It really didn’t look that bad. Riding through the Galena Eagle Ridge Resort gave me a feel for the hills on Friday. The small hills of the resort were like nothing I’ve ever done before, but they were nothing like what would follow. I rode 8 miles in preparation, then took off to bed, waiting for Saturday’s races.
Morning came, and so did the time trial. 2.9 miles of hills, including 400 feet of climbing. The first half didn’t seem bad, but after the turnaround point, I looked up into a 130-foot behemoth; a hill that would wear out my legs like nothing Friday’s ride prepared me for.
Recording a time of 7:00.13, I felt good about my ride. The overall Junior’s category was just me, leaving myself as the only thing to compete with. However, this was nothing compared to the road race to follow.
Again, the only rider in my category, allowed me to truly push it through the course without the worries of other riders. 1800 feet of climbing over 22 miles put my legs to the test. 3 climbs reaching more than 10% grade began the burn. I was trudging up hills at 5 miles per hour with one phrase in mind; “do not get off this bike.” I began to overtake the Women’s Category 4 field who had started 10 minutes before me. By the third descent, I had perfect posture and control, using no brakes. This terrain is an entirely different experience from the boat ramps of Winnetka. The legs felt great, setting a 17.5mph average speed for the course.
The true test came on Sunday, with the Junior’s criterium. A field of six came to the start line, four of which from the home team xXx. Three of the teammates went off the front from the start, with their fastest man staying back. I stuck with the fastest guy, but after a long, hard pull, he began an attack to meet back up with his teammates.
I recovered from the pull, then began a pursuit of the leaders. For several laps, I worked alone, with the other rider hanging on my rear wheel. With 5 to go, he began to work with me, as we got within 125 yards of the leaders.
However, we didn’t close the gap, ending in a sprint. I took 5th in the criterium, and 1st in the Omnium.
This weekend wasn’t so much about the final position as it was about the completion. Climbs like this were a challenge. However, I conquered each climb, and came back with more knowledge of racing in different terrain. It was hard and very painful, but I will return next year to Galena. Rest week next week, I’ll see you on our Saturday Morning Ride!
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.