On Friday, the Team packed into my Suburban and Michaela shuttled us all over to eastern Iowa for a weekend of racing. We’d all be doing three races in three days- the legendary Snake Alley Crit bookended by the Wapello-Burlington RR and the Melon City Crit. It was the furthest from home we’d traveled for a race this year but it was a bargain considering all the racing we’d get in one trip.
There was no hiding my excitement for the Snake Alley Crit. With a steep technical climb and long and speedy downhill, this was going to be my kind of race! But first there was The Wapello-Burlington RR. I figured this short 33 mile point to point race would serve as a great warm-up for the Snake which would take place the next day. After we got a few miles into the race, I realized I was feeling good and so I decided to make a little noise at the front rather than just roll along in the pack. Actually, there was no ‘just rolling along’ in this race. It was high tension and sketchy from line to line. The only safe places were off the back or off the front. I considered both options and quickly started moving forward.
My time at the front was very active. I chased down an attack, then went with 3 other riders on a break that got reeled in, then went on a solo break. Nothing stuck and it was obvious this was going to be a sprint finish. Near the end I was still feeling relatively good despite the work I’d put in so I decided I’d try something on the last hill before the finishing straight. Unfortunately I was boxed in for almost the entire climb until just near the top where I was able to break free. I went over the top in first position and saw a wide open long straight downhill to the finish in front of me. With only a bikelength or two on the pack, I knew I was doomed. I’d just seen Matt, so I decided to ramp up the speed and stay on the front as long as possible in hopes that it would help him out. With about 600m or so to go a rush of bikes went past me and Matt was on the front. It was a longer-than-normal sprint and Matt crushed everyone for the win. I’ve received some compliments on my leadout in that race, but I have to say that it was all Matt. I’ll need to pedal a lot faster to truly help Matt out. I think the only thing I did was screw up the rhythm of some of the other short-distance sprinters. Congrats to “Packenwood” for the win and thank God the whole team survived that affair.
The next day was looking great for the Snake Alley Crit. Beautiful sunshine… right up until 10 minutes before the cat 4 one o’clock start. Suddenly there were gray clouds moving in and it started to sprinkle on our warm-up lap. I am a standing climber and I feared the wet bricks would ruin my weekend. But fortune smiled on us and the rain quit before the end of warm-up.
We lined up in order of our registration. That put me on the sixth row and I knew it would take a monster effort to get to the front. The Snake Alley gets in name from a steep brick alley comprised of 7 switchbacks over it’s 260 feet. The key is to shake yourself free so you don’t get stuck in the bottleneck at the base of this thing. We hit the Snake shortly after the start line and there was absolutely nowhere to move up. I trudged along with the crowd while grinding my teeth on thoughts of other faster riders getting away in front. Finally, we hit the top and went into the wide open downhill. I was able to kick over the top and immediately get around a handful of riders then pass more through the S-curves. On subsequent laps, I kept repeating this scenario until after 12 laps I finished in 11th place. I dug deep and never took a second off during this race, so I’m proud I was able to claw my way up through the pack, but at the same time, I can’t get too excited about finishing out of the top 10. That stings a little. Next year...
Finally on Sunday, we’d wrap things up with the Melon City Crit. This was the fastest crit I’d ever been in. The course is laid out on the avenues meandering through Weed Park in Muscatine and it was a beautiful venue. Despite the long straight downhill and the climb before the start/finish, it was still too flat for me. Nevertheless, I held my own and was having great fun riding in the pack until I was forced into the curb with just under 2 laps to go. I bobbled but I stayed upright. I clipped back in and set off all the alarms in my chase back to the pack. I finally caught the back just as we crossed the line on the bell lap. At that moment the speed ramped up and I couldn’t hold it. I fell off and rolled around the last lap with the moto on my tail. Eric S. looked great and finished near the front and Matt and Britton were both looking good for the cat 3 podium until a crash held up Britton and took Matt completely out. Still, it was great fun and the whole weekend is one for the books.