by Brett Ratner (photo courtesy of Psimet Racing)
If you're a regular reader of The Chainlink, it's not a big secret that we like track racing.
Among the things we enjoy about track are the strategies you need to employ to excel at the different types of racing events. In other words, being able to play the "game" can be as important as having the most outright speed.
Another thing we like is if you make a mistake and screw up one race, no big. You have two more tries...and you can always go for the win in the night's "omnium" (best combined score over three races).
Where track can, in some respects, get a bit repetitive is...well...you're always going around in circles.
One of the local road races that really combines the things we dig about track, then adds in hills plus left AND right turns is the Fox River Omnium.
The event, hosted by Psimet Racing, takes place Friday, May 15 through Sunday, May 17. Each day features a different event hosted in three communities along the Fox River: the East Dundee Cycling Shootout, the Elgin Cycling Classic and the Fox River Grove Criterium.
If you only have time to participate in one or two days, you can treat the individual events like any other criterium race. In other words race as hard as you can and go for the highest-possible place in that race.
But if you can swing all three days of racing, you're in for a treat, because you can also compete for the "omnium," which is awarded to the riders who amass the most points over all three races.
To fight for the omnium, riders will try to earn points for top placements in each race. But to add an extra layer of strategy, riders can also earn points for top placements in two "points sprints" and "points climbs" that randomly take place during the races on day two and three respectively...giving each rider a full seven chances to earn points over the weekend of racing.
In the Elgin race (which takes place on Saturday), there will be two laps during the race where points will be awarded to the top three riders across the line.
In the Fox River Grove race (which takes place on Sunday) there will be two laps during the race where points will be awarded to the top three across the line at the top of a steep climb.
Rounding the turn toward the big climb in the Fox River Grove Criterium (photo courtesy of Jaime Guzman).
This changes the strategy considerably. Instead of, for example, trying to stay near the front of the pack while conserving energy for a strong final sprint, racers must expend precious energy trying to capture valuable points during the sprints and the climbs, but without burning so much energy that they can't finish the race strong...or worse...they get dropped off the back of the pack.
It's a difficult balancing act, particularly in the higher categories, where team tactics also play a role, and many riders are strong enough to break away from the main pack and hold their lead.
The other cool thing about the Fox River Omnium is that the variety of courses can level the playing field for different types of riders. Generally speaking, a lightweight rider with a "climber's" build can expect an advantage at the hilly Fox River Grove course, while a more muscly rider with a "sprinter's" build can possibly expect a better result on the flatter courses.
If you're a lady racer, there's even more incentive to make it out.
Chicago Women's Elite Cycling will be holding 4th-6th editions of their excellent development series. Among the highlights will be a meet and greet with Alison Powers, the only women to hold the triple crown of National Championships in the same year (criterium, road, and time trial). Powers will answer questions, provide strategic insight and mentoring, and extend some awards on the final day of the Omnium series. (Visit http://www.chicagowomenselite.com/blog/ for more information).
Sure, it's late in the game, but registration is still open. If you can call in "sick" tomorrow, it's a good time to pump up your tires, oil your chain and go racin'!