I'm not sure I've ever seen an amateur race quite like Saturday's P/1/2/3 race at Sherman Park in Chicago. I have my biases, sure, but I have a feeling the day will be forgotten only by those woolly mice who stayed home.
The race started under a light drizzle. What comes down must go up, and the upspray quickly covered faces in a layer of dirt and wood grime, a side affect of racing in the verdant and bucolic environs of a city park.
After 20 minutes of animated racing, a decisive break of a dozen riders finally came together. It was typical for this race, and in typical fashion the field sat up and patiently waited to be lapped. Among the break was Ben Damhoff
(Geargrinder), above, who has not done much USAC racing in the past few years. This spring, however, he was a terror on the collegiate circuit, including two top 10's at collegiate national championships.
Damhoff attacked the break as it came close to lapping the field. After successfully lapping the field alone, and with the remains of the break less than 10 seconds back, he went straight to the front, draped his wrists over his bars and began laying down a breaktaking tempo.
The pace was fast enough that the break lost time and soon turned on itself, in doing so losing all hope of joining Damhoff in going a lap up.
Meanwhile, in his wake the field was stretched out like a string of dirty, slobbering mules. Damhoff's pace was relentless. To serve CBR readers better, your correspondent embedded himself in the pack, where he spent his time conducting interviews, including questions like, "Who is this guy?" And, "Will he ever give us a break?" And, "Have you ever seen anything like this?"
The rain finally let up, but Damhoff never did. He continued to pull for the final 40 minutes of the race. It was like following a derny. One rider told me that even though he had a teammate in the break, he was tempted to go help Damhoff as a way of offering his compliments and admiration.
Only six other members of the original break stayed off the front, with Tomasz Boba
(WDT-Allvoi) taking 2nd. Another five got swallowed by the field on the final lap, followed by Henry Loud
(ReCycling) winning the field sprint for 8th.
Afterwards, riders had the blackened faces and bleary eyes
of rescued coal miners as they congregated at the finish to debrief, deconstruct exactly what had just happened and congratulate Damhoff on his feat.
Other highlights from the day:
» I was happy to see a big turnout for the women's 3/4's race. It came down to a bunch sprint, and Cathy Frampton (Project 5) provided a well-timed leadout to help Ginger Sides (Project 5) get the win. Alberto's women's squad continues to put out good results, and two of its riders, Angie Rochester and Nancy Heymann, finished 2-3 to round out the podium.
» After brief thunderstorm delayed the masters 4/5's race, the Cat 3's enjoyed the best conditions of the day, but it also drew one of the smallest fields. Newt Cole (Ritte Van Vlaanderen) sprinted to a much overdue win, a smile on his face from the final turn.
» Cat 5's will no longer have to live in fear of John Kalnins (XXX Racing-AthletiCo). After winning both 5's races -- and at least one Saris bike rack prime along the way -- he has the 10 race starts he needs to upgrade.
» Speaking of primes, Jeanne Kuhajek (Team Mack) picked up quite a few out of the five-woman selection in the women's open race, including a custom one-off skinsuit from Pactimo. On the final lap, however, it was Jeannette Rho (Chicago Cuttin' Crew) who took the final sprint for the win.
» Both the 4's and 30+ 4/5's came to bunch sprints: Rich Lenski (Spin Doctor Cyclewerks) had a good gap coming around the final corner of the 30+ 4/5's to finally get the first win of his career, while in the 4's it was state road race champion Kyle Selph (Tower Racing) who won a drag race to the line.
» It wasn't until the masters open races that we saw some breaks stick. In the 30+, Marc Zionts (Alberto's) won out of a two-man break that stayed off for much of the race, while in the 40+ Bryan Rheude (Comma-Van Wagner) made a gutsy but well-timed escape and stayed away solo for the final seven laps or so, finishing more than 30 seconds up on the field. Brian Easter (RRB Cycles) got away from the 50+ with two Team Mack riders and it looked like he might have been able to skip enough pulls to be fresh for the sprint, but Gary Doering and Don Lowe fended him off, going 1-2 respectively.
» The South Chicago Wheelmen have been churning out good juniors results, and three of their boys swept the 15-18 podium, with Ryan O'Boyle, Brandon Feehery and Trevor Rolette going 1-2-3.
Finally, a quick non-cycling anecdote: As XXX Racing-AthletiCo set up the course early Saturday, the smell of smoke wafted over the park. Across the street, a carriage house had caught fire. Mike Seguin
, a member of the Chicago Fire Department, sprinted to the scene, dialing 9-1-1 as he ran. After finding the first floor of the structure engulfed in flames, he ran up the stairs to the second floor and kicked in the door to check if anyone was inside. There was not; the building had in fact been vacant. On-duty firefighters arrived a few minutes later, and soon Seguin was back on the course, pushing around a gas-powered blower
to free the tarmac of glass and debris.
This is not the first time that Seguin and his CFD colleagues have mixed business with pleasure at our races. In addition, Seguin was not the only firefighter to have raced Saturday: He has been organizing a cycling team
to compete at the National Firefighter Games, and some of them gave it a go in the 5's. Be sure to give them a welcome next time you see them on the start line. In our race reports we talk a lot about heroics and sacrifice, but these are the men and women who literally lay their lives on the line for others. Respect.
. (Further weekend wrap-up to come.)
(University of Florida; P/1/2/3): "Cold and rain. My two favorite things!"
(Wheel Fast; 30+ 4/5): "We don't have rain-outs. We suck it up, pull on our big-boy Spandex shorts and ride --
(Rhythm Racing; 4): "The wind-up starts with about 200 meters to go into Turn 4 and riders are jumping around each other and into holes that I thought only a unicycle would fit in."
(Rhythm Racing; 30+ 4/5): "I had left my glasses in my bag and as a result looked like a weeping Tammy Faye Baker by the end of the race."
(XXX Racing-AthletiCo; 30+, 40+): "I worked to make sure I could hang in and make sure xXx was represented."
(XXX Racing-AthletiCo; 4, 30+ 4/5): "With one to go I found myself on the inside and everything looked to be moving good."
(Chicago Cuttin' Crew; W-open): "One to go! Let the games begin!"
(XXX Racing-AthletiCo; 30+, P/1/2/3): "You’ve been best friends with this person for the past 30 minutes ... but now you must betray them. That’s racin’."
(Project 5; W-3/4): "As the end was approaching Cathy offered me her wheel and put it down."