I've been off the grid for a few days and am only now catching up with the Tour of Elk Grove. I'm sorry I missed all the excitement.
Friday night I'd predicted that Saturday's road race would either be won out of a break or come down to a field sprint. I was not wrong.
Action was fast and aggressive, with the pack splitting up and time trial winner Tom Zirbel
(Bissell) forced to chase once he found more than half the field up the road. After 150 kilometers of circuits in Schaumburg and Elk Grove, 35 riders were barreling toward the finish line when Alex Candelario
(Kelly Benefit Strategies) hit a curb coming out of the final corner, causing a major stack-up. Hilton Clarke
(Toyota-United) avoided the mayhem and sprinted for the win and the yellow jersey.
Sunday saw a serious break get away, but it was brought back in the final laps. Again Kelly Benefit Strategies put together a leadout, but after Saturday's wreck, the major contenders were leary of getting on board. That apparently worked to Kelly's favor, enabling its GC man David Veilleux
to get a big gap in the final meters (photo above). He would get caught by former national criterium champion Brad Huff
(Jelly Belly), but he would hold on for 2nd. That time bonus, plus the time bonus for 2nd on Saturday, would give the 20-year-old Veilleux the overall, 10 seconds up on Clarke, who finished a bonus-empty fifth.
And you thought the 3's and 4's were riding like crash monkeys lately? The pros got acquainted with the tarmac, too, including one in the break on Sunday
. More serious and heart-breaking was Saturday's final-turn crash, which broke the collarbone
of the domestique's domestique
, Chris Horner
(Astana). VeloNews reports
that this will take him out of the Vuelta a España. But let us again praise the class act that is Chris Horner. Upon breaking a collarbone, your typical pro is going to throw his helmet in disgust and go pout. Instead, Horner was photographed smiling with the medics
, and he returned Sunday to put in some time as announcer.
Other riders were less forgiving. Hilton Clarke
(Toyota-United) accused Kelly Benefit Strategies, always a major presence at the front of a sprint, of having dodgy handling, telling CyclingNews
: "Those guys always ride dangerous in the last corners of races. They are watching everyone else and not watching the corner." And Freddie Rodriguez
(Rock Racing) told CyclingNews
he wanted nothing to do with the Kelly Benefit Strategies leadout train: "We all gave them a big buffer, but they need to learn when they take control in a corner they don't need to own the corner --
just get through it. If you slow the corner it causes problems."
Notes from the amateur races:
» With the money cut and no NRC points available, the women's fields were light. So light, in fact, that the two races were combined into a single open field. Nonetheless, many of the region's top female amateurs still showed up, and Kristen Meshberg (Flatlandia) continued her dynamite season with another win. Coming in 2nd was Jeannie Kuhajek (NZ Tasman Team), a recent arrival from New Zealand who burst on the scene last week by winning the Chicago Criterium 4's race.
» UPDATE: Understandably, some women are upset about their weekend in Elk Grove, between the unequal payouts and the combined fields, plus being told afterward that there will be no women's events at all in 2009. Here's one take, from Kristen Wentworth (Team Kenda Tire). For historical reference, recall the discussion started by December's interview with Mayor Craig Johnson, where we first learned about the changed women's lineup, and this post from the St. Louis Revolution squad.
» Decatur's Jeff Schroetlin (ABD/Geargrinder) won Saturday's 1/2 race, then finished near the back of Sunday's stage, but his same-time result was good enough to give him the $3,000 overall prize, on top of $2,000 for the previous win. Not a bad payday for an amateur.
» I've come across two references to a fist fight in connection with the 1/2 race. True? Is there any better way to say "Thanks for all the dough and the JumboTron, but we'd rather you cancel this race" than a fight? It's bad enough when we yell at each other and piss in the bushes. But a fight? Really? (Besides, everyone knows that a fight between cyclists is about the most pathetic thing in the world, what with the spaghetti arms and the slip-and-slide cleats.)
» If you haven't added Wolverine Sports Club's John Coyle to your RSS feed, you should. He the best writer in Midwestern racing, and he often has videos from his sprints. (Unlike some of us who take videos, who require telephoto lenses to capture any sprint action, Coyle can be counted on to be right in the thick of the closing action.) His Elk Grove post includes one such video.
» I don't think organizers created three 5's fields with the intent of people racing multiple times, but double- and triple-up they did. One of them was Liam Bradshaw (Team Tati), who upon having his 4's upgrade denied went out and placed 1st, 2nd and 3rd in the 5's heats.
» Tomasz Boba (WDT-Allvoi) frustrated the 3's field once again, breaking free in the last corner in the $5,000 3's race, thanks in part to a crash. We won't have Boba to kick us around any more, however, as I'm told he was issued a mandatory upgrade later that day. Tim Henry (Project 5) continues to show good form, too. He placed 5th in the 3's race, then won Sunday's masters 3/4's race.
» Congrats to Ryan Baumann (Sakonnet), who won Friday's amateur time trial with a time of 9:16, 1 second ahead of masters national champion Wayne Simon (Verdigris), and a time that would have been good for 42nd among the pros. Check out this photo of Horner signing the handsome trophies. Amateur ride organizer Voytek Glinkowski (WDT-Allvoi) says the special event raised $3,000 for charity.
(4/5): "Brakes were locking up all over the place sending bicycle sideways. This was evident after one of the leaders got pinched on the last lap, which by itself had three seperate crashes."
(XXX Racing-AthletiCo; 5): "With the 200 meter sign in sight, I get tired of the cat-and-mouse game. I take off and create a gap that is building slowly. At 50 meters to the finish, I can just barely see his shadow fading off and I knew I had it."
(XXX Racing-AthletiCo; 4, 30+ 3/4): "The moral: Ride with people better, faster and stronger than you and learn, learn, learn."
(Tower Racing; 30+ 5): "The effort is so hard. And yet now I'm passing guys. The passing almost feels effortless. It's like I'm watching from above offering commentary in my out-of-body-experience."
(Project 5; 30+ 3/4): "I heard the race announcer saying 'Project 5' and i knew Tim had won. I clapped and pumped my fist as I crossed the line in 52nd place. 52nd never felt so good."
(Wolverine Sports Club; 1/2): "I’m in the back about 70th place and after the corner manage to move to first over the next mile --
directly through the innards of the pack for the most part."
(Stage 1): "'I am absolutely awful
at taking the correct line on 180s and then accelerating out of them! I'm just a big diesel --
and with a trailer on the back!'
(Stage 2): "The racing on the main seven-mile loop was a little unconventional, as the terrain was almost completely flat and with a lot of hard turns. As well, the entire starting peloton was only 57 riders. All these elements ended up making the racing fast and aggressive from the first kilometer."
(Stage 3): "When Kelly Benefit Strategies jumped on the outside heading for the final turn, everyone in the crowd watching the jumbotron held their collective breath."
(XXX Racing-AthletiCo; 5): "Elk Grove’s L-shaped course features 180-degree turns that create a nightmarish accordion crashfest if you’re in the back of the pack."
(Project 5; 3): "There were about 7-8 guys up the road who actually seemed like they were working together and might stay away. Whoa!"
(XXX Racing-AthletiCo; W-open): "I had chances to move up and didn't take them --
which I'm furious with myself about --
and when the elastic broke, I was on the wrong side of it."
(Tower Racing; 30+ 5): "I wish I had a helmet camstart yelling encouragement: 'Go, Fran, go!!! Come on, Fran GO, GO, GO!"
(Jittery Joe's; P): "I’m happy to report that i finally made it past the third lap! Without crashing! It only took three years to get those pesky 180’s down."
(Vitaminwater-Trek; 1/2): " I tried but did not reach the days' goal, and lost track of the fact that this is supposed to be fun."
(XXX Racing-AthletiCo; 4, 30+ 3/4): "25 minutes of sketchy riding, unnecessary surging and of course, crashes."
(XXX Racing-AthletiCo; 5): "I guess my lack of warm-up finally kicked me in the ass and I couldn't accelerate to move up."
(XXX Racing-AthletiCo; 5): "Hello, pavement. My name is Andres. Nice to meet you."
(XXX Racing-AthletiCo; 5): "After about a half-mile we made it lungs on fire and all --
my first successful bridge in a race!"
(Verdigris; W-open): "A local gal won, Kirsten Meshburg
. She rocks!"
(Team Kenda Tire; W-open): "I desperately wanted to maneuver up the right side and attack for the line but I couldn't get through traffic."
Ben Ross/Action Images
John Wilke: Saturday