It’s been ten years (already!). Here we relive some of our 2017 moments:
We celebrate nine seasons this year; have a look at our ninth:
Thanks to teammate Paul Decker for taking heaps of photos. If you are interested in obtaining a full-res version for your personal use, all Paul asks is to make a donation to our Bike MS fundraising page to help the fight against MS.
Spidermonkey Cycling invites all teams to compete for donor rings and bragging rights – and an exclusive party at SRAM – by raising the most money as a team by December 6’s state championships to build the park at Big Marsh.
Growing up I must have enjoyed riding my bike a lot because I still remember the bikes I had. My favorite bike of them all was a Huffy (nothing fancy, just a kid’s bike) with a neon green and purple paint job.
I still can remember barreling down the hill on my street with the wind whistling past my ears, then slamming on reverse pedal brake (if that’s the correct term) to peel-out as I arrived at my driveway just to see how far I could go. Not too far, maybe 2-feet…
Needless to say the excitement of biking wore off in middle school and completely vanished in high school. Soccer was a big part of that. I have played soccer since I was 6 and really haven’t stopped. I got the opportunity to play soccer at a small college in Kentucky, which was one of the best experiences of my life. This was partially due to the lifelong friends I met on the team. College soccer only lasted a year and, long story short, I moved to Louisville, KY to continue my studies at the University of Louisville.
Here I met the single reason I came to Chicago, my most amazing girlfriend Alina. We met during her senior year, my junior year, in the civil engineering program. It’s weird, right? Two engi-nerds. She pushed me to become more competitive outside of team sports. We started running together, because that’s what she did for fun, and well, it kept me in shape for soccer. Running short races led to running longer races (half-marathons), then to triathlons, which became a passion of mine for a short while.Getting into triathlons required me to get a new bike, my first road bike to be exact. It was a KHS Flite 300, the same bike I still do my road biking on today. I remember the first day I got on the new bike, I was so shocked at how squirrelly the damn thing was. To my surprise, it didn’t take too long to tame the wild steed. This became my mode of transportation to and from school on good weather days.
A year later Alina graduated and moved to Chicago. The following year, 2011, I followed once I finished my degree (seems how it works for most guys). I already knew the long distance thing sucked!Moving to Chicago with no friends, I initially spent a lot of time at work or doing my own thing (i.e., lifting weights or swimming). Alina introduced me to some of her running friends including Brian Feyereisen who became a good friend and cycling buddy.
In the summer of 2012, Brian and I started checking out Chicago cycling teams. The first team we rode with was super intense and not really my cup of tea. A couple weeks later Brian suggested that we check out the Spidermonkey’s because Megan Kuzydum (now Megan Feyereisen) had so many great things to say about them.
Needless to say that’s how it all started…….I started riding with the Spidermonkey’s and after about three weeks or so, decided to take the plunge and become an official member. I felt that this team was the perfect match for my personality (fun, accepting, social, and driven) and I knew after joining the team things would only get better.
Anxious to start the 2013 season, I was hoping to bike 2,000 miles and try out cyclocross. I started chiseling the mileage off at our first ride of the year in March and tried to stay consistent. I went to Spidermonkey Training Camp in Galina, IL where I met a lot of new people on our team, and was able to find myself as a cyclist. In Kentucky the rolling hills never ended and I thought Galina hills would be just like good ol’ Kentucky hills. Boy was I wrong. The hills were RIDICULOUS. I remember two full days of having to pull every last once of energy to attempt to keep up with the team and summit each hill. As I look back on it, it was one of the best things I could have done to become a stronger rider.
In keeping up with my goals, I found a cyclocross bike through craigslist while visiting friends in Lafayette, IN. It didn’t take long to join the cyclocross practices and sign up for my first race partnered with Lindsey for the co-ed and Nate for the men’s race relay. With the first race I was hooked. I signed up for the race at Dan Ryan Woods and placed 12th in the 4/5’s race.Next was the two-day race in Indian Hills and a weekend in the suburbs with the team. Saturday’s race went great as we tackled mud, wind, and rain and I came in 19th place. Sadly, a huge storm rolled through Sunday morning and all races were cancelled so I signed up for the Racin’ Basin in Melas, IL to make up for it. I finished the season at Montrose in the snowy cold. Or so I thought.
A friend talked me into one final, non-CCC race at Douglass Park, the After-Glow. This race was a true cyclocross event and we finished completely caked in mud. The mud made the course very slippery and challenging, but I managed to grab a few fire ball shots (hand-ups) along the way to keep my spirits up. To say the least, it’s been a great season and a great couple of years with the Monkeys and I can’t wait to get riding again!
Spidermonkey Cycling presents – Cracking the Code: Tim Johnson’s Cyclocross Secrets
Saturday, August 24
Chicago (exact location coming soon)
Learn intermediate and advanced skills from 3-time cyclocross national champion and last year’s top American at the World Championships Tim Johnson. With curriculum designed by USAC coach and former pro Pete Webber there will be two tracks: a 3-hour version for those newer to racing (i.e. Cat. 4 at least one year) and an all-day more advanced clinic working on things such as high-speed cornering and bike handling.
Both tracks will include sweet schwag bags and giveaways as well as drinks. All-day clinic also includes lunch. And this being a Spidermonkey event there is a strong possibility of cracking open a 312 with TJ at the end of the day. Each track is capped at 30 participants so sign-up sooner rather than later.
More information and registration.
(Rumor has it that the two are considering racing a certain Relay Cross the next day.)
by Mark Zalewski
Kenosha Food Folks & Spokes
The Kenosha venue is one of my favorite criterium courses I have done over the years. It was part of a now defunct series and fortunately the Prairie State series picked it up and it continues on.
It is a rectangle with wide turns beginning with a sweeping turn one, followed quickly by a 90 degree turn two. A mini chicane half-way down the back stretch keeps it a little interesting before 90 degree turns three and four, and a 150 meter sprint to the finish.
Having recently raced the Tour of America’s Dairyland series somewhat successfully in the Master’s 3/4 category, I decided that would be a good category for this series. Rolling around on the course before the race I met-up with fellow Chicagoan Eric Goodwin (Burnham Racing) who was also playing hooky from work on a Friday.
The race itself went surprisingly smooth, due in part to being a majority of Cat 3s. In past races the sweeping first turn lulls some riders into a false sense of security for turn two, which is tighter and has a deep dip in the apex. I once ended up in the front yard of some nice lady because someone else didn’t remember this fact.
The first third of the race was pretty fast with solo attacks going but not succeeding. After going for a prime I found myself in a group of five off the front with a small gap. I tried to motivate them to keep it rolling but some were not interested and the group quickly caught up. Guess I better work on my sales skills.
One team had a numbers advantage and one of their riders sat on the front of the group, patroling any move and seemingly trying to set-up his guys. I was on his wheel for two laps and asked him if any of his teammates were going to actually try anything — to which he just shook his head in frustration. What a waste.
Getting into the final laps there were a few more attacks. I even tried one with four to go, mostly out of frustration that we were riding slow slowly behind that one team. It lasted a whole quarter lap.
Into the final lap I had a feeling someone was going to go down, and I thought it would be turn three as everyone would be so focused on getting through turn two safely they would try to move up through three. I thought about going on the outside to do this but decided to sacrifice placings to stay inside. It was a good choice as sure enough the riders to my outside lost it into the curb.
From there it was around turn four and to the finish for a decent 18th with all skin intact. Mr. Goodwin took a nice podium spot.
Tour de Crystal Lake
I’ll spare you my diatribe on races, especially criteriums, that use the name “Tour duh…”
Being a Sunday race the schedule started earlier, meaning I could not make the Master’s 3/4 race. So what to do? Oh, I know, I’ll race the Master’s 1/2/3 race — couldn’t be that much different, right? RIGHT?
It was a nice looking course, though the turns seemed awfully narrow. PJ and some others who raced earlier in the day said it was messy. Fortunately, my newly chosen category meant there wouldn’t be any Cat 4s. Unfortunately it also meant there would be more than a few Cat 1s. As it turned out it was equal parts Cat 1s, 2s and 3s.
In one word, faster.
Oh, and longer as it was 70 minutes instead of 50.
The good part about going faster is that we were mostly single file through the turns and at higher speed, which meant it was much safer. The bad part is that you have to pedal much, much harder to keep up.
The first 20 minutes were great — staying near the front and not having to brake much at all. The second 20 minutes were okay — floating around in the middle and generally picking good lines and riders to follow. Some times moving up to find a better spot but trying not to waste energy.
The third 20 minutes were a little rougher. Started moving to the back, resulting in braking more into turns and then having to jump out of them. The pack started playing around so the speeds fluctuated much more, from near standstill to full gas.
Teachable moment time:
On one lap late in the race, when I was getting cross-eyed, I changed hand positions from my usual on the brake hoods to the drops, heading into the downhill turn. I don’t know why I did it — don’t really remember doing it. BUT it resulted in a slight but important change in my center of gravity. As such leaning into the turn was more extreme than previous laps. As the speeds were high we were all pedaling through the turns and this caused me to clip my pedal in the apex. ROOKIE move! Luckily I was near the back and only freaked out a few riders as my rear wheel kicked up into the air and went sideways. (Must have been the safety clinic the day before that saved me.)
After this I knew that it was just a matter of time before I would be gassed. I told the tailgunner* behind me that I would be deploying the parachute sometime soon, and he thanked me for the warning. (Turns out he was totally punching tickets** — he got third.)
With 10 laps to go, about 60 minutes in, an acceleration on the uphill did me in. But I was happy to have lasted that long at those speeds. And I’ll be ready to roll for the cat 3/4 races the rest of the series.
* tailgunner – noun
A rider who rides in last position for most of a race. Most often someone very capable of riding on the front but chooses to coast (sandbag) on the back until the very end.
* punching tickets – verb
The tailgunner’s action, figuratively taking everyone’s ticket for completing the lap. Refrences his ability to ride the back by choice and not by lack of form.
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