Glencoe Grand Prix Masters 45+ 1234
A friend of mine from WI reminded me that three years ago I told him I would not likely do the Glencoe Grand Prix again given it is extremely technical, and diabolical. It is the most difficult criterium I have done. Yet, since then I never liked the idea of quitting or giving up on it, either. So upon hearing that new teammate Scotty Miner was going up for the 45+ Masters race, I decided to give it a crack again. The weather looked good, and I was coming off a solid three-day race series in Wood Dale.
First, to the psychology. I was defeated before the gun went off. I had the demons of the sharp, fast turns in my mind. I have seen the crashes live and in the photos. I was wondering if my 6’4” frame and 190 pounds could handle the brake, jump, brake, jump, brake pattern of Glencoe. My gray matter which helped propel me the prior weekend to 45 minute suffer-fests in the form of solo or two-man break-aways was suddenly an anchor. I had doubt. I had reservation. And you simply cannot do well in a race with these thoughts dominating your mind.
I tried to breathe and focus prior as I warmed up. I rode next to local strongman Fabio Orlandi who shared with me how he had been popped off the pace the year prior. Fabio? Popped? This guy dishes out pain every time I throw my leg over the top tube in a race with him. OK. So what’s the strategy? Fabio stressed the importance of lining up near the front and STAYING near the front. The accordion effect coupled, with riders blowing up like firecrackers in the first 5 laps underscored the importance of getting to the front. Every time a rider pops, you have to pass that guy AND bridge the short gap. Each of those efforts hurts and taps you more. OK. Got it. But there was an issue before the gun went off. I was number 34 and riders were staged by numbers. I was in the back. Great.
Adrenaline pumping, I wasted no time at all moving from 34th wheel to 10th. I worked my ass off to do what he said. And it felt OK. My concerns of fitness were subsiding, but I held on to a healthy dose caution in those turns. I noticed one of my main targets, Paul Swinand, comfortably at the front 5. Always the front 5. Now that guy knows what he is doing and is confident.
Accelerations came and went, and I was feeling fluid and more confident each lap. But I also noticed my 47 year-old ticker was pegged high. Really high. 175bpm +/-. Damn, this was a fast pace. And sure enough, about half way through the race, after a swift acceleration and strung out field, three guys in front of me lost it in a turn at the bottom of the climb. I glanced up to see two of them rolled into the bushes over the curb. I also glanced forward to see Paul and three guys had a gap, followed by 2 foursomes, followed by me trying to bridge after that crash.
“Pop.” I am not proud of it. But I popped. Not physically, but mentally. That negative energy I had pre-race showed up, and I used the crash as an excuse to watch the leaders roll away from me. I did not get off the gas entirely, but I surely did not eat enough shit to bring them back. A quick glance over my shoulder and I realized I WAS the back of the peloton aside from 1 chaser. Dammit. I failed.
“C’mon Radcliff! Dig for God’s sake!” Honestly, I said a pray asking for a bit of strength knowing how pissed I would be if I packed it in and left the course. In a brief moment, I reflected on my nephew who was in the hospital for almost three months, touch-and-go, and how his attitude for life was so strong. I needed his strength and attitude. I had looked at my handlebars where I taped “Daniel 5” to remind myself I can go deeper for 5 minutes if he can fight a disease that was trying to claim his life for three months. My prayer for strength was answered in the form of a XXX rider who wheeled up and said, “Let’s get em back.”
Done. I am all in. We essentially did a two-person time trial slowly reeling in the two foursomes which had become 8 behind the breakaway. Each time we came down the start finish, we could hear the announcer referring to “the remnants of the peloton coming through” and they were not referring to me and my new partner. They referred to that group in front of us. I had to go deeper.
Four laps later, we had reconnected. Awesome. I am going to finish this son’bitch. And I promptly took up my place at the back only to find the pace was so much more manageable in a draft. I actually dreamt of having enough left to punch out a sprint for a top 10. Then, with 2 to go, the pace quickened and I was right back to holding on. Those darn chicanes and brakes and jumps still suck when you are 10 deep. And just when I got ready to jump in the last lap to go for the line, I felt a locking up and lead weight that was not going to let me do anything. I was simply out of gas. I limped in 12th, humbled by how strong and quick these 45+ guys were.
What’s the difference between this race and a wide-open office park crit? My Garmin data shows the spikes in power. That coupled with HR and speed make this one of the toughest crits in the area.
I am proud to have finished in the bunch. I am glad I came in rubber-side down. And I was glad to see Scotty Miner mixing it up with me. I am glad I did not give up on this race. Will I do it again? Let me drop 15 pounds and do more intervals, then I will answer that.