Tallgrass Stage Race, Minnesota Memorial Classic, or the traditional eastern Iowa Memorial Day races? The options abounded for Buddy and I to punish our legs over the long weekend. We ultimately decided to go north and maximize both number and variety of events with the younger Houts looking for upgrade points and my goals to further hone the road skills, manage the body over consecutive days of competition, and measure up against the big city boys.
After driving in rain much of Friday afternoon, we rolled into registration with it cloudy windy, and cool – should’ve grabbed the arm warmers! Saturday’s events were a Circuit race and Time Trial held back-to-back on the same 7.4 mile square of county road with a field of 47 toeing the line. Things were dicey. I narrowly avoided a crash in the first couple miles which sent transplant-to-Nebraska cycling Brad Beck to the ground. A second lap crash in the same spot sent Buddy back to registration in the follow car – not easy to watch your kid go down from the opposite side of the pack. There weren’t any difficult climbs to break things up and the field didn’t seem interested in pushing the pace either. When things did threaten to stretch out around the corners, the front of the pack would sit up and a chorus of, “Slowing” would begin. I played most of the day too conservative and spent a lot of time towards the back of the pack forced to join that refrain. The last ½ of the square was tailwind so the pace coming to the finish clicked up a notch but not unbearably so. I had no intent to sprint, just finish in the pack. Yeah right, competition changes everything. I’m no sprinter, but picked up a number of spots in the 2 block or so wind-up between the last corner and finish. Good enough for 17th. Buddy was waiting for me at the finish with road rash and ripped skin suit. He seemed unsure about the TT due to his aches and pains, but I encouraged him to go for it – might loosen up tighted/traumaed muscles, and a person can always pull the plug. He was my 30 second-man, and after the initial rise, was out of sight. He took 9th, which was well enough to put only 5 points between him and me in the Omnium at day’s end. My TT? Call me guilty of being slow in the solo show.
Sunday’s weather dawned a stark contrast to day one: sunny, balmy, warmer at 8:00am than at any point the previous day. The forecast was calling for a burner, and as I learned at Tranquility and Papillion last year, good for me, but not necessarily for everyone else. On tap was a 46 mile road race with 79 entrants. Decided to be more assertive and stay in the front ½ of the group today since Buddy and I were a two man team and couldn’t do much to drive the pack – only respond if a break happened. We lined up row two amongst familiar faces of Central Plain’s Cycling, SC Velo’s Casey Swenson, and our new acquaintance Mr. Beck. All of the above did a good job of staying up front and out of trouble throughout the race. Not much changed from Saturday other than one break that went up the road for a while and a first lap tempo increase into the headwind section. However, it wasn’t sustained long enough to shatter the pack. The first time through the tailwind/finish section, things were brisk. I made two assumtions: 1. The headwind would be used to split the field and the tailwind finish would be blazing fast – wrong on the former, somewhat right on the latter. Still had Buddy, Brad, and a number of CPC gents close at hand in both sections, so positioning was easy. Shuffled left, middle, right not sure where to set up, but ended up with Buddy just ahead and to the right. When the final push started, Buddy got a clean line up the right side. The rider in front of me bobbled and in avoiding a potential crash I was able to escape up the same route, still in the saddle, but passing a lot of riders as we neared the line. Buddy safe, and as I cross begin to count riders and come up with 14. Could I really be 15th? As it turns out, Buddy takes 8th (upgrade points!), I’m 14th, and Brad is 17th.
Sunday’s ultimate stage is a crit with the Cat 4/5 field shrinking to 41. The layout is 6 corners, one sharp up-pitch, one gradual rise, and two gentle descents. We’re hoping for a fast pace versus the last two days’ tours a la sprint. Buddy takes off like a greyhound at the gun and locks the pace in. I worry he’s going to blow up, but he settles into line. The speed is good for me, although I drift from middle to back of main group at one point. However, the Tarmac likes its first crit, and I surprise myself with some moves that put me back in it for a while. The final surge begins with three to go, and I get spun off the back – unfortunately, no one to work with, fortunately, no one to threaten my position. Buddy winds up 24th in the field sprint with me loping in for 26th. We both contest the 3/4 race as well, but my legs are bricks from the whistle causing me to get pulled early, real early. Buddy however, was spry, active, smooth, and while he finished 26th, was pretty jazzed for what’s to come – nice work, kid!
As far as the Omnium goes, Buddy gutted out the early DNF to finish 13th while I took advantage of my Circuit and Road Race finishes to take 17th; our new comrade Brad Beck was 20th. Buddy added to his upgrade resume with some points and some pack finishes. I was very satisfied with a couple of solid field finishes and legs that made it through three days reasonably well. Overall, goals met!