The Great Egyptian Omnium’s first day went off Saturday with a time trial in the morning and a circuit race following. Attendance and participation was down from some of the previous GEO’s I’ve been too, which is to be expected since the race was cancelled last year and moved to a new venue this year. I don’t know when the race was booked this year but I didn’t hear about it until June. Considering the short notice I think it was a successful event.
I didn’t make it for the time trial, but was all in for the circuit race. I’d never heard of a circuit race before, and discovered it’s essentially a road race ran on a short loop, much like an auto racing circuit, which is an analogy I will return to. Our circuit course was just shy of 3 miles. and was contained within the DuQuoin State Fairgrounds.
I did 3 laps of the course to warm up and was a bit freaked out on my first lap. The road was a small oil and chip with lots of rough spots, a few water filled pot holes, technical downhill turns and some places where fencing came within a few feet of the edge of the road. My first two laps were just spinning and I tried to do a third lap holding 20 mph. I found that by taking an appropriate line through the corners I could rail though them without brakes.
I was in the Cat 5 race along with 6 other riders. 7 is a good field for a race in my opinion, and I was glad to see that everyone looked like they knew what they were doing. Our race was the first circuit race of the day. The officials gave us a short speech at the line, he said that the center line rule would be in effect. The center line rule states that riders are not allowed to cross the center line of the road and is always in effect during races that are not raced on closed roads. Despite the fact that the circuit was within the fairgrounds the course wasn’t closed, there were people on the side of the road fishing, people jogging and the occasional car driving through.
The centerline rule is a good rule and makes perfect sense but on this course it was not really feasible. “These are one lane roads,” I joked with the official. He explained to us that there would be vehicles on the route and we needed to stay on the right as much as possible, but that for safety we could use the entire road, and that given the nature of the road they wouldn’t be able to strictly enforce the rule. Sounded like a good reasonable judgement to me.
So our race was 55 minutes, they blew the the whistle, we clicked in and made our way off. I started in the back and yelled, “How far to the first sag stop.” A guy who looked by far to be the most experienced rider was calling out gravel, bumps, and rocks, which surprised me. As I mentioned earlier the course was much like an auto circuit, after a chicane there was about a half mile straight away, then a small climb and a series of gentle turns before a hard right and another gentle climb that transitions two a rollercoaster like series of turns.
It was on this second gentle climb that I attacked. I really didn’t want to get away from the group, my concern was being on the front for the up coming turns. I stood on the climb and went off the front then railed through the downhill turns like I had practiced. When I looked back no one was coming. “Oh God, I’ve screwed up,” I thought. I didn’t see myself riding the entire race solo but just sitting up and going back to the peloton would be a pretty embarrassing waste of an attack. Thankfully when I looked behind me I saw my buddy Shon and another guy coming across. In a few seconds they caught me and Shon rode at least half a lap, strong. I looked back and saw the guy in blue several hundred feet behind and the group several hundred feet behind him.
The other rider that came across was Blake Girard and he took a very strong turn after Shon, probably pulling for half a lap. I looked behind and there was no one in sight. Eventually Blake waved me forward. I went to the front and immediately slowed down. I felt horrible about this. I really wanted to contribute, but I wasn’t about to put myself in the red when it appeared that we had completely broke away from the group. After maybe 30 seconds of my reduced pace Blake came back around.
I kept glancing at my heart rate and seeing that it was hanging around 177-173. I was pretty sure that if I ever got it to 180 I would blow, in past experience I can maintain a mid 170 heart rate for awhile, but if I go deeper then that I will not be able to recover. By the third lap I was hurting. My body was screaming at me to stop. I could see no one behind us, and yet these guys were hammering. I missed a couple turns rotating through the line. At one point I was maybe a couple bike lengths off of them and began to make plans to get off my bike and hide behind a bush. If they had went just a tiny bit faster I would have been gone.
Fortunately for me they didn’t, and I was able to get back on. I recovered a bit and even pulled for maybe half a lap on the 5th lap, though at a reduced pace. I could see our closest rival on the front half of the course when we were on the back half, we were nearly half a lap ahead of the field. When I told the guys we were so far ahead Blake said, “Lets lap em.” Oh God I thought.
The bell rung for the final lap and Shon was on the front. This is where it will hit the fan I thought. Shon upped the pace and the adrenaline was flowing. Shon was in a terrible position. He couldn’t attack off the front and he was just giving us a free ride around the course. As we rounded the back stretch Blake made his move, passing Shon with a powerful acceleration. I knew that I had to stay with him and went well into the red to do it passing Shon. I was on his wheel as we made the final turn to the straight finish. He went wide in the corner and his rear wheel skipped bouncing off the road.
The finish line was around 100 meters away. My instinct was to get as low and forward as possible so I rested my forearms on the tops and pedaled harder than I’ve ever pedaled before. I was pulling away from Blake and crossed the line ahead of him for the win.
I felt elation followed quickly by a strong dose of shame. I had probably done 10% of the effort that kept our group away from the pack. Blake and Shon had shared the workload and then Shon and just performed an entire 1 lap leadout at the fastest pace of the race. I was the weakest rider of the group and only won because of a combination of luck and taking advantage of my breakaway companions.
Then things got weirder, a guy came running over with a big camera, “That was great, that’s going in the paper tomorrow.” He was a reporter for http://www.thesouthern.com and started asking us questions about the race.
So after being awarded our medals and getting a podium shot Shon and I went for some really excellent food at St. Nick’s Brewing Company, who also sponsored the event. We returned back and I took some photos of the ongoing cat 1/2/3 race going on. Then the cat 4 race where my friends Brian and Pat were racing.
I want to take a moment to thank all the volunteers, sponsors and organizers for getting the event together. It’s a huge undertaking and they deserve alot of credit, especially the volunteers.
I also want to thank my new pal, Blake Sabo. He was at the race volunteering, I handed him my camera and said take pictures. He did a great job and well over half the pictures from the race are his work. You can all of our pictures from that race on my flickr account.