Thank you Bob!
By William Pankonin | Aug 26, 2008
Race name: Oak Brook
Race date: Saturday, Aug 23, 2008
I made three trips to the car between 5:15 a.m. and 6:00 a.m. the morning of the Oak Brook State Road Race Championship. I also wedged in time for a hearty bowel of Grape Nuts with blueberries –just like the commercials, and I washed down the mix with a hot cup of Jittery Joes Morning Ride, which I purchased at the Downers Grove Crit. I felt confident and competitive as I left the house to pick up my team mates. Time to race.
We all know about the lines and the standing in the heat. I’ll just say here what others said, that we could all feel the sun zapping our energy and our warm-up time wasting away. Back at the car with chip and number in hand, I opened up the hatch only to see an empty space where my messenger bag should have been. A true real life nightmare, except I could not wake up. I left my kit, glasses, gloves, and mojo tools at home. So I bowed my head and almost cried, I threw a fit on the grass, and I kicked myself in the teeth repeatedly until I saw Bob Willems holding up his extra skin-suit, a flag of salvation! My shoes and helmet were in the car, YES, I was good to go. No gloves and old sunglasses. Bob had saved my ass. The competitive adrenaline once again began flowing through my veins.
I did well racing for the start line. I positioned myself in the back of the fours racers and then stealthily slid back to the front of our group during the pace car’s entrance without anyone knowing. Unfortunately, it did no good as I couldn’t get clipped in for about forty meters. This is a skill I need to not think about and instead just do.
Riding midpack for the first three of eight laps was pretty uneventful besides for shouting at riders using the yellow line. Riders up front worked really hard on prime laps, and I just sat in until I found a way to get up front. I spent quite a bit of time on the sides of the course, and once found myself on the wrong side of the cones. I lost about ten bike lengths on that mistake. Unlike some of the other road races I did this season, there seemed to be more places to move up and around the field. I also talked a lot through out the race; I talked to myself and to other racers. I rode in tight spaces with my elbows out to prevent people from squeezing in stupid spaces. I might have heard about this little technique at one of our meetings. Can’t remember though.
I worked my way to the front without any problems and pulled the field for half the course. I took turn one wide and the Mack rider on my wheel slipped in front of me. Newt jumped his wheel and I got on Newt’s. This started to look good for fast tempo riding. The situation improved as Josh rode up the left side to take a pull up front. The problem though, at least as far as my inexperienced eyes saw, was that a line of riders attached to Josh, sling shotted off him as he pulled in. Another line of riders went up the other right side and I found myself in the middle of two pace lines and alas, getting sucked back to the back. How do I stop this from happening?
I rode a lap in the back collecting myself. Soon, I rode up along Bob. He asked, “How do you feel?”
“Great” I replied.
“Then find a line and move up. There are two to go.”
“Okay.” I said.
This was a very Obe Bob Kenobi experience. If it wasn’t for Bob, I would not even be racing, and then he appears out of nowhere to offer me a moment of clarity.
Why the hell was I back here anyway? And where did the rest of the field go? There didn’t seem to be that many riders in the group anymore. So as the field quickened the pace for the last lap, lots of spaces and room formed throughout. My legs felt great –two reserves of energy and power. My lungs begged to be abused and used the way they are while spinning intervals. I jumped out the saddle and passed as many riders as I could on the last lap. Many looked tired and in need of air.
On the last lap, racers stuck to their wheels as the front tried to shake them by moving left on the enormous double lane downhill. I followed suit until I realized what was happening and until I saw the opportunity. Trying to be safe in the middle of massive field sprint, I checked over my shoulder three times before sliding over to what seemed like an open lane. I jumped out the saddle and with a tailwind, spun out my highest gear!
I passed the field and knew I was in the race! I saw the finish 100 meters away and thought to myself, “This could really happen to me!” I had to sit up once for fear of the unthinkable (See Morrisey’s Report) and then hit the line thinking I could be top ten. Unofficially, I placed seventh overall and fourth in the Dirty Thirties category. Better then my previous ninth place road race finish. I feel great after a year of training and think I’m peeking now. Many thanks to my team mates who consoled me during my shame and despair, and thank you Bob for the skin-suit and words of Jedi like encouragement.