Bloomington Criterium Race Report (Ryan Harden)

Race Report for the Cat 4 and Masters 30+ Cat 4/5 Races.

The lead up to the race this week was brutal. It started off looking like 95F with heat index over 100. I don't react well to heat and I wasn't happy about 100+ heat index. But by the end of the week it was looking more like rain. Rain and crits scare me a bit but I'll take it over extreme heat any day. Got up this morning and the radar was kind of inconclusive. Didn't know how to prepare, carbon/aluminum, long sleeve, etc. Ended up just planning for dry. 
We didn't get wet until we actually got to Bloomington. It poured for a bit, then rained, then sprinkled, then rained, then drizzled then done. I hear the couple races before mine were sloppy. Rob went down in his race but was okay. He said it was kinda crazy out there. I decided to stick with carbon wheels since I figured as long as it wasn't actually raining, they would be fine. And who brakes anyway? 🙂
The Cat 4 race started hot and heavy on the still wet course. It took a good 10-15 minutes to finally settle down. There were a couple attacks but nothing stuck. I let too much of a gap get between me and the pack a few times and had to burn a match or two to get back on. One time was because a Peoria Bike guy opened a big gap and I had to ride around him on the hill. I sat in the last 3-4 spots in the pack just about the whole race. I would gain a bunch of positions on the downhill start/finish straight but always gave them back (on purpose) on the hill. I didn't want to waste too much energy trying to stay towards the front when every single lap the pack would slow enough that I could easily stick with them towards the top of the hill.
At about 10 laps to go I found myself at the back of the group at the top of the hill. I'm not sure exactly how it happened but by the bottom of the hill I was about 10-15 meters off the front. I remember thinking through whether I should sit up and let the group catch me, or whether I should make a break for it. In the 2 seconds I had, I decided to attack hard. I hammered up the hill and got up to maybe 1/3 of a lap off the front. I sat there for 2 laps not making any more progress. I knew it was probably too early for me to stay away, but I hoped Larry or Dustin would take the opportunity to counter attack once I was caught. On the third lap of my breakaway, my legs rebelled and I was caught. I'm not a breakaway artist, everyone knows that, but I had to do something to mix it up. I knew I wasn't going to win, so the best I could do was make the pack chase me down and tire out for Larry or Dustin. Unfortunately Dustin crashed on the last lap. He was in first or second at the time. Larry managed 4th and took 3rd in the state championship. I'm happy to have helped even if only a little bit. I ended up 17th. But I'll take it. I almost crashed a few times with my rear wheel sliding out. I'm not sure how I didn't go down. It's weird feeling your rear wheel slip out and then suddenly grab again.
The Masters 30+ Cat 4/5 race was pretty boring in comparison. I almost didn't even start it. My legs didn't feel the best during my warm up laps but I figured I would see how long I would hang. I knew the race was doomed as Bloomington Cycling had 6 or 7 of the 14 starters. The pretty much controlled the whole race. One of their riders got away and stayed there the whole race. Another one of their riders got both Primes. I didn't have any kick so I just sat in the pack the whole race. There were a few big efforts due to attacks but Bloomington shut them down quickly. I had a little bit of gas on the last lap and ended up passing a few guys on the hill. I ended up finishing in the pack. 10th overall, 6th Cat 4. I almost crashed with 2 laps to go. I think I hit a still damp part of a manhole cover on the downhill and my rear wheel went out really far. The guy behind me yelled "whoa" and then a loud "nice save". All I could think was "PEDAL" as the it let the pack get about 3 lengths on me.
Considering a year ago I was barely able to finish one race without getting pulled, I was happy to finish two in one day. Maybe I'm not so bad at this bike racing thing after all. After ending my 2014 road season on a high note, I'm looking forward to CX to keep me motivated through the winter, and more importantly a fresh start to 2015 with hopefully no crashing or illness that threw me off track this year.