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Spidermonkey Spotlight – Monica Freiband

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

First bike

First bike

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

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

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

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

First race!

First race!

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

Monsters at the Midway 2015

Monsters at the Midway 2015

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

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

First WIN!

First WIN!

Snake Alley, my favorite race!

Snake Alley, my favorite race!

 

Spidermonkey Spotlight – Brandon Hall

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

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

Bike and Build

Bike and Build

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

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

Trying out a crit race

Trying out a crit race

Pastries!

Pastries!

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

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

I <3 CX

I <3 CX

Leadville Stage Race

Leadville Stage Race

Grumpy Grind

Grumpy Grind

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

 

Spidermonkey Spotlight – Carin Nelson

Ice cream rides with friends are some of the best rides!

Ice cream rides with friends are some of the best rides!

It wasn’t until well into (alleged) adulthood that I really discovered the joy of riding.

Sure, I rode bikes here and there as a kid – I have vague memories of a Strawberry Shortcake two-wheeler with training wheels that was probably what I learned to ride on, and then there was that time at my grandma’s when I was playing bikes with my cousins, fell on the gravel road and needed stitches in my one knee (which I still have a scar from) – but growing up in the country living on what was essentially a highway didn’t afford me the same opportunities to develop a relationship with bikes as the kids who lived on quieter streets or in town.  As a competitive swimmer, I spent most of my time in the pool anyway so I’m not sure I knew what I was missing.

Fast forward to my post-college years where, like many young Chicagoans who are semi-athletically inclined, I thought running the Chicago Marathon would be a good idea.  Numerous times on training runs, the conversation would bring about the fact that I had been a swimmer, and the question that would usually follow was “Why aren’t you doing triathlons? As a swimmer you’d have a really good foundation for it…” My response?  “Well, yeah… but there’s this whole biking element that I’m not too sure about…”

Yes. The bike was the leg that kept me from even considering doing a triathlon.  I didn’t own a bike and it just seemed like a big (expensive) commitment.

I ended up not running the Chicago marathon on account of a fractured tibia, but the thought of maybe doing a triathlon stuck with me.  Over a dinner conversation one night, I met a new girlfriend who had just done her first triathlon.   She also had a swimming background and had bought a bike in order to do a triathlon and had had a ton of fun… and convinced me to give it a shot.  Not long after, off to the LBS we went.  With her as my “guide,” I checked out an entry level road bike (and had to ask how to shift gears before I took it for a test ride!).  It was ok, but $600 seemed like a lot of money for a bike. (Oh what little did I know…)

I ended up getting an entry level Giant from Johnny Sprockets.  While taking it for my first spin down the LFP, I remember my thoughts alternating between “Whee!!” and “OMG, this is great!” and “This is so much better than running – look at how much more stuff you can see!” How had I not done this before??

After completing a triathlon or two and starting to try to figure out options for riding routes other than the lakefront path, Wendy (yes, our Wendy!) and I met at random (that’s a fun story on its own) and started riding together.  She was new to Chicago and I was new to riding so we started exploring together.  She’s already recapped the day we learned about SMC so I won’t rehash…  but a few weeks after that fateful day, she explained the basics of “riding a wheel” to me, and we showed up for what was my first group ride.  Echos of the thoughts from my first ride danced in my head again in concert with Rox’s encouragements being shouted from behind me – “don’t let that gap open up! Hang in there – you can do it!”).   SO. MUCH. FUN.  I was hooked then and there and it turned out that this was just the start of a progression of firsts and various milestones… (and yes, it turned out that the sales guy was right!)

I rode regularly that first summer and the next…  Pedals, shoes and wheels all got slowly upgraded…  I put many more miles on that first bike that it was intended for and the shifters gave out…  Ken was able to track down replacements for me to keep it rideable but I started shopping for a new bike…  When I finally settled on one, it was a major upgrade.  On a whim I jumped into the beginner crits hosted by Half Acre that spring… a one-day racing license was quickly upgraded…  I won a prime, and just a few weeks later found myself unexpectedly on a podium… this racing thing was FUN!!!

I officially announced my retirement from triathlon following the Tour of Galena last year (without a doubt, the crit that weekend was THE. MOST. FUN. I HAVE HAD IN MY ENTIRE LIFE – you can read all about it here) because why bother with triathlons when I don’t really enjoy swimming or running and can just ride my bike??  Duh.

I’ve since added a third bike (cross) to my stable and hope to be spending some quality time on it this fall.  I’m sure it won’t be the last (N+1 right? J).  Looking back, I don’t think I could have even imagined how much I would learn and experience in just a few short years – or that I would go from someone who had to ask how to shift a bike to someone is approached by co-workers for advice on buying a bike.  I also can’t believe that I had no idea that such an awesome community of people existed and am so glad that the Spidermonkeys adopted me as a part of the group.  The support and camaraderie are like nothing I’ve ever experienced – like many, I feel like I “found my people” and I look forward to many, many more miles of smiles!!

Yay bikes!!!

 

My first “real” bike

My first “real” bike

First week of racing and first prime! (and my new road bike)

First week of racing and first prime! (and my new road bike)

 

 

 

Spidermonkey Spotlight – Andy Schumacher

sandy twizz

Sandy Twizzler Photo by Jayloo

by Andy Schumacher

Traffic is what got me into cycling and Fireball got me to be a Spidermonkey. There’s not much else to know but I’ll back up a bit.

Like most kids, I biked a lot as a kid until I was 15. Then there was a brief cycling hiatus until I was about 30 when I moved to Chicago. I was previously living in the metro Detroit area where I got everywhere by car and I had no problem with it. I even worked for Toyota as a design engineer.

Moving to Chicago completely changed my perspective on cars. Stop-and-go traffic and searching for 20 to 30 minutes for parking were now part of everyday life and I was pissed off every time I got into the car. Within a few months, I got a commuter bike and instantly felt free again. I was no longer subject to traffic and was only limited by how fast my legs could pedal. I wanted to go faster so I bought a road bike and I loved it.

Taiwan Post Ride Recovery

A couple years after moving to Chicago, I joined SRAM as a design engineer. It’s been an amazing place to work and has taught me a lot about cycling culture. SRAM group rides were great but I didn’t have the experience of the other riders so I felt a bit out of place. I started doing some Saturday group rides with different clubs and found a good fit with the ‘Monkeys. They’re great people with different cycling backgrounds and are all very welcoming. Maybe more importantly, they like to have fun and that’s something I really appreciate. Some of the best friendships are forged over a bottle of Fireball, and Spidermonkeys drink a lot of bottles of Fireball. For the record, I don’t like Fireball but very few people will turn it down when offered. Fun fact – Did you know that you can put anything you want into a coffee cup and drink it in public? Sorry, I’m getting distracted.

andy cross

Speaking of drinking, did I mention I love cyclocross?!? There’s something special about the combination of mud, pain, heckling, and having a 10 year old stuff cookies into your jersey pocket after you faceplant in the sand that makes for an awesome experience. One of these days, I hope to learn how to bunny hop correctly.

Weightlifting

Andy getting swoll

Andy just hanging out

Andy just hanging out

I have always enjoyed staying active and trying new activities. Last year, I started working out at Goose Island Crossfit during the off-season. I was hooked pretty quickly by the great coaching and I still work out there regularly – unfortunately, sometimes at the expense of riding. I’m still working on balancing activities but it has also gotten me to try some other new things like trapeze and Olympic weightlifting. I love trying new activities and look forward to a new challenge, but I really look forward to doing a lot more Spidermonkey group rides this year… and maybe sharing a High Life or three with the team at PK’s.

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.

ToAD_Day3

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.

ToAD_Day3

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!

 

  

Spidermonkey Spotlight – Kylene Canham

I met the Spidermonkey’s on OkCupid. Well, kind of. But, truly, my experience with riding bikes has been all about relationships and this one started out as love at, well, second sight. The truth is, on the first date I swore I would NEVER ride a century. I mean, after all it is 100 miles on a bike and who wants to do that?! You have to understand that unlike many of you, I wasn’t born on a bike. See me here with my little sis? I’m 6 years old and still enjoying training wheels.

Me and my Lil sis

Me and my Lil sis

Not to worry; that same day they came off. It was awesome. I remember crashing into the grass right past that tree shortly after that picture was taken – my dad still running behind me. Sweet.

Pre-crash

Pre-crash

I’ve come a long way since that day and it’s been a great ride (pun intended). In 2013 Stewart Chapman made my Michigan weekend by allowing me to borrow my first big kids road bike!

Official owner of a big kids bike!

Official owner of a big kids bike! Thanks SC!

Later, she actually let my buy it. So, that pretty Red Bianchi became my first. And that’s when I knew this relationship was more fun and was going to last longer than the one I had with running. Hooked.

So I started riding. And then riding more. Getting to know the people I already knew better and getting to meet new people too. Oh, and loving it! So when the time came to get a little more committed I was excited! I completed my first Bike the Drive and felt great! Maybe I WOULD take on some more challenges!

Bike the Drive

Bike the Drive

In 2015, It happened. I joined the team. An official Spidermonkey! Got a kit, hit up VQ and learned how to group ride baby! I was lucky to have a ton of support along the way, especially from this guy. Thanks, D.

Getting dropped often, but still having a blast. Oh, and the thing I swore I’d NEVER do, I did. I won’t lie to you and say it was the best time of my life, but I did it! 100 miles, Done!

And then there was Vegas Spidermonkey style, and my first crash – wait, what, we have to shift here? Huh? Always learning and still loving it. Flats in the rain, chain needs lubed – no problem. I was taught that. Recently, I’ve gotten to know some of this team even better and I have to say – what an exciting, eclectic, smart, kind, fun and supportive group of people.

Vegas Baby!

Vegas Baby!

I’m not going to be someone I’m not and this team accepts that. I’m a jack of all trades and a master of a few. I love the bike, but I also love art and motorcycles and traveling, climbing and the occasional bar run, and so much more. It’s great because this team pushes me in just the right ways, and I’m still growing and loving every minute! Ca Caaaawwww!

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Climbing Monkey’s

FullSizeRender (3)

 

 

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

IMG_2920
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.

IMG_2928

Ashely attacked with about 5 laps to go, and it was really strong. As she got sucked back into the group, I countered, but barely. I was tired and I decided that I wanted to save something for the sprint finish. Then, out of nowhere, Carin attacked with 3 to go. She held it for at least a half lap, as we came across the start/finish, I saw 2 to go. I wanted to counter attack, but knew that would be the end for me. So Erin (the 4x Ironwoman) got out toward the front. She’s clearly strong, but is also new to racing and hasn’t done many crits at all. So, I let her stay out there; the ISCorp junior was right on her.

As we started the final lap, we were strung out. The ISCorp junior went for it with half a lap to go. I was too far back to go with her, so I sat about 4th wheel through turn 3, accelerated over the cobbles through turn 4. I came out of the final turn probably 3rd wheel. I swung far to the left as I got out of the saddle in my drops and sprinted with every ounce of my being. I nearly saw blood in my eyes, but I could feel everything falling into place. I was gaining ground very quickly. Another rider (Rachel) was just on my right, we touched hands, but I kept my focus on winning the field sprint. I wanted it so badly (which would mean 2nd place for me). I outsprinted the field, and knew I locked up 2nd, if not first (couldn’t remember if the ISCorp junior was registered as a junior or a cat4). I took a few cool down laps, had some friends there from xXx that came over to congratulate me, as well as some teammates parents/families. I was proud of Ashley and my teammates for attacking and having 2-3 solid days of racing. I was also really proud of myself for being more conservative, reading the race well, knowing where to be and when, and saving my efforts for that last sprint. I’ve been putting a lot into my sprints on the trainer, and on group rides, and it most definitely paid off in this race. In checking the overall omnium results, I was surprised to see I placed 7th (and that was without the TT on Friday). I’m so close to that top step I can taste it…hoping for that place next weekend at Elgin!

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La Crosse Road Race 2016

La Crosse Road Race, Women’s 4
by Monica Freiband

rr
At the beginning of every race, officials break down rules for the day. I hate to admit that this has become slightly like the airline safety procedure where I tend to zone out. While previously this has not been an issue, the day of the Lacrosse road race proved different.

The neutral roll out was filled with chatter from cat 4 women who were attempting to stay warm on a cold morning. We started up the main road, and the official blew the whistle. Everyone began to fight for the perfect spot out of the strong head wind. We got settled and I found my comfy 3rd wheel spot. Not one minute later, the wheel I so comfily sat behind, had a mechanical.

As a beginner racer, I am still figuring out the “expect the unexpected” mentality, as I am focused on not getting dropped. As I watched the wheel in front of me come to a halt and the pedals on the bike stop turning, I had to think quickly. Do I attempt to go right, and risk getting to close to the woman next to me? Do I hit the brakes and hope the woman behind me does the same? Or do I go left and cross the yellow line?

I chose to go to the left, cross the yellow line, and go around the stalled bike in front of me. Not 5 seconds later, I heard a whistle.

The official rode up next to me on his moto and pulled me out of the pack. I was told I crossed the yellow line and that was means for disqualification. I began to argue, and tried to explain the situation. The official was less than pleased with me, using the “if that line were a ditch would you still have gone to the left?” argument.

I watched the pack get farther and farther from me, and felt the headwind get stronger and stronger as I became completely exposed. After arguing, I was told I could attempt to chase the pack (now having about a minute gap).

Not even one mile into the 27.3 mile race, I had been dropped off the back, and it didn’t take long to realize I would be riding the race solo. My blood was boiling, I was determined to catch the pack, but I just couldn’t close such a large gap by myself. My legs bonked after lap one, my torn meniscus in my knee began to swell, and admittedly I thought about just hopping in the next car I saw drive by and giving in. But I came around the last corner to hear my wonderful teammates cheering me on, and through the pain and tears (yes, there were tears), I rode through the finish.

It was not one of my finest races, both in how I finished and the way I handled myself. I was in my own head, I was angry and hurting, and I let it get the best of me. However, I did it, I finished, and it became a great learning experience for me: when your mind gives up, keep going, and ALWAYS follow the yellow line rule.

Spidermonkey Spotlight – Vincent Calabro

Spidermonkey Spotlight – Vincent Calabro

Who is Vincent? Is he that guy that lives with Brandon? I thought Corbin lived with Brandon? What do you mean there are three people on the team who work with John Castro? Should we test JPC?

Vincent is the Spidermonkey formerly known as Brandon’s roommate.

JPC BH and VC

JPC, BHall and Vincent at the MS Ride

Ok I’m more than just Brandon’s former roommate and John’s co-worker, so here is my tale told through six bikes:

The Bright Red Raleigh:
I grew up on the fringes of Cleveland with two brothers. The first bike I remember having was a bright red Raleigh. My brothers and I spent countless hours riding bikes in circles on our driveway. When this got boring we played a form of dodgeball on bikes but instead of inflated balls we’d chuck buckeyes at the person whose turn it was to ride the gauntlet. Near the end of the summer, when the weeds next to our house were tall enough, we’d venture out with golf clubs to carve out what amounted to a kid’s version of a cyclocross course. We’d create winding paths with obstacles along the way. The most treacherous was a 1’x1’ pit with broken glass that we placed a board over. Oh the joys of unsupervised childhood.

The Mongoose:
When I was in my early teens I got a Mongoose BMX bike. The Mongoose is notable for only two reasons:

1 – I won it from a raffle at the local Dick’s Sporting Goods.
2 – I thought I was hot shit on that bike.

Therefore in an attempt to impress the girls who lived in my cul de sac I rode the bike as fast as I could down my hilly driveway and leaned to turn onto the street. Sadly the Mongoose had other plans. The tires gave out and I slid across the street. Road rash clearly got all the ladies knocking at my door.

Helmet Test

Helmet Test

Clueless

Clueless

The Bianchi:
When I was 20 years old I worked as an intern in New York City. I was young, poor and wanted to soak up every bit of the city. I determined to take the little money I saved and to buy a bike rather than a monthly Metrocard. This is when I discovered the LBS. I visited them all and I wanted all the bikes (I still do). In a hipster bike shop in the Meatpacking District I met my first love, the Bianchi Pista. It sang soulful opera to my Italian roots. I only realized after walking out to the streets of Manhattan that I had no idea what a track bike was or why my new bike didn’t have any breaks. But as John Castro always tells me, you ride what you have. I rode that bike everyday to work, rain or shine. Nights and weekends were spent sprinting through Time Square and through Central Park. I even rode it on some longer rides like the 5 Boro Ride and Montauk Century. That bike carried me through New York, Philadelphia, New Haven and now daily on the streets of Chicago.

The Allez:
So much hope! So much promise! Then it got stolen out of my basement in Philadelphia. Renter’s insurance is great, but I didn’t have it.

The Surly:
In 2009 I got accepted into graduate school for architecture. As a last hurrah, two of my friends and I decided to do a bike camp from Seattle to San Francisco, and thus the purchase of the Surly. The first three days of our trip, it just poured. If you ever want to learn about the kindness of people, show up soaking wet with all your stuff strapped to your bike. But as soon as we hit the coast it was some of the most beautiful riding and camping.

Gravel and bike camping on the Surly!

Gravel and bike camping on the Surly!

The Fuji:
This is the bike most of you have seen me on. I got this bike during a summer in graduate school. It had one great summer of riding and then sat longing to be ridden. Years passed and I moved from New Haven to San Francisco and finally to Chicago. That’s when I met John Castro. He brought me out to my first Saturday ride and from there I was hooked. I feel so lucky to be able to ride with a team full of such welcoming, friendly, funny and talented riders. The occasional free beer also helps.

Sadly in June I’m relocating to San Francisco with The Minjy (not a bike, a person, specifically my girlfriend). Other bikes might might come and go in my life but I’ll always be a Spidermonkey. Soon Spidermonkey Orange will grace the climbs of Marin County.

P.S.this is an open invitation to join me any time you’re out that way.

To quote the great Cal Naughton Jr. : “we go together like cocaine and waffles”

Vincent and Trenta MTB'ing

Vincent and Trenta MTB’ing

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