We traveled to Peoria on Sunday for the Peoria Classic (formerly Proctor Classic) bike races. I did the cat 5 crit in Peoria in 2006 and 2008. Both times I was separated from the main field by a crash directly in front of me and I finished off the back all by myself. I didn't have high expectations.
Four other Wild Card riders were in the cat 4 race this year, Luke, Jason, Nick, and Mike. At the start of the race they announced the names of the top five riders in the Illinois Cup series. Jason was 5th and Mike was 2nd. None of the other three riders were there so two guys from our team made their way to the starting line before everyone else. This meant everyone else in the race would be keeping an eye on us. I would have preferred to fly under the radar.
The race started and I somehow ended up leading the pack into the first turn, so I figured I'd get things started. I lead for most of the first lap before moving aside for the next guys in the line. I dropped back into the pack nearly at the back, where I stayed for most of the race.
The race was fast (26 mph average speed for 40 minutes) and there were eight turns per lap. Turning at high speed in tight packs is not my favorite thing, but I handled it much better in this race than in any previous crit... which is good. The first five turns were straightforward. After the sixth turn (into the headwind) of every lap I had to sprint to catch back up to the group, just in time for everyone to slow down before turn seven. On the finishing straightaway I had the opportunity to move up a few places and start the whole thing over again. My average heart rate was 171, right at my aerobic threshold. So I was definitely working hard.
With four laps to go I moved up a few too many places on the finishing straight and somehow went off the front. So, like the first lap, I lead the group for most of a lap, then pulled off and dropped back again. The race was super hot and by the end it was really taking a toll on me. I stayed with the pack the final few laps and into the finish. I had nothing left on the last lap to move up much. I finished near the back of the lead pack in 26th place out of 42 riders. Mike was 4th, Luke was 12th, Jason was 17th, Nick stopped just before the end after trying to help set Mike up for a strong finish.
I'm fairly happy with how the race went for me. I wasn't expecting spectacular results, and I didn't achieve spectacular results, but my steadily improving fitness gives me greater confidence for the next race (whatever that may be). I think a couple guys on the team were hoping for better results, but we did okay regardless. There will other races.