My longtime readers will no doubt recall that my favorite race of the year is the Bloomington Grand Prix. It’s a challenging, technical course with lots of spectators and emotional resonance. This year it drew huge fields–65 guys in my race! A lot of things make it special, but the biggest thing is that every bike racer in Indiana wants to win it.
I’ve been thinking about this race ever since a mechanical last year kept me from being in contention. It’s the one I dwell on when trying to finish the last interval in the garage in January. However, I knew my fitness would be somewhat compromised by the Holsmans’ week-long trip to TennesseeRode from our cabin in Tennessee up into this gorge in Kentucky. just before the race. I really shouldn’t be doing long, steady hill rides the week before a goal crit, but on the other hand, how often do I get to ride in Tennessee? So I did the vacation-type epic rides, had a great time, went kayaking, had a Cuban cigar with my dad, played in the river with Kaia, etc, etc, great vacation but not necessarily the greatest race prep.
So I woke up on Saturday morning feeling not very ready. But nil desperandum. Headed down to Bloomington, picked up an espresso at Soma, met up with the whole family (who stopped to see me race on the way back from TN, which was AWESOME), went for the warmup ride, ran into Neibler, RJ, and Schroeder. . . all of a sudden I was feeling a lot more positive.
Off to the start line. It was a fast start with a first-lap prime for the coveted Kilroy’s gift card. Naveen John from Sustainable Cycling went out hard and would continue to do so for the entire race. 65 riders + short course + nine primes = hard, fast racing. I don’t think anyone ever got more than 50 yards off the front. I saw Neibler go down by the Sample Gates pretty early on. He had also just had a bout of intestinal flu, so that was the end of the day for him.
My lethargy from the morning caught up with me about halfway in and I started to lose position, sliding from the front all the way to the back third of the field. I finally remembered to take a gel, got my legs working again, and started working my way back up through the field. The behavior and smoothness of the race was a pleasant surprise. Usually this race has quite a few agressive/scary moments, but instead we just rode hard and fought for position without making each other unsafe. Nice work, everyone.
(Aside: check out Naveen in the white/green, bridging up to the small group going for the prime. He really dominated the race and set his guys up to take the win. Great riding.)
That is, until the last lap. I had gotten up to about 15th with two laps to go, and then got caught behind a pulling-off leadout man. That cost me a quick ten places, and 25th when they ring the bell is just about impossible to deal with. I was still hoping to squeeze into the top 10 (along with everyone else from 11 to 25), and sure enough, the guy in front of me caught a pedal on the outside of the dreaded corner at 6th and Dunn. No time to react, nowhere to go, I went straight into him, three other guys went into me, and thus we’ll spend another year wondering what might have been.
So what did we learn? A crash at that spot at that point in the race is a near-certainty. You just have to be at the front to have any shot at this thing. Period. So this winter’s training will be all about being able to maintain that high effort to be in the prime position at the end.
Teammates: I hear that RJ got taken out in the last turn. Schroeder rode very well in the top 10 the entire race and wound up at about 7th. I saw Ian in the last 5 laps and then we got separated; not sure where he wound up, but I think he managed to keep off the pavement.
I’ll spare you the photos of my scabby knee, but here’s one of the other victim:
Gone too soon.
Next up: probably the Lawton Loop crit on August 1.
Thanks for reading!