I did four of nine days of the 2017 Intelligentsia Cup 50+ series, which runs from Saturday to the following Sunday. Each day had a $650 prize list with $200 in primes, put up by a local masters team, Team Mack. The four days that I raced each were some of the best organized, most technically challenging, fastest races I did in 2017. Their quality in every respect rivaled or exceeded the best races we have in MABRA. Fields in the 50+ were typically 35 to 45 each day. Racing was so fast, that I could not manage to crack the top half.
All in all, it was an incredible racing experience.
- I hope I wasn't "that guy" but the line I wanted through every turn was nothing like the line that everyone else wanted. I like the the inside, just kissing the apex of the turn, but everyone else always swung way wide.
- Despite the speed and constant attacks, the racing seemed less pointlessly aggressive than east-coast racing.
- The speeds were more like a MABRA 35+ criterium.
- Midwestern bike chicks: more nose rings, fewer tattoos than east-coast bike chicks.
- Intelligentsia Cup Info and schedules
Day 1: Niles
Description: 6-turn 1km pancake flat criterium with perfect pavement in an early 1960s neighborhood.
I had no idea what to expect--I thought I had been riding pretty well in the weeks before, especially in the 55+ races I had done. We started in the mid-afternoon, with the temperatures in the mid-90s. Ugh. I had scoped out the start list before the event, and knew that it was stacked with geezer ringers. I was still getting rolling on the second lap when the first five guys stacked it in one of the turns. Yikes. We rolled several laps behind the moto while the medics cleaned up the damage. Attacks were constant after the restart. I tried to go across to one move, and was rapidly put in my place. I made it, but I had to jack my heart rate to about 195bpm to make it across, which eroded my confidence. Shortly thereafter the winning moved escaped with two Texas Roadhouse and two Florida Velo. With about 8 laps to go, someone a few behind me got Sagan/Cavendish-ed and tangled with the barricades, and we were neutralized again. Weirdly, despite the two serious crashes, and for the rest of the series, the racing was fast, but never aggro. Perhaps it was just midwestern politeness. I sprinted for all I was worth, for about 17th place.
Day 2: Elmhurst
Description: 6-turn 1.5km flat criterium around Elmhurst College
No matter how hard I worked, I could never get past about 15th wheel. Every prime sprint was agony. I came unglued on the last lap and rolled it in off the back for about 18th again.
The vibe on the course was incredible, and was something I've never seen in MABRA. Fully a third of the houses in the very wealthy neighborhood had outdoor parties going on. At one, a band was setting up on a stage. I crashed one party, and the homeowner (Maui!) explained how the event came about. Before the first year, the promoter had personally knocked on every door. In year five, he thought the entire neighborhood was on board, and actively looked forward to the block-party event.
Day 3: Lake Bluff
Description: 5-turn 1.25km flat criterium in Downtown Lake Bluff. The course was like a mini-Clarendon, complete with a 180 at the end of the finish straight and an uphill, into-the-wind long finish.
I was once again still working my way up from the back on the 2nd lap when the field split. Stupidly, I missed the second split, when two Intelligentsia and two Texas Roadhouse guys rolled away. At least this time the group was slow enough that I could at least try to get away a couple times.
Day 4: Goose Island
Description: 4-turn, 1 block-wide 1.25km criterium with a dogleg on the back stretch and uncharacteristically sketchy pavement.
|Goose Island. Photo Credit Brian Lin|
This reality of this course turned out to be the most different from what I expected. The start/finish was at the series-sponsor Intelligentsia Coffee's roastery, and the Goose Island Brewery, in an early 20th-century industrial district about two miles west of the Loop. While I was warming up, the breeze alternated between fermenting beer and fermenting garbage.
Once again, the racing was just crazy fast, and after three days of beat-down, I was slightly physically and definitely mentally beaten. I spent most of the race recovering from the prime sprints, and when the field wound it up for the final sprint, I found myself going backwards, despite heart rates in the mid 190s again.
Our old post-doc Brian appeared on the finish stretch as a spectator, so we got to hang out and catch up.