Category: Crit (page 3 of 4)

Snake Alley Race Report

Sarah on the snake
Photo by Cathy Frampton

by Sarah Rice

I think that getting better at bike racing really means mapping out a new set of passages in your pain cave. So 4 weeks after two facial bone fractures, I lined up for my first regional P1/2/3 race ever. My first hilly crit ever. Snake Alley. I warmed up with Kristen and except for the heat, felt quite good. K was targeting this race, her warm-up was perfect, she seemed to be in the zone. She told me about her previous experience, finishing 16th, one spot out of the money.  So she had a score to settle.

We went to line up and I realized I had my number on the wrong side. So instead of making my callup and getting my spot, I had Eric and Jason re-pin me. I mis-clipped the start worse than I ever have, and had to sprint to catch the pack. Took the sharp inside line on the first corner to catch on, at a hot pace. Hit the snake mid-pack.

The climbing wasn’t as bad as I had envisioned, but the heat made the snake feel like a pizza oven. Lots of people were cheering, Eric, Jason, the Psimet crew, Cathy Frampton, and Sue Wellinghoff. So great to see them out there despite the heat and human misery they had to witness. At the top of the snake, I felt like a punch-drunk fighter heading into the technical descent. Normally I am pretty good on those, but I wasn’t. My lines on the turns weren’t as crisp as I like them, and I was a little timid. And too slow. That put me desperately trying to catch on during the part of the course at the bottom the hill, where it actually resembled a real crit. I saw Kristen ahead- she was able to bomb the descent, and caught some good wheels. I chased. Demoralized, trying to chase through the start-finish line, seeing the number “2” on the lap counter, heading up to the snake again. This wasn’t going well. Survive, survive another lap, I told myself. The leaders were already way out of sight.

It got worse. I survived one more lap, then two. Kristen was way up the road. Then I saw her on the side of the course, just before the snake on lap 4. I looked to see if she had crashed. She said she was fine, keep going! The voice inside my head screamed MOMMY! But it was time to put the big girl panties on and go up the snake again.

Somehow, inexplicably, I found a rhythm. Up the snake. Down. Keep it clean, stay loose, solid through the bottom section, just ride it. I was all alone, but kept pushing. 6 laps down. Made it halfway. 8 laps. 10 laps, and I hadn’t been lapped yet. I was passing a few riders who had mechanicals or who just popped. It felt good to ride past an IScorp rider who was walking the snake. On lap 11 it finally happened, I got lapped by Jeannie Kuhajek and Kaitlin Antonneau, the first and second place riders. Third place Emma Bast lapped me on the first downhill section. I couldn’t catch on to work with them- still too timid on the descent. I could have stopped, because they were done and I had a lap left. But I felt good, and after so long not feeling good, I wanted to take my last lap. I wanted to do my 12th snake. So I did, during the men’s warm-up lap. I crossed the start-finish line laughing at myself. I thought I came in last. I was off the back, all alone for a long time. But Snake Alley has incredible attrition. Turns out, I was 16th- one spot out of the money.  So I’ve got a score to settle.

The Memorial Weekend Omnium

Katie Isermann at Quad Cities
Photo by Elizabeth Rangel

Kristen Meshberg and Sarah Rice were at The Memorial Weekend Omnium this past weekend, which has three criterium races in the Quad Cities area (Iowa and Illinois).  A lot of pros come out, and there’s some top notch racing. Sarah Rice reported on all three races:

          Snake Alley
          Melon City
          Quad Cities

Snake Alley Race Report

Sarah on the snake
Photo by Cathy Frampton

by Sarah Rice

I think that getting better at bike racing really means mapping out a new set of passages in your pain cave. So 4 weeks after two facial bone fractures, I lined up for my first regional P1/2/3 race ever. My first hilly crit ever. Snake Alley. I warmed up with Kristen and except for the heat, felt quite good. K was targeting this race, her warm-up was perfect, she seemed to be in the zone. She told me about her previous experience, finishing 16th, one spot out of the money.  So she had a score to settle.

We went to line up and I realized I had my number on the wrong side. So instead of making my callup and getting my spot, I had Eric and Jason re-pin me. I mis-clipped the start worse than I ever have, and had to sprint to catch the pack. Took the sharp inside line on the first corner to catch on, at a hot pace. Hit the snake mid-pack.

The climbing wasn’t as bad as I had envisioned, but the heat made the snake feel like a pizza oven. Lots of people were cheering, Eric, Jason, the Psimet crew, Cathy Frampton, and Sue Wellinghoff. So great to see them out there despite the heat and human misery they had to witness. At the top of the snake, I felt like a punch-drunk fighter heading into the technical descent. Normally I am pretty good on those, but I wasn’t. My lines on the turns weren’t as crisp as I like them, and I was a little timid. And too slow. That put me desperately trying to catch on during the part of the course at the bottom the hill, where it actually resembled a real crit. I saw Kristen ahead- she was able to bomb the descent, and caught some good wheels. I chased. Demoralized, trying to chase through the start-finish line, seeing the number “2” on the lap counter, heading up to the snake again. This wasn’t going well. Survive, survive another lap, I told myself. The leaders were already way out of sight.

It got worse. I survived one more lap, then two. Kristen was way up the road. Then I saw her on the side of the course, just before the snake on lap 4. I looked to see if she had crashed. She said she was fine, keep going! The voice inside my head screamed MOMMY! But it was time to put the big girl panties on and go up the snake again.

Somehow, inexplicably, I found a rhythm. Up the snake. Down. Keep it clean, stay loose, solid through the bottom section, just ride it. I was all alone, but kept pushing. 6 laps down. Made it halfway. 8 laps. 10 laps, and I hadn’t been lapped yet. I was passing a few riders who had mechanicals or who just popped. It felt good to ride past an IScorp rider who was walking the snake. On lap 11 it finally happened, I got lapped by Jeannie Kuhajek and Kaitlin Antonneau, the first and second place riders. Third place Emma Bast lapped me on the first downhill section. I couldn’t catch on to work with them- still too timid on the descent. I could have stopped, because they were done and I had a lap left. But I felt good, and after so long not feeling good, I wanted to take my last lap. I wanted to do my 12th snake. So I did, during the men’s warm-up lap. I crossed the start-finish line laughing at myself. I thought I came in last. I was off the back, all alone for a long time. But Snake Alley has incredible attrition. Turns out, I was 16th- one spot out of the money.  So I’ve got a score to settle.

Fox River Grove Criterium Race Report

Photo by Jason Steeno

by  Hayes Sanborn

Day #2 of the Fox River Omnium

After racing twice on Saturday, I tried to rest up as much as possible on Saturday night, but a bachelor party with all you can eat meat dinner isn’t recommended before racing a hilly crit x 2.

I still remember Norge as my worst cross race of the year. It had everything I don’t do well, wrapped up in one course. When I saw a crit was being held at the same location I had to redeem myself. I’m a slim guy, that would totally crush the big guys on the mountain of a hill we had to climb over and over, is what I thought when I signed up. I climb well on gradual grades, anything I can tap out a rhythm, I’m golden. This hill was not one of those grades. I struggled up each lap trying to turn the cranks over while losing contact with my group. Every lap was a repeat of the lap before, get dropped on the climb, and reattaching on the downhill and head wind section leading back to the start. I refused to look at the laps to go counter as I knew that would only make it hurt more. Luckily, I wasn’t the only guy that suffered up the hill, I would finish mid pack in the 5’s race in almost the identical spot as the day before in Elgin. This race was hard, very hard. I ended the race with an Intensity factor of 1.07 in the first race and a 1.02 in the second. I’m getting stronger but still not strong enough (are you ever?). The Omnium is a great event featuring two very different courses and I highly recommend making the drive out to the burbs for this race next year. I think the highlight of the day was the many shout outs I got from the hecklers on the hill when they saw me racing twice, almost back to back.

Official Participant List:
Drew Kushnick
Stephanie Kushnick
Hayes Sanborn

Monsters of the Midway Race Report

IMG_6699
PJ looks good in orange!
Photo by Velogrrl

by PJ Cavoto

Monsters of the Midway; Hearing all the rumors that this event has a lot of crashes didn’t give me lots of confidence for these races. I actually caved and shaved my legs for the 1st time in preparation. Fortunately, my experiences were very good and the surfaces were dry. That can’t be said for the races earlier in the afternoon and morning.

The Cat 4/5 race went well. I maintained solid positioning throughout the race staying on the inside of the whole course and avoiding any trouble. But when it came down to the finishing lap. I just didn’t seem to have what it took to get me to the front and finish with a strong sprint.

Untitled
PJ, Pete, Ben and Geoff lined up before the race
Photo by Bevan Brookfield

The Cat 5 race was a blast. We had four Spidermonkey’s in the race and decided that Pete Monko would be the guy. Ben Sparks, Geoff Pomerantz, and I all stayed up near the front and kept attacking the field. I actually sprinted down the back side three times to cut the field off before turn 3 and then would hammer it all the way to the finish line just trying to thin the field and tire guys out. Pete tried to break away after one of these attacks and I attempted to block, but it wasn’t successful. Last lap Pete had my wheel coming around turn 3/4, and we seemed to be in perfect alignment for the finishing stretch. But when I went to step on the gas nothing came out and told Pete he had to go it alone. At that point some faster wheels were already to far ahead of us and Pete ended up with 8th place. All in all, we practiced some great tactics and seemingly had things lined up to place. The experience should serve us well in applying to future races. Thanks Drew for coaching and strategizing with us for this race.

Official Participant List:
PJ Cavoto
Drew Kushnick
Peter Monko
Geoffrey Pomerantz
Geoffrey Scott
Benjamin Spark
Masayuki Tsuchiya
Trent Williams

Monsters of the Midway Race Report

IMG_6699
PJ looks good in orange!
Photo by Velogrrl

by PJ Cavoto

Monsters of the Midway; Hearing all the rumors that this event has a lot of crashes didn’t give me lots of confidence for these races. I actually caved and shaved my legs for the 1st time in preparation. Fortunately, my experiences were very good and the surfaces were dry. That can’t be said for the races earlier in the afternoon and morning.

The Cat 4/5 race went well. I maintained solid positioning throughout the race staying on the inside of the whole course and avoiding any trouble. But when it came down to the finishing lap. I just didn’t seem to have what it took to get me to the front and finish with a strong sprint.

Untitled
PJ, Pete, Ben and Geoff lined up before the race
Photo by Bevan Brookfield

The Cat 5 race was a blast. We had four Spidermonkey’s in the race and decided that Pete Monko would be the guy. Ben Sparks, Geoff Pomerantz, and I all stayed up near the front and kept attacking the field. I actually sprinted down the back side three times to cut the field off before turn 3 and then would hammer it all the way to the finish line just trying to thin the field and tire guys out. Pete tried to break away after one of these attacks and I attempted to block, but it wasn’t successful. Last lap Pete had my wheel coming around turn 3/4, and we seemed to be in perfect alignment for the finishing stretch. But when I went to step on the gas nothing came out and told Pete he had to go it alone. At that point some faster wheels were already to far ahead of us and Pete ended up with 8th place. All in all, we practiced some great tactics and seemingly had things lined up to place. The experience should serve us well in applying to future races. Thanks Drew for coaching and strategizing with us for this race.

Official Participant List:
PJ Cavoto
Drew Kushnick
Peter Monko
Geoffrey Pomerantz
Geoffrey Scott
Benjamin Spark
Masayuki Tsuchiya
Trent Williams

Cobb Park Race Report

by Drew Kushnick

Brandon convinced me to do the Easter ride and race Cobb Park.  The Easter ride was a blast, but by the time we toed the line for the race we had 70 miles in our legs.  The race was 45 minutes and from the gun a Burnham rider went off the front.  Brandon and I made a couple of attempts to bridge to the front until Brandon was able to get in the break.  This may have been 10 minutes in and I thought my legs feel good, but I am sure they will give out at some point.  The break started to swell and I followed a wheel all the way up.  Brandon was surprised to see me up there, but was happy to have another person rotate through because the break had about 8 or 10 guys, but only about 3 or 4, including us, were working.

Drew and Brandon discussing the race
Due to the lack of cohesion, we were caught by the field.  Three guys were off the front again so I made a couple digs to try and get to the front.  Finally, I was about 3 or 4 seconds behind the lead group of 3 when another guy came up to me and finished off the gap.  The five of us worked well together and were joined by 3 more.  Our lead continued to grow to 25 seconds, and at about 30 minutes in, I told myself that my legs could survive for another 15 minutes.  I had never been in a successful breakaway, and really wanted to make it to the end in front of the pack.

One of the best parts about racing is having people cheer you on.  It was a blast having Stephanie, Kristi, Kelly, Ken, and Geoff cheering us on.  It gives you that little extra energy when you come around and see them.  Plus, when I feel good, I have fun making hand gestures and faces at them!  You can ask them about that.  Another good thing about racing is enjoying those days, when your legs will do whatever you want them to.  Cobb Park was pretty close to that.  My breakaway stayed away and I managed to take 6th in the sprint for the line.  Brandon was able to sneak off the front with a Burnham rider as well and take 11th.

Brandon off the front with Burnham’s Jason Knauff
We finished the day with 92 miles in the books and a lot more confidence in our fitness.  I am glad he convinced me to do both rides.  The rest of the afternoon and evening were spent eating and groaning whenever I moved until I went to bed at 9:30.
-Drew

Official Spidermonkey Participant List:
Kelly Clarke
Brandon Diffenderfer
Tim Driver
Kristi Hanson
Drew Kushnick
Stephanie Kushnick
Ken Mitchell
Geoff Scott 

Lincoln Park Criterium Race Report

by Kelly Clarke

It’s easy to get excited about races that happen within the boundaries of the great city of Chicago, especially those that happen in our backyard. So when xXx announced the Alderman James Cappleman’s 46th Ward Lincoln Park Criterium to replace last years south side Sherman Park race, the Spidermonkies were all in. Though, in all honesty, I was far more excited for the Leland race happening the day before. I had never tried my hand at a road race, and I fell in love with the grueling depictions of last year’s race. I was set to ride Leland no matter what Mother Nature decided to bestow on us that day. The Lincoln Park crit was not my priority, but you can’t say no to a race that’s happening in your own back yard.

Toeing the line with Michelle Moore

I arrived at Montrose Beach unprepared and late. One of the things that holds me back from being a serious and successful cyclist is simply that my social life is very important to me, and sometimes I’m not willing to make the sacrifice for a good night’s sleep. After Leland on Saturday, I had celebratory post-race lunch and beers with Sarah Rice, Kristi Hanson, Annette Stahelin, and Annie Byrne. Sarah bought us our beers with the money she earned getting second place in the 1/2/3 race at Leland – what a great teammate! Reasonable people would stop there, knowing they were racing again the next day. But when we got back to the city I rushed out to Roller Derby where I met some co-workers. From there, we watched an exciting Blackhawks playoff game that went into overtime and left us nearly closing down the bar. With little sleep, minimal warm-up, and legs that still felt the gravel roads from the day prior, I lined up for the race. I leaned over my handlebars and closed my eyes for a minute or two. I could have taken a nap right there. But then I started joking around with Dean Okun and Michelle Moore and felt better. If I forget to mention this later, there were a ton of Spidermonkies that came out to cheer us on and it was awesome!

Justeen, Dean, and Vanessa – just a few of those out cheering

I had pre-ridden the course on Thursday with my old pal Annette and it had been incredibly windy. The weather report called for 9mph on this Sunday, but as the weatherman often lies, the wind felt more about 15-18mph. The cold gusts would definitely be a factor in the stretch to the finish line. The course was more interesting than the only other place I’ve done a crit – Calumet Park for the Half Acre Gaper’s Block crits. I figured the 180 degree turn would break up the pack more, but Sue Wellinghoff said she thought it worked as an equalizer, because it slowed everyone down (full article). Regardless, it would take more skill and calculation than the easy corners I had seen at Calumet Park. I was intimidated by the prospects.

Map of the course

To start the course, there was a slight incline after the first turn, a slight descent into the second turn, and incline and then descent into the 180 degree turn, and you come out of the 180 going uphill. A descent takes you into the fourth turn which is a gradual and easy turn made difficult when gusts of wind start hitting you. The home stretch lies just west of the lake with nothing to block the wind. When I talk about ascents, this is obviously nothing like the aggressive hills we saw in Galena a couple weekends prior, but they were notable enough to influence placement of possible attacks.

Having no real expectations, at the start of the race I pedaled at a comfortable pace. Somehow this landed me at the front of the pack. Then just before the second turn, Marie Snyder came around and a handful of the faster girls followed. I dropped back, approaching the 180 turn. I expected it to be chaotic and scary. It wasn’t at all. Everyone slowed down so much and took wide enough lines that it seemed very safe.

At the front to start the race

Out of the 180, everyone sprints back to the pack, so it makes sense that the first people into that turn will have an easier time recovering. You would want to get back into a good position before getting to the fourth turn of the course, because the wind is so rough on that final strait away that having a solid place in the pack could make a huge difference. I never found that sweet spot in the pack. I stuck near the pack, but never fully integrated.

Looking ahead, I could see Kristi, Stephanie, and Michelle with great positioning. I was hanging on, but I started to drop back. Then on one lap, around the fourth turn, I saw Michelle go down. She got tangled with another girl and they both went flying. I swerved around them. I was worried she was OK. I tried to shout to teammates, telling them to make sure she was not hurt. I was kind of rattled. In my trying to locate teammates on the sidelines, I had fallen off the back of the pack. For the rest of the race they would gain a little more distance each lap.

The last two laps, I could see the leaders coming back towards the fourth turn as I was in the second turn, approaching the 180. It was kind of like cyclocross, when the course doubles back on itself and allows you to see just how far back you are. Also in the last two laps, girls started dropping off the pack. I made it my goal to just start picking people off as they fell back. Going into the final turn I saw Michelle ahead of me. Good. She was fine and was able to take a free lap. Crossing the finish line, I saw Dean, and he shouted to me, “Stephanie got second!” Awesome! After finishing, I caught up to Michelle and asked her what happened. She had crashed, but aside from a scrape on her hand she was totally fine. I was impressed she had been so calm and able to find the officials to take her free lap. She did everything right.

Later on I heard that Kristi’s lead out helped Stephanie get into position for her second place finish. It was a pretty selfless act for her to come out of the 180 sprinting hard to lead towards the finish. And Stephanie is so strong this year. I’m really excited that I get to call these women that race with great intuition and power my teammates.

Stephanie on the podium!

I have a lot of work to do before I am racing at the level I want to be, but it’s been great to look up to Kristi Hanson, Stephanie Levin, Sarah Rice, and Kristen Meshberg. They have a lot of experience and it’s fun watching them race. It’s also been great to see Michelle Moore come out in her first season and basically kill it with great positioning and strong riding. Ladies, you teach me a lot every time I ride with you, and I’m grateful for it.

Thanks to everyone who came out to race and/or cheer!
And congratulations to Kristen and Sarah on their third One-Two finish!

Official Spidermonkey Participant List:
PJ Cavoto
Kelly Clarke
Brandon Diffenderfer
Tim Driver
Kristi Hanson
Drew Kushnick
Stephanie Levin Kushnick
David Loring
Kristen Meshberg
Ken Mitchell
Michelle Moore
Geoff Pomerantz
Sarah Rice
Geoff Scott
Ben Spark
Trent Williams

5th Annual Spring Super Criterium

The course at Blackhawk Farms Raceway

The Burnham Spring Super Crit is a huge event for Spidermonkey Cycling, because we co-host the event and support the race with volunteers. As a result, we usually have the largest cheering section among any of the teams out there. It’s always a ton of fun and a great way to get the race season started.

This year, we have collected a series of short race reports from some of our teammates.

PJ CAVOTO (Men’s Cat 4/5 and Masters 4/5)

Being the second only Criterium that I have participated in, I certainly was nervous about getting hurt. My years of MTB riding, and 10 years plus of road cycling, I feel comfortable being on a bike and racing in a pack. But just like riding a bike in city, its not yourself you have to worry about, its the other drivers.

The course quickly put me at ease with plenty of room for 4 to 6 abreast and lazy turns where typically little speed would need to be scrubbed. Unfortunately, the 4/5 races, braking was applied by many nervous nellies…

My goal in the Cat 4/5 and Masters 4/5 was to stay with the leading pack and finish near the front of the field. I had been away on business all week and was feeling flu like that morning. I took 18th in the 1st race and decided in the second to try for better finish. I fought to stay in the stem of the cherry with little success. Obviously, that is where everyone wants to be on the last lap. So after getting knocked off the wheel in front me several times…I concluded to just burn myself up and make the field work to stay with me in the last 1/4 of the finishing lap. I successfully stayed on front till the last turn. Then of course the field blew by me and I ended up crossing the line in 40th. I knew that would be the result, but also knew I wouldn’t podium, so figured lets feel what its like on front pulling the peloton around the track.

The experience was terrific! What a neat place to race! I would certainly go back!

TRENT WILLIAMS (Men’s Cat 4)

The race was fast, but at the same time quite conservative, no attacks, or teams dominating the race. As the race went on, it appeared as if it was going to be a sprint finish. Having raced the cat 4/5 race an hour prior, I knew I had to position myself well. But unlike the previous race, no one made any attack until the absolute last straight away. By the time the sprint came around I found myself boxed in. The guy ahead of me did a great job to pull me into 16th, but I didn’t have anywhere to go to sprint around. I need to work on positioning…. (lesson learned)

STEPHANIE LEVIN KUSHNICK (Women’s Cat 4)

This was my 2nd time racing the super crit and I really like the course because it’s not technical, which is good for me! The Women’s 4 race was 5 laps and they were pretty uneventful, I pulled at points just to stay warm! The pace picked up with about 1/2 of a lap to go and the two girls from Cutting Crew were at the front. The field was together until around the last straight away (about a .25 mile I believe) when it broke up. The two girls from Cutting Crew took 1st and 2nd, ex-spidermonkey Vanessa took 3rd, a girl I rode Little 500 with took 4th, I took 5th, Kristi finished in 8th, and Stewart in 12th. It was a fun first race of the season for me and great to be on the start line with other Spidermonkeys!

Start of the Men’s Cat 5 race

BEN SPARK (Men’s Cat 4/5, Men’s Cat 5 and Masters 30+ Cat 4/5)

This is not my first race, but it may as well be, since I last raced a few races 15 years ago. My experience then and at the Burnham SSC was not knowing how to approach the typical final sprint of a criterium and my results speak to that. However, what I enjoyed most was mixing it up with the pack during the race, taking a turn on the front and something new…..I felt like I belonged to a team. Even though I didn’t know most of my fellow Spidermonkey racers, I felt a connection with them during the race. When a fellow Spidermonkey was on the front trying to push the pace or bridge a gap I was motivated to do what I could to help, even if I had nothing left in my legs. I completed 3 races at the Burnham SSC and loved each of them.

SARAH RICE (Women’s Open and Master’s 30+ 1/2/3/4)

I was tired Saturday morning. I didn’t have the brains or the energy for heroics. I decided to just do whatever Kristen Meshberg did. NOTE TO SELF: THAT’S A VERY GOOD PLAN. Racing with Kristen was like dancing with Fred Astaire: she was in the right place at the right time the entire race. She was so good that she made me look good by association. But it goes without saying that we looked good. We were both wearing Spidermonkey kits.

We attacked the start hard, as planned. We had a gap in the first turn, but it was a small field of very strong riders—Anne Meyer, Erin Woloszyn, Skylar Schneider, Daphne Kariganis, Lindsay Durst, and others. They caught us right away. Kristen went for the first prime. I didn’t have the legs to go with, so I blocked. She dangled off the front, got more space, easy did it, till she had a 15 second gap. I let her inch forward a little at a time, and the pack wasn’t chasing. Someone asked me if I was going to close it. “Hell no. We’re teammates.”

I should have lied.

30 seconds later, Erin Woloszyn charged and caught her. The whole pack came back together, but now we knew that Erin’s would be the wheel to mark at the end. The attacks followed a pattern. Erin Woloszyn jumped first, then Skylar Schneider, Anne Meyer, and Lindsey Durst, all in a line. Repeat.

We decided to get them to go early and ride their wheels through the long sprint to the finish. On the final corner, the Durst/Meyer/Schneider train was on the outside. Erin Woloszyn blew past them on the inside with Kristen on her wheel and me on Kristen’s. Kristen pulled around Erin’s right at the same time as I pulled around her left. Whoops! We should have taken the same side, but we’d never coordinated a lead-out move because we’d never ridden together before! I went all out, trying to get in position to lead out Kristen. I was almost there and told her to get my wheel, but she couldn’t get over to me so she just held on. In the end she was out in front and moving so fast, I caught her wheel and stayed on it till the end. Definite room for improvement on finish technique, but 1-2!!!!

Kristen and Sarah on the podium

KRISTEN MESHBERG (Women’s Open and Master’s 30+ 1/2/3/4)

Went to the line in the women’s race with my new teammate Sarah Rice for the first time. We had a small field but it was actually bigger than we’d expected, with some really strong riders present. Sarah and I got to know each other and raced together really well! We got every prime and went 1/2 in the race! Confidence boosting for the both of us!! Then for more training and another chance to race together we jumped in the men’s 30+ field finishing safely with the field.
See Kristen’s full race report here.

Vanessa Buccella interviewed Kristen and Sarah after their race.

BRANDON DIFFENDERFER (Men’s Cat 3 and Men’s Cat 1/2/3)

Cat 3:
I lined up for this race not looking to get some speed in the legs. 2 or 3 laps into the race I took a short pull on the backside of the course to test my legs, and they didn’t respond like I wanted, so I pulled a Nate Iden and tailgunned for the remainder of the race. The only difference between me and him is that he finishes better than me. Two laps to go I decided it was time to move towards the front, albeit with the rest of the pack which made it difficult. I was sitting on two ABD wheels during the last lap when I was shuffled back between corners 3 and 4 and couldn’t recover in time to factor into the sprint, although I’m doubtful that would have made a difference.

Cat 1/2/3:
Wow, that was fast, 27.6 mph average over an hour of racing. I’ve never easily pushed that big of a gear before. After 20 minutes of racing, Andy Daley looks at me, recognizing how tired I was, and says “Don’t worry, the break will get away and we’ll slow down.” There was one thing I learned during this race, don’t ever listen to Andy Daley. While I was hoping his words were true, the pace never relented and the break still managed to get away. Excitement took over in the pack as the break was getting reeled in in the closing laps, and I have to admit that I was a little excited to watch this even though it wouldn’t affect me one bit. Three riders in the break managed to hold off the field sprinters even though the pack was barreling down on them in the final stretch. This can be seen at the 6:30 mark of this video.

This was my first year racing at Blackhawk Farms and I’m excited to go back next year. A big thanks goes out to Burnham racing, especially Eric Goodwin, for putting this event together and to all of the Spidermonkey and other volunteers at this race.

Spidermonkey Official Participant List:Peter Cavoto
Stewart Chapman
David Cushman
Brandon Diffenderfer
Kristi Hanson
Andrew Kushnick
Eric Landahl
Stephanie Levin
Kristen Meshberg
Sarah Rice
Hayes Sanborn
Benjamin Spark
Trent Williams

All in all, this was a great event at a great venue. Many thanks to all who came out, raced, volunteered, and cheered! Also thank you to Mrinal Shah, Jason Knauff, race director Eric Goodwin, and Burnham Racing for all of your efforts to make this event happen. Can’t wait for next year!

My First Criteriums: Gaper’s Block and Burnham Spring Super Crit 2012

Pete Monko chasing a break!Pete Monko chasing a break!
Photo Credit: J. Tati

by Eric Landahl

I’m very experienced racing in a fast-moving pack, drafting with centimeter gaps, and taking and giving a bit of “accidental” contact. I take pride in my superior cornering ability, exquisite positioning, taking the perfect line (even when unable to see far ahead), and I still have a killer final sprint.

Until last week, I had only experienced this in open water swimming. It’s all just fun and games in the water—as soon as you master the fear of drowning, of course.

Watching the first men’s heat at Gapers Block on Monday I felt a little sick. Pavement is hard, and I fear crashing. I took a little comfort from Kinky Llama’s Becky Welbes who also was about to start her first crit, and admitted she felt squeamish as well. So I lined up in the back, swung wide at the first corner, and found myself in an all-out sprint to catch back up with the pack.

Following my first cyclocross race last Fall, I had spent some time reviewing cornering. I knew that the tangent of my lean angle should be proportional to the square of my speed and inversely proportional to the radius of the turn (Wilson, “Bicycling Science 3rd edition”, MIT Press 2004). The turns seemed really tight, and we were going really fast, so I was pressing as hard as I could on my outside pedal and leaning in as hard as possible. It really upset my physical intuition that the guys next to me were taking the corners tighter and faster and not leaning in as much. I was convinced they were going to spin out and hit me. After about a dozen corners, I could no longer sprint back up to the pack, and I ended up working with a few other guys who had also been dropped to finish the race. At least there was a great Spidermonkey cheering section!

Fast racers coming around the corner at Calumet Park.
Photo Credit: Nathan Schneeberger

Back to the chalkboard: I read up on counter-steering, and brought in some consultants. Having Sarah Rice and Katie Isermann in your crew during your second practice crit is kind of like having Michael Jordan and LeBron James show up to watch your middle school basketball tryout. My cornering was a bit better, and I stayed with the pack for about half of the race. After getting dropped I worked with teammate Hayes for a while, and then Mike from Half-Acre who told me to learn by following his line around the corners. That really helped. By my third race on Wednesday, I was able to stay with the pack the whole time. Although my consultants were yelling at me to “move up” I was still scared of crashing, and I finished at the back. I took Thursday off from racing and instead watched the Spidermonkey women maneuver themselves into a good position for the final laps of their race, and I resolved to do the same Saturday at the Burnham SSC.

My goal for SSC was simple: stay near the front and be ready to chase down any attack. Brandon talked to me just before the race, pointing out to me and teammate Ben that several of the other teams were quite large and could afford to have several riders block back during attacks, so staying near the front was critical. I tried to spend most of my time one or two rows back, sitting on the steadiest wheel I could find. It’s true, it’s actually less scary in front! With increasing confidence, I would yell every time somebody would make a move, and then hop on the wheel of the first chaser. As a result I was in great position coming into the last half of the course: I hadn’t been in front for almost half a lap, but was sitting just about three back when the leaders surged forward. Unfortunately for me a lot of those guys are really strong, and they rode me off their wheels; I had to rely on my endurance to keep pushing all the way to the end where I finished 13th.

I’m not sure when I’ll race again, but I know that I am now a better and more confident cyclist because of the experience. Lesson learned: it’s all just fun and games on the road—as soon as you master the fear of crashing, of course.

-Eric

Sarah Rice on the attack with Kelly Clarke close behind.
Photo Credit: J. Tati

Some additional comments and/or words of wisdom:

Anna L. – “I think my story about snot rockets and XXX racers is pretty funny, but also kind of embarrassing. Leave it to me to be the person who blew a snot rocket that apparently landed on someone! I still feel like her yelling at me made me lose my concentration and I got dropped right after. :-(“

Kelly C. – “Last year I did all 5 days, and I was dropped right away and rode by myself each day. This year, after actually considering training during winter, I was able to stay with the peloton each day I raced. Physically, it’s a lot less tiring, even though you’re going faster. And it’s much more fun! Last year, going into corners with people was really scary, so I just didn’t do it. It’s still scary, but I have a lot more confidence. And when you nail a good corner, it feels awesome to come sprinting out of it! It was great to race with so many women this year, too. We had record fields with 30+ racers each night.”

Spidermonkey Official Participant List:
Kelly Clarke
Kristi Hanson
Eric Landhal
Anna Loosli
Michelle Moore
Pete Monko
Hayes Sanborn
Sarah Rice

Notable Results: Sarah Rice won the Women’s Cat 3 race three out of the four nights, and came in second on the only night she didn’t win.

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