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Behind the Cheddar Curtain

By William Pankonin | Apr 27, 2009

Race name: FDL/Oshkosh Cyclery Crit
Race date: Sunday, Apr 26, 2009

The rain stopped right before the Masters 4/5 race but the damage had been done.  A pool of over rim-high water flooded the back stretch of the course, and water streamed down Evergreen Park’s elevation and across the road.  All the water and fourty-five degree temps (plus wind) could not keep us eight riders from lining up, though.

Even with the conditions, Fond Dulac and Oshkosh Cyclery did an awesome job in Sheboygan last Sunday keeping spirits high and taking care to organize a fun safe race (acts of God aside).  I have to give a shout-out to Douglas for the hot coffee, and all the others for their sense of humor and outdoor toughness.  They are all true assets in the sport of cycling.

The eight of us were asked if we wanted the race shortened due to the conditions, but we declined agreeing this would be less of a race and more of a training ride.  This was a target race of mine, and I thought my chances were pretty good, even if I had never raced with these guys before.  Then I started asking myself questions like, “What would a first place finish mean to me if there are only eight racers?”  As if it would mean less.

The fantastic WI race official started us with a, “Okay, go ahead,” and we were off.  The first lap was pretty uneventful as we tested the slippery roads keeping the rubber side down.  Laps two and three were led by a super strong rider who poked at the possibility of getting off the front.  Tempo increased, and the first two riders gunned it up the hill, a 200 m kicker with a grade of about 10-12 percent right before the finish.  I stayed on his wheel, and then entered the pain cave.

I gotta say something here about the HED Jets between me and the wet pavement.  The back of the course is mostly downhill, and by midway through, the HEDs were cutting precise lines with absolutely no slippage.  I felt super confident on those wheels, even the few times I rode through the wavey, deep section of the pond.

So we rode round and round, up and down.  My Max Lelli Tiburzi absolutely screamed around the wet corners, begging me to mash the pedals harder.  Easy.  Easy.  What a bike! Unbelievably responsive –kind of like Stephen King’s car, Christine.  A true race demon!  We took turns working every lap or so.  I think you almost have to with only eight people racing.  On the bell lap, I wanted to be first wheel going around.  By now, by-the-way, things were getting pretty dark in the P.C.  No one jockeyed for position going down as it was too risky, and I didn’t want to be sitting last on the final climb.

Somewhere along the way, we dropped three riders.  Before the actual and final climb began, I got ready to shift into the small chain ring.  My plan was to sprint at the top of the hill in the small ring by shifting down, like we had been doing at Tuesday night sprint practice.  Most of us had been using the small ring –up to this point.  While thoughts of climbing and shifting and making a move slushed around in my shoes, I mean my head, someone made a quiet and deadly move behind me.  I had no time to shift down as all five of us climbed in the big ring.  I didn’t anticipate such an early move and got caught off-guard (again).  I raced up fifth wheel and saw that the fellas had much more than me left in reserve.  Finished with a solo bike throw, face covered in mud, Lelli still grinning and wanting more.

I rode another lap, crawled out of the cave, only to fall back into the darkness when a break went off the front end of the 4/5s race.  My legs totally snapped as I ascended close to the 24th time or so.  Thanks for riding like a pro while trying to help me bridge that gap, Matt.  Same great results with the Lelli and Hed wheels, I just ran out of juice.  Finished ninth out of twelve.  I can say, however, that I left it all out on the road and can’t wait to race this event next year.

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