Tour de Champaign/Urbana
By Adam Herndon | May 25, 2010
Race name: Tour de Champaign and Urbana
Race date: Saturday, May 22, 2010
Meg and I had planned a fun weekend away to go race the Tour de C/U. From the looks of it it seemed like it was going to be a pretty nice weekend when it was all done. The weekend though started at the Lab Rabbit first anniversary party on Friday night, a good pre-race weekend. The next morning we picked up a car I-Go gave us to use for the weekend and made are way down to Champaign. We got to the course with a lot of time to spare, which allowed us to have a relaxing lunch and stay pretty calm before the race.
I prerode the course a few times and thought that this would be a pretty fun race. Overall it was rectangle, with a small hill exiting the 2nd and 3rd turns. The turns were nice enough that you could pedal though them and they had a lot of lines. Unfortuntly this would soon be forgotten by a lot of racers. The course was less technical then the 8 turner we thought we were going to have the next day, but it would still suit a cooperative break away.
After the kids did a lap it was time for the 5/4’s race. The race had 50 starters with only four xXxer’s. We started the race hot, since in the past few weeks a race with the cat 4’s seemed to resemble a demolition derby more then race. Sadly this became true very quickly. Riders started taken the turns stupidly if there a person on each side. People in the middle of the pack would try to dive bomb the corner, cutting into other rider’s lines to save an imaginary fraction of a second. I tried to stay at the front so as to stay out of the mess, but was still being unnecessarily bumped and cut into. The race had at least two crashes in it, one resulting in the ambulance taking a rider off. I got 14th, but had a very bad taste in my mouth that I was going to be racing tomorrow on 8 corners with a group that could barely manage 4.
Meg raced next in what has to be the most unfair race style, womens open. This race can be pretty disheartening to new racers as they are tossed into a race with Cat 1/pro women. You don’t see any Cat 5 men racing against the Cat 1’s do you? Meg was one of only a handful of Cat 4’s and and few more races then the newest racer in the bunch. On the third lap Meg was dropped by the pack which was driven by some cat 1’s. She did get her moment in the sun as she felt the race was going to slow and she set pace for the 2nd lap.
Right after Meg’s race came the Cat 3/4’s race. I had signed up for the race as a sort of watermark, I wanted to see how a faired with a higher cat racers. I haven’t really been training(for a few reasons) so this was going to be a pretty hard test. Compared to the 4/5’s race 45 minutes before it was like night and day. All the turns were clean. All lines held, pedaling through. It was like a completely different course. I tried to stay mostly to the front and middle. During one lap I thought I was near the middle of the pack and when I looked there was no one else. A good sign I thought as we had kicked a lot of people of the pack. I then went about moving back up. Ultimitly the race came down to a sprint, which I haven’t been training, but with that said I got a good line out of the turn and held my momentum as I am accustomed to go at speed over bumps, which lined the finish. I got 28th out of 52(and 11th for cat 4’s). This race and the free massage afterwards made up for the sour taste that was left in my mouth by the 4/5’s. Sadly Sunday’s race would trade the sour taste for a bitter one.
After the races ended, we headed to our lovely hotel, which sorta resembled Norman Bates’ residency. Not wanting to stay in side, we quickly headed out, grabbed some ice cream and tried to scout out the course for tomorrow. It was going to be a technical 8 turn figure eight, is a small downhill on a rough-for-this-area street and then an immediate uphill. Preriding the course I fell in love with it. nice technical turns that the front could drive though, and then a iffy little downhill that wasn’t as bad as some streets in Chicago. If only it was going to be raining, this would be perfect for me. Sadly it was not to be.
We got there sunday bright and early as we wanted to see the fives and juniors handle course before Meg’s race. After we registered and said hi to the officials and talked about the previous days crash fest(more on this later) we learned that there was a major course change. Instead of being a figure 8, the officials cut out the downhill becaus eof how bad the road was cut up. Instead we would make a right turn head down a 5 lane street and then do a 180 around an orange cone before racing to the finish. Ugh, we were glad we got there early. It was possible to ride the inner most line on every corner and pedal through, except for the 180 where you had to be sure to not to take it to fast and risk sliding out or running into a curb. The fives were the first to tackle with and I met up with Paymon and John from the team. The best plan for this was stay at the front and if a break forms go with it. John agreed and was gunning to do just that. Meg and I positioned ourselves at turn four, were the racers would ride by us twice and we could see the 180 turn. John patrolled the front and when the first prime came he and one other rider went for it and got 5 plus seconds on the field, which had already been reduced in numbers. When John came around by himself, I yelled at him to keep going. From that point on it was his race. Each lap he would increase the time gap, to the point that instead of them chasing him he was 20 seconds from lapping the field. John looked to be wanting to take the last lap as more of a parade, but I conveyed the point to stay down and not risk anything with that turn as that was the only way he would lose. That was advice I should have also used.
My race was pretty eventful but I’m only going to give bullets points
It started hot, and I lead the first few laps and got a gap in my small chainring. I was then caught as I was putting my chain back on while riding.
People turned better in this race then the previous day’s.
There was some people going down as tires blow out.
It was hot. Some people likely dropped because of that. It was so hot the parking deck’s fire alarm went off.
I fell off the lead group but got a second wind and hooked up with Joseph Berenyi of PSEMIT racing for the last two and half laps.
Now the last lap was the dumbest lap of racing I have done. Joseph and I headed in to the first turn with me in front. Upon exiting the turn, we immediately encountered a random person biking haphazardly the opposite way on the course. I scream more louder then possible and made sudden moments so as not to run head first into a person at 25+mph. For some reason the marshals just thought yelling at this guy would stop him from getting on and riding the course in reverse. And that it was enough to announce it over the intercom that couldn’t be heard between the 4 radio station booths playing one of Lady Gaga’s songs and the fire alarm going off. Did no one think I should grab him? That it was safer to just let him keep going and hope the racers move out of the quick enough?
I then went into the final turn to hot and slid out. I got back up as fast as possible, only to have my chain drop. I put it back on again while riding and kept 13 place.
After the race, I informed the officials and the head organizer of what happened on the final lap. While the whole weekend was really nice, well put together and I will likely come back to race again, I was left with a bitter taste. The riders safety should be the biggest concern. The biker going the wrong way didn’t just appear in the middle of the street. The marshals should have been more proactive in getting the guy of the course or flagging down the racers.