After the opening races at Intelligentsia Cup one overriding theme moved to the forefront for the rest of the weekend: the heat.
In fact Saturday's Lake Bluff Criterium is the only time I have totally and completely overheated on the bike - winding up in the medical station as mid-afternoon temperatures hovered in the mid-to-high 90's. But that's post-race, as for the actual racing on Saturday it was definitely my favorite course of the weekend.
A six turn white knuckle ride combined with a big field to keep things strung out from start to finish. With a battle for position on every single lap I set about staying as close to the front as possible. Unfortunately as the accelerations added up and I burned match after match I could feel my body temperature rising - I was losing the battle to stay cool.
Despite numerous riders attempting to get off the front the field was unrelenting in chasing and late it the race it was clear that it would come down to a field sprint. As the speed kicked up in the final laps in anticipation, space was at a premium and every gap was immediately filled. At one point on the bell lap I was pushed into a curb - generating the unpleasant sound of carbon pedal grating on concrete - but I was able to stay upright and maintain position into the final corner.
Coming out of that corner sixth wheel or so I stood up to launch my sprint... and I went almost nowhere. The lead riders accelerated away from me and a few riders jumped around me, but my legs didn't have much to give at that point. For the most part riders finished in about the same place where they came out of the last corner and I was no different, rolling home in tenth place.
Shortly after crossing the line I realized I was in a spot of trouble - I couldn't catch my breath and went from feeling a touch light headed to outright dizzy. Off to the medical station I went....
A long stay in the air condition and a bunch of hydration later (the volunteers were terrific) I was able to rejoin the block party that contributed to such a festive atmosphere at Lake Bluff.
As the fixed gear races kicked off we decided to venture down to the nearby beach for a quick dip in Lake Michigan. It turned out to be a memorably foggy scene at the beach - the perfect respite from the heat of racing.
We didn't know it at the time, but we also got lucky in beating the massive thunderstorm that would later roll through the area, resulting in the cancellation of both the Elite Women's and Elite Men's races. The final day of racing at Intelligentsia Cup was a straightforward affair - a four corner course with a small chicane on the backstretch.
Finishing it off downtown
With wide-open corners and tired legs from the day prior I decided to go with a tail-gun happy strategy. Of course that came back to bite me when I was caught behind a big pile-up a few laps in and had to take a free lap.
After that the race was fairly predictable: everyone went into the finale feeling fresh and so the corners were taken six and seven wide on the last lap. Positioning was a roll of the dice and I came up unlucky - a few wheels too far back with no hope of cracking a result.
But all things considered I was happy to close out the weekend in one piece with a pair of top ten's along the way and lots of good hanging with all of the New Yorkers that ventured out to Chicago. All that was left to do was break down my bike in the parking lot and head to the airport for the Sunday evening flight home.
Matthew Vandivort is a New York City based cyclist and sometimes photographer who was also a founding member of To Be Determined. You can follow him online at @photorhetoric or http://photo-rhetoric.com/