Monsters of the Midway 2014
Bike racers were once again spoiled with beautiful weather for Monsters of the Midway this past weekend. The race takes place on the Midway Plaisance at the University of Chicago. I don’t know what a plaisance is, but this is a course that any Nascar fan would love. Go fast, turn left, repeat 4 times, that’s a lap.
I’ve had a good season so far, finishing in at least the top 3rd of the field in each of my races, but I’m yet to crack the top 10 this year, so that was the goal for today. My battle plan was very simple: sit in and do nothing until the end, then try to lead the race through the final turn. If one were going for a win, this would be a stupid strategy. But if your goal is a top 10, it’s not so crazy. It’s nearly 1/4 mile from the last turn to the finish line, so no one wants to lead it out. My goal was to skip all the jockeying for position from the ideal spots of 5-10 wheels back and just stay on the gas and try to get passed by 9 or less guys in the final stretch.
Individual race reports are below, with some links straight to certain parts of the race video so you can skip all the boring stuff.
Cat 4: This race was fast from the start. The Chicago teams were out in big numbers and they had their crap together. The Got Wind team attacked repeatedly. Sticking to my plan, I hesitated to chase any attacks and let the other teams do the work. The downside is that I constantly sacrificed position while the chasers came around me. At this course, racing in the back half of the field isn’t the worst thing in the world. There are only 4 turns with long, 1/2 mile straightaways. You can use the accordion effect from the corners to slingshot yourself to the front when the field habitually slows about halfway down each stretch. There was one bad crash I narrowly avoided and which almost separated me from the field. I latched onto a Sammy's rider and let him pull me back into the race, but it was a hard effort. By the last lap, the never-ending chase effort really took it’s toll on me and I had to abandon my plan of leading into the final corner. It would have taken the last of what I had to just get to the front. Holding off 9 guys for over a 1/4 mile would have been impossible. I was way back in the field when a guy from Mox, who I swear had a jetpack on, came screaming down the left side. I was able to grab his wheel and take it to a halfway decent position going into turn 3. I had a solid sprint and gained a few more spots in the final hundred meters to finish 15th of the 55 man field.
Cat 4/5: I knew I was going to be in deep shit for this race. It followed the Cat 4 directly, with only 15 minutes in between. I had time for half a cool down lap and went to refill my water bottle that I unreasonably expected to last the full two races. I headed back to the line and took a crappy starting spot while my legs started to tighten. Even though this race was only 30 minutes, the 5’s were on fresh legs and did a nice job taking advantage of it. This race was also fast from the start, and even though I was sure it would let up, it never did and actually ended up being roughly a 1/2 mph faster than the 4’s. Crazy, right? I was seriously contemplating a DNF through the first 1/3 of the race, but my legs eventually loosened up and I felt I could finish at least. I got a wake-up call from a near miss when I had to dodge between a rider and his bike after a crash. Then I started to get stomach cramps and I was worried that I was going to be forced to stop when I’d already finished half the race. This race was so hard I swear some people were just getting tired and falling off their bikes like this guy (watch yellow and black kit on the far right). My only goal at this point was to finish the damn thing. With 2 to go, I instinctively started thinking about setting up for the finish and ignored the fact that I was out of gas. With about 1/2 lap to go and legs still feeling like shit, I got a tremendous burst of willpower and forced myself into the crosswind and up to the front of the field. I waited for a leadout effort on the right to push ahead, then forced my way into 4th or 5th wheel. Coming out of turn 4, I had already started to lose contact with the guys in front of me, and even though I put everything I had into the pedals, they only seemed to get further away. Now I found myself in the undesirable position of leading out the sprint for the scraps, maybe for 5th place. I just kept driving and watching over my shoulder for the others to launch because I knew there was no way I would have much of a sprint. I waited until literally the last couple seconds of the race to get out of the saddle and crossed the line in what I knew would be a close call for 10th. I ended up 11th, and it was so close you wouldn’t even been able to see the guy that got 10th on the video. Even though I came up just shy of my goal for the day, I didn’t let myself feel too bad about it. I know I put everything I had into this race, despite being on very tired legs, and if 11th is the best I could do, then so be it. Watch the last 3/4 of the final lap here. The start/finish is on the bottle middle of the lap course, which is in the top-right of the screen.