Author: Michelle

Spidermonkey Spotlight – Anna Affias

How I Became a Spidermonkey

Me and Jess after the LP crit

Me and Jess after the LP crit

Where do I even begin? How do I break down the last two years of my cycling life into in a single blog entry? How can I share all my ups, downs and in-betweens in a few short words, sentences or even paragraphs? The only answer I keep coming back to is, I can’t. Ironically, those two words no longer exist in my vocabulary because of what I’ve learned on the bike over the past 2 years. To keep this brief and easy to follow, I’m going to break down the last two years of my cycling life into three categories… before, during and after I joined SMC and found, “my people.”

Before

Forgive me for my bluntness, but 2015 sucked. It sucked for a lot of reasons, but two reasons stand out the most. First, I went through a horrible breakup that nearly broke me to my core, and second, I unexpectedly discovered a family member was very sick. Both unfortunate events happened roughly around the same time and completely turned my world upside down. People kept telling me, “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger,” and “you have to go through a little rain to see the rainbow,” but frankly, I didn’t care. The only thing I knew for certain was that I passionately wanted 2015 to be over. Life as I knew it had changed and I realized I had two options 1. I could change with it or 2. I could remain miserable and salty for the rest of my life. Luckily, with the help of close friends and family, a wonderful therapist and some much-needed soul searching, I found bike racing.

 

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During

 Somewhere in the middle of ‘The Great Shit Storm of 2015’ and ‘Ok 2016, Let’s Do This,’ I timidly entered the world of triathlon. This was the best worst thing that ever happened to me. While I rediscovered my hatred for running and struggled to stay afloat during the swim, I learned that biking fast made me happy. I didn’t know what it meant or where it would eventually take me, I just knew I needed to be on my bike. Pedal stroke by pedal stroke I started to feel mentally and physically stronger. Group riding with triathletes turned into group riding with cyclists, and before I knew it, I was a bike racer. I could write novels and tell stories for days about my first racing season, however, words can’t really do justice for how it made me feel or describe the relationships I formed along the way. The biggest takeaway was, as terrified and nervous as I was to show up and to be seen, I did it anyways and learned it was EXACTLY where I needed to be. It didn’t take long before I started meeting other cyclists and racers… and then… IT HAPPENED… I met the fine folks of SMC and instantly knew I had found, “my people.”

Racing at ToAD 2017

Racing at ToAD 2017

 

After

While I didn’t want to hear it at the time, all the pain and misery I went through in 2015 lead me to who, and where, I am today… and so it goes. The more I bike, the more I heal. The more I heal, the more willing I am to take risks and to try new things. The more new things I try, the more confident I become. The more confident I become, the more I accomplish. The more I accomplish, the more passion I develop. The more passion I develop, the more success I find. The more success I find, the happier I am. The happier I am, the more alive I feel. So, on behalf of my past, present and future self, I’m looking forward to discovering more of life’s ups, downs and in-betweens. I’m looking forward to pushing myself on and off the bike, embracing and leaning into the discomfort of change, learning more about my strengths and weaknesses, developing and maintaining my lifelong cycling friendships, and trusting my journey. In the meantime, thanks for a great ride friends, let’s go play bikes!

Scopin the Snake at the Snake Alley Crit 2016 Scopin the Snake at the Snake Alley Crit 2016 Medals from the IL State Championship 2017 Medals from the IL State Championship 2017 Proud to have an early season win Proud to have an early season win

Spidermonkey Spotlight – Lauren M

Montrose CX

Montrose CX

I think it is best to rip the band-aid off so you can get your eye rolls and groans out of the way…I am one of the few teammates that considers Triathlon their main sport. I 100% promise not to mention that forsaken sport below this first paragraph, but knowing this information makes my story to becoming a Spidermonkey little bit easier to understand.

After owning up to that truth, I’m sure I’ve lost you quite quick, so in an effort to get your attention back I’ll name drop one of your favorite monkeys, Michelle Moore. Now that you’re with me still here is the story of how I came to be a Spidermonkey, and well, a cyclist!

Michelle and I met when I was working for Fleet Feet Sports and she was at the American Cancer Society. Call it 2010-ish. I actually got into riding on my own in 2011 when my love affair with running ended. Unlike most of you, cycling for me was a gateway drug to triathlon. Oops. Ok last time I swear.

I had found something I could enjoy, cycling, but lacked the environment to get better. Michelle started encouraging me to come out to the girls rides on Tuesday mornings, which for a few weeks led to me getting up at 5:00am, putting my cycling clothes on, and getting back into bed. Yeahhhh, I was kind of intimidated.

Eventually I strung a few weeks together of showing up regularly and started to get the hang of this pace line thing. I was mostly happy I stuck it out because I could tell this would definitely help me get better on the bike.

One Tuesday I was riding with with Emily, and I asked her, “So, how many times a week do you ride?” Emily said, “4-5 times a week. It depends.” I really don’t know why this information shocked me, but I vividly remember thinking, “Woah! I only ride 2-3 times a week. No wonder these girls are so good.”

I would ride just about every Tuesday for the next 3 years and I’d inevitably be asked, “so, do you race bikes?” No, not really. Not yet anyway.

Girls!

Girls!

By the time 2015 rolled around I had become pretty addicted to that other sport, but still lacked the bike capabilities of my other competitors. I spent 2015 really focusing on the bike leg which of course included all the girls rides. Then with further Michelle Moore encouragement, also led to my first cross season to supplement my other bike training.

I like cross a lot, but let’s just say there is a reason I prefer to stick to the TT position for my racing. Honestly, I think Amy experiences cross race amnesia every time she suggests wanting to get me out on a mountain bike. When racing cross I can be heard saying things like, “Oh dear!” “Can I go back to Ironman?” “Oh, we’re going to ride that?” “No, I think I’m going to run it.”

Montrose CX 2017

Montrose CX 2017

I digress. After 6 or 7 races in that first season wearing my Chicago Endurance Sports kit I had finished up at Montrose and Brandon asked me “So, are you finally going to get rid of that CES jersey?” Later that evening the Kelly and Michelle dynamic duo got me to commit to joining the team for 2016.

We all know how great this team is, and it’s so fun to read how everyone got involved and the individual benefits we’ve all had from being a part of it. I suppose that for me I’m most thankful for the inviting and super supportive environment to learn how to ride a bike over the years. These days I’m very focused on that other sport, and do not train with people often as a result. So anytime I can be out on a Monkey ride it’s a very special thing for me!

Girls Ride!

Girls Ride!

 

Love at First Crit, by Jessica Voigts

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After spending the winter off the bike and rehabbing my knee, I was both eager and a little apprehensive to try racing again. Being new to all things racing, I was taking in everything I could from those around me.  All the tips, advice, experiences, insights…I wanted it all. During an evening of Spidermonkey drinks, Anna Affias convinced me that Lincoln Park Crit should be my first race back. So I signed up.

The morning of the race, I rolled over, head full of excited, nervous energy. Obsessively checking the weather forecast, it appeared that the rain would hold off for my race. The frigid wind would not be so kind. As we lined up at the start, we all stood shivering and impatient to move. Timidly, I hung back in the second row, but was motioned forward to fill the front gaps. With a thumbs up and a knowing nod to Anna, I was ready to go. As the whistle blew and we started rolling, I remembered the words of Sarah Rice and pushed hard off the start. To my surprise, no one else did. The group ambled around the first corner, everyone jockeying for the places they wanted.  What place did I want?! I had no idea. Trying to remember all the things so many teammates told me about criteriums, I felt a little lost and just decided to follow the flow.

IMG_0565Through the first few laps, I kept waiting for that surge of speed, but, surprisingly, it was more of a slow, steady build. I found myself pulling hard and at the front of the pack, with my brain protesting, “this isn’t right, you shouldn’t be up here!” I tried to slow my pace, move over and back into the fold to preserve my energy. I was finally getting hang of things: stick with the group to hide from the wind, come off strong after corners, and everyone will hit the wall of wind at the final corner, slowing the pace. Lap after lap, it went like this; corner, catch-up, sprint, corner, 180, catch-up, sprint, and on and on. I felt strong, jittery, a bit bewildered but I was with the lead group.

At some point the official called the prime and I had no idea what he said. “3?”, I thought, totally confused.  So I stepped up the pace, thinking that we were in the final stretch. I clearly had left my reason and sense of time in the tent. A few laps of this, realizing my mistake, one word entered my mind: matches. I was steadily burning through those matches that teammates had told me to be so diligent about. I backed off the pace, still hanging in with the lead pack.

 

FullSizeRenderIt was as if Anna saw this realization and took a spot right next to me to block the wind and give me a chance to collect and count those precious matches. Once we were nearing the end of the wind tunnel, a xXx girl attacked and Anna chased her down. I kept my pace steady, still collecting myself. I grabbed the wheel of a xXx girl and hung on for a stretch. She called to me to work together and as I kept pace and moved to the front, I dropped her. Feeling comfortable with my pace now, I just kept pushing. Alone and smack in between the lead pack with a group behind me, I settled back into the routine:  corner, sprint, corner, corner, 180, sprint, corner, wind, repeat. The cheers of the spectators, including those brave, half-frozen Spidermonkey’s who came out just to support kept me pushing through the wind. During the final lap, as I approached the 180 turn, Anna was on the other side of it, chasing down a Psimet girl. In her contention for that top step she was pushing hard into the wind, lighting those last matches. Still alone but inspired by her strength, I lit the few I had remaining and crossed the finish line, 11th out of 30. I was exhilarated and anxious to talk through what I just experienced. Knowing there was a lot happening on the course that now, in context of having the experience, I would be able to better understand the advice, tactics and strategy.  As I rolled off the course and glanced up to see the lap counter that I didn’t know existed. I laughed heartily at another crit-lesson learned.

Spidermonkey Spotlight – Matt Maniscalco and Lauren Richards

Lauren_Matt

Matt: Is that a Huffy? Why actually, it is. Like many of us that grew up in the 90s, I had a couple of Huffy bikes. And also like many, my very first bike was a tricycle.

First Tricycle

First Tricycle

One vivid memory I have was testing my tricycle out on the nearby highway that my family lived off of. My mom decided to go to the grocery store and leave the responsibility of watching me to my dad. I always went with my mom to the store and was upset that I wasn’t going on the adventure. My dad was preoccupied mowing the lawn and he assumed I would keep myself busy with my childhood imagination, but unaware to him I was developing a plan to scuffle my tricycle down the driveway and get to the grocery store. Somehow I made it to the end of the driveway without my dad noticing, I got on my three-wheeled ride and started pedaling down the shoulder of the highway. The cars rushing past seemed as large as houses, and I potentially peed in my oshkosh overalls. I traveled maybe a tenth of a mile before eventually someone driving by stopped and informed my dad that his 3 year old son was heading south on the highway. That may have been the last time I saw that tricycle.

Wild River

Wild River

At 13 my parents got me the Huffy Wild River.Not sure why it was named the Wild River, it was nothing like a fast flowing body of water, more like a creaky fence gate that would spring back and hit you face. But the Wild River helped me get to my friend’s house down the road, from there we would meet others and head to a gas station a few miles away to buy junk food. For a few summers that would be our daily routine.

Recently I realized that the weekend monkey rides basically have the same structure; we all meet up, poke fun at each other while heading north, and then stop to get snacks. The only major difference is the price point of our bikes, some of the bike names are still just as bad as Wild River.  Riding with the monkey family brings out my inner kid, which is priceless to me.

Lauren
Lauren: This may seem morbid, but I recall the order of bikes I’ve owned just like pets – the color, how old I was, how it died… or rather, when I outgrew it.  First came the red tricycle, then a brand new hot pink Huffy with training wheels and a splatter paint job.  Eventually the training wheels came off, I outgrew it, and received one of the many hand-me-downs I’d come to cherish: a vintage sparkly yellow two wheeler with a banana seat and sparkly streamers.  I smile just thinking about it :)

 

Blue Bantam

Blue Bantam

At the same point in time my brother, Jeff, received a hand-me down blue Schwinn Bantam.  Considering its weight, we both remember that bike being surprisingly fast.  Jeff and I would race our bikes around the block (sidewalks only!) even though we each had ridiculous handicaps.  I was terrified of getting my wheel caught in between the sidewalk and grass, and Jeff couldn’t steer around the corners.  He would literally get off his bike, walk it around the corner, and yell at me.  Our bikes also fueled many imaginary “factory” operations by simply turning it upside down, spinning the pedals, and flinging piles of grass clippings at the back wheel.

I was always involved in sports growing up, too.  Gymnastics, tennis, diving, volleyball, and soccer.  SO MUCH SOCCER.  Then I started to run “for fun”, because everyone knows how much “fun” running is.  Based on what I’ve heard from other Monkeys, it seems like the transition from running to cycling is practically inevitable.  Cycling reminds me much more of the team sports I used to play.  The comradery is hands down the best part about being on a team like Spidermonkey.  I learned so much so quickly, and I feel like I’m just seeing the tip of the cycling iceberg!

SMC made it easy for us to become obsessed with cycling (and wake up at 7 am for rides on the weekend).  We’ve been able to participate in and watch amazing competitive events and have some of the best dance parties ever with the team. It’s truly a pleasure and honor to say we’re Spidermonkeys!

Matt_3 Lauren_2

Spidermonkey Spotlight – Corey Schumacher and David Fox

Is it really our time to be featured on Spidermonkey Spotlight?  We thought we would have a couple more years to come up with some cool stories but we’ll see what we can do.

Corey David MS Ride

Corey David MS Ride

Corey:  I didn’t grow up participating in any sports, unless you count the family bowling league.  My first bike as a child was a Powder Puff Racer. I rode it to my best friend’s house, passed a group of teenagers who mocked it and probably never rode it again. When I was in my early 20s and still living in Indiana, I bought a beach cruiser, which I also rarely used. I lugged it to Chicago with me in 2005, locked it up in the basement of the apartment building and let the tires go flat. Then, I met David.  After changing the tires for me, he told me to ditch the cruiser and get a “real” bike.  It took me a few more years before I did buy a real bike but even then it was a hybrid – which I still own and ride.  The first time I rode a road bike was in 2011 when David and I were on vacation in California wine country, where we rented bikes to ride around to wineries.

Corey Coppola Winery pre-crash

Corey Coppola Winery pre-crash

I know what you’re thinking: Don’t rent the road bike when you’ve never ridden a road bike, to ride around to wineries all day! I almost made it all the way back to the bike rental shop after a day of drinking, but crashed a couple miles away. I’m not sure what happened. One second I’m enjoying life and then next someone is asking me if I know who the president is.  That’s how I hurt my left shoulder.  Eventually I recovered mentally and bought a road bike of my own.  If David was feeling generous, he’d go on a ride with me on the lakefront path.  He’d pull the entire way and I’d curse him from behind. How is he going so fast? Is he even sweating? It wasn’t fun for either of us.

Sometime during all of this silent cursing at David I met Roxanne at the Y. This is where the story gets familiar. Does everyone meet Roxanne at the Y? Is Roxanne like Kevin Bacon, where you can always find a connection within 6 degrees?  One day we were talking about bikes and she encouraged both of us to try a group ride. My first group ride was a Girl’s Tuesday morning ride, because who doesn’t like to wake up at 4:45 AM? That first ride was lovely! I practiced a pace line! I drafted! I got dropped after the sprint on the way back! No one made fun of me for wearing gym shoes!  I came home and told David how much fun it was. We eventually both tried a Saturday morning ride where the ride leader had to sweep me off the back and Dean did make fun of my gym shoes.  After a couple of years of riding sporadically, Roxanne asked if we wanted to join.  I asked her if she was allowed to invite people into the group. She laughed at me.

Last year I increased the amount of riding I did.  We signed up for the MS ride and completed the 100 miles on the 1st day (and slept in the 2nd day). I participated in my first “old school” ride and bonked.  I started riding to work more often. On June 30th I was doored while riding home on Lincoln. That’s how I hurt my right shoulder.

Corey Nacogdoches TX

Corey Nacogdoches TX

If I’m being honest, I’m sure I wouldn’t have done any of this if I hadn’t joined Spidermoney Cycling. No matter how often I struggle, there is always someone to encourage me.  You give me tips, let me draft off your wheels and even after I bonk, you tell me that I did a good job.  You will likely never see me enter a race but I will be there cheering you on, as you cheer me on during any random Tuesday, Saturday or Sunday … but never a Wednesday night, because I would die.

David: Bikes have always been a big part of my life. My dad is an avid cyclist, but I was the one who taught myself how to ride when I was 6 or 7, rolling myself into the grass and tipping over until I didn’t. Soon enough I was hopping curbs in the cul-de-sac. My family and I lived on the top of a hill in the outer suburbs of Los Angeles at that time (and this was an actual hill, none of this Midwest stuff). My dad showed me how to cut my own switchbacks, veering from one side of the road to the other, so I could make my way up. It turns out that going down is actually the more difficult part, and I have the scars to prove that, but boy did I have fun bombing down that hill.

A couple of years later we moved to Northern California and I traded hills for the BMX track and dirt jumps (BMX is kinda like Cyclocross except you can catch some sweet air). I rode a chrome GT Mach One that fit me like a glove and I don’t think I could ever love another inanimate object like that again. I learned how to bunny hop, pop a wheelie, roll the doubles, jump the doubles, and fall. I fell a lot.

I’m glad I got most of the falling out of the way early. I moved to Chicago in 2001, and it wasn’t too long until I had picked up a battered, early 90’s Fuji from Working Bikes, stripped it down to a single-speed and started tearing up the streets urban style (Urban cycling is kinda like Cyclocross except you can catch some sweet… err… doors? Insults?).

David Nacogdoches Texas

David Nacogdoches Texas

I’d never ridden in a pace line until 2013. That’s where the Spidermonkeys come in. Corey and I had been working out at the YMCA for a few years and I’d frequently see this guy come in and work out in a sleeveless t-shirt, proudly flaunting what I thought was an epic farmer’s tan. That’s before I knew what “pro” was. I had no idea I was supposed to be jealous. Anyway, this guy and another taller, more freckled guy were often working out and chatting, and I “overheard” them talking about bikes (is it ever “overhearing” when it comes to Scott?). I finally struck up a conversation with Dean and he invited me out to a Saturday ride. Around the same time, Corey was training with Roxanne and tried out a Tuesday ride. We finally tried out a Saturday ride and I was immediately hooked.

I participated in rides sporadically until 2015 when I resolved to ride more. I had grown bored with triathlons after realizing I hated (and sucked at) swimming and was a mediocre runner at best. But biking, as ever, was a blast. Corey and I did a bunch of rides, including a few Sunday rides, and at some point that summer, we were offered the chance to become Monkeys officially. Of course we accepted, because you guys rock.

Last year I learned the joys of road cycling by getting my ass handed to me at a few Wednesday rides and completing my first century ride (Road cycling is kinda like Cyclocross except… alright, I give up). I also did my first Cyclocross race!

David cyclecross

David cyclecross

I can’t wait to kick off the 2017 season with ya’ll. Corey and I are so lucky to have found such a welcoming and diverse group to hang with, and I look forward to acting like an adult-sized kid with you guys whenever I can.

 

Spidermonkey Spotlight – Zach and Gina (Ugo) Neff

You’re getting a two-for-one with this Spidermonkey profile, but I’ll (Zach) be doing the “talking” here.  Gina is far too modest to brag about herself adequately. She also attended Indiana University for four years, so she’s not that strong with the written word. I’m a Purdue graduate (hence the obligatory IU ribbing) with an engineering degree.

IMG_4718Gina graduated from Indiana University, but that was only the beginning for her. She also has a Master’s degree and a Physician’s Assistant degree from Chicago-area colleges. Gina works at Rush as a Physician Assistant and I’m a 19-year employee of Sonoco Products Company as an International Engineering Manager. We have two dogs, no kids, and we live in Bucktown. The boring stuff is over.

This is a couples profile, so I’ll start off with the non-cycling action first. Gina and I met here in Chicago back in 1999. Her roommate was dating my roommate. Gina and I got along well enough when we were all together, so they thought they would try and hook us up on a blind date that was rife with lies and deception. Gina’s friend told her that I wanted to go out with her. My friend told me that Gina wanted to go out with me (a wildly optimistic idea to this day). Gina and I figured this all out in the middle of our first date during the intermission at Phantom of the Opera. Either way, it was funny and it worked.

We dated for about a year before I was transferred through my job to Southern Indiana. The long distance relationship begins here. We really weren’t that serious at the time, but she cried when I left….so that’s something, right? I was down there on my own and the roads are absolutely amazing for cycling.

Zach as a child (tri)cyclist

Zach as a child (tri)cyclist

I had been on bikes a lot growing up in the mountains of Asheville, N.C. Where I lived as a kid, you can’t get anywhere without a car or a bike and I was far too young to drive. If you want to go and hang out with friends after school, then you ride up or down very steep hills to get there. I had a 45 pound, Columbia mountain bike and my parents were into road biking (old school, 1978 Univega’s, since you asked). I bought a decent mountain bike when I moved to Indiana in 2001 and quickly realized how inefficient they were for the roads when I was passed routinely by a pack of road cyclists. They waited up for me one day and encouraged me to get a road bike. They told me it would change my life. That was a true statement.

My trusty steed

My trusty steed

I bought a really nice road bike and started out on my own. I had a lot to learn. It wasn’t long before I ran into that same group of riders. When I say, “ran into”, I mean they were passing me. They waited up again and they let me tag along for 20 miles. Over the next few months The Southern Indiana Wheelmen taught me the hand signs, the etiquette, the safety, and the beautiful addiction of road cycling. They treated me like a brother immediately and I’ll never forget it. I gradually started improving and learning how to pace myself on the steep ascents of the area. Then, when they thought I was ready (I wasn’t) they invited me to the Wednesday night drop ride. I asked, “What does that mean….drop ride?” My new friend said, “Well buddy, you need to know the way home because these boys are on a hammer fest and they won’t be waiting for anyone who gets dropped.” I did that ride with them every Wednesday for an entire season. There are zero stoplights, which means there is zero chance you will get back when you leave that last wheel. Fact: It wasn’t until the last month of that first year that I was able to hang on and complete the entire ride with the team.

Zach (again) as a child cyclist

Zach (again) as a child cyclist

Here is where Gina comes into the mix. We got married after a long-distance engagement when she was in school in Chicago and I was working in the hills of Southern Indiana. She moved in with me and she was quickly interested in my addition to riding bikes. We bought her a decent Fuji road bike and I started teaching her the ropes. What I didn’t tell you about Gina is that she’s extremely athletic, extremely driven, and extremely competitive.

Focused on her next pitch

Focused on her next pitch

I forgot to mention that she was an All-American, 4-year, full ride pitcher at I.U. (see beast mode picture). She was amazingly good and she has a Big Ten ring to prove it. You don’t know that because she is too humble to talk about it. Anyway, she HATED it when I rode past her up a hill. She HATED it when she got dropped. None of that lasted long. She got strong super quickly and it didn’t take her long to get comfortable with the new road bike. We rode every chance we could down there and we loved it. To us, it’s a blessing that we have something like cycling that we enjoy doing together. Special thanks to The Southern Indiana Wheelmen. It’s a great group of people down there and they put some serious miles in.

So, after a 2-year transfer in the U.K., Gina and I relocated back to Chicago in late 2008. We were looking for people to ride with when we bumped into Charlie Jollis one morning. Gina and I were taking donations and handing out candy for Misericordia on Fullerton and Damen. Charlie was at the stoplight headed south after the Saturday morning ride all kitted out in orange. We asked him where he came from and who he was riding with and the rest is history. Gina and I showed up the next week we quickly realized we had met the right group of people for us. We rode with the Spidermonkeys just about every week for the entire season from that point forward. We were asked to join the team late that year and we are so happy to be a part of it.

Teaching people road cycling is a gift, and it’s free. Those guys in Southern Indiana didn’t have to slow down and talk to me. They didn’t have to teach me the ropes when I got my road bike. Spidermonkeys did the same for us in Chicago. Gina and I truly appreciate the openness and friendliness of this group of people. Thanks for having us on your team.

North Shore Century 2014

North Shore Century 2014

MS Ride

MS Ride

 

Spidermonkey Spotlight – Sach Diwan

If at first you get dropped, try, try again.

coverI was born in Pune in the western Indian state of Maharashtra (not far from the state capital known back then as Bombay). My folks were cancer researchers and we ended up moving to (of all places) Bar Harbor, Maine. Yes from India to Maine …talk about culture shock! Luckily my brother and I were toddlers so it was easy to adapt. Some of my earliest memories were watching Boston Bruins hockey, the Lawrence Welk show and Capital Wrestling (now WWE). Trust me there wasn’t much else to do during the Maine winters in the early 1970’s.

When I was 7 we moved to Virginia. I remember getting my first Banana Seat Schwinn and riding it to the mall every day to play video games with my friends.

Fast forward to the mid 90’s for my first group rides. I was living in Kansas City at the time and joined a local bike group. I loved getting out of the city especially the ride out to Leavenworth and experiencing the big sky sunsets. When I first moved to Chicago in the late 90’s I did a little group riding but nothing significant. A few year later I found myself living in Hyde Park in an old fixer upper Victorian, with a wife and two kids … so riding gave way to diapers and Teletubbies.

I took up riding again about 5 years ago when I signed up for the North Shore Century with Team in Training. That was a great experience and rekindled my love for group rides.

WNR sometime in 2014

WNR sometime in 2014

My 1st time with Spidermonkey Cycling (SMC) … while everyone remembers their first time, it often does not go as expected. Such was the case with my first SMC ride. I was looking for a local group ride and found the SMC link on the Roscoe Village Cycles website. Feeling a little cocky (and fresh off my triumphant race at Steelhead 1/2 Ironman) I came out to a Wednesday night ride. Even though it’s a team ride, Dean must have taken pity on me and let me try.

Yeah, not such a great outing.  Epic fail is probably a more fitting description, as I dropped off about 1/3 of the way along the route.  Lucky for me, one of the ladies decided to drop off as well (I think she wasn’t feeling well). She took pity on me and showed me the ropes and encouraged me to keep coming out. In hindsight I’m 99% sure that was Michelle Moore. We managed to meet up with the rest of the group for beer and Doritos.

My first Cyclocross Race

My first Cyclocross Race

While some people would get discouraged and give up, not me … I’m way too stupid! After that first experience I was hooked. Due to working in the suburbs, I’ve only come out to a few WNRs, but now that I’m working downtown I plan to come out a lot more next year.

Some of my favorite SMC moments have been the brewery ride to Two Brothers (especially the ride through the west side), the MS Rides, and my first cyclecross race.

My first MS Ride

My first MS Ride

The past two years I’ve been largely MIA because I’ve been training for Ironman Wisconsin. After successfully completing the challenging course twice, I’m done with triathlons and want to get back to SMC rides. When I’m not running, riding or doing triathlons, I have two teenage daughters, Sarita and Sonali who are my pride and joy.

IMOO 2015

IMOO 2015

My Boos

My Boos

 

 

Spidermonkey Spotlight – Monica Freiband

I wish I could say I was one of those people who found cycling at an early age and fell in love with it. However, aside from my favorite tricycle when I was 3 years old, I don’t hold  too many early memories of biking.

First bike

First bike

I began commuting via bicycle my senior year of high school on an old Cannondale road bike I had found while dumpster diving in Minneapolis. This bike became my sole means of transportation, and I was quick to pack it up with me when I moved to Chicago for college.

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I knew a few people in the cycling community from commuting over the years, and slowly became a regular at Johnny Sprockets due to the wear and tear Chicago weather takes on a bike. However, before long, I experienced what every bike commuter fears: being hit by a car. I had been in a few minor incidents before this, but nothing to scare me off of commuting before. This time was different. I was rear ended and sent flying into an intersection, resulting in road rash, 3 broken ribs, and a no-longer-rideable bike. This was enough to scare me off of a bike (not to mention at this point I didn’t have a working bike anymore anyways).

A few months later, I decided to run the 2014 Chicago Marathon, which was rather inevitable having come from a family of marathon runners. I had been having some knee pain, and was told that cycling was a great way to relieve some of the stress on the body. This was a scary thought, but I went over to BFF bikes, and Annie Byrne introduced me to my new bicycle, Walter, a Giant Liv Avail, and it was love at first sight. I also started to take spin classes at the YMCA, and met Roxanne Bowens. She turned into my “fairy bike godmother” as I call her, and introduced me to the Spidermonkeys (and just as important, she introduced me to Fireball).

I began to enjoy cycling more and more with all the Spidermonkey spins.  Before long, I met Michelle Moore and Kelly Clarke. They convinced me to try racing. I will never forget my first race. To give an idea of what a great team the Spidermonkeys are, a whole group of girls came out to Gapers Block the first night to encourage me. I was visibly nervous and hyperventilating…this all resulted in the patented “deer in the headlights” start line photo.

First race!

First race!

The whistle blew, and I quickly heard a girl from Half Acre say “Monica, get on my wheel and don’t let go!” So I did. I managed to stay in the entire race without getting dropped, which was more than I had anticipated. I got off my bike, turned to Michelle and Kelly, and said “THAT WAS SO FUN LET’S DO IT AGAIN!” I was hooked.

Monsters at the Midway 2015

Monsters at the Midway 2015

That first season of racing, I spent every single weekend racing, and every single week preparing to race. I quickly found myself wanting to spend every waking moment on my bike racing with my teammates.

I had never been so passionate about anything before. After living in Chicago for 7 years, I can safely say that becoming a Spidermonkey and learning how to race has been the highlight of my time in Chicago. It gave me new confidence, new energy, a new breath of life. For two years now I have worn a Spidermonkey kit with pride. No matter where in the world I am, I know that there is an amazing group of people who changed my outlook on cycling, a group of people who became my second family.

First WIN!

First WIN!

Snake Alley, my favorite race!

Snake Alley, my favorite race!

 

Spidermonkey Spotlight – Brandon Hall

I stood in the parking lot of Big Shark Bikes in St. Louis at 7 am on a Saturday. I had my vans, athletic shorts, a white tee shirt and my Schwinn World Tour Bike at my side. This was my first group ride. Surrounded by everyone in cycling clothes, kits, and carbon bikes, 40 miles lay in front of us. 5 miles later, despite some well needed pushes from other riders I couldn’t keep up on the false flat heading out of town. The summer of 2009 was full of learning experiences – learning to ride in a group, learning to clip in and out of pedals (I still have the scar to prove it), and learning that with my Schwinn I needed to carry two 16 mm wrenches to change a flat (one SOS call later). Still, there was something amazing about being on that bike and riding in a group – I was hooked.

My graduation present from College was my first real road bike – a Cannondale Caad 9. I also moved to Connecticut to start Grad School… So the transition from the rather flattish Midwest to hilly Connecticut was a big adjustment. While my fitness wasn’t great during my time at school I appreciated the escape from school and the ability to be on good riding roads within 5 minutes. There, a classmate also told me about an organization called Bike and Build. I did some fundraising and spent 2 weeks during the summer after my first year of grad school riding up the East Coast stopping along the way to work at build sites in 3 different cities.

Bike and Build

Bike and Build

I subsequently took the year off school and took my bike to Denmark. I really enjoyed the bike infrastructure throughout Copenhagen and throughout the country, as two friends and I spent three days riding West – from Copenhagen to Esbjerg on the Western Coast.  During my time in Denmark I also had the opportunity to ride in Majorca and in Switzerland, which were both incredible in different ways.

Coming back to school I started getting more involved with the cycling team and tried my hand in a couple of crits and a time trial. While I learned that getting into shape for the March collegiate racing scene was impossible for me, I enjoyed the adrenaline that comes from racing.

Trying out a crit race

Trying out a crit race

Pastries!

Pastries!

Moving back to Chicago my coworker John Castro convinced me to go for a ride with him, and promptly had me suffering and holding him back. I still do that now, but his encouragement led me to start riding the Spidermonkey Saturday ride and eventually join the team. I appreciate the way the team rides – safe and steady, and have really enjoyed getting to know such a fun and passionate group of people.

Last season I started racing cyclocross, and was immediately hooked. This season I’m looking forward to competing in most of the Chicago Cross Cup, as well as TrekCX and Jingle Cross. In the meantime, this season I have eaten donuts at Pastry Brest Pastry, gotten Grumpy at the Grumpy Grind, struggled through the Alpine Valley WORS Race, persevered through the Lumberjack 100, met my limit at the Leadville Stage Race, and sweat through Relay Cross, all with my SMC teammates at my side.

I <3 CX

I <3 CX

Leadville Stage Race

Leadville Stage Race

Grumpy Grind

Grumpy Grind

When not on a bike I can be found shopping for bike parts, drinking beer, dreaming of the next race, or working on the Wanda Vista Tower.  CAW CAW

 

 
 
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