Man, This Sport is Very Hard- Springfield Criterium

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I raced in Springfield Missouri a couple times yesterday. It’s only 250 miles from Topeka, so that is kind of a stone’s throw away in Midwest standards.

The deal with the day was it was hot. Super hot. Not super, super hot, just super hot and muggy. It actually rained for 5 minutes a couple of times right before the Pro 1/2 race at 2:40, just adding to the misery.

Bill and I both raced the Master’s Race at 10:30. Neither of us have raced since The Tour of Lawrence, so we thought we were pretty stale. It turned out to be a very good idea for both of us, because we were both really stale. Bill won the race, off the front with one other guy and I won the field sprint, but we were in different categories, so we both got 1st.

I was not good the whole 45 minutes. Not even close. And it was barely 100 degrees. We rode back to our hotel and sat there for an hour, trying to cool down before the Pro 1/2 race. Neither of us were very enthused about racing again. We both felt bad. Mainly my stomach was bad. That happens sometimes in extreme heat.

The Pro 1/2 race was a lot hotter. It was 104 degrees and like I said above, pretty stifling muggy. I have been riding a bunch in the heat, but not in the humidity. It is a lot different. One thing, the officials allowed hand ups, so we could get as much water as we wanted.

Brad Huff, a Springfield local, flew back from Michigan after finishing 2nd in the Professional Criterium Nationals the day before. I think it is super cool that Brad makes a big effort to return to his hometown, to race and support local cycling in the area. He even sponsored the race with a bunch of primes. You don’t see that much nowadays in cycling.

Anyway, Brad is obviously hard to beat in a criterium. Any criterium. He is ranked 1st in the USA Cycling Criterium Rankings and has won the Professional Criterium Nationals before, so he is nearly impossible to beat locally in a crit.

I felt pretty shitty the first few laps as everyone attacked and attacked and got overheated. Brad rolled off the front with a couple guys and the field kind of split into a lot of pieces chasing. I missed it all and had to bridge back up to the front 20 guys right when it came back together. I rolled off the front with a couple guys and then Adam Mills, my friend and ex-team mate came up and that was it, sort of. The 4 of us distanced ourselves from the field pretty quickly. But, I knew that Brad would be there soon. He didn’t come as soon as I had anticipated. He waited until we were over 20 seconds away before he bridged up. I’d told Brad before the race that I didn’t have any intention of winning and if he needed any assistance, just ask. He said we should just race, which I had planned to do anyway.

So, the 5 of us went around and lapped the field. Adam put in a pretty good dig, very unexpected, right before we were lapping the field. But, we all got into the field. Then it turned into a attacked fest, kind of. Guys were trying to get away and the 5 of us were watching each other. Brad got away alone a few times. He attacks at sort of strange times and very often, so it is pretty hard trying to read whether he is just messing around or serious. He’s always done that, so I should be used to it by now. I chased him a few times. I really can’t explain why, other than I was feeling a ton better than the earlier race and felt like riding harder.

Towards the end of the race, Adam, Brad and I separated ourselves from the other two guys and ended up in a group with Bill and Austin Vinton, Adam’s Mercy team mate, also from Springfield. Austin eventually rode away and got the next place, 6th, and the rest of us were left to sprint it out. There was a time when I could sprint with Brad, but not recently. Brad lead it out from 1/2 a lap to go and led into the 2nd to last corner. It was 75 meters before the final corner, which was 150 meters from the finish line, uphill and tailwind.

I jumped Brad for the last corner. It wasn’t going to really matter where I started, he is a ton faster. I came out of the corner in the led, but Brad went by me easily. Adam was just a little bit behind in 3rd. Bill ended up finishing 10th, which was the last paying place.

I can’t really complain how I felt the 2nd race. I really needed to race. I need to race much more in general, both road and MTB. I didn’t really have the right mindset to really try to win the race. It would of been a supreme effort for that to happen and I don’t have that in me right now. I don’t understand I can feel so bad and then a couple hours later, when the conditions are worse, feel better. I think one of the reasons the Masters race was hard was because the wind was exactly opposite than during the Pro 1/2 race. The course roe much easier with the strong wind at your back up the start/finish hill. There is no way to warm up as hard as the Master’s race. Usually in hot conditions, I hardly warm up at all. Hopefully, this stupid weather is over soon and it will be back to normal, which is more reasonable 90 degrees.

Adam rode a great race. He attacked pretty hard quite a few times and was riding really strong. He relishes riding in the heat. I’m not sure why, but it usually seems to work out well for him. I ended up with close to 70 miles for the day, all hot miles, so that is something.

I’ve raced this race a few times. The first time maybe 20 years ago. I won that year. I don’t really like the course much. It doesn’t have a hill, for one. It is a rectangle, but only two of the corners are 90 degree, the other two are sweepers. I hate corners like that. It makes for dangerous racing. But, I think there was only one crash in the Pro 1/2 race, so it wasn’t too bad. The promoters did a great job though. It takes so much effort into putting an event like this on, so hats off to them, especially considering the conditions.

It is funny how racing a local race is usually harder than a bigger event. I think it is because you’re in the wind much longer and there are a lot more efforts, without the aid of drafting. The changes of speed are much greater too, which makes the races harder.

We got back to Lawrence by 8, in time to eat dinner at FreeState and have a couple beers. Trudi is off to California/Utah now, so I had to drive her to Kansas City, which is an hour, to drop her off for a 7 am flight, so I got 4 1/2 hours sleep. She has to work for BMC the next month and then a couple weeks in September for the Canadian World Cups. The cats are going to miss her like crazy.

Click to enlarge.

At the finish.

Me, sandwiched between two Springfield locals, Brad Huff and Austin Vinton.

Bill pulled us around the last few laps.

Brad beat me pretty handily in the end. I think he was just ready to be done with the day.

Bromont was overheated most of the day. He slept through most of the race.

12 thoughts on “Man, This Sport is Very Hard- Springfield Criterium

  1. Cat3 racer

    I thought it interesting that you raced in the Masters race because you stated once- “I know that Lance put Nevada City back on the map in 2009 when he and Levi came and beat up on everyone. I thought that was sort of bullshit…” You didnt like them guys “beating up” on the others. Seems kind of like the same thing with you guys racing in the masters. I dont have a huge issue with it but nor did I with Lance and company doing Nevada City several years back, but it seems like you drive a one way street sometimes with your thoughts and opinions.

    Just my opinion… for what its worth.

  2. Jacob

    Cat3, no disrespect to Steve, but there is a fairly significant (read: enormous) difference between a current ProTour racer less than 3 years off winning the Tour de France and a self-supported, go-it-alone true Masters legend like Tilford. Steve is the sort of honch you expect (but hope won’t show up) in a Masters field; a dominant former pro who races lots of domestic races for fun more or less on his own dime. Almost every Masters race I’ve ever done has somebody like that in it — it’s just part of Masters racing. By contrast, Lance and Levi were active Pro Tour racers on top-level UCI teams racing full calendars in Europe. That’s like the Boston Red Sox showing up for a local softball tourney. You can’t compare those things.

    Steve, I really love how you can be “not even close” to good for an entire race and still win the field sprint. You’re measuring on a different scale than I can comprehend. Must be nice… Congrats on a good weekend at the races.

  3. JP Shores

    Race with the Masters anytime. That is what happens when you enter a Masters race, you never know who is going to be at the starting line. You guys make our race better! GO!

  4. IowaGriz

    Des Moines, East Village Crit this Saturday and then Seven Oaks MTB race this Sunday (near Boone, about 45min NW).

    Come get both of your fixes in one weekend.

    Boone is a real MTB course, lots of technical singletrack, switchbacks, etc.

  5. Bhalls

    Great to see Steve and Brad at this local event. You guys make the local racing scene topself. Glad you did both events Steve .. that’s bike racing.

  6. Cat3 racer

    see… you guys missed my point. I said I had no problem with him racing Masters. In fact I always enjoy it. But I didnt like how he had problems with Tour pros racing events like Nevada, etc. Heck… are they suppose to be limited on just pro events? Pretty tough here in the US. A guy has to race.

    So… since you all misread and mis understood my post I guess I’ll just shut up now.

  7. tilford97 Post author

    Cat 3-I tend not to race Masters races because I usually don’t get anything out of them and it doesn’t give me a sense of accomplishment.

    When I do race them, it is to attain something. Sometimes I need more racing, which was the case here. Sometimes, such as when I first started doing it is cross, it is to race on the same course that I’ll be racing in the Elite race in a few days. (That has changed now and it seems like many of the top Elites race the Masters Nationals before the Elite Nationals.) Once at Criterium State in Missouri, a couple weeks before MTB Worlds, I raced 3 criteriums. I think it was one of the reasons I was so fit. The qualifications for racing Masters is age.

    That being said, it is like comparing apples to oranges with me and Nevada City. I don’t like those guys showing up at Nevada City, Leadville, and such is because I believe they take drugs and cherry picking races here in the United States is lower than low.

    I can sort of understand the rational – if everyone is doing it then it’s an even playing field, but when they come back the the US, flaunt the UCI rules, wearing whatever jerseys they want, and fly around in a private jet winning races with rich racing history, then I call foul, which I did.

  8. Brad Jackson

    Thanks for coming to Springfield yesterday!! You made it that much more fun an animated for the spectators.

    I have only been riding /racing since 2007 but I can tell you what I have noticed so far. Usually the masters race looks harder or equal to the Pro 1,2. It seems to me that a lot of racers that race masters also race the Pro 1,2 fields. So I believe it is safe to say you earned that spot yesterday. It was a very difficult race.

    Thanks again!

  9. Steve Wathke

    Good story Steve. Sounds like you guys had fun out there. Bill is probably one of the more underrated guys I know. He is the ultimate team player and he can hang with anybody when he’s called upon to do so. You know I want to be just like Bill Stolte when I grow up.
    Congrats guys.

  10. H Luce

    You should hook up Bromont with a camelbak water bag, and teach him how to drink from it… that would be interesting.

  11. CM

    It is unfair for Steve to race masters races because he doesn’t take drugs and it makes the juiced up, anti-aging-doc-seeing, aero-wheel-toting, Wednesday-world-champ-winning merchant bankers feel bad.


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