Category: Race Report (page 1 of 11)

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 – 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!

 

Monica Finalizes Her Bucketlist

Checklist before moving to Ireland:

Buy plane ticket:

Pack apartment:

Podium in a crit: ☑ (and then some)

Two Monkey's on a Podium

Two Monkey’s on a Podium

What I didn’t know when I took up cycling was how much teamwork goes into every race. You work together, you work for one another, you “throw down thank you’s” as Julie Kuliecza from Hagens Berman would say. So often this goes unrecognized, especially at the amateur level, but not anymore. I have been so incredibly fortunate to race with Michelle Moore, and Waukesha, WI was a prime example of this.

Upon arriving in Waukesha, the temperature was already heating up (95 degrees to be exact). We rolled up to the start line, looked at the small field, and Michelle turned to me and said  “we got this.” Now, after having raced every single weekend for the last 10 weeks, my legs were definitely not at their prime, and the heat wasn’t helping. The whistle blew, we both clipped in quickly, and took off.

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It was a short course with tight turns, which bode well for both of us, as we learned how to take corners at full speed from the one and only Sarah Rice. We began working together right off the start, taking turns pulling, communicating what was going on. When we sat up in lap 3 to look back and see who was on our wheels, we saw…nothing. We already had a gap. It was on!

We never let off the gas, and spectators on the sides continued to yell our time gap from the pack, which grew larger each lap. As we crossed the start/ finish line with about 10 laps to go, the announcer yelled “Prime! Prime! Spidermonkey Vs Spidermonkey!” We both giggled, put our heads down, and picked up the pace.  I told Michelle to go for it, and her reply was “well don’t just let me have it.” I laughed and replied “I don’t care about the $20, I just want to be on a podium before I move.”

Teamwork makes the Dream work

Teamwork makes the Dream work

Soon enough, we had lapped the field, and we heard from the side “74 second gap!” As we passed lapped riders, we would encourage them to grab our wheels to pull them along. The majority of them were young, so we tried to look at this as a teachable moment.

As we saw two laps to go; Michelle turns to me and says “We are going 1-2. I will pull, you sprint off me!” I replied, “I don’t need to win, I just want to stand on a podium.” Michelle said, “eff that, we are getting you on the top step today!” We turned the final corner, I sprinted from behind her wheel, and for the first time, felt the joy of crossing the finish line first.

We stood on the podium, grins on our faces, knowing there were TWO Spidermonkey’s on ONE podium. When the official brought over the cow spotted race leader jersey, (or Walter spotted, for those who know the Spidermonkey’s obsession with our friend Walter the Cow from Galena), I had a look of shock, disbelief, and pure excitement. When I first started racing, I never thought I would be able to hang in the pack, let alone podium in a race. Michelle was right, there is nothing better than the high of standing on a top step for the first time. In fact, I’m still floating on the cloud.

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Michelle was there last year the day I started racing (and kindly offered me her inhaler to calm my nerves). She has been there to witness the good races and the bad races, and became one of my race mentors. We have worked together as teammates, throwing down thank you’s, sacrificing our legs to pull and sprint for one another. She, and the rest of my Spidermonkey teammates, have been prime examples of how teammates should, and can, work together, and learn from one another, be it your first race together, or your last race together.

To all my Spidermonkey teammates: Thank you for not only teaching me how to ride and race a bike, but for helping me fall in love with it all. No matter where I am in the world, I will ALWAYS be a Spidermonkey at heart.

Pre first race together EVER!

Post first podium together!

 

  

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

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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.

CCC: Montrose IL State CX Championships photos

Thanks to teammate Paul Decker for taking heaps of photos. If you are interested in obtaining a full-res version for your personal use, all Paul asks is to make a donation to our Bike MS fundraising page to help the fight against MS.

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Cat 1,2 & 3Women's Cat 4 & Juniors 9-14

Women's Cat 1,2 & 3Category 3

CCC Montrose Big Marsh Fundraising – DO IT!

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#PutARingOnIt to win at Big Marsh – Spidermonkey Cycling is challenging ALL Chi Cross Cup teams to put your money where your heart is to build Big Marsh!
Big Marsh and Spidermonkey Cycling Challenge You!

Big Marsh and Spidermonkey Cycling Challenge You!

Spidermonkey Cycling invites all teams to compete for donor rings and bragging rights – and an exclusive party at SRAM – by raising the most money as a team by December 6’s state championships to build the park at Big Marsh.

The contest starts TODAY. To enter, go to bigmarsh.causevox.com and register your cross team. Add your team members, then use your personalized fundraising page and e-mail tools to ask your fellow crossers, your friends, your training partners to support the park with a donation. You can watch your progress and check in on other teams.
Raise $500, and your team gets its own permanent donor chain ring installed on the donor wall at Big Marsh. Raise $1500, and your team receives a larger donor ring for display. Raise the most money of any team, and enjoy an exclusive team party at SRAM’s new headquarters!
Rings are also available for individuals giving $500 or more. For more information, contact friends@bigmarsh.com. Get the hole shot – sign your team up at bigmarsh.causevox.com today!

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.

wopen

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.)

allisonpowers

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).

podium

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!

Cyclocross Nationals

004

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.

023

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.

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