Cat 5’s Perspective
By William Pankonin | Jun 9, 2008
Race name: Spring Prairie
Race date: Sunday, Jun 8, 2008
Spring Prairie – A Cat 5’s Perspective
Forty-five minutes before race start time, Matt, Jake, Alberto, and I sat in the car watching a classic Midwestern thunderstorm loom over Kettle Moraine, dumping buckets of water on the fields of Wisconsin.
Thirty minutes before race time, we are huddled under a tent as sheets of water pelted the canvas. Pools of ice-cold water collected on the tent’s roof. Matt took a photo of Jake pushing up the roof, pouring another liter of water into the muddy slop, which many stood in with nice Italian cycling shoes.
Twenty minutes before race start time and I am helping my teammates. Not by pushing tempo, but by pushing a teammates rear wheel drive wagon out of slippery mess of rich, organic goop.
Here we go. We are all staged behind the Wisconsin riders in a moist ditch. I noticed Peter stayed in the Wisconsin pack, and was therefore in the very front as we (the Non-WI riders) rolled out in neutral to the start. Smart. Very smart.
My heart rate skyrocketed as I climbed the hill just to get to the start line. We rolled out in a tight pack, staying within the yellow line. Me and three or four teammates wasted no time in finding ways to get up to the front. Moving through the middle of the pack seemed impossible to me, and others, and a few of us took advantage of downhill stretches, where we could see oncoming traffic, to move towards the front.
Maybe two laps into the race, a break went off the front and Peter was in it. Teammates in front, along with Cuttin Crew racers, blocked to prevent breaks as the pack rolled through the countryside. I found myself relaxing mid-pack, conserving energy.
Our race was shortened to five laps, and for the first two, I climbed “the hill” in my small ring and my 24; my largest is 27. I thought I would keep it steady, stay in the saddle, and have something left at the top. Many riders passed me at the hill’s base as they muscled their bikes up the hill. (As a sidenote, Snake Alley makes the Spring Prairie hill seem like a Chicago lake front incline). Once at the top, after a steady climb, I needed to make up ground on good climbers on the “false flat,” and then get ready for an easy descent. All of this was not by any means easy, and I was not moving up in the pack. Time to change tactics on the hill.
Once we began rolling after turns one and two, riders crossed the yellow to move up, and a honking motorbike usually chased them after. As riders slipped up front on the centerline, riders in the pack yelled out, “Yellow line! Yellow line!” I don’t remember any rules about race boundaries, but someone said the motorbike driver disqualified a Cuttin Crew rider for using the yellow to pass.
I tried one move as the road widened on the right side. I got up and sprinted past riders, using the extra space, but only to find myself squeezing in centimeters away from the quicksand shoulder on my right. A few folks yelled at me, but it worked out. Any thoughts of crossing the yellow again for better positioning left my head after a pickup pulling a horse trailer passed us doing our speed, which was 43 mph, on a wet and rainy down hill.
Back up the hill. From now on, I would continue using the small chain ring but with a smaller back gear, and I would get out the saddle right away and hit hard from the beginning. Once at the top, I would just dig deep and hope to find a little extra. It worked. I passed maybe seven riders and was only passed about three times at the crest, where my heart rate was pegged at 198 bpm. At the top I found a wheel and gasped for air. Now I had my plan for the last lap.
I remained in the center and kept my mind and legs focused on surges and attacks until turn three. The attacks begun again after the peloton knew the break was going to cross the line without us. I moved to the yellow line and fought to hold my position there until turn four.
I took the outside line, used my small rear gear and jumped out the saddle. I climbed the hill saving nothing. Even though I stuck to my plan, I passed fewer riders. They were not saving anything either. Everyone was up and mashing the pedals. I raced over the top and somehow kept the legs spinning until the line. A Cuttin Crew rider got me at the line, even with my much practiced bike toss.
Overall, it was an excellent day of racing with great teammates and friends. I met my goal to cross the line in the pack, even if I was towards the back. We finished off the day with Wisconsin brats and cheese at the Brat Stop on I94.