Author: kelly (page 3 of 4)

Keirin State Champ Races

Keirin State Championship
Northbrook Velodrome
Thursday, August 8th, 2013
by: Kelly Clarke

Last night, I drove out to the Northbrook Velodrome with new teammate, Nate Miller, to try some racing on the track. Thursday night racing goes from 6:45PM-10pm, and you usually get to race 3-4 times.

Belgian Win And Out
The race: There’s a neutral lap, then you start. When they ring the bell, the next person to cross the finish line gets fifth place and is done racing. Then the next lap, the first person to cross the finish line gets fourth and they’re done, and so on. So you can kind of choose what place you want to go for, and if you wait too long, you might miss out on placing altogether.

My race: We had six Women 4s racing, so instead of 5 places, we only did 4. I decided to go for fourth, because all the ladies had more experience than me, and I’d rather get A place than nothing at all. So I kicked it up around turn two, but coming into turn three, a woman came around me fast. I sped up a little, but not much. Sooo, I decided to try for third. This time I waited a little longer to start the sprint. I went in the third turn and sprinted as hard as I could. I don’t think anyone contested, but I got it. Yay! My first track result where I am not DFL.

The race: Standing starts. You draw straws for placement on the track – One being closest to the center. Gun goes off as motorcycle comes around. You start and fight for position behind the moto. The moto paces you for a coule laps, slowly increasing the speed, and lets you off with 1.5 laps left.


The moto. Photo taken from ERVelo site.

My race: I drew 5th, so I was more to the outside of the track. Nate held my bike, because we had practiced it on Tuesday night. I am terrified of standing starts. I got some good tips at the Tuesday night practice, though, so I was a little more confident than usual.

Tips: Look ahead! Being in your drops is the sign you’re ready to go, so don’t get in your drops until you’re situated. If it’s a count down, on three get out of the saddle. Always start out of the saddle with pressure on the pedals. If you start with your weight back past the saddle and push forward, that can help, too. You pull up hard on the handlebars as you push down on your pedals.


Standing start. Photo by Rod.

Right before the gun went off I leaned to the left. My left shoe came unclipped. The gun went off and I couldn’t get my pedal in until the second turn. I was sitting in last place. One girl came up to the right of the group, so I snuck up behind her. It was a super fast pace and everyone jumped as the motorcycle pulled off. I was not ready for it. I ended up spending a lot of energy just to get back up near the group. I finished last, but it was a great experience. That race was fast!

Kristen Meshberg got second in her Kierin (first for IL residents, so she won the jersey). Nate Miller got fifth, after getting third in a preliminary heat. It was his first time on the podium!


3 Lap Scratch
The race: This was just 3 laps and done. No neutral lap, no points or other rules.

My race: I really just didn’t want to get last. My first time at the track, I got last in every event I did. We started, and I wanted to be conservative and stick on a wheel, because usually I just go out front and waste all my energy. I felt really unprepared on the first lap. On the second lap, after the first turn, I came from the back of the group and got on the front. Pretty quickly other gals were making moves and I was trying really hard just to hang on. Into the first corner on the bell lap I thought about giving up – there was a decent gap forming in front of me. But everyone slowed just before the third turn, so I started digging in and caught one girl at the finish. Fifth place. Not last.

Kristen got first. Nate got fifth (in a much larger field than mine).

Conclusion: I won $7. Nate and Kristen looked super strong, and it’s lots of fun watching them race. The Cuttin Crew Girls are all awesome. Everytime I go out to Northbrook I feel a little more comfortable. I still know that on sprints I am not going 100% all out, because I get scared about losing control on the track. But I am much better about getting out of my saddle, and watching for when the field is going to jump. Track is hard, and it can be frustrating, but you always learn a lot. And I think that will translate to other forms of racing. I look forward to getting more and more comfortable, so I can be aggessive in races, in a smart way.

Here’s a cool video Lucas made at a Monday Night clinic at this velodrome.

And here’s a report from Kristen’s National Track races this past weekend!!! (She did kind of awesome).

Venus de Miles


by Roxanne Overshiner Bowens

Venus de Miles Charity Ride Report



On Sunday, July 28 a brave group of Spidermonkey girls awoke at the crack of dawn, bundled up (because yes, it was barely 50 degrees!) to face the Venus de Miles charity ride!

The Charity
This is the second year for the VdM ride in Illinois. It originated in Colorado. The ride supports an organization called Greenhouse Scholars. Greenhouse Scholars provides comprehensive personal and financial support to high-performing, under-resourced college students. It’s a pretty cool thing. Some of the scholars were there and were sure to stop by to thank us and answer any questions we had about the program.

The Ride
It is a ladies only ride (unless you’re a dude willing to dress in drag and be bike support along the route – oh crap, that’s most of you dudes!) There were about 300 participants of all abilities. The ride started and ended in Fort Sheridan. There was a 25 or 64 mile route. I’m pretty sure you know which route we took. The route was super scenic – some of it going along the bike path, down wooded roads, over a crushed limestone path that followed a river, and via lots of non-potholey, somewhat hilly, paved roads. Some of it was even along our familiar Old School route! There were four rest stops along the way which we took full advantage of as they were stocked with yummy cookies and treats from Whole Foods.

Post Ride Treats!
Upon winning, dominating, crushing, finishing the ride, we parked our trusty bikes and proceeded to the post-ride festivities. And who do we see? Our loving and trusted Goose Island representative, Jason!


The ladies with Jason, Goose Island rep!

He ensured that our cups would be kept full of Sophie! (YUM!) and made sure we got a pair of styling Goose sunglasses. (I’ll be Kim is cursing herself for missing it now!) Lunch was a giant and delicious sandwich, cole slaw, and parmesan dusted chips.


Following lunch we took full advantage of the mani/pedis and facials.

Life is rough. Oh! And then we had ice cream from Jeni’s.

Thanks Lindsay for putting together our Team Spidermonkey! I know that next year there will be a lot more of us – and I certainly hope that some of our dudes will join us in their tutus, wigs and lipstick.


Prairie State Cycling Series

by Kristen Meshberg

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

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

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

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

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

Going against Sam Schneider for a Prime

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

TOAD Downer’s Classic

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

By Lauren Wissman


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

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

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

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

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

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

Bike MS: Cycling for a cause


by Michelle Moore

Hello Family and Friends!

Thank you to everyone that has texted, called, emailed, posted on Facebook, etc. to offer words of encouragement and to check in to make sure I made it through the weekend alive! This past weekend was one of the most incredible experiences of my life. Having come from a background of running and triathlon, this was my first endurance event in cycling. I knew I could do 100ish miles in one day because I have done it a few times before, but trying to do 150-175 miles over TWO days was something I was unsure I could do, but knew I wanted to try.


The start of the ride was delayed a few hours on Saturday due to bad weather. Thankfully this weather produced an overcast sky with some wind and light rain – which believe it or not – made for a manageable 100 miles on Day 1. The ride is completely supported, meaning there is a rest stop every 12-15 miles with plenty of nutrition, water, bathrooms, sunscreen, etc. I can only imagine what kind of site it was to see nearly 50 of us in orange/black cycling kits roll up on each aid station. Most people would cheer for us, and shout “we love the Spidermonkey’s” which was exciting and made me feel like somewhat of a celebrity. While we tried to ride as a group of 50 for most of the day, as the miles progressed, some legs got tired more quickly than others. There was a natural split in the group, and I ended up in a very enjoyable group of about 8 for the last 30ish miles of the day. By the time we rolled back to the finish area, I was MORE THAN ready to be off the bike and enjoy a cold beer and some food. I camped out with some of my teammates near the football stadium at NIU (in DeKalb IL) which turned out to be quite fun, yet provided very little sleep.


Day 2 was much more tough. The sun was shining, the wind was blowing hard and it was HOT. We took at team picture and then rolled out around 8:30am. It was a much harder ride due to the humidity, but the wind didn’t do us any favors either. It’s nice to be in the middle of a 50 person pack because it helps block the wind, but you also have to be very aware at all times so that when the group slows you don’t crash into the person in front of you. I was tired, and had some knee pain. It turns out that my seat had been a little too high up during the ride on day one, and I think I strained or pull the muscle behind my right knee. So, unfortunately that plagued me for most of the day. And, without offering up TMI (too much information), my undercarriage was pretty sore from 100 miles the day prior. Ouch!


We rode for 21 miles straight before we stopped. I knew at that first rest stop that I wasn’t going to make it the full 75 miles the group was planning on traveling. One group broke off and chose to do 35 miles, and I ended up with just three other teammates doing 50 miles. I was bummed to have to make that decision because I mentally had committed to 75. But, I also wanted to be smart about my knee, and let’s be honest, I wasn’t enjoying sitting on that bike seat so much after day 1 – if ya know what I mean :)

I rolled back to the finish area around 12:30pm, having clocked just over 50 miles for day 2. I was so happy to be finished, so thankful for some of my teammates that really helped me get through that ride, and so proud of what my team accomplished to fight MS!

Nearly 50 Spidermonkey’s came together to ride and raise money for this event. I’m thrilled to say that we exceeded our team goal of $40,000…and have raised over $44,500…and counting! Below is a picture of my entire team from Day 2. I’m sure by looking at this amazing group you can see why I had so much fun and why I love being a part of the cycling community with them. Personally, I have raised over $1,500. That’s because of you! If you know anyone that still wants to donate, please send them this link: Donations are being accepted through July 31.

I am so grateful for every dollar you’ve donated to help fight MS. Throughout this fundraising experience I learned of far more people that have a connection to this disease than I ever would have imagined. I am humbled at the amount I was able to raise in just a few short months, and hope that your loved ones will be free of this disease one day soon through donations like these. In the meantime, please know that each and every person you donated on behalf of crossed my mind over the course of 155 miles. And, I have a sore bum and sun burn to prove it! :) They are welcomed discomforts to mend, knowing that together we are all fighting for a greater cause.

Thank you!


Nature Valley Pro Chase


Nature Valley Pro Chase/Grand Prix race report
by Sarah Rice

I set my sights on Nature Valley as my season goal at the end of last season. It started on my 40th birthday. I wanted simply to complete it without getting cut, but nothing about my training or my racing performance indicated that I would qualify, much less do well. I said I wasn’t ready, and my coach agreed. But then I lucked out. I got the Nature Valley Pro Chase spot in the Quad Cities crit for a mediocre 13th place finish. There was only one other racer signed up for the Pro Chase and I beat her, so I was in. I remember feeling like I didn’t deserve it, but my little head-voice screamed: “You don’t get what you deserve, you get what you TAKE! Take the spot.” The Pro Chase team is special. Nature Valley doesn’t sponsor the best team, they sponsor amateurs who are likely to go pro. This is a really forward-thinking move for a sponsor, as sponsors usually like to see their teams out front. We went to training camp for 4 days before the race, all expenses paid. We rode with our teammates, met team manager Jenn Reither (captain of Vanderkitten), and learned everyone’s strengths on the bike. We learned how to take a “sticky bottle” from a car and how to talk to media and we discussed everything from saddle sores to sponsorship. Yes, I was encouraged to contact Frito-Lay and I probably will.

That was the end of the easy part. Nature Valley starts with a time trial where you have to hit 22 miles per hour… or you go home. That is followed by an NRC-level crit the same day, and you have to finish at least half of it without getting pulled… or you go home. Then there is a 93-mile road race, then another crit, an 84-mile hilly road race, and lastly a “crit” that starts 25 meters before a 22% grade hill. This is where amateurs go pro, where American pros get picked up to race in Europe, and where former Olympians go to see if they’ve still got it. Olympians.

Stage 1: St. Paul TT. I’d been TTing like a 40-year old professor, and it was not apparent from my Cal Park practice times that I would make the cut. The Nature Valley TT had a hairpin turn and it was hilly and rainy. I shook, thinking I’d have to ride my guts out. A TIBCO rider fell off the ramp and crashed 2 riders before me. Jenn told me to stay calm and went to help her. I took a few deep breaths, rode gingerly on the ramp, and then simply pushed as hard and fast as I could. 23.5 MPH, 49th place! Better than I or anyone else could have guessed. Kelli Richter, once frenemy now teammate was 3rd out of all cat2 racers, a stellar performance. Emily Georgeson was super-pro, she had a flat in the TT, flagged a moto to get it changed, and still made the time cut. We all made it.

Stage 2: St Paul crit. I was also scared of getting cut in the St. Paul crit, but I had the responsibility of protecting Kelli, my GC contender teammate. This was a job that I loved. It also really fired me up when the announcer gave me a 40th birthday shout-out on the start line! This is a pretty badass way to turn 40- at the start line of an NRC pro crit race! I loved it. I burned my matches up and didn’t worry about the cut- I just raced my bike, protecting my GC rider. There were 2 early crashes and I held up for Kelli to make sure she got around, then chased her back to the pack. I positioned to give her extra room in the turns. We made it through more than half the race, and I was having fun but felt like my legs were flat. I told Kelli I was popped and began to drop back. WOW it was hard to push my bike?! The front wheel crunched across the bad pavement in a weird way… what was going on? By the time I realized that I had a slow flat, free laps were over. I was pulled with 6 to go, and the 3:00 time penalty I received for being pulled ensured that I’d be mediocre in the GC all week. Darn, stupid mistake. I should have noticed it and gone to the pit. But at least Kelli and Anna were both still in there, and Emily had a stellar 13th place performance!

Stage 3: Cannon Falls Road Race. I was pleased to find that the pace in the 93-mile road race was sustainable. Our plan was to hide in the pack for most of it, then get Kelli on Anna’s wheel before the gravel section. Anna is a fast, confident gravel rider. The key was to eat and drink enough early on, and we took feeds from the car and Eric helped by handing up bottles in the feed zones. I had told the gals that my hubby was my secret weapon and they got to see him in action, giving me a very quick hand-up during a feed zone attack! About 40 miles in, there were 3 women off the front. The comm vehicle pulled us aside and told us that the motos had taken the leaders on a wrong turn, so they were going to stop us for a couple minutes, get the 3 leaders back on track 45 seconds in front, and then re-start us. What do you do when you’re stopped for 2 minutes during a 93-mile race? You pee. 70 women laid down their bikes and peed on the side of the road, in front of motos and cars full of cameras and judges and coaches and managers and god and everybody. We didn’t go into the grass—we had only 2 minutes and it was tick season. I broke my zipper putting my jersey back on and briefly panicked. A few gals gave me a safety pin off their numbers, I pinned my shirt together with 3 pins, and rode the whole rest of the race like that. The pace picked up before the gravel, and I was squeezing the field along with Kerrin and Emily, trying to make a lane for Kelli to get to Anna’s wheel. It was frustrating, we just couldn’t get her up there. The pace continued to pick up. I saw the gravel coming, looked back for Kelli, and couldn’t see where she was. I’d just have to get the best wheel I could. I found Kim Wells, the Aussie national champ. She was big and confident, and I predicted correctly that she’d be a great gravel rider. We tore through that section at a speed I never knew I could sustain. The finishing circuit was ridiculously fast, and I was outgunned. I burned everything I had trying to move up to block, because Anna was drilling it off the front! I never made it up there, and slipped back to finish at the back of the main pack in 43rd place. It was a thrill to be there just to see Anna’s gutsy move, even if I couldn’t protect her or counter it. After the race, my neighbor growing up, Dick Cooley, was near our tent. He made me a sculpture of a cyclist for my birthday. It was completely random and great to see him, and at the end of that crazy 93-mile road race I wondered if this was some sort of Dada-ist dream I was having? But no- he was in town for an art show, got stuck in race traffic, called Eric to see if this was my race, found out it was, and met me at the end. That was cool.

Stage 4: Minneapolis crit. Minneapolis would be the “easy” day. Big teams would protect their GC contenders and shut down strong moves to keep them fresh for Menomonie. Here we were told to be opportunistic if the opportunities came but first and foremost to make sure that Anna (now our GC leader) was comfortably in there. There were a lot of people cheering around all parts of the course, media coverage, etc. We zipped up our jerseys and paraded two-by-two to sign in, cameras everywhere. Gave pre-race interviews. Lined up for more photos. I heard someone yelling from inside an apartment “Sarah RICE! Sarah RICE!” What? It was Gant Luxton, the first grad student who I worked with at Northwestern. He saw me getting my picture taken and ran out and chatted with me during warm-up. Jenn told me to FOCUS (she’s right that I have an issue with this), but it was hard. I got excited and over-warmed up for the heat that day and for the miles I had in my legs. For the race I had my brother and sister-in-law Paul and Anaya near the start, Dick Cooley on turn 1, Gant on turn 2, and Lynn Keillor, the Directeur Sportif of Kristen Meshberg/Sarah Rice at Speed Week, on turn 3. Normally I don’t hear people cheering but I did in Minneapolis and it was great- Anaya’s “gosh!” followed by Cooley’s Wisconsin accent “Gooooh Syaraaahh”, Gant giggling “she’s doing WELL!”, and Lynnie’s “KINKYLINKER!” every lap. I concentrated on good corners and saving energy as my legs felt a little dead. In one corner I was going a little outside to inside while Mia Loquai of ISCORP was going a little inside to outside, and we locked up in the middle- full contact, handlebars, shoulders, hips all touching. While we took the corner like that I told her, “We’re OK, you’re a good rider, I’m a good rider, we’ll keep it up, see, GREAT!!” and we separated. WHEW. Close one. Later in the race, TIBCO had Shelley Olds off the front and the others were pinching the field in the final corner every lap to block. When I saw Carmen Small fail to break through their blockers, I thought this might not be the day to try to make something of it. Anna could win the amateur jersey if I helped in Menomonie, and she didn’t need help here. So every lap I positioned well mid-pack, lost a few wheels as the pace picked up before the last corner, and drove right back in there when TIBCO pinched. It was lame, but very easy. I was disappointed with my mid-pack 35th place finish, telling my coach and Jenn “but I didn’t race my bike!” as they insisted that I’d been smart. In retrospect, they were right. I rolled around with Mia a little after the race, apologizing for the lock-up. She said that was as much on her as me, and that my encouragement instead of the usual panicked cussing one gets helped her to keep it upright. The incident was a mistake, no doubt- we both took a bad corner. But with the right attitude you can make a friend while making a mistake. Good to know.

Stage 5: Menomonie Road Race. The Menomonie Road Race was 84 miles, windy for the first half and hilly for the second half. Jenn told me sternly, index finger out: “You’re the best draft. Keep Anna out of the wind. I don’t care- YOU don’t care- if you finish or not. Understand?” I nodded, happy to be good for something. Early on in the race I sat in and hid, and when Anna got pushed in the crosswind I got on her left side and shielded her. I communicated back to the others if she needed anything, and Emily and Kerrin and Caroline brought feeds and helped protect her too. Anna was energetic, which psyched all of us up. I’d tell her, “Save it. My nose in the wind, not yours, strong lady!”, while she thanked and encouraged me. Anna was really low-maintenance, a GREAT GC rider to work for! Being out in the wind was exhilarating. At one point I was left of Anna, then the TIBCO train was to my right protecting Shelley Olds, and Optum was echeloning to their right protecting Jade Wilcoxson and Bri Walle. Olympians and Olympic contenders. When the pace was chill I teased them that I wanted an autograph. Having worked a bit, I felt tired when we hit the hills and in this field I was a terrible climber. Many of these racers train in the mountains, so there was little question that I’d be very lucky just to hang on. I got gapped bad on the first big hill, along with teammates Kerrin Strevell, Kelli, Caroline Moakley, and a few other riders. Damn, I was supposed to protect Anna in the wind and now was gapped. Motos passed us. I had to get us back in there. For several miles I traded pulls with a couple strong riders in the wind, briefly drafting the motos where I could. Kerrin took strong pulls and a steady, fast lead on the downhills. Finally we managed to reattach to the pack. I sat in to regain energy. On the second big climb I managed not to get gapped off nearly as badly and reattached right away. Good. I was out of fluid and did not have energy to go back to the car. Emily gave me a bottle that probably saved my life. On the last few climbs I just hung on, feeling my legs, my heart and lungs, and my brain all giving out at once. There was satisfaction knowing that this was the absolute best I could do. Anna was just fine, in the lead pack. Just before the circuit they picked up the pace and I couldn’t hang on. I got split off with teammates Emily Georgeson and Caroline Moakley, a few other riders, and Mia Loquai. Mia was in the green amateur jersey and Anna was up in the front group, so we sat up and made Mia pull. Rest. But then Mia went down in the first corner of the finishing circuit. We picked up the pace again a little, just to make sure she was left alone. Anna would be in green! Emily and I finished the circuit by practicing a strong lead-out/finish- I led her out and she sprinted, and we did it perfectly. I ended up 44th.

Stage 6: Stillwater. After Menomonie I rolled out my legs for hours and drank lots of fluids (Recovery drink followed by chia and beet juice, these worked wonders). I felt OK, even though it was the day after the toughest race I’d ever done. Jenn commended us on Menomonie. Anna was in green. At Stillwater we wouldn’t be able to help her, so the goal would be to go for a decent finish. I was sitting at a respectable 38th overall. The start of Stillwater was about 25 meters from the base of a 22% grade hill. As I put my weight on my right side to get clipped in, the rider just in front of me on my left moved to her right a little. We overlapped wheels, my weight was awkward, and I went straight down on my butt. As I quickly got back on the bike to chase, I heard “3 Nature Valley down!” from the announcer and realized that teammates had gone down with me. I looked back, found one, pulled her through the false flat section and she took the next hill. We’d work together to survive. My bike was clicking on the uphills and I thought the derailleur hanger was bent, but it was shifting. On lap 3 just after the 22% grade I upshifted and the bike crunched. I thought I had dropped my chain and went to re-thread it, but my rear derailleur was in pieces. I shouldered the bike and ran down the hill to the pit. The official granted me a free lap and the pit guys asked my bike size and saddle to bottom bracket measurement. 51, 71. Jenn helped me stay calm, and they pushed me out on the pit bike. It was fine- a standard instead of a compact, bars were too wide, brakes were loose, but it was rideable and I felt comfortable being aggressive on it. I did only one lap before they pulled us. The group I got pulled with made 4 laps, the minimum for placement in the GC. I was officially listed as DNF and did not receive a GC placing for the entire series because of my free lap. I returned the pit bike and thanked the pit guys. They were silent. One of them pointed to Charlie’s cracked seat stay. They gave me a moment to cry and hold Charlie in the pit, and then zip-tied the broken derailleur to the broken seatstay. I limped out of the pit, crying and shouldering the bike. I wouldn’t have believed all this was real, but the searing pain of my tailbone bruise was FAR too real. I ran into the gal whose wheel I overlapped at the start and she gave me a hug and told me we’d be out there again soon. When I returned to the tent, I apologized to my teammates who I crashed out. They would not speak to me. It was certainly just temporary frustration on their part, but I had finally had more than I could take. I quickly packed up and left.


There were two very big things that I would have done differently if I could repeat Nature Valley. First, after any crash, even a start line crash, you go to the pit right away. I am very lucky that in Stillwater my derailleur broke on the uphill and not the downhill where it would have sucked the chain at 40 MPH. I should have gone at St. Paul too, and from a technical perspective not going to the pit those 2 times is what cost me a respectable GC finish. Both times I wasn’t sure if I’d be granted a free lap, so I didn’t go. That’s the wrong way to think about it. If you are unsure about the pit, DO go. The point is to keep you safe. Second big mistake: I missed being on the podium with my team for Anna’s green jersey. I didn’t realize that they would do one and after being hurt, losing my GC placement, breaking my bike, and angering my teammates, I doubt that I would have been emotionally strong enough to stay for it. Perhaps given the state I was in it was the right thing not to cast shadows on Anna’s limelight, but I should have focused more on the series and less on the day.

Getting over Stillwater has been a process. For 3 days I couldn’t sleep and had no appetite because of the pain. Fixing Charlie may cost more than a new frame, and it will take a while. I’m grateful to Manuel and my coach for genuine advice and help with that. Being knocked out of the GC bothered me at first, but there’s no finisher’s medal in cycling. Our goal was to get Anna in green and we did that. The placing doesn’t matter. What matters is that I carried myself well and was useful throughout the series, at least until Stillwater.

The point of the Nature Valley Pro Chase is to teach you how to be a pro. I learned that anyone can do it, because the difference between an amateur and a pro is simply that a pro acts like a pro. Strength and smarts don’t matter as much as resiliency, guts, and positive attitude towards yourself and towards others. In that respect, I’m proud to be a pro on a VERY pro team. Go Spidermonkey! Caw-caaaw!

Glencoe Grand Prix

Photo by our own Mark Zalewski
See another awesome photo here

by Sarah Rice

Where to begin?

At the start line. The women 3/4 s race was cancelled and we were delayed a long time due to a horrendous crash. The news from my friend Debra Sunderland who went down was not good. I said prayers for her while the local high school band played the star spangled banner against a cacophony of pro women letting air out of their tires. The sky grew darker and darker.

On the course. The rain was so heavy we could not see. I could hear raucous cheering from my Spidermonkey teammates and local racers, and it really fired me up to keep moving up and race well. I memorized the locations of the manhole covers, the best lines, and the places where the water was deep. When I rode through the “lake” at the bottom of the course, I’d downshift 3 gears and stand up out of it to regain lost momentum. With 8 to go, I saw Starla Teddergreen from Vanderkitten taking a hot outside line, thinking, hey that looks like a good move! The crunch as her helmet hit the curb made me vomit on my thigh, and I inadvertently let a gap open up. A gal yelled at me to close it. I did.

Neutralized. I knew it would happen after Starla’s crash. I was about 10 wheels back, in decent position. I blew my nose and spat on my glasses to defog them- an old swimmer trick-while we waited. We’d have only a 3 lap race after the restart, so my start would be critical. Clipped in-BAM- YES! But then Christina Gokey-Smith mis-clipped and ran into me, forcing me to clip out and lose my awesome start. I cussed, then said let’s chase back on together. We did. I laughed at myself a little for cussing out one of the best female bike racers in history.

Shoulda gambled. I spent the first 2 laps after the restart gunning it to gain position. They called a $200 second last lap “gambler prime”, and I had a good shot. I decided to tuck in ~4th wheel instead of burning all my matches to take it. I went through corner 1 in great position, then ran out of gas. Lost ~15 spots to finish 20th.

WHY. Why do I do this? Why do I risk losing everything I have, and everything I am, for this? I stared at the ceiling in the middle of the night after Glencoe asking why, as did every woman who raced it this year (except one…). I held my husband Eric and my cat Annie on either side. Eric felt warm and he smelled good. He was snoring a little. I stroked Annie’s fur. She purred. I do this because days like Saturday make me grateful for all that I have and all that I am.

Thank you. To Eric, to Annie, to my wonderful Spidermonkey teammates (especially Kristen Meshberg, who was in the same race, and who has taught me how to be brave and optimistic time and again), to the- no- to MY Chicago bike racing community, to my lab members, colleagues, family, and friends. I love my insane, intense life and I am grateful that you are part of it.

My Glencoe Grand Prix trading card. This is my “naughty face”—When I was a kid I’d make that face before I cut loose and misbehaved without fear of repercussion (see below).


Word is that all ladies who had crashes during Saturday’s races are healing well. Debra is making good progress toward recovery. Please keep her in your thoughts as I am.

Gapers Block

by Lindsey Fahey

Gapers Block – Day 2

It was FINALLY here, Gapers Block, the newby race, my EPIC CRIT RACING DEBUT!!!!  I was so excited……….until I woke up Sunday night with a fever. Monday I was coughing, felt off and tired so after a few hours spent agonizing over what to do I decided not to race.   I tucked in early Monday and woke up promptly at 4:30 am, all ready to go and unable to go back to sleep.  No fever this time though, so I packed my bike carefully in my car, quadruple checked my bag of stuff (I had everything FOR SURE) and drove down to work early and counted down until 4:45 PM. I finally bolted from my desk and changed into my kit at work………only to discover I had forgotten a major article of clothing.  NO SPORTS BRA??!?!? You moron, I told myself.  WHAT WILL YOU DO????   YOU CAN’T RACE YOUR EPIC FIRST RACE WITHOUT A SPORTS BRA!??!?!   Relax I told myself, sure you can, you have 18 layers on and bib shorts, get your ass down there.

Starting Line

I made my way down to Calumet Park sports braless and a bundle of nerves and reviewed my goals, in descending order of importance:

1.  Don’t break bike

2.  Don’t kill self

3.  Don’t do anything horribly embarrassing

4. Stay upright, if possible

5. Stay with pack for 1 lap

6. Do whatever Kelly Clarke does (but let’s be real,  you should probably just focus on goals 1 & 2)

Ok, I could do this.   I picked up my number and went to the bathroom in the field house and pinned it on next to a radiator. Great idea, I warmed up my jersey and my gloves!  All toasty I headed to warm up with Katie.  After a while we went to take our practice laps, Kristen Meshberg was there and was nice enough to take my laps with me (THANK YOU SO MUCH!!)  She gave me a few pointers and basically made me feel at ease since at this point I was thinking I was a little crazy to try this and maybe I should spectate a girls crit first.   We came around and people were lining up.  Here goes nothing, I thought, 1 lap you can do it!!!   I parked behind someone who looked like they wouldn’t set me up for failing at Goals 1 and/or 2 (see above) and waited to go.  Soon we were off………I somehow clipped in ok, and  then settled on the wheel in front of me, waiting for the blazing pace to set in………….and waited.  Before I knew it we were around the course.  Ummmmm what was this???? I was in the middle of the pack with Goals 1,2,3,4 AND 5 so far accomplished, in fact I could surge to the front if I wanted.  Ok self, that was pretty baller, I thought, one more time around, you can do it!!!!

I kept going around and around, still not falling off (or over!).  This is odd I kept telling myself, what is happening??? How am I not dropped??  Kelly kept saying great job Lindsey, way to go as she came near me at times (I seemed to be accomplishing Goal 6 as well!)  This is fun, I thought, I don’t know what the hell is going on, but I can swoop in and out of these corners and hang just fine.  Bring it race!!!!  Lets DO THIS!  I remember coming out of the last corner before the line with Katie and Kelly at once point and thinking how badass we looked coming around all together, oh yeah Spidermonkey ladies, look at us!!!!  I was on the inside zipping along having a grand old time.  Kelly rolled back and was like LINDSEY GET ON A WHEEL!   I was like huh??? OH I guess I’m all alone out here………Focus on Goal 6 self! (and don’t forget 1 & 2!!) ……..  I grabbed Kelly’s wheel and kept going.

Three laps to go, I realized the error in my ways.  It seems Crit racing is really easy until it got really hard.  I struggled along until the last lap, head down, holding on with all my might.  In the back stretch I got distracted for a moment, thinking about what a mess the girl’s hair in front of me was..…how it was kind of funny how I wasn’t sure if I was shifting up or down since my hands were so numb……ooopsies wrong way, silly hands……and bam, the pack surged, fluffy hair didn’t and I was gapped off………so fast!!! I tried to sprint back on but couldn’t get back to the pack.  I zipped through the final corner for good measure and finished 18th.   I was quite pleased with myself for hanging on the entire time until the very end but pissed it was all for naught when I got gapped off the back when it counted.   I took my cool out lap and the one girl told me she was glad there were not as many squirrely new people out there.  I smiled and was glad she thought I was NOT a squirrely new person.  I got off my bike and changed and then went to congratulate everyone, getting distracted by some cute dogs in the process, and didn’t check the results.  Fearsome competitor right here, I actually didn’t find out where I finished until the next day (no dog petting next time). My impending sickness took me down the rest of the week, but I am excited to get out there a few more times this season!

Overall trying racing was a great experience and I’d recommend it to anyone (as long as you aren’t squirrely).  Thank you for all the support, Spidermonkeys, and thank you for going out there with me Kelly, Katie, Lauren (and Michelle on Thursday!).  Great job ladies!!!

Barry Roubaix – 62 mile

by Stuart Janssen
Ever since I first heard of the Dirty Kanza 200 a few years ago, the idea of the gravel-road race has appealed to me. When I learned that I was moving to Chicago for graduate school, I was stoked.
   Hastings Road Sign
I signed up for the Barry-Roubaix, figuring that if I could ride 62 miles in a day on my road bike, and if I could finish midpack in a cross race, then I could surely do an event in the distance of the first and requiring the handling and endurance of the latter. I rode my trainer as patience allowed, I took up running during the last few months, figuring that would give me the cardiovascular condition to hold up to a 62 mile ride. I had my parents ship my cross bike up from Florida the week before, I put a new chainring with a kludgey chaincatcher and resealed my tubeless tires. I was ready.


Hotel PrepsBike Prep

David and myself were in the first wave, with PJ and Geoff in the second. I figured if I just stuck with them I’d be ok. The first wave took off and I immediately lost David. I think this might have been my first mistake, though not the last by far. I found him again right as the first wave made its first transition from asphalt to dirt, but my last-minute change of chainring was coming to haunt me now- I hadn’t ridden with this gearing on this bike before so I was having trouble picking a comfortable ratio. Within the first mile of dirt I hit a monstrous pothole and lost one of my waterbottles into a ditch. I was tempted to go back for it but decided to keep going, not wanting to fall too far behind. Around mile 6 I think the second wave started to overtake me- both Geoff and PJ passed me around that point and when people on single speeds started passing me I realized how deluded I’d probably been thinking I was ready for a 62-mile gravel road-race.

At a certain point, I realized that I was really no longer “racing” so much as riding the Barry-Roubaix. I picked random riders to try and keep pace with until one of us would pull away from the other, trying to keep my pace steady but also trying to keep in mind that finishing last rubber-side down was better than finishing first in the back of a car with another separated shoulder (ask me about Cross-Orlando some time). I saw various other riders from Spider-Monkey come and go and kept plugging along. The last 10 miles were probably the hardest I’ve ever done. The only coherent thought I had the entire time was “So this is what it means when they say ‘in the pain cave’.”. When I finally saw the signage at Yeckley and Cook roads I don’t think I’ve ever been so ready to get off the bike. As I road back into town, I tried to find my inner Jens Voigt but in this case my legs won the shouting match and I cruised across the finish line at 4:33:36. I don’t think worked that hard when I did the Penntury a few years back, and that was about 104 miles.
I came away from this having learned several things- I should have been preparing better, and I will spend more time next year on the bike before the actual event, and try to do more off-road prep. I also should have taken into account the weather and food needs- I packed homemade energy bars which I wound up losing half of because I couldn’t feel them with two pairs of gloves on over numb fingers. And finally, the one I should have really known better than to do- I should have left the 33t chainring on my cross bike instead of the 44 I put on. I knew how that gearing felt and would have been able to ride with it more comfortably. Despite the Barry-Roubaix having beat the living hell out of me, I had fun and I’ll be lining up again next year.

Gravel Metric

Gravel Metric


It’s difficult to provide too many tips for the ride as the heat was the main factor.  There is simply no way to determine whether or not your body will start to shut down from heat exhaustion.  I think I went through about 8-10 bottles during the race and twice that post race, including electrolights, but still spent a good part of the evening vommitting and sweating.

As for tips for next year (yes this will become an annual ritual hopefully):

1. Gel or double-padded handlebars can provide some relief since the gravel is pretty rough

2. People were flatting pretty consistently running low-tire pressure; the highest you can stand with less-grip and more vibration, the better for preventing pinch flats

3. Ride your own pace as much as possible.  I find more and more in these gravel road rides/races that riders are pretty pitchy and will accelerate/decelerate for no reason.  Stay out of the wind as much as possible but don’t burn yourself out riding someone elses race

4. Get to the front as soon as possible.  For a “ride,” there were still a lot of early crashes from folks jockeying for position.

5. If you find yourself riding gravel for 65 miles in 100+ degree heat, do not turn down a cute farm girl spraying you in the face with water.


Gravel Metric – HOT!  Oven baking hot…evening getting hosed down didn’t reduce the core temp from soaring.  The course was terrific with a mix of asphalt farm roads, a lot of various gravel roads, and three sections of single track, including a creek crossing.  Most would have been able to tear this course up if you weren’t battling the heat.

Being not an official race, the support was excellent.  Three check points with iced water that you are required to get a bracelet punched as well as signing in before and out after the race to secure the safety of all participants.  There were a number of tumbles that stemmed from trying to run road bikes on gravel, just poor handling, or heat exhaustion.  Highly recommend CX or MTB bike.  I myself miss judged a line change on my CX bike in the single track and went down.  Half thinking that it would be soft dirt, I unfortunately found out that it was like cheese grating concrete and shredded my arm and hip.

The post party was an excellent gathering, with enough raffle free stuff that almost everyone there walked away with something.  Great team event for the non-racers and racers trying to hone their mixed surface racing!


A few tips:

1. When it’s really hot (or in general) make sure you have an electrolyte drink or tablets, they can help prevent severe cramping.

2. When it’s really hot, it’s nice to have one bottle of electrolyte drink and one bottle of plain water to squirt on the back of your neck and face.  It really helps cool you off and makes you forget that you’re suffering so much, well just for a bit.

3. When you ride on gravel or on a dirt path on your road bike or cross bike, just pretend that you’re like flowing water, nice, smooth and undisturbed.  You are the Zen Master of gravel.  Loosen your grip on your bars, relax your arms and upper body, pretend your legs are like springs and hover over the saddle over the real rough parts.  If the bike moves the wrong way, don’t lock up and freak out, just shift your body weight the way you want the bike to go and it’ll go there.

4. You know you’re a real cyclist when you’re pushing hard against the wind, the searing sun, uphill and on gravel .. or you’re just dumb.  Whatever makes you smile.


I wrote a report here!

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