May 10th, 2014
It’s that feeling the evening before the race – the one that feels like a weight in your stomach, the one that puts the pressure on you.
Twelve hours before my race, it was the worst I’ve ever felt it. I slept with that feeling. Then I drove from Evanston down to Midway Plaisance for Monsters of the Midway Criterium with that same feeling in my gut.
My heart rate measured 150bpm, and I had yet to exit the car.
I changed. I warmed up. I lined up at the start. All with that feeling still in my gut.
Then the race began. Once we got around the first two turns, my entire body lost the feeling of tension.
A Junior’s criterium lasts from 20-30 minutes, depending on the race. The concept is to complete as many laps as possible in the time frame.
Unlike Men’s 4/5, Juniors refuse to take pulls, resulting in many attacks off the front. Three laps into this race, the attack came.
Two riders accelerated out of a corner, leaving us a fraction of a second to react. I jumped ahead to close the quickly-growing gap, but my efforts were in vain as the two sprinted off, creating a 15 second gap in a single lap.
I looked back, and on my wheel were four other juniors; my four contenders for the rest of the race.
As the gap grew, our group became disorganized on how to handle the race from this point on.
I began chatting to the others, and we decided to take 10 to 15 second pulls at the front of the pace line to begin closing down the gap. Three of the five didn’t take the pull when they could have, leading the gap to grow to 48 seconds with three laps to go.
The two younger guys in our field began to slow down their pulls, leading to the decision to slow down with them, or attempt to drop them. Two laps to go, I exploded down the back-stretch, hoping to make our group smaller.
I was caught on a turn leading into the final lap, and I let another rider lead us out for a final lap into the sprint.
My heart rate jumped from 180bpm to 200bpm in a stretch of 250m. Everything on the line, I put all the power I could down onto the pedals. Sadly, my move was too late, leading me to a fifth place finish, third in the sprint.
Tactically, this was my best race so far in my career. I knew when to attack, when to conserve, and when to do the work for the good of our five-man group. The corners posed no issues, as I swiftly glided around each curb. I still have a lot of training to do.
So what’s up next? Milwaukee Mile Criterium, May 24th. Stay tuned.
Read Pepe’s last race report from the xXx Lincoln Park Criterium.
Joe “Pepe” Sullivan is a junior cyclists from Evanston, Illinois. He goes into the 2014 cycling season as a 16 year-old, riding a Specialized Venge, named “El Diablo Dos.” Joe races for Higher Gear in both cyclocross and road. You can find him most of the summer and many weekends in our Wilmette location.