Category: Crit (page 1 of 4)

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.

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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Fox River Omnium

by Monica Freiband

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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).

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!

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.

tt

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.

warmUp

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.

crit

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.

crit2

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

Prairie State Cycling Series

by Kristen Meshberg

The Meshberg Family hanging out with our good friend Sarah Demerly, who came in from Michigan to race the series

SO so so excited to have a race series IN MY HOMETOWN. Yes we have cool individual races in Chicago, and sometimes even two days in a row, but this is the first time I’ve had a whole series so close to home!

The series consisted of 7 races total, 6 crits and 1 road race. The first 3 days were not NCC, and the last 4 were. What does that mean? NCC is our National Criterium Calendar so they would be heavily attended and highly contested. The first 3 days would be mostly local riders with maybe a couple of out of towners. Hopefully this will change in the future when word gets out about how awesome this series is and we can have big fields for the whole thing. But for this year we weren’t expecting the huge fields until the NCC races.

I’ve been targeting this series ever since I found out about it and I wanted to win the overall. Given the weird year I’ve been having I really did not know what to expect going into it. My focus was to do the best I could and treat each day individually. Sarah had committed to coming to as many of the races as she could, so finally we’d get some racing together.

Kenosha
I love this race! I’ve done this course many times when it was part of Superweek, and I love it. My oldest friend lives and works very near to the course, so she always comes and watches, and we get to hang out afterwards, so a good time is always associated with this race. Being the first race in the series and not NCC, we had a very small field. Sarah was sidelined with the stomach flu so I went solo. Our field consisted of a bunch of individual riders going against the Schneider sisters, local riders who ride for Tibco, one on the pro team, and one on the devo team. After an early break of three which included 15 year old Skylar Schneider (who ended up winning) lapped the field, Vanderkitten attacked and no one chased. Then I attacked and no one chased. I finished off the front in 5th place. Given the circumstances, I was ok with that.

Going against Sam Schneider for a Prime

Crystal Lake
Same small field, though today I had my teammate Sarah. The race started just fine but soon I started to struggle. Turns out I had broken a spoke and my wheel had gone out of true and was smashing against my brake. I never heard a popping noise so I had no idea what was happening. I finally went to the pit because I just couldn’t ride any more, I didn’t think I would get a free lap, but I didn’t know what else to do. When they saw the shape of my wheel I was given the ok to be put back in the field. Unfortunately while all this was going on a break had gotten away. I tried to talk my way into being put back into the break, but since it had been established while I was out of commission, it was back to the field for me. The first lap back in they called a prime. I went for it, got it, and then was done. I’m not sure how much energy I expended riding around for the first half of the race on a broken wheel, and I don’t think going all out for a prime was the smartest move. I was majorly bummed. Sarah rode well in the field and finished strong.

Sharon RR
The drive to Sharon, which is just across the WI border very near Lake Geneva, was beautiful. The course was flat and we were supposed to do 4 laps but was shortened to 3, for a total of about 33 miles. It was very hot, and I felt pretty good. Mostly local gals, we had a couple strong new to the series riders, including our National Criterium Champion Theresa Cliff-Ryan. Sarah said later she was affected by the heat, but she rode well and I couldn’t tell. The race had a couple of attacks, but nothing stuck, and we entered the final 3k altogether. I found myself in good position at 3k to go, and was planning on going for it, at the clearly marked 1k to go sign. But then the follow moto ref pulled up next to me. He had done this several times during the race and had actually mingled with the field during several corners and at one point caused a separation that had to be chased down. I asked him to please give me some space, and he said no, and I let myself get distracted. He made me very nervous and I had no idea what he was going to do so I slowed down. He finally backed off at 500 meters. Then when I finally sprinted I heard terrible crunching noises coming from my bike! I finished 5th and Sarah was 6th. I was not happy with this result. I did make an official complaint regarding the ref and as far as my bike, I had no idea what was going on.

Beverly (Chicago)
Very excited to race this course which has always been a part of the now defunct Superweek series in the past, but only for the men. Thanks Prairie State for having women there for the first time ever. This was the first of the NCC races, so there would be a bigger field with lots of strong teams there. On the way to the race, my car thermometer said 100 degrees. The hottest race of the year. Warming up, whenever I put any pressure on the pedals, I heard the terrible noises coming from my bike. So I went to Sram NRS and asked Jose to take a look. Sure enough my wheel was trashed. So he lent me a Sram wheel and I was good to go. The course is in the beautiful south side Beverly neighborhood and we got to ride by gorgeous homes and beautiful streets. Sarah’s husband Eric grew up very near the course and family friends had a party on the course. They cheered for us every lap. My friend (and PWP participant) Cathy was also racing and had a huge family contingent out cheering for her and I swear they cheered just as loudly for me too. There were also tons of other friends and PWP participants scattered throughout the course. It was really fun. When we got into the race, I could tell that the heat was having an effect on people, but I felt great! I was able to move around easily and go wherever I wanted. On the third lap I heard a crash, looked back and was so bummed to see it was Sarah. She got back in the race but ended up dropping out due to the heat. There were lots of primes in this race, including one donated by PWP’s Jen Welch, who grew up on the course and is a big supporter of the race. Thanks Jen!! The course was super cool with a slight up hill and then two semi sharp, fast downhill corners into the finish. I knew the winner needed to be first into the downhill. At one to go I was in perfect position, about 4th wheel. Kelly Fisher-Goodwin from Fearless Femme had gone for a late prime, gotten a gap and held it. The field was content to race for second. On the back stretch I attacked and got a gap. I’m sure part of it was not having the strength, but I think mostly it was lack of guts but I chickened out and slowed so I got passed right before the first sharp downhill corner. I’m not sure how many riders got in front of me before I was able to get in line, but I was still in good position when in the final corner the two riders ahead of me crashed! I had to dramatically slow, but stayed upright and was able to finish in 14th place. I was very happy! Teresa Cliff-Ryan won the field sprint so the Fearless Femme team went 1-2.

Elmhurst
Another 100 degree day, I was nervous about bringing the kids, but this was the only option for the day. My good friend and PWP participant Mary Roe had offered to watch them for me during the race. This is not the first time Mary has hung out with the kids while I raced. They have a lot of fun with her, and there is usually ice cream involved, and racing would simply not be possible without help like this. So a great big thank you to Mary! Sarah wasn’t able to get to this race, so once again I was solo. I wasn’t going to be able to get new wheels before the end of the series so Sram let me use theirs for the rest of the series, which made the difference between racing or not racing so another big thank you to Sram. I felt great the whole race where once again I could tell the heat was really getting to people. It came down to a field sprint and I was a little hesitant to fight for position, (as I write this I’m sensing a theme here…) but I sprinted for 14th and felt good about it. Laura Van Gilder won today.

My two kids hanging out with our good friends the Kittle’s who live in Elmhurst and came out to watch the racing

Lake Bluff
After two positive races in a row with no mechanicals or weird issues, I was looking forward to Lake Bluff. Sarah would be there, and I had raced this course last year and finished well. I knew that it was a tough course. It’s a great break away course because it’s very narrow with tight corners with the only wide part being the very long start/finish stretch which was slightly uphill. Every time through that long section felt like the finishing sprint to me, and I never felt like I was in good position. Also a factor, after the last couple 100 degree races today it was a chilly 86. All those people who had been affected by the heat were feeling much better so I think that was a factor for me. Not sure when it happened but I sadly found myself off the back. Sarah was there too and we started taking hard pulls and after a couple of laps we actually caught back on. Sarah was able to stay connected but I was almost immediately dropped, and stayed dropped this time. My only solace was that I wasn’t the first to go and I finished 23rd on the day though it really didn’t make me feel much better, and I earned no points. Erica Allar took the win out of a break of 6.

St. Charles
I was determined to end this series on a positive note. The race was also our state championship race, which meant that the title and a championship jersey would be awarded to the first rider from Illinois across the line. It’s always a fun thing to win, so I was going for it. The course was 4 corners of wide open road. The race seemed very slow, for which I was grateful. There were a couple of attacks, including a good one by Sarah. I was in front and could block, and she held it for almost two laps. When they caught her, it was on a prime lap, and she saw that I was near so after being solo for two laps she led me out for it! Unfortunately Pepper Palace was on my wheel and it turned out to be a better lead out for her. While I didn’t get the prime, it did establish a break of four. Unfortunately we did not have Pepper Palace’s sprinter with us, so we weren’t cohesive. It got exciting for a moment when the race leaders bridged up, and we had our original four along with Theresa Cliff-Ryan, Erica Allar, and Laura Van Gilder. But it didn’t stick, and soon we were reabsorbed. In the final lap I was in great position and got around the final corner with the leaders. I was able to avoid some mayhem and I didn’t stick around to find out, but I believe a rider may have gone down. Due to the mayhem, I didn’t have a good wheel to the line but I sprinted and finished 10th! Sarah finished right behind me in 12th, and I was the second Illinois rider to cross the line. My former teammate Jessi Prinner finished ahead of me. Jessi’s still an Illinois resident and a great sprinter in her own right, but she’s now a professional who rides in support of Erica Allar, the current NCC leader. Jessi got ahead of me while working for Erica, who won the race. For the series, I ended up 6th overall and though not the result I was hoping for I was very happy to end the series on a positive note, and that the series got great feedback and looks like it will be back next year bigger and better.

Illinois State Criterium Champion Podium l-r Me & Jessi Prinner

Prairie State Cycling Series: Kenosha, Crystal Lake

by Mark Zalewski

Kenosha Food Folks & Spokes

The Kenosha venue is one of my favorite criterium courses I have done over the years. It was part of a now defunct series and fortunately the Prairie State series picked it up and it continues on.

It is a rectangle with wide turns beginning with a sweeping turn one, followed quickly by a 90 degree turn two. A mini chicane half-way down the back stretch keeps it a little interesting before 90 degree turns three and four, and a 150 meter sprint to the finish.

Having recently raced the Tour of America’s Dairyland series somewhat successfully in the Master’s 3/4 category, I decided that would be a good category for this series. Rolling around on the course before the race I met-up with fellow Chicagoan Eric Goodwin (Burnham Racing) who was also playing hooky from work on a Friday.

The race itself went surprisingly smooth, due in part to being a majority of Cat 3s. In past races the sweeping first turn lulls some riders into a false sense of security for turn two, which is tighter and has a deep dip in the apex. I once ended up in the front yard of some nice lady because someone else didn’t remember this fact.

The first third of the race was pretty fast with solo attacks going but not succeeding. After going for a prime I found myself in a group of five off the front with a small gap. I tried to motivate them to keep it rolling but some were not interested and the group quickly caught up. Guess I better work on my sales skills.

One team had a numbers advantage and one of their riders sat on the front of the group, patroling any move and seemingly trying to set-up his guys. I was on his wheel for two laps and asked him if any of his teammates were going to actually try anything — to which he just shook his head in frustration. What a waste.

Getting into the final laps there were a few more attacks. I even tried one with four to go, mostly out of frustration that we were riding slow slowly behind that one team. It lasted a whole quarter lap.

Into the final lap I had a feeling someone was going to go down, and I thought it would be turn three as everyone would be so focused on getting through turn two safely they would try to move up through three. I thought about going on the outside to do this but decided to sacrifice placings to stay inside. It was a good choice as sure enough the riders to my outside lost it into the curb.

From there it was around turn four and to the finish for a decent 18th with all skin intact. Mr. Goodwin took a nice podium spot.

Tour de Crystal Lake

I’ll spare you my diatribe on races, especially criteriums, that use the name “Tour duh…”

Photo courtesy Eric Goodwin

Being a Sunday race the schedule started earlier, meaning I could not make the Master’s 3/4 race. So what to do? Oh, I know, I’ll race the Master’s 1/2/3 race — couldn’t be that much different, right? RIGHT?

It was a nice looking course, though the turns seemed awfully narrow. PJ and some others who raced earlier in the day said it was messy. Fortunately, my newly chosen category meant there wouldn’t be any Cat 4s. Unfortunately it also meant there would be more than a few Cat 1s. As it turned out it was equal parts Cat 1s, 2s and 3s.

In one word, faster.

Oh, and longer as it was 70 minutes instead of 50.

The good part about going faster is that we were mostly single file through the turns and at higher speed, which meant it was much safer. The bad part is that you have to pedal much, much harder to keep up.

The first 20 minutes were great — staying near the front and not having to brake much at all. The second 20 minutes were okay — floating around in the middle and generally picking good lines and riders to follow. Some times moving up to find a better spot but trying not to waste energy.

The third 20 minutes were a little rougher. Started moving to the back, resulting in braking more into turns and then having to jump out of them. The pack started playing around so the speeds fluctuated much more, from near standstill to full gas.

Teachable moment time:

On one lap late in the race, when I was getting cross-eyed, I changed hand positions from my usual on the brake hoods to the drops, heading into the downhill turn. I don’t know why I did it — don’t really remember doing it. BUT it resulted in a slight but important change in my center of gravity. As such leaning into the turn was more extreme than previous laps. As the speeds were high we were all pedaling through the turns and this caused me to clip my pedal in the apex. ROOKIE move! Luckily I was near the back and only freaked out a few riders as my rear wheel kicked up into the air and went sideways. (Must have been the safety clinic the day before that saved me.)

After this I knew that it was just a matter of time before I would be gassed. I told the tailgunner* behind me that I would be deploying the parachute sometime soon, and he thanked me for the warning. (Turns out he was totally punching tickets** — he got third.)

With 10 laps to go, about 60 minutes in, an acceleration on the uphill did me in. But I was happy to have lasted that long at those speeds. And I’ll be ready to roll for the cat 3/4 races the rest of the series.

Yes officer, this outfit is street legal. Photo courtesy Eric Goodwin

Glossary

* tailgunner – noun

A rider who rides in last position for most of a race. Most often someone very capable of riding on the front but chooses to coast (sandbag) on the back until the very end.

* punching tickets – verb

The tailgunner’s action, figuratively taking everyone’s ticket for completing the lap. Refrences his ability to ride the back by choice and not by lack of form.

TOAD Downer’s Classic

ToAD (Tour o’ Ass Dealin’)
Downer’s Classic in Milwaukee, WI
Women’s 3/4

By Lauren Wissman

lauren

I’m not great at articulating sporting events and don’t think I have enough experience to say anything of substance, but here goes…

Per usual, I don’t have much time to think about race strategy or getting in a thorough warm-up because I’m always late. My schedule upon finding the race location: 1) park, 2) register, 3) pin my number, 4) use the port-o-let, 5) socialize, 6) get a lap in, 7) oh damn, whistle. Let’s revisit each step and see how well I did.

1) Under a stop sign
2) Ran to registration tent, stood in line for ~6 min, “Hi, are you volunteering?”…found actual registration tent, was $3 short (DO NOT REGISTER SAME DAY), ran back to car, ran back to tent, saw Nelson + family!
3) Met new friend: ex-monkey who started Jus D’Orange and saw my number half pinned on. He informed me PJ was dating Katie Isermann. Katie told me about their first ‘date’ later; maybe ask.
4) Successful
5) Watched Lindsey and Katie on their trainers, offered to fill Lindsey’s water bottle, asked registration, no water, solution: filled bottle with water you pump to wash your hands outside of the port-o-let, Lindsey found out, refused to drink the water, ran to car to get my water bottle for her to use since I banned myself from drinking water during crits (except this past weekend)
6) Yep
7) Not clipped in, kept pedaling, 10 feet later, still not clipped in, noob

The more I think about racing, the more nervous I get, so I’m fine with how things developed pre-race. The pace started quick and really never slowed down. In a field of 60 women, biggest race I’d been in to date, there’s bound to be some killers (you’re last name is winner, for real…see below).

I immediately felt like this was a different caliber of racers, not only faster, but more aggressive; hugging corners, nudging neighbors, attacking non-stop. I really just tried to hang, latch on to a faster wheel, get out of the center, and stay out of the back on corners (hate that). I can’t give a lap-by-lap commentary, but I remember Zark yelling stuff like “get up there,” “you’re better off the front;” aren’t we all. There were plenty of primes (KATIE WON $50!), but I didn’t think I would even make it the whole race if I tried to go for one. I pulled with 12 to go, got passed for a bit, busted ass to try and get back near-ish the lead pack for the finish, passed some riders I was closer to, but was too far back from the others to try to gain any ground. I was happy to have made it through unscathed with a small reserve of energy left for the cool down lap.

I met up with Katie and Lindsey after our race and took a spin down by the lake, visited Calatrava’s winged art museum, made our way back and spent the rest of the day eating, drinking $2 tallboys of O-Gii, cheering for fellow monkeys, visiting t-shirt stands, and making friends with table squatters, except not. I was glad to have some SM buddies with me, or else this would have been a much more intimidating race. Great day. Next year for sure.

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