Category: Cyclocross (page 3 of 3)

Spidermonkey of the Week – Paul Halupka

When I sat down to write about cycling and what it means to me, I ended up writing for about two hours and basically documenting the history of my love for bikes throughout the course of my life. Rather than posting the Complete Works of Paul Halupka, please enjoy the following excerpts:
Exquisite fashion sense from the first purchase.
ON THE DISCOVERY OF BIKES AND THEIR INHERENT EPICNESS
I started riding a bike when I was very young, riding lots with my little brother in my ample front/back yards in Alabama. I had this little blue Huffy that I rode the crap out of, and no manner of throwing it around or leaving it in the rain to rust could destroy it. Oh, the years of my life spent on coaster brakes… I remember them with a special gravel-skidding fondness.
Fast forward to my early teens, and the purchase of my first real bike. Some how I came up with $180 and threw down for this awesome candy-red Mongoose mountain bike at Wal-Mart. Holy crap, aluminum frame! Suspension fork! 21 Speeds! I didn’t know why that was good, but I liked the sound of it.
I found some amazing adventure on that bike.
I remember my first two epic rides. The first was with my dad and little brother. I may have been 14, my brother would have been about 11. We rode on Easter day. It was cool but sunny. We pushed so far into the mountain’s trail system that we eventually were just riding dry creekbeds and descending into raw forest. Two hours into the ride, we were riding and walking through this patch of the woods that looked like an Alabama Ferngully. I’ve never seen a piece of woodland that looked so verdant, mossy, and lovely. We eventually exited the forest by riding out into a cow pasture, climing over a couple of barbed wire fences, and riding the main streets back to the other side of the mountain where we’d parked. Mom was pretty pissed because we were super late for the nice Easter dinner she’d prepared, but in my mind I didn’t regret it for a second. My dad died a couple years later. My little brother and I remember it with a glowing fondness, a singularly special bonding moment for the three of us.
The second epic ride was with the first guy I ever considered a bike teammate. Alex, a friend since elementary school, got his hands on a dual-suspension Mongoose. After a few months of mountain biking, we went and bought matching Primal Wear jerseys and formed our two-man bike team. Throughout high school, we would throw the bikes in my van or on his bike rack and drive to the nearby mountains to tear up the trails. On one of these rides, I had a brilliant idea. Let’s ride around the military base, which was nestled into the mountains and foothils, and just climb every hill we can find or think of. I learned that day the true joy of overcoming gravity, of conquering just a tiny piece of the earth. There’s no feeling quite like it. The day closed with a ride to the top of the tallest mountain on-base, on a gravel access road that you’d need a tank or Humvee to climb, as demonstrated by the ruts everywhere. We found ourselves at the peak eventually, where we stared up at the radio towers that we’d seen our entire lives, flickering at us from miles away. That day we took the sky and brought it closer, then we descended like maniacs, racing furiously and nearly killing ourselves like teenagers are made to do.
I recently found a trip on the REI website where you fly to France and do all the great climbs of the Tour. Yes, please.

The mud keeps the flies off.

ON FINDING THE SPIDERMONKEYS AND WHY THEY ROCK MY WORLD 

I ran half marathons in 2010, and then took on my first Olympic tri in Spring 2011. Once my little tri training crew started breaking apart, I decided it was time to find a bike team. I started digging around online, and narrowed it down to xXx. (Yeah, no shit.) Something about the serious attitude of the club was really attractive to me, despite how ugly the kits are, and that a bike team has the same name as a Vin Diesel movie.
On paper, they were the perfect fit for a newbie rider with competitive aspirations. But a couple of things fell through where they shouldn’t have, and I was left feeling like they weren’t the right fit. Next on my shortlist was this bizarre listing online for a club called Spidermonkey. The website was about three years outdated but I thought it was worth a shot. So I emailed the Info account, and of course Vanessa was incredibly warm and welcoming from the get-go. And we both liked that my orange bike matched the kits perfectly. I did the Saturday ride, felt the love, and knew this was the right move.

A truly happy boy.
ON FALLING IN LOVE WITH CYCLING AND DISCOVERING WHAT PASSION REALLY FEELS LIKE
At some point in 2011 it occurred to me I could watch cycling on TV. I watched the Tour de Suisse and the Dauphine, just kind of learning about team tactics and time trialing, things I’d never really knows about before. Later in the summer, I started watching the Tour de France. I DVR’d the entire thing and watched every stage from the prologue onwards.
In the second week of the tour, I realized there was a deep and unsettling change occurring within me. Something about those Saturday and Sunday mornings and coffees and muffins, something about watching “Little Tommy Voeckler” ride years off his life in the mountains, something about Wednesday night rides with the sprints and competition and respect, with the High Lifes and barbeque chips, something about the colors and logos of skinsuits, the smell of fresh chammy butter on my bibs, the feeling of wearing a kit that matches the man you’re drafting, the battery acid burn of pushing your limits, the barbaric nature of moving a chain and cogs in a battle with the forces of physics…
Oh shit. It hit me.
I called my girlfriend. Though I meant to share the catharsis I was experiencing, the realization of my first true passion in life, it came out like a warning. I may have been warning myself as well. The truth is, I had no idea, but my instincts were right. I was swept up by a tsunami of all things bike-related.
Since joining the Spidermonkeys, which I affectionately refer to as The People’s Bike Club, I’ve learned so much about this sport. It’s not just a hobby, it’s a culture. It’s steeped in tradition and history, both ancient/European and recent/local. The list of cycling’s attributes is long and interesting, but everyone has their own favorite stuff so I’ll keep it to myself.
We can all agree that it has many beautiful facets. But perhaps my favorite is the sublime characteristic of the bike team, a poetic interlocking of the ways we carry each other, both physical and spiritual. We physically break apart the atmosphere, creating a safe space in which we carry our friends. Think about it. That’s a powerful gesture, and a grand metaphor for the friendships we develop here.
As cyclists, I think we take pulls for each other in life as well, through smiles or a shared beer, or full-fledged friendships. These things are both simultaneous and reciprocal as we rotate through the paceline. At least that’s what I’ve found in it. Maybe it’s contrived, but it’s one of the realest things I’ve known.
Thanks to all of you for being a part of that, and for being a part of my life. Here’s to more epic rides, more love, and grander metaphors to come. Here’s to the People’s Bike Club: my beautiful, maniacal Spidermonkeys.
You look like you need a hug. Or a back rub.

Bartlett CX Men’s 4B Race Report

Here’s my race report from Bartlett:

The start was good, of the top ten call-ups there were only 3 or 4 (including Dave Cushman) so Jake and I were second row. The start was a long left leaning straight but then going into a hard right turn, when the whistle went I stayed to the left and was in a good position going through the first turn. I could see Cushman and Bryan Lee (Pony Shop) ahead of me and a couple of others. After the first set of barriers I was maybe top five. On the flats and straightaways I was getting passed right and left, Ben from xXx, Pegasus, Tati and then Jake flies by me. Coming out of the first woods section I got passed by two more and that was pretty much it for the rest of the race holding steady at 15th. Eventually I get caught by two more, but hang on to their wheels. Near the end of the 3rd lap before the climb I started psyching myself up for a strong finish (thinking back to the Supermax test) and passed the two guys I was tailing in the turns before the climb and started my sprint on the long straight going into the climb. I make it through the yelling and screaming of the crowd on the hill and make the last couple of turns, legs burning and cross the finish line to Jason Knauff?? ca-CA ca-CA’ing into the microphone.

Good times. Congratulations to Jake on his win!

JPC

Thanks to Mike from xXx for posting these pics on flickr. Some great one’s of Ben taking some hand-ups on the hill here.

Here’s Jake on his way to taking the win.

Here’s me, suffering, I didn’t even see the money.

Coasting is for sissies!

Chicago ‘Cross Cup: Dekalb 10/4/09 4b

So, on lap two I was picking off the last people I was going to get for the race while trying to hold off the guy from Dog Fish. As I was heading through a tight section with a few trees and tight turns right before the start/finish line, this kid yells out to me: “NO COASTING!” and then “COASING IS FOR SISSIES!” That was funnier than me grabbing the entirety of that guy’s “equipment set” along with the dollar dangling from his zipper.

This guy was a total slut…I thought it was my good looks and my terminator like jawbones, but I later found out he liked John, too.

So, I finished 9th and I really, really like this sport. But then again, the weather was awesomely perfect.

I’ve heard ‘cross is like a reverse crit, a time trial, and a circus. I think people have gotten it pretty close to right.

The course was great, really a lot of fun to ride. Some parts were quite narrow and I can understand why some would complain about a bad start position ending your race early. Also, I can kinda understand about not being able to “safely” pass in enough places. However, I never really felt that—at all, actually. Except for the single track section passing was never a problem created by the course, only the rider.

The start was not as nutty as I thought it was going to be. I was thinking along the lines of a triathlon swim start. We line up, they start us off and we’re flying at the first turn. John is like way ahead of me by turn two, and I was thinking about going up there, but then waited…why? Probably because I don’t care all that much about a result at this point.

By turn 3 things were getting strung out and the leaders were well in front of me. I was still simply following the people in front of me rather than trying to get ahead of them. By the time we hit the tight technical hill just a few jittery racers had begun to annoy me. It was then that my competitive nature was rekindled and I began to actively try to get past people and make an effort to get to the front. However, getting to the front was not going to happen. The leaders were in view until we saw that tricky hill with 4 very off camber turns for the first time. Then once they went through a single track section behind a baseball diamond, the gap became impassible and it was over for anyone not in the lead group.

The barriers: my first time over was very, very ugly. I forgot what I was supposed to do—unclip the right, no left, wait right? Finally, I swung my leg around, unclipped, carried, jumped…set bike down and got on the damn thing one way or another…I passed the my last three people at the first set of barriers on the second lap and then it became an individual effort, and that I liked.

John and I played leap-frog in the second lap and we stayed closed enough to give each other shouts of encouragement at a few parts of the course. That was pretty cool.

Cross is fun. It was a blast to zip through the park. There was a little of nervousness because it was my first race, but honestly I can’t see myself getting too nervous again. It is a super cool atmosphere and ultimately, though you are racing against other people, it is really more of a challenge within yourself. I’m totally hooked cause I had a great time. But, honestly, it really sucked to go over the second set of barriers—what the hell was with the nasty shit smell in those woods? Seriously, it was awful!

Thanks for driving out there John, and thanks Chip for helping me out with my chain before the start!

Coasting is for sissies!

Chicago ‘Cross Cup: Dekalb 10/4/09 4b

So, on lap two I was picking off the last people I was going to get for the race while trying to hold off the guy from Dog Fish. As I was heading through a tight section with a few trees and tight turns right before the start/finish line, this kid yells out to me: “NO COASTING!” and then “COASING IS FOR SISSIES!” That was funnier than me grabbing the entirety of that guy’s “equipment set” along with the dollar dangling from his zipper.

This guy was a total slut…I thought it was my good looks and my terminator like jawbones, but I later found out he liked John, too.

So, I finished 9th and I really, really like this sport. But then again, the weather was awesomely perfect.

I’ve heard ‘cross is like a reverse crit, a time trial, and a circus. I think people have gotten it pretty close to right.

The course was great, really a lot of fun to ride. Some parts were quite narrow and I can understand why some would complain about a bad start position ending your race early. Also, I can kinda understand about not being able to “safely” pass in enough places. However, I never really felt that—at all, actually. Except for the single track section passing was never a problem created by the course, only the rider.

The start was not as nutty as I thought it was going to be. I was thinking along the lines of a triathlon swim start. We line up, they start us off and we’re flying at the first turn. John is like way ahead of me by turn two, and I was thinking about going up there, but then waited…why? Probably because I don’t care all that much about a result at this point.

By turn 3 things were getting strung out and the leaders were well in front of me. I was still simply following the people in front of me rather than trying to get ahead of them. By the time we hit the tight technical hill just a few jittery racers had begun to annoy me. It was then that my competitive nature was rekindled and I began to actively try to get past people and make an effort to get to the front. However, getting to the front was not going to happen. The leaders were in view until we saw that tricky hill with 4 very off camber turns for the first time. Then once they went through a single track section behind a baseball diamond, the gap became impassible and it was over for anyone not in the lead group.

The barriers: my first time over was very, very ugly. I forgot what I was supposed to do—unclip the right, no left, wait right? Finally, I swung my leg around, unclipped, carried, jumped…set bike down and got on the damn thing one way or another…I passed the my last three people at the first set of barriers on the second lap and then it became an individual effort, and that I liked.

John and I played leap-frog in the second lap and we stayed closed enough to give each other shouts of encouragement at a few parts of the course. That was pretty cool.

Cross is fun. It was a blast to zip through the park. There was a little of nervousness because it was my first race, but honestly I can’t see myself getting too nervous again. It is a super cool atmosphere and ultimately, though you are racing against other people, it is really more of a challenge within yourself. I’m totally hooked cause I had a great time. But, honestly, it really sucked to go over the second set of barriers—what the hell was with the nasty shit smell in those woods? Seriously, it was awful!

Thanks for driving out there John, and thanks Chip for helping me out with my chain before the start!

Jackson Park CX Race Report

A couple of Spidermonkeys and RVB’ers raced at the Chicago Cross Cup’s first race of the season down at Jackson Park sponsored by xXx racing. Great day, great racing! Here’s Katie Isermann’s race report via email:

Hey Spidermonkeys!
So I did my first cyclocross race yesterday at Jackson park (thanks Lynn for coming and cheering me on!) and had a great time! It was so much fun! I had a slow start and had to run through the sand pit/baseball diamond on the first lap because the women in front of me were riding too slow through the dirt. I was able to pass a couple of them on foot. Once I got back on my bike and went around a turn, I almost wiped out because I used my back brake more than my front brake, this was also when I realized my front brakes wer
e rubbing. I then stayed behind a couple women into the winding turns around some bushes and trees and once the course straighted out I was able to pass them. I then rode with Jannette Rho for a lap or two and we passed a couple rides together. I lost her a little before the beginning of the last lap and was riding alone for a while but I felt strong and caught one ride nearing the end of the final lap.
I was passing women the whole race and had way too much energy at the end! I finished in the middle of the group of 27 women and was really happy with my first race. I can’t wait to do it again in a few weeks! I borrowed a bike and am ready to get my own cross bike!
Katie

Here’s my race report:
Jackson Park was also my first cyclocross race ever, it was great! I raced the men’s 4b race at 3 pm. Alex Tweedie, Dave Cushman and Matt (last name?) were also riding that day and were sporting their RVB kits. We pre-rode the course at 2 pm before the men’s 4a race and got a good feel for the twists and turns of the relatively technical course. Unfortunately, I didn’t get to practice on the barriers so that added a little to my mounting nervousness. At the start I lined up as close as I could to the front, but only managed 3rd row, out of 76 people though, maybe that wasn’t too bad. Dave Cushman was right on the line (lucky bastard) and after the start he said he was the 2nd person to hit the sand section. I was not so lucky, I ended up somewhere that seemed like 30th spot and 3 guys fell in front of me (and everyone else) right before the sand section, I was able to pick a line through them while others road right over them. Thus ensued about 30 minutes of max heart rate effort, at one point I looked down and saw 200 on my heart rate monitor, uh-oh. I was slowly picking off people in the turns (I think my mountain biking skills really helped on this course) and even on the two barrier sections. As nervous as I was before the race about the whole mounting and dismounting, I didn’t even have time to be nervous while racing, you just did it. Jump off the bike, jump over the barrier, jump back on the bike. Pedal, pedal, pedal. Repeat. By the 2nd or 3rd lap, things were pretty strung out, I couldn’t really tell who was in front of me and I knew there was a group behind me, but I was able to keep some distance from them. I ended up finishing in 15th place. Cushman was in front of me (I didn’t even see him after the start) and he got 9th! Alex and Matt finished just a little further behind me.
Lessons learned:
– Start position is key.
– CX races start with a sprint.
– Bike handling and proper cornering technique really help maintain momentum and lower energy usage.
– Constantly scan ahead to determine gearing (i.e. if in a corner heading onto pavement, shift while in the corner and get out of the saddle once you hit the pavement).
– Pass strategically (i.e. if in a twisty section start the pass on the outside while accelerating and squeeze on the inside on the next turn).
– CX is a blast!
Thanks to xXx racing for hosting, great race!
JPC

Great pic of Katie at the link below:
http://www.flickr.com/photos/soupy371/3943348714/in/set-72157622429089554/

Dave taking the barriers like a pro!

Alex mid barrier, looking good!

Yes, that’s me, suffering. Thanks to Chris Strahm for taking the pictures!

Also some great pics at: http://www.flickr.com/photos/neverdrownout/sets/72157622296884149/

Cyclocross Clinic, Sunday, 9/6, 1 PM, Lincoln Park South Pond

Hey Everyone,

Dave Cushman, myself and some others are giving a clinic this coming Sunday at 1 PM. Location is near the Lincoln Park South Pond, between the pond and the softball fields. Even if you’re not interested at all, come out, bring some beer and hang out. If you know anyone that may be interested, forward this on.

Thanks and hope to see you Sunday!
JPC

p.s. Don’t forget to check the Chicago Cross Cup’s site for schedule, online registration, etc http://chicrosscup.com/

Cyclocross Clinic, Sunday, 9/6, 1 PM, Lincoln Park South Pond

Hey Everyone,

Dave Cushman, myself and some others are giving a clinic this coming Sunday at 1 PM. Location is near the Lincoln Park South Pond, between the pond and the softball fields. Even if you’re not interested at all, come out, bring some beer and hang out. If you know anyone that may be interested, forward this on.

Thanks and hope to see you Sunday!
JPC

p.s. Don’t forget to check the Chicago Cross Cup’s site for schedule, online registration, etc http://chicrosscup.com/

Lil V’s Chicago Crit ladie’s Cat 4 race report


So it was great to be racing this Sunday with a huge cheering section and a friend out on the course with me. Katie and I planned on sticking together this race but I kept finding myself in the very back of the pack. The first few laps I don’t remember much. I kept trying to find Katie and stay near her so I had someone I knew around. However, I am really still getting a feel for racing and this was the biggest field I had been in. So mostly i was just trying to stay upright and get comfortable. But the speed wasn’t anything that I couldn’t handle. Any time I started to feel tired I would just get so excited by everyone cheering me on that I wouldn’t slow down. John Lyon was even there on the back side of the course to cheer me on that side! Having all that support is so great.

After the first 10 minutes or so I was comfortable and moved toward the front of the pack as much as possible. I was feeling really good. My thoughts went from “don’t get dropped and don’t crash” to “Hey, Let’s see how good I can do!”. But then right on turn four on the second to last lap there was a crash right in front of me that I narrowly avoided. I have no idea how it happened but I remember thinking “well I think I’m going down but I hope I don’t.” I swerved over to the left of the downed riders just in time and sped to get back with the main field.

At that point I couldn’t find Katie and was worried that she had been involved in the crash but was pretty sure she hadn’t. It was the last lap and I felt pretty good, so i started moving to the front because I remember someone saying that you if you could make it into the front for the last “hill” you had a good chance of making the top 5. I felt great and was right up near the front until turn 3 when a woman came a little to close to me in turn three and I braked just enough to lose momentum going up the last “hill”. I lost contact with the group at that point and was totally bummed. HOWEVER, it was a really fun race and great to have someone I knew in the group. But the most awesomest part was hearing my name and GO LIL V more than anything else!

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