the nearby registration tent where I was handed my first ever Cat. 4 – 3rd place prize winnings, and a snazzy bronze medal.
Alert the press, since I have actually placed in a sanctioned event, some other highly unlikely prospective occurences might just come to pass: Jesus may show up, the cows will come home, gas will go to 25 cents a gallon, cat crap will cease to smell, and there will be peace on earth.
Once again under torrential downpours, roughly 50 brave souls barred the extreme elements to take place in this prestigious event, held in a not-so-prestigious industrial park. Ah, industrial parks, jungle gyms for cyclists. Where else can we go wind it up within ten miles of O’Hare airport? The rain came like bullets. Check that, the rain came like full sized four door sedans, pelting me to the point I thought for sure it was hailing. The group started making our laps a little quicker as the heavy stuff opened up on us by the 5th lap. Once on the backstretch, one rider yelled and screamed and yahoo’d just like he was on a roller coaster, and the rest of us lads fell in, screaming and giving rebel yells as we were blinded by the rain, kicking up 6-8 foot rooster tails, and holding speeds over 25mph. It must have been a sight and a sound, too bad no one else was there to see it as I’m sure every rider will remember that moment for the rest of his days. It was special.
So the maniacs in the booth start calling out primes. Free entry into a crit next week? Nah, I let that one go. The next one they call is for twenty bucks, and I decide to go way early to make sure I snag it. Did I mention it was pouring? I kind of meander over to the right and accelerate through the sheets of grey rain, and no one goes with me. One lap later I’m $20 richer. Easy money! The next prime comes and I employ the same plan, and this time, I bait another rider to bridge up to me. Upon seeing our gap, I strike a deal through the rain pellets with my new friend young Tom that he can have the prime for all I care, let’s try and make this stick. He agrees, takes the merch prime and we’re off, bridging to one other rider who had soloed away a little earlier. We catch him and the duo becomes a trio and then shortly thereafter becomes a duo again as I am unceremoniously dropped by their mutual acceleration. Ouch. I try a recover and decide to check the position of the group. While looking over my shoulder I felt like a sub commander, on a pitching deck, who had come topside to look around in a storm. Giant puddles were accumualting on the track and the pellets made the surfaces shimmer and the whole ground steam. I am a bit shocked now, as I see I have a substantial gap between my skinny butt and the 30 or so remaining ravenous riders in the group. There’s about 10 minutes to go plus 3 laps. I will not be seeing the two gentlemen ahead of me again this day, they are continuing to motor away from me.
At this point, that same damn voice pops up. “You’re tired, you’re spent, you suck, it’s raining, sit up and wait for the bunch.” And finally, for once, there came a defiant response: “Nope. Eat me. I’m going this time. All or nothing.” And somehow, suffering like a pig and contemplating which would get me first, puking or passing out, I hold off a hard charging group and take 3rd with fair sized gap to spare. They had made an effort to chase, but a crash had slowed them once, and the restart of the 6 or so who fell coupled with the emergency vehicle scooting out to pick up one injured fella slowed them again. Besides, the weather made it horrific to corner for the group, much easier for lone escapees. A lot of luck, a lot of pain, and a little bit of smarts and conservative riding helped carry my little twilight zone of a break.
Residence: Just outside Chicago, Illinois, USA
Category: USCF Road 4
Teams: Project 5 and Evil Cycling
Why I Love Cycling: “Nothing on the planet can hurt me more than my bike.”
Fave Cycling Moment: “Anytime I sit down and trance in front of ‘A Sunday In Hell'”.
Favorite rides: “Any criterium, anyplace, anytime, and of course, Ragbrai.”