This weekend’s races: Aug. 2-3
Superweek and the Chicago Criterium merely set the stage for weeks of big-prestige, big-money racing.It starts this weekend with the Tour of Elk Grove, where a total of $225,000 is up for grabs for amateurs and pros. Of note is the separate 1/2 series, where a total of $35,000 will go to the riders who spent the past two weeks making donations to Superweek. After last year's short races left many riders sour, the 2008 schedule is a little more generous. Still, expect the races to be fast and frantic, and most will come down to a bunch sprint down the curving Elk Grove Boulevard. The finishing stretch will be marked every 50 meters, but this is another course where it behooves you to scout the finish to pick your cues. This time of year there are a lot riders trying cycling for the very first time, so there will be a wide range of skill level in the 5's, from seasoned racers to triathletes to dudes with toe clips and Discovery jerseys. Stay near the front from the start. Expect gaps to open early and often. Look for them and quickly skip around slower riders and on to the lead group. If you hesitate, the gaps will grow too big to jump across. Each day’s courses are L-shaped, effectively flat on smooth roads. (Saturday's $5,000 Cat 3 race is on a T-shaped variation.) The U-turns, one of which is pictured above, are guaranteed to cause some low-speed drama. Riders at the fore will have an easier time, so get up front and stay there. Shift down twice before each turn so that you're able to accelerate out and close any gaps. Payouts go 20 deep in the 3's and 4's, so sprint every last inch even if you’re mid-pack. Quitting early can cost you a nice dinner out. Once the amateurs are done, the real business starts with the pro races. On Saturday we get to watch the pros roll in from their 150km road race. Grab some lunch in town, replenish your carbohydrates with a cold beer and make a day of it. I don't know which pro teams are making the trip, but the action should still be electric. (The race is not on the National Racing Calendar this year, but I expect many big teams will want to come for the big money, at least on the men's side.) But Elk Grove isn't the only big race this weekend. Elgin returns with an interesting neighborhood course on Sunday. The money's pretty good here, too.
Saturday Tour of Elk Grove USCF criterium Elk Grove, Ill. Distance from Chicago: .5 hours
Sunday Tour of Elk Grove USCF criterium Elk Grove, Ill. Distance from Chicago: .5 hours
Elgin Cycling Classic ABR criterium Elgin, Ill. Distance from Chicago: 1 hour