Author: kelly (page 1 of 4)

Fox River Omnium 2016

by Michelle Moore

Saturday: Elgin Crits
Women Master’s 30+

After a great 33 min warm up I rolled to the line for the masters race feeling solid and ready. After the whistle blew, I had a solid start. My goal was to get out toward the front to see how the group handled the first few laps, and be first or second going into the chicane on lap one. Success! On the third lap, there was an attack of 3 women, but I was on the inside of the group and I couldn’t get around to go with them. I stayed where I was to see what others would do, but since an xXx and Psimet rider were in the break, their teammates did a nice job of slowing down the pack. Grrrr! We were going fairly slow which is always frustrating to me, so after the 4th lap I tried to bridge up to them (I tend to get a bit impatient just sitting in and going slow). I started to, but quickly realized that I didn’t have it in my legs quite yet. So I floated back to the group, and the gap of the break continued to grow as the race progressed.

One thing that confused me is that the race announcer kept announcing the sprint point laps, even as our group rolled by…so for some reason I thought sprint points were available to our group in addition to the breakaway…b/c I “won” both times…but after the race I realized this probably wasn’t true. I talked to the officials and they said “as a courtesy they announce it in case we catch the break…” I thought that was pretty stupid b/c the gap was at least 25 seconds and it confused our group. Oh well, hopefully i didn’t burn too many matches doing that. In fact, it kept me at the front for the majority of the race. As the last two laps came down, I could tell xXx was setting up to lead out Katie George. She yelled to her teammate to go left b/c I was blocking her from getting on the wheel she needed :) As we came into the final turn/chicane, I was probably 4th wheel (not good, I wanted to be 2nd). I waited for a second after we came off the hill, and tried to grab Leah Sanda’s wheel, but couldn’t quite get there. Leah won the field sprint, Katie George got 2nd and I got 3rd (so 4th, 5th and 6th respectively).

Women 4s

Before the start of this race, Ashley and I discussed getting out in front of the pack the first loop to make sure we could set the tone and stay away from sketchy wheels that would be afraid of/break in the chicane. This was a smart move because there were some women that crashed in this race last year and still had jitters about it.

Whistle blew, Ash and I took off as planned and controlled the first few laps of the race. Then, it was time to let others do the work for a bit. As the first sprint point lap came, Ashley went for it just before the chicane, I went with her and watched her get first. I was a little too overconfident I had 2nd locked up and just before the line I looked over my shoulder and saw an Intent girl speeding toward me: she got 2nd, I got 3rd for the sprint points. Dammit! :(

As the laps rolled on, I sat in a little to conserve energy. The wind was picking up compared to my first race. A few times the junior in the field laid down a solid/strong attack, but she could never hold it. The good thing is that it kept the pace of the race fairly high. Ashley was always right there – she has good instincts and can be strong at the front, so I stuck as close to her as I could. I’m a little hazy on the 2nd set of sprint points, but I know I was 4th or 5th for those.

As the last three laps came closer, I knew xXx was going for a win. They stayed at the front, and I was usually right there, 4th or 5th wheel. With 1.5 to go, Sarah London (xXx) took the front and we went with her, at least 6 of us were right there. The last lap she was still on the front and Ashley was right there with her. I was probably 4th or 5th wheel going into the left turn downhill (not where I wanted to be). I knew that chicane would be fast and tight, but we came up over the hill and I was just far enough from the wheel in front of me to not have a great lead out. However, I did pick of one person and nearly outsprinted Ashley. I ended up 5th in the race. That coupled with my sprint point had me in 4th overall for the Omnium. We’ll see what Fox River brings…the hill terrifies me!

Overall though, I was a little disappointed in this race. I definitely had good positioning all race, toward the front, didn’t do too much work, but my legs felt heavier than I had thought they would. Did I go too hard in the Master’s? Not sure…it should have opened me up enough for this race. And, I did a proper cool down, ate, and stayed warm, hydrated between races. Not sure what the issue was, but I knew in lap 3 that I probably wasn’t going to win the race. I had a better feeling last week in La Crosse about my performance, and I just didn’t feel the same today. I’m not unhappy with my overall placing, but wish it would have gone more my way – or at least that it felt as good as it did during the Master’s race.

mish

Sunday: Fox River
Women 4s

Wow, this was such a difficult race. I’m still trying to determine if this was more difficult or not than snake alley. I think the % incline was worse, but the actual climb time is shorter. Either way, damn!

First lap is the hardest b/c you essentially start at the bottom of the hill and climb immediately. I had taken two practice laps so I knew what to expect, but it’s nothing like in the race. My lungs were on FIRE that first lap. Yes I fell off a little, but since I am a good descender, I caught back on after the climb. They had told us at the start that the 2nd lap through would be QOM points, so it definitely picked up on the climb. This is where I got dropped. But, I got dropped with 4 other girls (3 BFF and 1 Intent rider). So, the 5 of us basically stuck together for the next 4 laps. Each time we entered the climb, I saw the lead pack. They had maybe 10-15 seconds on us. Not bad.

At the descent of the 3rd lap I took off, hoping I might be able to bridge the gap. This allowed me to be first up the hill for the 4th climb; I was feeling pretty good this lap (which was incredibly shocking to me). I held the lead for a bit, but not enough to catch the leaders. I was bummed, but decided since we only had 2 to go, that I’d let the others do the work up/down the hill so I could conserve something for the final lap.

I gave it everything I had the last two climbs, and as we came to the top of the final climb, the Intent girl was out front, then Lauren from BFF, then me. Intent was first into the turn for the descent; I knew I had time to catch up. So, I rolled up to Lauren’s (BFF) wheel and let her bring me up to the Intent rider. As we entered the 2nd to last turn I made sure I was 2nd wheel going into the final turn. It was Lauren/BFF and Lori/Intent and me. I got out of the saddle and sprinted hard. I 7th overall (winning that sprint). This gave me enough points to end up 5th overall for the Omnium.

I’ll be enjoying some much needed rest and taking a week to recover, then it’s over to Iowa Memorial Day weekend for Snake Alley and Melon City!

Michelle Does LaCrosse

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La Crosse Omnium
by Michelle Moore

I’m still smiling from this event. Things I discovered:
1. I am not a good Road Racer
2. I suck at climbing
3. I LOVE crit racing
4. My sprint has gotten really strong
5. A proper warm up and cool down is everything

Saturday/Road Race
I’ve never done this omnium before, but I’ve heard it’s legendary. I was a little bummed that I couldn’t do the time trial on Friday given this was a significant part of the overall series, but then I saw the mountain to climb for 2.5 miles and was no longer sad I didn’t get to compete. My buddy Ashely from HAC and our new teammie Anna and I all road tripped up to WI late Friday night. We didn’t get too much sleep Friday night since we rolled into La Crosse around 12:30am, and wanted to be out of the house by 6am to drive the course before the race. After driving the 13 mile loop we were to do twice, we went to register and warm up. After a 30-35 min warm up I felt ready. I started on the front line with Ashley (HAC) and two other women for the neutral rollout. As the whistle below and the race started I was still on the front with Ashley and Jody (ISCorp who I’d raced with, and beat in Menomonee Falls a few weeks prior). The three of us hung up there for several miles. Ashley and I were discussing how to get off the front so we didn’t tire out too much in the first few miles – cuz it was WINDY! Since we couldn’t, we started to just trade places and take turns pulling each other so that neither of us went out too hard at the start. This certainly confused the pack… :-)

As we made the first turn, about 3.5 miles in, I knew the giant descent was coming up. I also knew I wanted to be on the front of it since I’m a good descender and a terrible climber. I wanted to make people pass me. I was the first down the descent, first into the turn, and on the front, again, as the climb started. I was fine with it, but I foolishly turned to Ashely and said “this is where I’ll get dropped.” I knew I would, but I wish I hadn’t put that negative energy out there; it definitely affected me. I just couldn’t grab a wheel enough to stay on up with the pack on the long climb. Bummer. As we came over the top of the climb, the wind was in our face. I got on a wheel after a few minutes, and just tried to stay low out of the wind. The pack wasn’t that far in front of me, maybe 20 seconds. But, since I had another loop, I didn’t want to burn my matches.

After some serious determination and sucking a wheel for a bit, I was able to get back together with the group just before the final turn into the long stretch up to the start/finish. It was quite an effort…even the moto ref made a comment about it :) I decided to hang at the back of the pack for the next several miles to recover and conserve some energy. If I got dropped that early on the climb in lap 1, I wasn’t sure how lap 2 was going to go.

As we go closer to the first turn, I made my move up the right side of the pack to get toward the front for the descent. It was aggressive, and I’m pretty sure I irritated some people, but I didn’t care. I wanted to be toward the front of that large group. Unfortunately, I didn’t get far enough to the front before the downhill, but I was able to take the descent at a fast speed (actually I was surprised how fast these ladies were flying down the hill…guess I’m not the only one with no fear). As we turned into the climb, I was right where I wanted to be (for the most part). I was with the pack, on the left side, but I was on a strong-ish wheel. I would have liked to be IN the pack to protect me a bit more. I stayed with the group for at least half the hill, maybe a tiny bit more, then got dropped. As I came to the top of the hill the pack seemed farther away then lap 1…I wasn’t sure I could bridge up to them. Meanwhile, one woman (Erin, a 4x Ironman) took a flyer off the front on the downhill, and ended up staying away for the next 10 miles to win the race (WUT?!). I just kept my head down and pedalled until I caught up to a Northstar woman whose wheel I rode for a bit after the top of the hill. It was certainly winder this loop than the previous one. I tried to work with her, but every time I came around to offer a pull, she’d come back around me again. Fine, she can pull me through the wind all she wants!

We eventually bridged up to a Trek woman, whose wheel I switched to. Again, I offered to do my part and pull, she made a comment to me that I looked like I had a good sprint. I said “we’ll see, it’s real windy out here.” She came around me and as she was getting back on the front said that she has no fast twitch fibers/muscles, so it seemed like she wanted to pull me. Um, ok! I rode her wheel through the final turn, then for a few more minutes until I could see the finish. I got out of my saddle and gave a nice big effort to cross the finish line. I placed 9th, just a few min behind the pack. I rode another 5 min out with Ashley (who got 8th and was SO strong in the race), then back to the car where I hopped on my trainer for another 15-20. Overall, I probably cooled down for 25-30 min. I’ve learned over the past few years that “a good athlete does a proper warm up and cool down” (quote by Jason Meshberg). It was going to be really important for me with the crit the next day.

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Sunday/Crit
I woke up for this race feeling mentally ready. A great night sleep, a proper cool down, time on the Mississippi on the dock in the sun with my friends…all prepared me for the day.

We rode to the race from our house (only 2 miles away) and did a quick recon of the course. After 3/4 of a loop, Ashley and I went off on our own to warm up. I was nervous, the legs felt really heavy. Heavier than I thought they’d feel. I did a solid 30ish min warm up, including some tempo time and 3-5 sprints…all I could do was mentally stay engaged and at the front of the pack for the entire race. Not ON the front, but toward the front.

I lined up on the front line, and it was one of longest wait times I’ve had sitting on the line. This is the only part of the race that gets to me…the longer we sit, the more nervous/anxious/etc. I feel. So, this was torture. I also had new teammie, Anna, to my left who mentioned how nervous she was. So I fixated on getting her to calm down and just go with her instincts (b/c she has excellent race instincts)…which in turn got me to refocus.

After sitting on the line for nearly 10 min, the whistle blew and we were off. I had one of my best race starts…ever! Even though I wasn’t clipped in, I was out in the front leading through 90% of the first lap. I knew the race would start fast; it’s a very short course w/four turns. I wanted to be the first into the turns for the first lap in case people grabbed breaks. Success! There was a tiny patch of cobbles just before turn 4, and these ladies would break as they rode over them. This was odd to me, but I also knew this is where I could have an advantage on the final lap.

I focused on staying at the front, never further back than 5th wheel. A variety of women took turns pulling/attacking. About halfway through the race, they announced a $40 cash prime. So, naturally the pace increased and I went with the attackers. Erin (the 4x Ironwoman) and the ISCorp junior went for it…it was close, and I thought they’d stay away, but this was a strong group of women that were fierce and aggressive. I continued to tell myself to not lose one of the fast wheels. I knew the ISCorp junior had a killer sprint, as I had raced with her a few weeks prior.

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Ashely attacked with about 5 laps to go, and it was really strong. As she got sucked back into the group, I countered, but barely. I was tired and I decided that I wanted to save something for the sprint finish. Then, out of nowhere, Carin attacked with 3 to go. She held it for at least a half lap, as we came across the start/finish, I saw 2 to go. I wanted to counter attack, but knew that would be the end for me. So Erin (the 4x Ironwoman) got out toward the front. She’s clearly strong, but is also new to racing and hasn’t done many crits at all. So, I let her stay out there; the ISCorp junior was right on her.

As we started the final lap, we were strung out. The ISCorp junior went for it with half a lap to go. I was too far back to go with her, so I sat about 4th wheel through turn 3, accelerated over the cobbles through turn 4. I came out of the final turn probably 3rd wheel. I swung far to the left as I got out of the saddle in my drops and sprinted with every ounce of my being. I nearly saw blood in my eyes, but I could feel everything falling into place. I was gaining ground very quickly. Another rider (Rachel) was just on my right, we touched hands, but I kept my focus on winning the field sprint. I wanted it so badly (which would mean 2nd place for me). I outsprinted the field, and knew I locked up 2nd, if not first (couldn’t remember if the ISCorp junior was registered as a junior or a cat4). I took a few cool down laps, had some friends there from xXx that came over to congratulate me, as well as some teammates parents/families. I was proud of Ashley and my teammates for attacking and having 2-3 solid days of racing. I was also really proud of myself for being more conservative, reading the race well, knowing where to be and when, and saving my efforts for that last sprint. I’ve been putting a lot into my sprints on the trainer, and on group rides, and it most definitely paid off in this race. In checking the overall omnium results, I was surprised to see I placed 7th (and that was without the TT on Friday). I’m so close to that top step I can taste it…hoping for that place next weekend at Elgin!

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La Crosse Road Race 2016

La Crosse Road Race, Women’s 4
by Monica Freiband

rr
At the beginning of every race, officials break down rules for the day. I hate to admit that this has become slightly like the airline safety procedure where I tend to zone out. While previously this has not been an issue, the day of the Lacrosse road race proved different.

The neutral roll out was filled with chatter from cat 4 women who were attempting to stay warm on a cold morning. We started up the main road, and the official blew the whistle. Everyone began to fight for the perfect spot out of the strong head wind. We got settled and I found my comfy 3rd wheel spot. Not one minute later, the wheel I so comfily sat behind, had a mechanical.

As a beginner racer, I am still figuring out the “expect the unexpected” mentality, as I am focused on not getting dropped. As I watched the wheel in front of me come to a halt and the pedals on the bike stop turning, I had to think quickly. Do I attempt to go right, and risk getting to close to the woman next to me? Do I hit the brakes and hope the woman behind me does the same? Or do I go left and cross the yellow line?

I chose to go to the left, cross the yellow line, and go around the stalled bike in front of me. Not 5 seconds later, I heard a whistle.

The official rode up next to me on his moto and pulled me out of the pack. I was told I crossed the yellow line and that was means for disqualification. I began to argue, and tried to explain the situation. The official was less than pleased with me, using the “if that line were a ditch would you still have gone to the left?” argument.

I watched the pack get farther and farther from me, and felt the headwind get stronger and stronger as I became completely exposed. After arguing, I was told I could attempt to chase the pack (now having about a minute gap).

Not even one mile into the 27.3 mile race, I had been dropped off the back, and it didn’t take long to realize I would be riding the race solo. My blood was boiling, I was determined to catch the pack, but I just couldn’t close such a large gap by myself. My legs bonked after lap one, my torn meniscus in my knee began to swell, and admittedly I thought about just hopping in the next car I saw drive by and giving in. But I came around the last corner to hear my wonderful teammates cheering me on, and through the pain and tears (yes, there were tears), I rode through the finish.

It was not one of my finest races, both in how I finished and the way I handled myself. I was in my own head, I was angry and hurting, and I let it get the best of me. However, I did it, I finished, and it became a great learning experience for me: when your mind gives up, keep going, and ALWAYS follow the yellow line rule.

Fox River Omnium

by Monica Freiband

hill

Hustlin up the storied and steep Fox River Grove hill.
Photo by Amy Melling

Day 1:

Bumper to bumper traffic. Frantic texting to teammates. Checking the clock every minute. Swear words flying left and right. Anger. Acceptance. We missed the race.

Finally, after 2.5 hours stuck in traffic, we arrived in East Dundee, just in time to watch the last few laps of what would have been our race go around the course. Anger set it, as we saw the field lap around and wished that we have left just 30 minutes earlier and could have raced. Luckily, we were allowed to transfer bib numbers to the womens elite/ open race.

Then, thud. We hear a crash around the first corner of the course. Looking over there is a girl on the ground, teeth sprawled across the course, who had taken the tight corner a little too rough. Next thing, sirens. Ambulances, fire trucks, police. Having just watched a crash, and been involved in one the week before, the nerves began to set in.

Once the nerves had already set in, I realized, I would be racing with cat 1, 2 and 3 racers. This did not help. The thought that this was my first open race began flying around my head. I had never raced with such fast and experienced women before! In an attempt to calm myself, I went on a warm up ride and tried to spin out my nerves. Failed attempt.

We lined up, and I was sitting off the back line, in a complete panic that I was in a race with women who had so much more experience than me. “What was I doing on the line with women who have been racing for 10 years when I have 2 months of racing under my belt?!”

The whistle blows, I clip in and, and we are off. It started faster than I had anticipated, but I was determined to hang on for at least 4 laps before being dropped. Lap after lap, I remained on the edge of the pack, as the speed fluctuated, I kept up. For a brief moment, I fell off the back with 3 other girls. Courtney from xXx turned to me and said “Follow my wheel around the corners” to help me learn which line to follow, and to catch up. The four of us, by some miracle, catch up to the pack again.

Next thing I knew I was riding mid pack next to Daphne, a Cat 1 racer from Chicago Cuttin Crew. I had watched her race before, and know how talented, and speedy, she is. My mind started racing. “Oh my god! I’m next to Daphne! Don’t freak out! Wait, Ahh Im next to a cat 1 racer! Ahh what am I doing in this race??”

As the speed fluctuated, I maintained my place in the group. While my goal was to not get pulled for at least 4 laps, I shocked myself and managed to stay with, and finish, with the pack!

To top off a great night of learning, we were fortunate to have USA National Champion Allison Powers give us some pointers on how to become stronger racers, both individually and as a team.

What started as a day of frustration for missing my own race turned into one of the best races, and an incredible learning experience. Sure, I missed my chance to vie for the Womens 4 onmium, but I got something even better. I had the opportunity to ride with Category 1, 2 and 3 racers, and spend 40 minutes learning from their incredible technique and tactics, something I probably never would have done had I made my Cat 4 race.

So thank you Chicago traffic, for giving me an opportunity to become a better racer.

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Hangin in the open field with all cats
Photo by Katie Isermann

Day 2:

Left with more than enough time to spare, and arrived just in time to go to a Vision clinic, which meant focusing my energy on race tactics and not just strength. What can I do to visualize going around corners, strengthen my techniques, and become a better racer. It was all very helpful information, not only in that I learned a lot, but also in that it distracted me from the upcoming race.

I really wanted to gain omnium points, but having missed the first day, didn’t forsee that happening. Lining up at the start, I knew there were a few technical corners and hills that could be difficult with a large field.

The whistle blew, and I started off near the back. Not mad to be situated in the back of the group, but mad that I couldn’t break off and get sprint points from that position. I tried to move forward, but every time I tried, it seemed nearly impossible. There were some great blocking tactics going on by the other teams. Just as I was starting to move up, going down a hill and around a corner, someone crashed out, and I began to get nervous. That hill was technical, and you did not want to be situated the wrong way on that. I hung to the back, and slowly moved up, one rider at a time. Just as the race was coming to an end, with one or two laps to go, my teammate Carin, knowing I wanted to podium in the race, came up and said “ Do you want the podium or the prime.” Without hesitation, I said podium, and she said “Can I tire them out and take the prime?” and again, without hestitation, I said get up there! She went on a sprint and tired the pack out, taking a prime prize for herself. The real race began the last lap, the group was a bit tired from the prime sprint, and I worked my way up. I was positioned perfectly for the whole last lap, and it came down to a final sprint, which sadly I lost by half a wheel. I continued my streak as a perpetual 4th place rider.

Day 3:

I wanted the podium. That’s all that was going through my mind. I knew it was a tough course, with a massive hill, and had no idea how people would handle climbing (since we live in Chicago, a flat land, and never do any climbing). I nervously walked up to Allison Powers, US National Champion, and asked her, if you were in 4th place for the omnium, and wanted to try to podium, what would you do? Her advice, which will always stick with me, was “Well, first of all, don’t forget to have fun… Don’t stress out about it. Take it easy, if someone sprints off the front, don’t feel you need to chase them down. Play to your own strengths, and don’t feel like you need to take off going up that hill.” (Nicest. Person. Ever.)

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Allison Powers talks to the Womens Category 4 feild. Carin Nelson listens from the front row.
Photo by Amy Melling

Luckily for me, I had not one but TWO teammates with me for this race, Kelly and Carin, and knowing that I wasn’t a solo rider helped immensely.

Standing at the start, I was so nervous I felt ill. I yet again started in the very back row, and didn’t know if I could make any moves from back there.

The whistle blew and the first thought In my head was “oh Shit there is a massive hill in about 10 seconds, SHIFT DAMNIT!)
There was a breakaway of 3 lead girls after lap 1, and then there were two of us directly behind them. I looked to the girl I was with, and said “if we work together, we can catch them.” So we tried. We worked together, and almost caught them, until another sprint point, and they took off again. I realized my podium dreams were gone at that point, and focused on fourth.

Going up that horrific hill, standing along the side were people cheering. Of those people were Maria (My Chicago idol) and Allison Powers. They were screaming at me to catch up to the girl in front of me, and if Maria and Allison are telling me to do something, Im damn sure going to do it.

Next lap around I had caught and passed her by about 4 seconds, and started up on the climb. As Im going up I hear Maria screaming at me that I had a gap and needed to widen it. I tried but she ended up catching me. We worked together again, until about half a lap to the end when she turned to me and said “Are you in the running for the omnium?” I told her I was, and she looked at me and said “we could sprint to the finish and make it a challenge, but you would probably take the sprint, so go for it, get out there.”

Such a nice gesture, which makes me love the world of cycling even more than I already did. I took off and sprinted all the way through to the end, claiming, yet again, my forever spot in 4th place (and 5th overall which, despite not having placed as well as Allison Powers told me to, I was content with knowing I didn’t race all 3 days).

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Fifth in the omnium overall, despite missing a day of racing.
Photo by Carin Nelson

It was an amazing weekend, despite having missed day 1 of the omnium points. I left knowing that I gained experience, friends, and skills. Thank you to everyone who taught me over the course of this weekend, be it on or off the bike. I learned so much from the helpful tips, cheering, and of course the riding with such incredibly talented ladies!

Post WeiNeR Thoughts

Keep pedaling! Learn to soft pedal instead of no pedaling. When you stop pedaling, you instantly slow down and disrupt the paceline.

Cyclocross Nationals

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by Katie Kolon

I decided kind of last minute to go down to CX Nationals in Austin Texas. As a category 4 racer, I could only race in the women’s non-competitive and the single speed races. I chose to race in the non-competitive category, which included all categories and some big names. The women who took the podium were all category 1 elite races. Carolina Gomez Villafane took first, Katie Clouse took second, and Jenny Park took third. The race was filled with around 100 women, including tiny juniors and a woman who looked to be in her 70s.

After packet pickup on Tuesday, I pre-rode the course in warm, 65-degree weather. I enjoyed the sun while wearing shorts and short sleeves on January 6 while Chicago suffered under oppressive negative degrees. On race day, the temperature dropped to around 50 degrees, which I prefer for racing. The course was almost a 2-mile loop and went like this.

The race started with a long and wide straight section on pavement with a little uphill at the end. Once on the grass, the turns started, and there were 180 degree turns on small hills, loops around trees with shredded woodchips, and ramps up and down the curbs that we constantly crossed. I had never raced in such a big field so I got to experience the clogging of riders. Women were getting off their bikes as the race slowed because it was so packed and there was nowhere to go. It took at least half a lap before it started to thin out. I started with a call-up of 70 and managed to pass a lot of people while also getting passed.

As the course progressed, everything technical got bigger badder and more extreme. The 180 degree turns on hills turned into blind turns on bumpy off-camber dirt and rocks. The little hills turned into big hills. We ran up one set of limestone stairs so we could white-knuckle back down the hill. This was the kind of hill where, as you approach, you keep craning to see the bottom because it drops off so steeply that by the time you can see the bottom you are headed back down.

Later we climbed an even taller set of limestone stairs. These stairs were treacherous. They were uneven, bumpy, crumbling, and some stairs were as high as my knee. I shouldered my bike and used my left hand to grab on to the rocks in front of me while stepping up. I saw people run up these. I did more of a scramble and hoped not to sprain an ankle as I teetered on my cleats.

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After the long stairs and some more riding around turns, there was a long weaving off-camber section followed by a steep downhill, 180-degree turn, and steep short climb. This was my favorite part to ride. If you went fast enough it was fine. It was a little muddy but hard enough not to slip. After the last little climb, which people chose to ride or run depending on the situation, there was another long fast descent followed by another 180-degree turn, two barriers on the uphill that seemed higher than 18 inches. After hopping over these barriers I had to run back up the hill I had just descended, jump back on the bike, and descend it again to the finish line.

I have never ridden such a fun and technical course and I had a lot of fun just riding it. In my second lap, I was focused on passing three women ahead and gaining ground. On an off-camber bumpy blind downhill turn I was perhaps too focused on these women that were just bike lengths ahead and I went over the handlebars. I landed hard on my shoulder and hit my head. I wasn’t sure how bad it was and the course marshals were asking me if I needed medical, but I could not speak because the wind was knocked out of me. It took me what seemed like several minutes to recover and they called medical, but I started to get up. They asked me if I was ok and I think I said, “I don’t know, but I’ll find out” as I got back on my bike.

I lost a lot of time and places while on the ground and was out of my race mentality but I wanted to finish. I kept going, but slower. By the time I reached the wheel pit, which was in the last half of the course, closer to the end, I noticed I had a flat. I think it might have been leaking slowly from bottoming out on my rim going over one of the curbs. Anyway, I thought there were no neutral wheels so I asked if the mechanic would just pump up my tire so I could finish the race. He gave me a wheel in stead. I finished my second lap and was pulled. I lost a lot of time on that lap and if I had not had the mishaps, I think I would have been able to complete a third lap.

In any case, I was happy to have completed the race without breaking anything and while having a blast. There were a ton of people there saying really nice encouraging things to me even though they didn’t know me. I also wore my crazy tights and I guess because Austin has a big affinity for tattoos, several people thought both my legs were entirely tattooed and were telling me how awesome they were. That was fun.

NSC Velodrome

by Kelly Clarke

At the LaCrosse Omnium, Kelsey and I met Anna from Minneapolis who told us we must absolutely come out and race at the NSC Velodrome in Blaine, MN, because they might be tearing it down after this season and we would love it. Last week we did. And I more than loved it. I am thoroughly convinced that the NSC Velodrome is the best place on earth. Unicorns, rainbows and butterflies convene there in a magical light of competetive track racing that will leave you blind.

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Blaine is the only outdoor wooden track in America. It’s beautiful. Short slats of wood come together to create the banked oval. A lot of maintenance is required to keep it nice, and the track enthusiasts in Minnesota volunteer on weekends to replace broken or worn slats. If you crash on this track, you will need tweezers to remove splinters. But don’t let that deter you. This track is perfect.

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I had emailed the track director, Bob Williams, earlier in the week to make sure we were kosher to race. Most tracks require you to be certified on them before racing there, because of the banking. The NSC track is 250 meters with a maximum banking of 43 degrees. In the corner, you have to hold around a minimum of 17 mph to not slide down the track. Kelsey and I had been certified at the Chicago Velocampus, which is 166 meters with 50 degree banking, we had both raced at the Ed Rudolph Velodrome in Northbrook (382m, 18 degree max bank), and we had USAC licenses so Bob said we were good to go.

This is good etiquette – to let the track know you’re coming ahead of time. As Anna explained, ‘This is someone’s house, you don’t just invite yourself in.’ With all bike racing, it’s good to remember to respect the people and infrastructure that allow you to race, as well as your competetitors. Without them it couldn’t happen.

We arrived at the track just in time. A late start leaving Chicago and some traffic had us arriving a half hour before the races started. I got my numbers and got dressed as fast as I could to get some laps on the track. It was crowded. I took some laps around the Stayers Line.*

*There’s lines on all tracks to keep consistent.
From the bottom, to the top:

Cote D’Azure, or Apron: for exiting and entering the track (light blue)
Pole Line: used to measure the track (black)
Sprinters Lane: just above the pole line – shortest line around the track
Sprinters Line: Defines the Sprinters Lane. People sprint here! (red)
No Mans Land: used for passing riders in the sprinters lane
Stayers Line: Area for slower riding (blue)

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The track was fun to ride. I felt comfortable on it, especially because I rode the CVC the previous night. I was still unsure how racing would be. You start races on the top side of the track, clipped in and holding on to the railing. I had never done this, because at Northbrook there are poles with ropes and its just easier to start standing. I figured I’d just hang in the back and see how it goes.

Add on top of the best velodrome sundae the cherry that our first night racing there would also be the first time there were enough women to have split fields.

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The first race was a 12 lap tempo heat. This race would determine if you were in group A or B. Kelsey and I were in different groups for the heats, and I was up first. The race got started and I watched the ladies roll away from me. I had a slow start, but then I caught up. The group broke up right away. I decided to just ride around at a decent pace, not try to work with anyone. That’s what I was confortable with at that point. I passed some people. Others passed me. I ended up in 7th place and in the A group. Oh shit. I was going to be racing with the faster, more experienced girls.

Now there was some time before the next race. Time to socialize. I met some of the Koochella girls (Anna’s team), and the other ladies that race at the track. Like most bike scenes – the women are the best. Inviting and friendly. There was stretching, foam rolling, yoga and shared snacks!

The second race was a Miss And Out. Each lap, the last person to cross the line gets eliminated. So you don’t have to be first, but you can’t be last. I hung on for a few laps, but got knocked out pretty early. No big deal. I was just really happy to be there at the track, racing with some top notch women.

Kelsey’s second race was a 15 lap scratch. A scratch is like a mini crit – first person over the finish line after 15 laps wins. Kelsey looked trepid at first, but settled in and finished third!

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Next up for me was the State Championship 40 lap scratch race! I figured I’d get popped off. I even discussed with some Koochella gals that we’d work together when than happened, and what to do when we got lapped. But guess what? I didn’t get lapped. Stuff happened, and I was right there – moving around in the fast pack, and even pulling sometimes. It was so much fun to be in the mix of a fast race on such a great track. At one point I got popped off, but I got together with two other ladies and we started a fantastic paceline doing half lap pulls. We bridged back up to the main group. Tiana (T-Bits) won Zubaz from Second Chance Racing for being the most aggressive rider in the race. Everything was wonderful.

Kelsey geared up for her 20 lap points race – every 5 laps points are awarded to the top 3 riders. Lilah decided to jump into the race and ended up coaching Kelsey at points, telling her when to jump. The second bell lap, Kelsey took off. She won with room to spare and was well out in front of the group for some time. She was towards the back for the third, but took off early for the last lap and won that one, too! She ended up getting second place in the race, and second place in the omnium!

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Racing in Blaine was so much fun. All the Chicago track cats should try to get out there before the season’s end. And to all you cyclocross heads – want to practice your explosive power for the sand? Get thee to a track! Northbrook has informative clinics every Monday and Tuesday. Or go out to the CVC on Wednesdays and experience the rollercoaster of track fun. Track is the best thing to happen since sliced bread, and NSC is a triple decker club.

La Crosse Omnium

by Kelly Clarke

Guys, I never knew you could have so much fun. It’s mostly because of my awesome teamies*, but also LaX was a really great series, a fun town to visit, and those Wisco/Minnie gals COME TO RACE, no pussyfooting about it.

*La Crosse Teammates:
Kelsey ‘All City’ Phillips
Lindsey ‘Feels’ Fahey
Lauren ‘BP**’ Wissman
Sarah ‘The Whip’ Rice
Eric ‘Soigneur’ Landhal
Kurt ‘Long Legs’ Breitenbucher (wait, it’s possible to have a name more complicated than Diffenderfer?)
Pete ‘Personal Poops’ Monko
And our favorite ray of sunshine, Zark.

**Bitches Popped

TT

We decided to drive the course when we got into town. This was a very good idea. You should drive the course when you can. Sarah spoke for us all when she said, ‘I would have shit myself if the first time I saw this was during the time trial.’ It was a lot steeper than we expected, but there was a beautiful view at the top.

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We stopped to talk about the course – not even the whole way to the finish.

Later, when we arrived for the race, Pete and I decided to ride the course once. On the way up, it started drizzling. By the time we reached the top, it was pouring cold rain. I tried to warm up on rollers, but my feet were so cold they hurt, so I just jogged around for a half hour til my start.

I was not comfortable with dude holding my seat, so I took a standing start. I kept asking him to move so I wasn’t crooked and he wasn’t, so I chose to not be pro and go for comfort. The course is steep from the get go. People were cheering from underneath umbrellas. Water was flowing down the street in a stream as we pressed upward. I’ve done few time trials, but in all of them you get so inside your head. I seem to start out hating myself, and then end up in fight mode. I tried to go at ‘hard, but don’t blow up’ pace. I passed one girl and heaved out a ‘Sorry. Keep it up.’ I passed a few juniors. I wanted to catch the girl in front of me. I kind of just wanted to be at the top of the hill so I could focus on getting dry clothes and being warm again – my chamois probably weighed ten pounds and there were buckets of water in my shoes. But everyone else was dealing with the same conditions. The course flattened out at the top, and it felt good to go from a grinding 8-12mph to 20+. I didn’t catch the girl in front of me, but I did get closer.

There was little room at the top, so as soon as I caught my breath, I thanked the officials and started to head back down. I stopped 200 meters down to wait for Lindsey and Kelsey but also because there was an incredible double rainbow. The sky was opening and it was the brightest rainbow I’ve ever seen. A super friendly Brone’s Bikes girl stopped to chat and check out this awesome scene. Kelsey and Lindsey finished shortly after me and we all headed down the hill. The Brone girl stopped at the turn to meet her boyfriend and adorable puppy. So this terribly cold and rainy uphill time trial ended with puppies and rainbows. And I did well enough for second place, missed first by 3 seconds.

With every race, but especially time trials, it’s natural to think ‘I could have gone harder.’ You always could have done better, and you always could have done worse. It’s a mental game when you’re redlining and your body is telling you to stop, but you want to go harder. I did the best I could for that moment.

Crit

Hella fast, right from the start. Hella fun. Attacks all over the place, constant moving around and fluctuation of speed – everyone was focused, reacting and making moves. The pack rarely settled down. I was trying to stay in good position and not kill myself. I felt pretty good taking the corners at speed with the group – better than last year (this was the first crit I’ve done this year with actual corners). Ten minutes in I thought, “This is the most fun I have ever had.” Lindsey did awesome – she attacked a few times, bridged me back up to the group once without knowing it. She was pretty pro – right there with all these other top notch ladies. Something I noticed is that I was in the drops the entire race. I usually come up to the hoods if things get boring or slow, but it was ‘go time’ the entire race. There was a crash in the last turn. I went inside, so I was able to avoid the shrapnel and loud screeches, but there was tons of brakes. The top gals were way in front of me by the time I jumped for the sprint. I ended up 7th. Wish I could have had a little better position into the second to last corner, but I was still pretty happy with the finish – it could have been worse.

Our other teammates all raced extremely well. Kelsey worked in a chase group with a gal from Minneapolis that we became friends with that day. Pete and Zark raced twice in blazing fast races. Monko took fifth in one! Lauren attacked like crazy and Sarah was nothing short of fierce in their crit. It was a fun day at the park racing, watching races and making new friends.

Pretty sure Wiss and Slice had as much fun racing as I did.

Rad Race

Sunday’s road race started out great. I was sitting second in the omnium, I knew the gal I needed to beat, and the three that I couldn’t let beat me. I had great positioning. Then there was a massive downhill. I tucked into the drops, squeezed the top tube with my knees and decided to go for it no matter how scared I was. My bike started shaking like crazy, waving back and forth frenetically. I was sure I had a flat or some kind of mechanical. I feathered the brakes – no change. I took my hands completely off the brakes – still shaking like crazy. Not like the normal downhill chatter, but like frantically waving back and forth. I scrubbed speed, swearing wildly in my head, ‘Just fucking stay upright. Don’t crash. Stay upright!!’ Ladies whizzed past me. I stopped at the bottom and looked at my bike. Checked the tires, checked the headset – nothing wrong. What the fuck. The official pulled over and asked if I was OK. ‘Yeah.’ I checked the bike for a second longer, then looked up to see the pack no longer in my sight. Took a deep breath and dug in. I would have to go really hard to catch them, but the race was over if I didn’t. It was do or die in the next few miles. The course started going up. Good. I can usually catch people on the climbs. Around the corner I could see the car maybe 500 meters out. But it was early enough in the race that no one was attacking and the pace was still fairly conservative. I chipped away. Girls were getting knocked out on the climb. I couldn’t work with them, because they were seemingly going backwards. Got so close the pace car moved over so I could merge back with the group. But I was breathing so hard, snot and spit running down my face. The pack was maybe 200 meters to the top of the big climb, I was maybe 10 meters from them, and I completely blew up. Well, I didn’t fall over and lay on the ground. But I couldn’t keep up my chasing speed. I slowed way down. They disappeared over the top of the climb. My heart was beating out of my chest. I got over the top and tried to kick it in – my last hope. There was an IsCorp girl that looked like she had some power left. I asked her to do 30 second pulls and work to get back. She said sure, I took a pull, counting to 40 and popped over. She said, ‘Sorry, I don’t have what you need.’ I started to dig in again, but they were gaining distance and I was spent.

My foot was killing me – pretty sure I broke a toe at some point before the race. It had been hurting the whole time, but now the pain was front and center. I wanted to stop, but I thought about how Dean says finishing is important. I decided I had to finish. My Garmin was broke, so I didn’t even have numbers to distract me. I decided this long solo ride would be punishment for not descending well and losing the group. Except it’s not really punishment, because the course was beautiful, the roads were perfect, and I was on my bike! And I had decided just this weekend that racing a bike is the most fun that could possibly be had. It’s just better when you’re in the main group or have someone to work with. I saw Eric. He was yelling to go catch the group. I yelled back, ‘Sorry!’ He was such an amazing support all weekend, that disappointing him weighed much heavier than my own disappointment – not that such a nice guy would actually be disappointed. I was not trying to make the other spectators think he was angry and a jerk, but they might have looked at him weird.

I was trying to psych myself up to bomb the descent the second time around, but my bike still felt kind of weird, like the front and rear wheel were not in sync. Even though I couldn’t decipher a problem with the bike, I decided to Granny it down the hill. What if the uncontrollable shaking happened again and I crashed this time? In the turn before the descent I looked back and saw Kelsey and the IsCorp girl waving. They passed me on the way down. Then Lindsey passed me and said, ‘I’ll help you after this!!’ I took my sweet time down the descent, then booked it at the bottom to catch up with my teammates.

When I came to Lindsey, she started pedaling really fast, ‘I’m going to bridge you back up to the group!’ I tried to get her to take turns pulling.

She said, ‘No, let me do all the work!.’

‘Don’t be a hero, this race is over. Just take turns pulling with me.’

We did. We also saw a colorful rooster. Then the incline came and the pulling fell apart. I felt bad about it, but I left Lindsey behind. I wasn’t sure how many women were ahead of me, and I at least wanted to get in front of the IsCorp girl. I was able to pass a few more people before the end. I finished 16th and not near any of the other racers.

I know it’s good to hang back and work with people, but I always feel like I end up going slower than I want. Maybe I need to get over that. Last year at the Michigan State Road Race, I worked with Chelsea Strate after we got popped off the back. The speed was good and it was great to work with someone. I don’t know at what point you sacrifice speed to work with people. And if my race is over, I want to still get a good workout by working hard. Maybe I am doing it wrong by always time trialing after getting popped off. My goal is to NOT get popped off, though, and stay competitive in the field next time.

Conclusion

It was a great weekend of racing and hanging out with my teammates. I was disappointed I did so poorly in the road race, but as it turns out, my rear hub was really loose, and that is what caused the shaking – NOT user error as I assumed. I still need to practice descending A LOT. I love omniums and I love my teammates. The end.

Making friends at the crit. Photo cred: Anna Schwinn

Joe Martin Stage Race

by Katie Kolon

Naiveté
Some of the best things I’ve done in life, I’ve done out of a healthy lack of fear: traveling alone throughout Guatemala immediately after they signed peace accords to end civil war (which wasn’t really over anyway), moving to California after college with no money and no job, and crit racing, to name a few. JMSR was no exception.

Sarah Rice (Slice) wanted someone to go to the race with and my thoughts were that I would visit my friend who lives in Fayetteville, take a road trip, get out of the cold, and race a criterium. I didn’t even know what a stage race was. I quickly found out that in order to race the crit, I had to race the time trial and the road race. I later found out that I not only had to race all the races, but I had to finish each one in order to advance to the next “stage.” That’s why it’s called a stage race, dummy. Even later, I came to understand that people didn’t race for standings as much as time. This changes the game significantly, and especially in terms of team tactics as Slice thoroughly explained.

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Devil’s Den State Park, Time Trial location

Time Trial
I had no interest in doing a time trial. I heard it was straight up hill with an average grade of 6.8%, so I went to pre-ride the 2.5 mile course and get a feel for it. I didn’t have time to do any warm up and I just tried to go as hard as I could make myself do something that seemed pointless. I almost threw up. I figured this boded well and that I would likely do better in the real thing since it would have at least one point, which would be to not be last.

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TT warm up, photo credit to John Kline

My time trial was at 9:25am. I woke up early enough to eat and get there with time for a warm up. I did a nice long Kristen Meshberg (Kmesh) PWP-style warm up of 40 minutes including one hard threshold effort and a long block of tempo. Through PWP I’ve learned I don’t need long warm-ups, but I also didn’t think I could warm up too much for such a short and intense ride. I almost missed my start for no good reason other than my clock was probably a little different than their clock. I took off sprinting as fast as I could on the flat section before reaching the hill, and then slowly climbed the next 2+ miles. And my time was 3 seconds slower than my practice run with no warm up! Huh? Everyone said I was in my head too much. This is almost always true, but I actually thought my warm up was too long. I came in second to last, so I guess I met my goal, though in truth I expected to do better.

Road Race
Immediately after the TT, I had to cram some food in my mouth and book it to the start of the road race, which was starting only two hours after I finished the TT. (Side Note: all the races were in different locations and only the crit was in Fayetteville) There were so many logistics to figure out in preparation for the road race beyond just where the heck it started. Slice helped me with a lot of this. She taped the number on my seat post, told me I needed to find out if there was a wheel truck, and figure out if there were going to be neutral people in the feed zone or if I could have someone from PSIMET to hand me a bottle. It was only a 40-mile course, but it was also going to be 80 degrees and I didn’t want to run out of water.

rr

Start of the road race

The race start was very casual and stayed slow way long past when the motos told us we were done with the neutral roll-out. The course consisted of a gradual climb with rollers for 20 miles, and then 20 miles back down. I was near the front, but not in the wind, holding a good position. Slowly people started to try to move up and one woman was vying for my wheel. She kept bumping shoulders with me, and I held my position, unfazed. Eventually the person next to me dropped back and I moved over into her spot. I noticed that although these women were very strong, they weren’t all very confident at riding close together, positioning, or holding a line.

I started to move to the very front at mile 8. Cathy Frampton of PSIMET had advised me to tape important mileage markers to my stem. The first one was “the wall,” a major hill at 8.5 miles, where teams would attack. My plan was to go to the front before the hill and try to hang on as long as I could. But where was this wall? The course map was incorrect. At about mile 10, the strong riders took off up “the wall” and I was instantly dropped. Slice had emphasized that this was the point in the race where I had to burn all my matches to stay on, but I was burning everything just to get up the hill, so that was that.

As the main pack dropped me, I saw not everyone was able to go with them and I had the hope of forming a little chase group. However, we were all climbing and descending at different speeds and everyone seemed to eventually pass me. I thought maybe I could catch them on the decent in the second half of the race. I kept trying to talk myself into going faster as it seemed my heart rate was not that high, but my body started to hurt in ways I have never hurt before and I just couldn’t push myself hard enough to catch anyone. I have learned that I’m really unmotivated to ride hard when I have no one to ride or compete with.

Once I passed the halfway point, my goal became increasing my average speed by going as fast and hard as I could downhill. I got up to 46 mph at one point and got to practice taking a 90-degree corner at 34 mph. When I hit the feed zone with 10 miles to go I noticed that I instantly picked up the pace. I’ve also learned I am much more motivated to perform when people are watching and especially if they are cheering. In the last three miles I actually passed one person who must have bonked because I was going so much faster than her I couldn’t understand how I hadn’t caught her before. Again, I came in second to last.

Criterium
Finally, I got to do the thing I love. I woke up early again because my race was at 7:45am, making it the third race I would complete in a 24-hour period. My body was beat. I got on the trainer and felt terrible. I was worrying about riding with a bunch of women that I didn’t know and who didn’t seem to be super-comfortable riding in a pack. And the crit was very technical with a narrow chicane and some hills, including a steep uphill to the finish. Fun stuff. I just kept telling myself it would all be over in a mere 25 minutes.

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Deep in thought at the start line, photo credit to John Kline

I started at the front of the line and maintained a good position as the race took off. I hung on to the main group for the first lap and got dropped on the steep uphill before the finish line. No surprise. But for the first time at JMSR I was having fun. I forgot that I was tired; I forgot that I was coming in last; I just had fun going fast and cornering.

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Chicane around the town square, photo credit to John Kline

The course was about a mile long, so we weren’t going to do many laps in 25 minutes. There was a long decent followed by a wide 90-degree turn on the back half of the course. I was going over 30mph and taking it faster each lap. On about my 5th or 6th lap, on the long downhill, my chain got jammed between the cassette and the chain stay—derailleur fail or it jumped out hitting the cobbles at high speeds. Neutral support was half a lap away and uphill, so I tried to coast as long as I could. I pulled over, figuring I was out of the race because it would take me the rest of the time to get back to the support tent. A course marshal ran over, quick-fixed my bike, and gave me a push while telling me I can still do it. Thanks, dude!

By the time I got back in, the remainder of the field had passed me. I felt proud that there had been 5-6 people behind me given the competition in my field. I knew people weren’t taking the corners or the downhill as fast as I was, but I had no idea I was that far ahead of people until they passed me. I was lapped at the finish line and got the bell lap. I worked hard to make up time in my remaining lap and managed to pass one woman within seconds of the finish line. Second to last again, but a proud second to last.

Take Aways
My goals for the race were to complete it and to not come in DFL. It was my first time trial and my first road race. In all honesty, I was hoping to do better than that, but with the top women in my field holding times that would have been competitive in the pro race, I realized the competition was stiff. I got DFL overall based on time, but there were five out of 32 women who did not finish all three races, so completing it was more of an accomplishment than I first thought.

I used to think I would never “cat up.” If I continued to do races with competition as hard as this one, it would be a long time before I would be able to. But doing JMSR made me remember that the point is not to always be on top, the point is to put yourself in situations where you are no where near the top of the competition in order to learn and grow stronger as a rider. More importantly, these experiences allow you to value the times you are on top because they allow you to measure how far you’ve come. “Difficult and easy complete one another; long and short measure one another.”

Epilogue: The Curse of JMSR
Weeks before, amidst freaking out about what I had committed myself to, Slice and Kmesh handed me some sage advice. These goals seemed well within reach and I recommend them to anyone considering racing the JMSR.
1. Don’t get arrested
2. Don’t break your ass in a crash on the start line
3. Don’t blow your transmission

Check, check, and check. Based on my recent experience, I am adding two other real and potential dangers of the JMSR:
4. Don’t step on a nest of baby copperheads
5. Don’t get caught up in a wide-track tornado

We narrowly escaped both. It was biblical.

numbers

Cloth numbers=classy

Bike Racing Basics

by Kelly Clarke

So, you want to race your bike? That’s great! There are a bunch of us who race and we LOVE to talk about it, so ask us all of your questions. We were all in your place not too long ago. I’m only a few years into racing and don’t know everything, but here’s some information about how races are run to get you started.

SANCTIONING

There are different governing bodies that ‘sanction’ bike races. Bike races need insurance, officials, rules to make them safe – and these all come from the sanctioning body. There are two of those in Illinois and in the Chicagoland area: USAC and ABR.

USAC http://www.usacycling.org/
USA Cycling is the most common governing body in Illinois, and in the nation. They drive the rules about racing categories and upgrades.

ABR http://www.ambikerace.com/
American Bicycle Racing is another governing body that actively puts on races in Illinois. They are more of a grass roots organization. They are a member of the FIAC (Federation of Independent Associations for Cycling).

Sometimes racers focus on USAC, but both organizations support great races.

And just to be clear, the sanctioning organization is not the same thing as the race promoter. The race promoter is actually putting on the race, finding funding for it, gathering volunteers, getting permits to host the race, ect. And if you think your entry fee is expensive, trust me, it’s REALLY expensive to put on a race. But where else do you get to ride that fast on a closed course with great competition?

LICENSES

USAC and ABR races require different licenses. These licenses are used for insurance purposes, and to help pay for the upkeep of these organizations. It’s not a bad thing. Remember, we want well run, safe races!

USAC licenses are $70. They used to separate Mountain and Road licenses, but for the first time – this year, all disciplines are combined. They do offer one-day licenses. So if you’re not sure you want to race a lot, you can buy a one-day for $15.

An ABR license is $25 for one year. I am pretty sure they do not do one-day licenses. But they do put on some pretty great practice crits!

When applying for a license, make sure you put your team name on there, and that it’s spelled correctly!

CATS

Racing categories are levels for racing. Levels, or ‘cats’, ensure you’re racing against people of a similar ability. 1 or PRO is the highest you can achieve. In road,track and cyclocross, men start as a Cat 5, and women start as a Cat 4. But you upgrade in each discipline separately. For example, right now I am a Cat 4 on the road, but a Cat 3 in cyclocross.

You earn points to upgrade to a higher cat (closer to 1) by being successful in races. You don’t necessarily have to win a race, but it does help. The rules are outlined here: http://www.usacycling.org/road-category-upgrade-guidelines.htm

One thing for the men to remember: to go from Cat 5 to 4 only requires 10 mass starts. You don’t need results. Usually we like to encourage a fast upgrade to 4, because Cat 5 racers are all inexperienced, and Cat 4 races usually offer a better race experience. Since women’s fields are typically smaller, this is less of an issue.

You might be tempted to stay in a lower cat longer than you need to. This is generally looked down upon, because you’re not making yourself a better racer, and you’re taking away the opportunity for other racers to earn upgrade points. People that stay in lower cats so they can try to win more races are known as sandbaggers. You don’t want your teammates calling you that!

REGISTERING FOR RACES

Most of the time, you can show up to a race – day of – and register to race. But that’s not ideal for several reasons. It makes the registration lines slower, and takes longer for you to get your number. Throwing a race is stressful, and it’s good for promoters to be able to see people registered ahead of time. They might even up the prize money if the numbers look good prior to a race. So it’s good practice to register ahead of time. It’s also almost always cheaper to preregister. Most registrations are on www.bikereg.com, but some use www.usacycling.org. Make sure you register for your correct category. And make sure you put your team name in the ‘Team Name’ field, spelling it correctly. I have worked registration at races where people get upset that their team name or information is incorrect, but the people at registration can’t change it – it’s up to you to have the correct information for both your racing license and on the form when you register to race.

ICA

The Illinois Cycling Association (illinoiscycling.org) administers bicycle racing for USA Cycling in Illinois. Most areas that have races sanctioned by USAC have a local association. They help administer upgrades and a portion of the money from the licenses we buy goes to them. They allocate this money to help make our racing scene better. They help fund racing clinics, provide the state championship jerseys, and do things to make Illinois bike racing more accessible to more people in an unbiased manner.

CONCLUSION

There’s a lot to learn when you first start racing. We’ve all been there. Don’t be afraid to ask questions, and most importantly, don’t forget to have fun.

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