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Big Change of Plans

By William Pankonin | Jul 15, 2009

Race name: Ray Basso Bensenville Criterium
Race date: Tuesday, Jul 14, 2009

I lined up for the Ray Basso Bensenville Criterium with Tom, Dave and Curtis. Today, I promised myself to stay out of the wind, to not do work for another team, and to save it for the end. And that’s it! With one or two to go I would have a ton of energy to keep up with the lead-out and sprint. Lately, I have been racing like a racer on speed, chasing flyers and drillin it into the wind. Not too smart. Maybe I would attack with three to go today. I would also have to pay attention to breaks of more than two racers. Might have to bridge that. I even considered starting the race in the back of our field of about 35, but thought better of that. When the whistle blew, I nestled into about 5th wheel. Ahhh. Two or three laps go by and Dave gets off the front for a bit. Tom and I stick wheels, and I position myself in front of riders over my right shoulder. Dave is caught, and the next thing I know, Tom is riding about 10 seconds in front of the field, then 15 seconds. I noticed that the peleton seemed kind of sluggish. We were only in to lap 4 or 5 of 22, so I guess no one grew too concerned. Two more laps go by and Tom is still out there, and he appears to be gaining time. Now, however, a couple riders got twitchy and tried to bridge in seperate efforts. I stuck both their wheels. They would go off after Tom, but not complete the task. They would slow up and wait for someone else to take over. Perfect for us. It became clear that the third attempt would catch Tom for the rest to gobble up. As I rode the racer’s wheel on the back stretch, going into turn 3, I shout to him, “Pull me up to him and I’ll counter!” He turned his head to hear and then hit the gas. I thought that if he knew my intention, he could ready himself to go with me and we could then maybe form a two or three person break depending on how Tom felt. Wait! What about the plan! You had a plan you idiot! You are about to blow a tremendous amount of energy with half a race to go! Here, the code of cycling ethics says when your teammate is caught, you counter. Don’t let his or her work go to waste. But I had a plan!

The racer catches Tom in turn three, and I slide out the slip stream, get out of the saddle, and abuse my pedals and handlebars. I attacked “like I meant it and when it hurt.” I had just balled up the plan and tossed it. This was not a flyer; this was an attack. I hammered as hard as I could into the crosswind, sliced through turn 4, got out of the saddle again, and ignored everything but my cranks and Heds, which were now humming sweetly along the asphalt in Bensenville. After I cut turn one I looked back briefly, and didn’t see the field! Got to stay out of sight. Time to suffer.

I remember 11 laps to go and a guy telling me I had 20 seconds, then 22 on the next. With eight to go, I found a groove and begin to tap out a nice rhythm. My intentions now were to grind this out and live with the consequences. I was committed. 5 to go. On several laps, I got out the saddle on the back stretch just to make sure I kept myself just below the absolute red zone. I also got out of the saddle into the wind so that I stayed on top of my gear. 4 to go on the home stretch, and a huge tent is picked up by the wind and carried over my head. I rode under it as it floated lazily in the July sunshine. I was far enough ahead to not know what happened with it and the peleton. I was doing it. I tested several lines along the barriers on the home stretch for wind, but was hurting so much at this point, I don’t think I could have judged anything correctly. Spin, breath, spin, breath, turn, hammer. 2 to go, and I see them behind me for the first time in 20 or so minutes. Bell lap. Could this be it? Can I pull this off? Yes! I carve a brakeless line through 4 and look back. They’re coming. Shit. Not David Millar! Out of the saddle you molester of plans! Can’t. No more strength. Vomit is on the way. 50 meters to go, and it’s the Powerbar guy! Oh no! Benjamin had put in a tremendous effort to bridge up to me. (I would later learn that he rode most people right off his wheel with this bridge.) He passes by me and the only thing I could do was grab his wheel. Where are the others? Out of the saddle for the line, maybe I can get by him! He drifts a bit and I have to watch my wheel. Can’t throw the bike. He’s first and I’m second. The others come in seconds behind me!

Thank you Tom and Curtis and Dave. Many people in our race commented on how well you blocked and held up the race’s pace. Few people seemed to want to organize and catch me. You all created a lot of confusion in the front of the group as some did not know I was off, did not know me from you all, and some thought I had been caught because xXx was all over the front of the field, keeping me out there. Hopefully, I can return the favor, or be just a little faster next time.

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