|photo courtesy John Clayton|
With all due respect to the Flatwater Criterium, Norfolk Classic, and Papillion Twilight Criterium, last weekend's Tour of Lawrence was the first time since I've come back to Nebraska that I felt like I was in a real bike race. Maybe it was seeing Brad Huff in his Jelly-Belly kit, or maybe it was the throngs of spectators lining the start / finish line and creating walls of of sound on three of the eight corners. Maybe it was the other racers--both the masters and Elite 3 races had fields of over 50 guys, and everybody came to race. Maybe it was me--I stayed with the pack the entire race. But this day of criterium racing felt just as charged as the Merco or San Francisco events I used to race.
The new bike made its debut and performed like a champ; cornering was much smoother, and my out of the saddle efforts resulted in noticeably quicker surges. My back hurt a lot during the second half of the Masters race, so between events I borrowed a stand from Sunflower Bike and Outdoor and adjusted my saddle forward a centimeter. That helped a lot.
Aching spinal erectors were the least of my worries, however. Black sheets of rain started about ten minutes into our masters race and continued until just after we finished. I saw at least ten guys go down, and one of them slid on his back alongside me for 20 feet as I ripped down a long straightway at 25 miles an hour. I saw him after the race, and he didn't have a mark on him. The water was that deep.
The Cat 3 race was also a crash-fest, but none of the carnage seemed to faze me. I was squeezing through gaps, moving up in corners, and covering surges like a racer who's been doing this a while. Which I have. It's just nice to rediscover that fact. I finished 17th out of 50-something after losing Lucas's wheel in turn seven when a Des Moines rider chopped me by diving for the inside of a corner. He took out another rider, so I watched Lucas pass a few guys for fourth. But I had the legs at the end. That's a first this year.
Once again, I marvel at the equanimity and decency of my teammates. These are good folks.
|Lucas Marshall, Matt Tillinghast, and E.O'B. Photo by Jill Tillinghast|
After coffee Monday morning, driving back to Omaha proved harder than I'd imagined, especially since I-29 is essentially closed. But winging through northern Kansas and southern Nebraska has it's advantages, especially when my bike wasn't the only new blue addition to the family:
Meet Blue Roo Sally, the Aussie Cattle Dog & Abbey companion extraordinaire. Having these two waiting for me at home made the trip fly right by.
This weekend I'm off to Clear Lake, Iowa for a crit and road race with Bryan, Shim, and Leah. I'll race the masters and the Cat 3 criteriums and the masters race on the road.
I can't wait.