This was my 5th time racing the USPRO Criterium Championships in Downers Grove. Not being a sprinter or usual criterium allstar my job is to take care of my teammates who are and set them up for the finish and chance at the jersey. Things happen in a wet criterium and just as in 2007 lots of things happened.
After a beautiful morning the skies opened up during the elite race, which is before the pro crit, and the madness began. The rain breifly stopped before the end of their race, but with very threatning weather approaching the officials postponed the start of the our race first by 30 minute but as it continued to lightning it wasn't until another 30 minutes till we actually started.
With it just lightly raining our race got underway. Slick roads kept the pace of the race down as most were not into crashing, especially early on. A Colivitia rider got a way and built up a huge gap. As he wasn't American there was very little concern, especially on such a long course. He did manage to build up a gap of close to a 1:30. As the race went on the pace picked up and attacks would go off the front. I found myself attacking a couple of times and sprinting to win two primes. One for $50 and one for $400. Our team was doing good in the first half as Parish was off the front for a few laps and Bennet was following a few moves as well. There were a few crashes along the way, but I was lucky enough to avoid them. The only mishap I had was flatting as I was trying to get across to a move. It was a bad time as the field was in three groups and of course the officials push into the third group. Didn't matter as it all came back.
The Ouch team eventually got to the front with around 20 laps to go to bring back a break of 5. The kept the pace nice and steady and most teams were content to sit behind them and wait. With 15 laps to go I was trying to get as close to the front as possible as I knew the pace would pick up and the group would start to take risk as the finish was fast approaching. It was tough fighting with the line up of Ouch, TT1, Colivitia, and Kelly, but I would just get as close to the front, fall behind them and do it all over again.
Just keeping it upright.
Soon enough Ouch, with help from Chad, the break came back and Kelly Benefits took over. The pace did pick up slightly and a few seemed more confident as they tried to go through the corners faster. As it wasn't any drier a few of these guys hit the deck and gaps were opening up. The field was shrinking fast lap by lap. With three to go there may have been 25 guys in the field. Then the early leadout guys started to sit up and gaps were really opening up. A few split off the front and really turned the last two laps into full gas time trialling. It was pretty awesome. I was in bad position in the second group and was never able to make the move back to the front as we caught back on. I ended up finishing 6th, 5th American. So basically I was able to stay upright. This was my highest finish since the 2007 raining addition. it's pretty amazing to me as I am no fan of racing in the rain at all, and criteriums, well I think you know how feel about those.
Next up, two more criteriums. Yes!