Elmhurst Cycling Classic
This report is way overdue. But honestly, I needed time to come down from the whirlwind of the inaugural Superior Ambulance Elmhurst Cycling Classic, powered by Elmhurst Memorial Healthcare.
Why did EMC2 (Elmhurst Masters Competition Cycling) become a venue in the Prairie State Cycling Series? Simply, our team had grown in membership to a size and scale that we wanted to give back to the cycling community and also to our home-town, Elmhurst. All our racers know we are the beneficiary of OTHER people’s hard work each time we race. Yes, we pay registration fees, but that does not come close to covering the cost of the personal and emotional investment from the promoters. Ask Rob Curtis, RDS, ABD, Druber, you name it. . . .putting on a race is a big project that makes no one rich. We do it for the love of the sport, and it is a TON of work if you want it to be done right.
Our team and all the volunteers did an amazing job. The day was over 100 degrees – with a heat index of 108. A few guys like Jim Landenberger, Tony Meadors, Rob Hocking and Jostein Alvestad logged more miles than the racers because they shuttled water to all the stations all day long. And they were constantly checking on our volunteers for relief. A special shout-out goes to Lisa Pena from ABD who acted as our volunteer coordinator for the day. She did an amazing job as we stumbled through our first big event.
Cat 5 – EMC2 lined up our biggest Cat 5 field this year. And we had several guys who had a chance. I do recall telling Steve Jesanis that he could probably sneak away if he jumped right before the chicane. We had plenty of sprint power with Jim Ward and Todd Pegreba. And Steve Jesanis, Steve Bast and Tom Ferguson have the legs to shred it and get away. Dan Kurowski, Jay Bowles, and David Otte were also in the mix covering moves and monitoring the field in the event of an EMC2 break.
I had the pleasure of seeing Steve J jump. He timed it perfectly and with enough authority to make sure he had no wheel suckers. His gap went up and stayed up. But in that heat, a solo break is a real big task. Steve was up for it, and his teammates played the perfect strategy. All the rest now sat back and monitored moves, safely stalling progress.
So in the end, Steve cruised in solo for the win, and big Jim Ward powered to win the sprint finish! The first race of the day and EMC2 went 1 -2! Holy cow was that a way to start the day! Tom Ferguson sprinted for fourth – so close to an all EMC2 podium!
Cat 4 – Rob Hocking lined up as our solo contestant in the 4’s. After fighting some knee issues for several months, he decided to give it a whirl. And frankly he was a factor in the mix, handling all the accelerations and the pace just fine. We all held out hope that it would perhaps come down to a sprint finish so Rob could use his experience and sprint power for a podium. However, racing can be cruel, and Rob had the misfortune of being behind a crash that sent him into the barricades in the chicane. There was nothing he could do to avoid the crash, let alone the scattering riders in front of him.
Rob got a wheel change and had to chase back on. Rob stayed on the gas and in the hunt and even with that crash finished mid-pack in 16th place. This is a significant finish given the damage to him and his bike. 6 others did not even finish. After some knee surgery, watch out for “shocking” Hocking in 2014.
The Masters 123 field saw me and So-Fine Jostein line up. It was nice to be “called up” prior to the race. Normally advancing to the start line like this is reserved for proper bike racers who have accomplished something during the year or series. I can see Jostein deserving it, but I was simply a shout out for working on the venue. So what. I enjoyed it.
Jostein and I had no real plans other than we wanted to race – not sit in. And I wasted no time trying to spice things up after 4 or 5 laps. After a regroup prior to the chicane, I attempted to repeat Steve Jesanis’ move. And I did… except for the fact that the group was not interested in me getting away, and I don’t have the legs to hold them off. 2 laps solo was all I could muster, but I felt rather good nonetheless.
Jostein was consistently up front keeping the pressure on. However, after a prime a certain Mike Heagney flexed his muscles with student/client Andrew Feuersthaler of Velocause and they did a 2-person TT to get away and stay away big time.
Just about the time the group was waking up and I thought the right chase was being formed, I heard the pssst pssst pssst of a flat. And then I felt it. Game over for me as we were inside the free lap rule. Jostein however, stayed in the action trying to bring them back. After his long day of volunteering/mother henning, he came in mid-pack for a respectable, safe 13th. I finished next to last only because Mike Inglis let me finish in front of him. He knew it was my event, and was kind enough to make sure I was not DFL. Looking back, I really wish I had the presence of mind to tell him we should do a bike throw from, like, 100 meters out coasting across the line at 3 mph, just enough to not tip over.
But it was hot, and I did not think of that until too late.
The pros gave us some fireworks. United Healthcare should have won. Maybe even swept. And if you are truly into exciting racing, this had the recipe to be boring – break gets away. Light blue UHC train forms. Brings break back. Spits break out the arse end. Continues to shred the field until moment of launch for podium.
What UHC did not count on was a spunky Team Predator sprinter who was glued to the train for the last several laps. Ricardo Escuela timed his jump out of the final turn perfectly and shot through the line like a rocket. Unbelieveable! The announcers had the crowd so whipped up for the finish that it only got LOUDER as the upset unfolded before their eyes. Emile Abraham of Predator played a key role in keeping Ricardo there, and he rolled in 5th looking like he just won it. And his teammate did!
Of special note was the block parties who took a liking to Emile and Predator. After he waved to the kids and crowd several times, they made sign with his number on it, and started cheering them on more. So much so, he went back to them after the race to stop and celebrate with them. He got a block party hot-dog and a warm Elm Park Ave welcome mat. I hope Predator comes back in 2014!!!
All in all, a fantastic day of racing. And given the heat index, we were especially thankful to have the unbelievable support of Superior Ambulance and Elmhurst Memorial Healthcare. Both sponsors, unfortunately were needed during race day. Prairie State’s photographer made an unexpected visit to EMH as he succumbed to the heat and needed to be transported. That son of a gun was back shooting photos a couple of hours later. Thank you EMH and Superior, as well as the other sponsors who made the inaugural Elmhurst Cycling Classic a success.
Looking forward to 2014!