Mark Swartzendruber put on another masterful race in Champaign and Urbana (wherever that is). Druber knows his shit, and you can guarantee that any course he puts together is going to be fun and competitive. Better yet, in the Masters categories, Druber draws a good number of top racers from across the country. I was a bit a torn this year, since there was a road race in St. Genevieve MO just 1.5 hours from my house. But, I had no interest banging around a road course with a bunch of locals when Druber had assembled some top-flight talent to kick my ass in Champaign.
The Champaign course was the same one used last year on the second day. A nice, super-fast, four corner monster. The Masters race was predictably fast, with lots of attempts, not much sticking, and a horrifically fast pace. I raced like a pussy, and was only in one foray off the front (Tom Gates of Gran Fondo gave me the “hey, what the fuck” when I couldn’t pull through). Nashville’s Gran Fondo had at least four super strong guys in the race, and Tim Hall from Nashville was there with another of his teammates as well. I guess what with the flooding they had to do something….Robo managed to get in the main break off the front, and Darrell really did a great job making sure that stuck. Robo managed 5th, and Darrell, Uncle Gary, and I pulled in with the pack. Jeff Williams made a rock star appearance in the 3’s. I should have been there with him, but I wanted to save myself for marriage or something. He was screwed, but was right up there when it SHOULD have been resolved, only it wasn’t, and he’d blown his wad. Steve Driscoll was also in the mix! He fought hard in many a race this weekend!
Sunday was a friggin’ fistfight. I love crits like this. If it would have been harder, I would have done better. Nobody finished off of the lead group. Druber woke up to an IDOT nightmare, and had to shorten the course to a half mile F-1 motorcycle course. I think we did 50 laps….it had a really cool 180 followed by an uphill sprint to the finish line, then a snaking part-cobbled descent back into the 180 before you could exhale. Unfortunately, I wound up being the last Macker standing in the super-fast 40+ race, and I was doing all I could to finish with the lead group. Uncle Gary finished 5th in the 50+, with Don Lowe right up there as well. Mike Oz was fighting in many of the races. and Justin Armstead and Gina Champion took 3rd and 4th respectively in the 30+ and Women’s 1-2-3 race. Gina was REALLY impressive, and almost took the 3rd place slot in a race with some very strong riders.
I have no clue what happened in the 50+ on Sunday. Darrell Bratton and I were sitting around getting ready at turn 2, and then we see Mark Shea coming by on a….RED BIKE. Well, gods know that Mark Shea cannot ride a red bike. So, something must have happened. He appeared to be off the front, and then Chris Black caught and distanced him, but Mark was fighting hard (despite his clear bike disadvantage, I think it was even one of those worthless carbon fiber bikes). Turns out, I hear, that Mark was not allowed a free lap after he had a mechanical. Totally uncool…..Great job by Don Lowe, Uncle Gary, Frank Brummer, and the rest in that one.
Overall, the tour of CU was once again one of the best events in the region. The quality of the venues and especially the competition make this a “must do” race. I can’t justify going to a minor league race to take $20 for 5th place or something when I could get my ass handed to me by the quality of competition Druber assembles. I’ll be back, and I hope that next year the schedules don’t overlap so much with the Mo Chumpionships (not that it would matter for me…).
My only complaint, what gives with the pics at these races? The cool thing about the MO crowd is you have great photographes like Luke and Evil Mike who WANT you to use their pics. After all, if you REALLy want to make it as a sports photographer, that’s how you get it done. I have a Kurt Jambretz photo of me from a minor cyclocross race in Carbondale…now he’s shooting the NFL….
O’fallon on Saturday. It’s a good course for me, and I plan to be up in the break with Dave Stone.