Category: Race Report (page 2 of 11)

Spidermonkey of the Week – Ian Hughes

I would like to start off by saying I am absolutely thrilled and honored to be the Spidermonkey of the Week!  While I have always been what I thought was a huge cycling advocate, my love affair with bikes is only in its infancy when compared to everyone else on the team.  I now know that I have only just seen the tip of the iceberg and that by drinking the Spidermonkey Kool-Aid, I am opening up the floodgates to all things awesome.  I have been absolutely humbled through my experiences with those of you I have met so far on the team, and have been deeply inspired in reading all of the other SOTW posts.  Because of you, my goal for 2015 is to become a stronger and more skilled rider and make you all as proud of me as I am to be a Spidermonkey!

That being said, here’s a little about the guy that may be sucking your wheel at the start of this year’s rides.  I was born in New Mexico and bounced around between there, Texas, Ohio, and Los Angeles before moving back to Ohio for college and my first grown-up job in Cleveland.  As with most kids, bikes were a big part of my life growing up but two memories vividly stand out- learning how to ride and going on bike tours with my parents.  My Grandma Joan sat me on my first bike that I received for a Christmas present in Las Cruces, NM and literally shoved me down a hill repeatedly until I could stay on without falling.  Fortunately I got the hang of it before I ended up breaking something!  As for the bike tours, they became a family tradition while I was in grade school after my parents got into riding.  They started bringing me along on 20+ mile country rides around Carey and Columbus, Ohio and it always made for awesome family time.

Ian Hughes Picture 1  Ian Hughes Picture 2

Six years ago I moved to Chicago (chasing my then girlfriend, now wife, Kelly) and left behind my beloved Ohio after 13 years of fun.  When I first got here, I absolutely hated it.  I found myself very frustrated with the noise, concrete everywhere, seeming lack of outdoor opportunities, and most of all the traffic.  For sanity’s sake I stopped driving, took to public transportation and that made things a little better, but after 2 years I was completely over it.  In the spring of 2011, I finally had a moment of clarity while we were sitting in a mess of rush hour traffic in our car- a small group of cyclists effortlessly cruised past us with smiles on their faces.  I wanted (and needed) that freedom and happiness, and later that week I bought a bicycle and took to the streets.

Ian Hughes Picture 3

What started off as a means of getting to and from work quickly turned into my escape from all of the things I didn’t like about Chicago.  All of a sudden I was happier, healthier, and felt a meaningful tie to the concrete, traffic, and noise that used to drive me crazy.  These feelings grew deeper when I began bike commuting year round and really learned to appreciate everything that all of the four seasons throw at us.  The only problem I came across was that my commute was only 6 miles each way, and I wanted more!

Ian Hughes Picture 4      Ian Hughes Picture 5

When I left my job as an Environmental Consultant and went to work for Goose Island Beer Company three years ago, I had the unique opportunity to take this newly found passion and grow it further through sharing it with my new coworkers.  Goose Island was already a strong advocate in the Chicago biking community through supporting the Active Transportation Alliance, Chicago Bike to Work Week, and of course sponsoring the Spidermonkeys, but we had some opportunities for improvement internally.  In the last three years the Green Goose team and I have made some great accomplishments to encourage our employees to ride- we started the Honking Peloton (once a month we ride to a local brewery), improved onsite bike storage, purchased maintenance supplies, and started offering employee tune up days.  Our efforts have resulted in an increase in bike commuting and have also led to Goose Island receiving a Bicycle Friendly Business Silver Award through the League of American Bicyclists.

Ian Hughes Picture 6

Ian Hughes Picture 7     Ian Hughes Picture 8

It was only a matter of time until I got to meet several Spidermonkeys at a dock party and a few other Goose Island beer release parties.  At one of these events (after geeking out over a few beers of course) I received a challenge from Fred Wu to come join the team for a Saturday ride.  Once I realized that there weren’t any Geese currently riding with the Spidermonkeys, I knew I needed to accept the challenge, represent the brewery, and roll with the team up to Highland Park.  After one ride, followed by a delicious gyros sandwich at Budacki’s, I was hooked!  Despite a busy travel schedule for work I managed to hit several other rides last year including a couple treks to Willow Springs and a very ‘spirited’ Wednesday night ride.  I am looking very forward to being even more involved this year, riding my first century, and diving into my first CX race this fall- hopefully I won’t be riding in Fred’s Divvy bike basket!  Here’s to all of you and here’s to a great year with Spidermonkeys! Cheers!

NSC Velodrome

by Kelly Clarke

At the LaCrosse Omnium, Kelsey and I met Anna from Minneapolis who told us we must absolutely come out and race at the NSC Velodrome in Blaine, MN, because they might be tearing it down after this season and we would love it. Last week we did. And I more than loved it. I am thoroughly convinced that the NSC Velodrome is the best place on earth. Unicorns, rainbows and butterflies convene there in a magical light of competetive track racing that will leave you blind.


Blaine is the only outdoor wooden track in America. It’s beautiful. Short slats of wood come together to create the banked oval. A lot of maintenance is required to keep it nice, and the track enthusiasts in Minnesota volunteer on weekends to replace broken or worn slats. If you crash on this track, you will need tweezers to remove splinters. But don’t let that deter you. This track is perfect.


I had emailed the track director, Bob Williams, earlier in the week to make sure we were kosher to race. Most tracks require you to be certified on them before racing there, because of the banking. The NSC track is 250 meters with a maximum banking of 43 degrees. In the corner, you have to hold around a minimum of 17 mph to not slide down the track. Kelsey and I had been certified at the Chicago Velocampus, which is 166 meters with 50 degree banking, we had both raced at the Ed Rudolph Velodrome in Northbrook (382m, 18 degree max bank), and we had USAC licenses so Bob said we were good to go.

This is good etiquette – to let the track know you’re coming ahead of time. As Anna explained, ‘This is someone’s house, you don’t just invite yourself in.’ With all bike racing, it’s good to remember to respect the people and infrastructure that allow you to race, as well as your competetitors. Without them it couldn’t happen.

We arrived at the track just in time. A late start leaving Chicago and some traffic had us arriving a half hour before the races started. I got my numbers and got dressed as fast as I could to get some laps on the track. It was crowded. I took some laps around the Stayers Line.*

*There’s lines on all tracks to keep consistent.
From the bottom, to the top:

Cote D’Azure, or Apron: for exiting and entering the track (light blue)
Pole Line: used to measure the track (black)
Sprinters Lane: just above the pole line – shortest line around the track
Sprinters Line: Defines the Sprinters Lane. People sprint here! (red)
No Mans Land: used for passing riders in the sprinters lane
Stayers Line: Area for slower riding (blue)


The track was fun to ride. I felt comfortable on it, especially because I rode the CVC the previous night. I was still unsure how racing would be. You start races on the top side of the track, clipped in and holding on to the railing. I had never done this, because at Northbrook there are poles with ropes and its just easier to start standing. I figured I’d just hang in the back and see how it goes.

Add on top of the best velodrome sundae the cherry that our first night racing there would also be the first time there were enough women to have split fields.


The first race was a 12 lap tempo heat. This race would determine if you were in group A or B. Kelsey and I were in different groups for the heats, and I was up first. The race got started and I watched the ladies roll away from me. I had a slow start, but then I caught up. The group broke up right away. I decided to just ride around at a decent pace, not try to work with anyone. That’s what I was confortable with at that point. I passed some people. Others passed me. I ended up in 7th place and in the A group. Oh shit. I was going to be racing with the faster, more experienced girls.

Now there was some time before the next race. Time to socialize. I met some of the Koochella girls (Anna’s team), and the other ladies that race at the track. Like most bike scenes – the women are the best. Inviting and friendly. There was stretching, foam rolling, yoga and shared snacks!

The second race was a Miss And Out. Each lap, the last person to cross the line gets eliminated. So you don’t have to be first, but you can’t be last. I hung on for a few laps, but got knocked out pretty early. No big deal. I was just really happy to be there at the track, racing with some top notch women.

Kelsey’s second race was a 15 lap scratch. A scratch is like a mini crit – first person over the finish line after 15 laps wins. Kelsey looked trepid at first, but settled in and finished third!


Next up for me was the State Championship 40 lap scratch race! I figured I’d get popped off. I even discussed with some Koochella gals that we’d work together when than happened, and what to do when we got lapped. But guess what? I didn’t get lapped. Stuff happened, and I was right there – moving around in the fast pack, and even pulling sometimes. It was so much fun to be in the mix of a fast race on such a great track. At one point I got popped off, but I got together with two other ladies and we started a fantastic paceline doing half lap pulls. We bridged back up to the main group. Tiana (T-Bits) won Zubaz from Second Chance Racing for being the most aggressive rider in the race. Everything was wonderful.

Kelsey geared up for her 20 lap points race – every 5 laps points are awarded to the top 3 riders. Lilah decided to jump into the race and ended up coaching Kelsey at points, telling her when to jump. The second bell lap, Kelsey took off. She won with room to spare and was well out in front of the group for some time. She was towards the back for the third, but took off early for the last lap and won that one, too! She ended up getting second place in the race, and second place in the omnium!


Racing in Blaine was so much fun. All the Chicago track cats should try to get out there before the season’s end. And to all you cyclocross heads – want to practice your explosive power for the sand? Get thee to a track! Northbrook has informative clinics every Monday and Tuesday. Or go out to the CVC on Wednesdays and experience the rollercoaster of track fun. Track is the best thing to happen since sliced bread, and NSC is a triple decker club.

La Crosse Omnium

by Kelly Clarke

Guys, I never knew you could have so much fun. It’s mostly because of my awesome teamies*, but also LaX was a really great series, a fun town to visit, and those Wisco/Minnie gals COME TO RACE, no pussyfooting about it.

*La Crosse Teammates:
Kelsey ‘All City’ Phillips
Lindsey ‘Feels’ Fahey
Lauren ‘BP**’ Wissman
Sarah ‘The Whip’ Rice
Eric ‘Soigneur’ Landhal
Kurt ‘Long Legs’ Breitenbucher (wait, it’s possible to have a name more complicated than Diffenderfer?)
Pete ‘Personal Poops’ Monko
And our favorite ray of sunshine, Zark.

**Bitches Popped


We decided to drive the course when we got into town. This was a very good idea. You should drive the course when you can. Sarah spoke for us all when she said, ‘I would have shit myself if the first time I saw this was during the time trial.’ It was a lot steeper than we expected, but there was a beautiful view at the top.


We stopped to talk about the course – not even the whole way to the finish.

Later, when we arrived for the race, Pete and I decided to ride the course once. On the way up, it started drizzling. By the time we reached the top, it was pouring cold rain. I tried to warm up on rollers, but my feet were so cold they hurt, so I just jogged around for a half hour til my start.

I was not comfortable with dude holding my seat, so I took a standing start. I kept asking him to move so I wasn’t crooked and he wasn’t, so I chose to not be pro and go for comfort. The course is steep from the get go. People were cheering from underneath umbrellas. Water was flowing down the street in a stream as we pressed upward. I’ve done few time trials, but in all of them you get so inside your head. I seem to start out hating myself, and then end up in fight mode. I tried to go at ‘hard, but don’t blow up’ pace. I passed one girl and heaved out a ‘Sorry. Keep it up.’ I passed a few juniors. I wanted to catch the girl in front of me. I kind of just wanted to be at the top of the hill so I could focus on getting dry clothes and being warm again – my chamois probably weighed ten pounds and there were buckets of water in my shoes. But everyone else was dealing with the same conditions. The course flattened out at the top, and it felt good to go from a grinding 8-12mph to 20+. I didn’t catch the girl in front of me, but I did get closer.

There was little room at the top, so as soon as I caught my breath, I thanked the officials and started to head back down. I stopped 200 meters down to wait for Lindsey and Kelsey but also because there was an incredible double rainbow. The sky was opening and it was the brightest rainbow I’ve ever seen. A super friendly Brone’s Bikes girl stopped to chat and check out this awesome scene. Kelsey and Lindsey finished shortly after me and we all headed down the hill. The Brone girl stopped at the turn to meet her boyfriend and adorable puppy. So this terribly cold and rainy uphill time trial ended with puppies and rainbows. And I did well enough for second place, missed first by 3 seconds.

With every race, but especially time trials, it’s natural to think ‘I could have gone harder.’ You always could have done better, and you always could have done worse. It’s a mental game when you’re redlining and your body is telling you to stop, but you want to go harder. I did the best I could for that moment.


Hella fast, right from the start. Hella fun. Attacks all over the place, constant moving around and fluctuation of speed – everyone was focused, reacting and making moves. The pack rarely settled down. I was trying to stay in good position and not kill myself. I felt pretty good taking the corners at speed with the group – better than last year (this was the first crit I’ve done this year with actual corners). Ten minutes in I thought, “This is the most fun I have ever had.” Lindsey did awesome – she attacked a few times, bridged me back up to the group once without knowing it. She was pretty pro – right there with all these other top notch ladies. Something I noticed is that I was in the drops the entire race. I usually come up to the hoods if things get boring or slow, but it was ‘go time’ the entire race. There was a crash in the last turn. I went inside, so I was able to avoid the shrapnel and loud screeches, but there was tons of brakes. The top gals were way in front of me by the time I jumped for the sprint. I ended up 7th. Wish I could have had a little better position into the second to last corner, but I was still pretty happy with the finish – it could have been worse.

Our other teammates all raced extremely well. Kelsey worked in a chase group with a gal from Minneapolis that we became friends with that day. Pete and Zark raced twice in blazing fast races. Monko took fifth in one! Lauren attacked like crazy and Sarah was nothing short of fierce in their crit. It was a fun day at the park racing, watching races and making new friends.

Pretty sure Wiss and Slice had as much fun racing as I did.

Rad Race

Sunday’s road race started out great. I was sitting second in the omnium, I knew the gal I needed to beat, and the three that I couldn’t let beat me. I had great positioning. Then there was a massive downhill. I tucked into the drops, squeezed the top tube with my knees and decided to go for it no matter how scared I was. My bike started shaking like crazy, waving back and forth frenetically. I was sure I had a flat or some kind of mechanical. I feathered the brakes – no change. I took my hands completely off the brakes – still shaking like crazy. Not like the normal downhill chatter, but like frantically waving back and forth. I scrubbed speed, swearing wildly in my head, ‘Just fucking stay upright. Don’t crash. Stay upright!!’ Ladies whizzed past me. I stopped at the bottom and looked at my bike. Checked the tires, checked the headset – nothing wrong. What the fuck. The official pulled over and asked if I was OK. ‘Yeah.’ I checked the bike for a second longer, then looked up to see the pack no longer in my sight. Took a deep breath and dug in. I would have to go really hard to catch them, but the race was over if I didn’t. It was do or die in the next few miles. The course started going up. Good. I can usually catch people on the climbs. Around the corner I could see the car maybe 500 meters out. But it was early enough in the race that no one was attacking and the pace was still fairly conservative. I chipped away. Girls were getting knocked out on the climb. I couldn’t work with them, because they were seemingly going backwards. Got so close the pace car moved over so I could merge back with the group. But I was breathing so hard, snot and spit running down my face. The pack was maybe 200 meters to the top of the big climb, I was maybe 10 meters from them, and I completely blew up. Well, I didn’t fall over and lay on the ground. But I couldn’t keep up my chasing speed. I slowed way down. They disappeared over the top of the climb. My heart was beating out of my chest. I got over the top and tried to kick it in – my last hope. There was an IsCorp girl that looked like she had some power left. I asked her to do 30 second pulls and work to get back. She said sure, I took a pull, counting to 40 and popped over. She said, ‘Sorry, I don’t have what you need.’ I started to dig in again, but they were gaining distance and I was spent.

My foot was killing me – pretty sure I broke a toe at some point before the race. It had been hurting the whole time, but now the pain was front and center. I wanted to stop, but I thought about how Dean says finishing is important. I decided I had to finish. My Garmin was broke, so I didn’t even have numbers to distract me. I decided this long solo ride would be punishment for not descending well and losing the group. Except it’s not really punishment, because the course was beautiful, the roads were perfect, and I was on my bike! And I had decided just this weekend that racing a bike is the most fun that could possibly be had. It’s just better when you’re in the main group or have someone to work with. I saw Eric. He was yelling to go catch the group. I yelled back, ‘Sorry!’ He was such an amazing support all weekend, that disappointing him weighed much heavier than my own disappointment – not that such a nice guy would actually be disappointed. I was not trying to make the other spectators think he was angry and a jerk, but they might have looked at him weird.

I was trying to psych myself up to bomb the descent the second time around, but my bike still felt kind of weird, like the front and rear wheel were not in sync. Even though I couldn’t decipher a problem with the bike, I decided to Granny it down the hill. What if the uncontrollable shaking happened again and I crashed this time? In the turn before the descent I looked back and saw Kelsey and the IsCorp girl waving. They passed me on the way down. Then Lindsey passed me and said, ‘I’ll help you after this!!’ I took my sweet time down the descent, then booked it at the bottom to catch up with my teammates.

When I came to Lindsey, she started pedaling really fast, ‘I’m going to bridge you back up to the group!’ I tried to get her to take turns pulling.

She said, ‘No, let me do all the work!.’

‘Don’t be a hero, this race is over. Just take turns pulling with me.’

We did. We also saw a colorful rooster. Then the incline came and the pulling fell apart. I felt bad about it, but I left Lindsey behind. I wasn’t sure how many women were ahead of me, and I at least wanted to get in front of the IsCorp girl. I was able to pass a few more people before the end. I finished 16th and not near any of the other racers.

I know it’s good to hang back and work with people, but I always feel like I end up going slower than I want. Maybe I need to get over that. Last year at the Michigan State Road Race, I worked with Chelsea Strate after we got popped off the back. The speed was good and it was great to work with someone. I don’t know at what point you sacrifice speed to work with people. And if my race is over, I want to still get a good workout by working hard. Maybe I am doing it wrong by always time trialing after getting popped off. My goal is to NOT get popped off, though, and stay competitive in the field next time.


It was a great weekend of racing and hanging out with my teammates. I was disappointed I did so poorly in the road race, but as it turns out, my rear hub was really loose, and that is what caused the shaking – NOT user error as I assumed. I still need to practice descending A LOT. I love omniums and I love my teammates. The end.

Making friends at the crit. Photo cred: Anna Schwinn

Joe Martin Stage Race

by Katie Kolon

Some of the best things I’ve done in life, I’ve done out of a healthy lack of fear: traveling alone throughout Guatemala immediately after they signed peace accords to end civil war (which wasn’t really over anyway), moving to California after college with no money and no job, and crit racing, to name a few. JMSR was no exception.

Sarah Rice (Slice) wanted someone to go to the race with and my thoughts were that I would visit my friend who lives in Fayetteville, take a road trip, get out of the cold, and race a criterium. I didn’t even know what a stage race was. I quickly found out that in order to race the crit, I had to race the time trial and the road race. I later found out that I not only had to race all the races, but I had to finish each one in order to advance to the next “stage.” That’s why it’s called a stage race, dummy. Even later, I came to understand that people didn’t race for standings as much as time. This changes the game significantly, and especially in terms of team tactics as Slice thoroughly explained.


Devil’s Den State Park, Time Trial location

Time Trial
I had no interest in doing a time trial. I heard it was straight up hill with an average grade of 6.8%, so I went to pre-ride the 2.5 mile course and get a feel for it. I didn’t have time to do any warm up and I just tried to go as hard as I could make myself do something that seemed pointless. I almost threw up. I figured this boded well and that I would likely do better in the real thing since it would have at least one point, which would be to not be last.


TT warm up, photo credit to John Kline

My time trial was at 9:25am. I woke up early enough to eat and get there with time for a warm up. I did a nice long Kristen Meshberg (Kmesh) PWP-style warm up of 40 minutes including one hard threshold effort and a long block of tempo. Through PWP I’ve learned I don’t need long warm-ups, but I also didn’t think I could warm up too much for such a short and intense ride. I almost missed my start for no good reason other than my clock was probably a little different than their clock. I took off sprinting as fast as I could on the flat section before reaching the hill, and then slowly climbed the next 2+ miles. And my time was 3 seconds slower than my practice run with no warm up! Huh? Everyone said I was in my head too much. This is almost always true, but I actually thought my warm up was too long. I came in second to last, so I guess I met my goal, though in truth I expected to do better.

Road Race
Immediately after the TT, I had to cram some food in my mouth and book it to the start of the road race, which was starting only two hours after I finished the TT. (Side Note: all the races were in different locations and only the crit was in Fayetteville) There were so many logistics to figure out in preparation for the road race beyond just where the heck it started. Slice helped me with a lot of this. She taped the number on my seat post, told me I needed to find out if there was a wheel truck, and figure out if there were going to be neutral people in the feed zone or if I could have someone from PSIMET to hand me a bottle. It was only a 40-mile course, but it was also going to be 80 degrees and I didn’t want to run out of water.


Start of the road race

The race start was very casual and stayed slow way long past when the motos told us we were done with the neutral roll-out. The course consisted of a gradual climb with rollers for 20 miles, and then 20 miles back down. I was near the front, but not in the wind, holding a good position. Slowly people started to try to move up and one woman was vying for my wheel. She kept bumping shoulders with me, and I held my position, unfazed. Eventually the person next to me dropped back and I moved over into her spot. I noticed that although these women were very strong, they weren’t all very confident at riding close together, positioning, or holding a line.

I started to move to the very front at mile 8. Cathy Frampton of PSIMET had advised me to tape important mileage markers to my stem. The first one was “the wall,” a major hill at 8.5 miles, where teams would attack. My plan was to go to the front before the hill and try to hang on as long as I could. But where was this wall? The course map was incorrect. At about mile 10, the strong riders took off up “the wall” and I was instantly dropped. Slice had emphasized that this was the point in the race where I had to burn all my matches to stay on, but I was burning everything just to get up the hill, so that was that.

As the main pack dropped me, I saw not everyone was able to go with them and I had the hope of forming a little chase group. However, we were all climbing and descending at different speeds and everyone seemed to eventually pass me. I thought maybe I could catch them on the decent in the second half of the race. I kept trying to talk myself into going faster as it seemed my heart rate was not that high, but my body started to hurt in ways I have never hurt before and I just couldn’t push myself hard enough to catch anyone. I have learned that I’m really unmotivated to ride hard when I have no one to ride or compete with.

Once I passed the halfway point, my goal became increasing my average speed by going as fast and hard as I could downhill. I got up to 46 mph at one point and got to practice taking a 90-degree corner at 34 mph. When I hit the feed zone with 10 miles to go I noticed that I instantly picked up the pace. I’ve also learned I am much more motivated to perform when people are watching and especially if they are cheering. In the last three miles I actually passed one person who must have bonked because I was going so much faster than her I couldn’t understand how I hadn’t caught her before. Again, I came in second to last.

Finally, I got to do the thing I love. I woke up early again because my race was at 7:45am, making it the third race I would complete in a 24-hour period. My body was beat. I got on the trainer and felt terrible. I was worrying about riding with a bunch of women that I didn’t know and who didn’t seem to be super-comfortable riding in a pack. And the crit was very technical with a narrow chicane and some hills, including a steep uphill to the finish. Fun stuff. I just kept telling myself it would all be over in a mere 25 minutes.


Deep in thought at the start line, photo credit to John Kline

I started at the front of the line and maintained a good position as the race took off. I hung on to the main group for the first lap and got dropped on the steep uphill before the finish line. No surprise. But for the first time at JMSR I was having fun. I forgot that I was tired; I forgot that I was coming in last; I just had fun going fast and cornering.


Chicane around the town square, photo credit to John Kline

The course was about a mile long, so we weren’t going to do many laps in 25 minutes. There was a long decent followed by a wide 90-degree turn on the back half of the course. I was going over 30mph and taking it faster each lap. On about my 5th or 6th lap, on the long downhill, my chain got jammed between the cassette and the chain stay—derailleur fail or it jumped out hitting the cobbles at high speeds. Neutral support was half a lap away and uphill, so I tried to coast as long as I could. I pulled over, figuring I was out of the race because it would take me the rest of the time to get back to the support tent. A course marshal ran over, quick-fixed my bike, and gave me a push while telling me I can still do it. Thanks, dude!

By the time I got back in, the remainder of the field had passed me. I felt proud that there had been 5-6 people behind me given the competition in my field. I knew people weren’t taking the corners or the downhill as fast as I was, but I had no idea I was that far ahead of people until they passed me. I was lapped at the finish line and got the bell lap. I worked hard to make up time in my remaining lap and managed to pass one woman within seconds of the finish line. Second to last again, but a proud second to last.

Take Aways
My goals for the race were to complete it and to not come in DFL. It was my first time trial and my first road race. In all honesty, I was hoping to do better than that, but with the top women in my field holding times that would have been competitive in the pro race, I realized the competition was stiff. I got DFL overall based on time, but there were five out of 32 women who did not finish all three races, so completing it was more of an accomplishment than I first thought.

I used to think I would never “cat up.” If I continued to do races with competition as hard as this one, it would be a long time before I would be able to. But doing JMSR made me remember that the point is not to always be on top, the point is to put yourself in situations where you are no where near the top of the competition in order to learn and grow stronger as a rider. More importantly, these experiences allow you to value the times you are on top because they allow you to measure how far you’ve come. “Difficult and easy complete one another; long and short measure one another.”

Epilogue: The Curse of JMSR
Weeks before, amidst freaking out about what I had committed myself to, Slice and Kmesh handed me some sage advice. These goals seemed well within reach and I recommend them to anyone considering racing the JMSR.
1. Don’t get arrested
2. Don’t break your ass in a crash on the start line
3. Don’t blow your transmission

Check, check, and check. Based on my recent experience, I am adding two other real and potential dangers of the JMSR:
4. Don’t step on a nest of baby copperheads
5. Don’t get caught up in a wide-track tornado

We narrowly escaped both. It was biblical.


Cloth numbers=classy

Bike Racing Basics

by Kelly Clarke

So, you want to race your bike? That’s great! There are a bunch of us who race and we LOVE to talk about it, so ask us all of your questions. We were all in your place not too long ago. I’m only a few years into racing and don’t know everything, but here’s some information about how races are run to get you started.


There are different governing bodies that ‘sanction’ bike races. Bike races need insurance, officials, rules to make them safe – and these all come from the sanctioning body. There are two of those in Illinois and in the Chicagoland area: USAC and ABR.

USA Cycling is the most common governing body in Illinois, and in the nation. They drive the rules about racing categories and upgrades.

American Bicycle Racing is another governing body that actively puts on races in Illinois. They are more of a grass roots organization. They are a member of the FIAC (Federation of Independent Associations for Cycling).

Sometimes racers focus on USAC, but both organizations support great races.

And just to be clear, the sanctioning organization is not the same thing as the race promoter. The race promoter is actually putting on the race, finding funding for it, gathering volunteers, getting permits to host the race, ect. And if you think your entry fee is expensive, trust me, it’s REALLY expensive to put on a race. But where else do you get to ride that fast on a closed course with great competition?


USAC and ABR races require different licenses. These licenses are used for insurance purposes, and to help pay for the upkeep of these organizations. It’s not a bad thing. Remember, we want well run, safe races!

USAC licenses are $70. They used to separate Mountain and Road licenses, but for the first time – this year, all disciplines are combined. They do offer one-day licenses. So if you’re not sure you want to race a lot, you can buy a one-day for $15.

An ABR license is $25 for one year. I am pretty sure they do not do one-day licenses. But they do put on some pretty great practice crits!

When applying for a license, make sure you put your team name on there, and that it’s spelled correctly!


Racing categories are levels for racing. Levels, or ‘cats’, ensure you’re racing against people of a similar ability. 1 or PRO is the highest you can achieve. In road,track and cyclocross, men start as a Cat 5, and women start as a Cat 4. But you upgrade in each discipline separately. For example, right now I am a Cat 4 on the road, but a Cat 3 in cyclocross.

You earn points to upgrade to a higher cat (closer to 1) by being successful in races. You don’t necessarily have to win a race, but it does help. The rules are outlined here:

One thing for the men to remember: to go from Cat 5 to 4 only requires 10 mass starts. You don’t need results. Usually we like to encourage a fast upgrade to 4, because Cat 5 racers are all inexperienced, and Cat 4 races usually offer a better race experience. Since women’s fields are typically smaller, this is less of an issue.

You might be tempted to stay in a lower cat longer than you need to. This is generally looked down upon, because you’re not making yourself a better racer, and you’re taking away the opportunity for other racers to earn upgrade points. People that stay in lower cats so they can try to win more races are known as sandbaggers. You don’t want your teammates calling you that!


Most of the time, you can show up to a race – day of – and register to race. But that’s not ideal for several reasons. It makes the registration lines slower, and takes longer for you to get your number. Throwing a race is stressful, and it’s good for promoters to be able to see people registered ahead of time. They might even up the prize money if the numbers look good prior to a race. So it’s good practice to register ahead of time. It’s also almost always cheaper to preregister. Most registrations are on, but some use Make sure you register for your correct category. And make sure you put your team name in the ‘Team Name’ field, spelling it correctly. I have worked registration at races where people get upset that their team name or information is incorrect, but the people at registration can’t change it – it’s up to you to have the correct information for both your racing license and on the form when you register to race.


The Illinois Cycling Association ( administers bicycle racing for USA Cycling in Illinois. Most areas that have races sanctioned by USAC have a local association. They help administer upgrades and a portion of the money from the licenses we buy goes to them. They allocate this money to help make our racing scene better. They help fund racing clinics, provide the state championship jerseys, and do things to make Illinois bike racing more accessible to more people in an unbiased manner.


There’s a lot to learn when you first start racing. We’ve all been there. Don’t be afraid to ask questions, and most importantly, don’t forget to have fun.

First Year Racing Take Aways

hopkins 2

by Lindsey Fahey

2013 was the first year I decided to race my bike, heck it was the first year I really RODE my bike week in and week out and “trained”. I learned a LOT………………..I learned about myself and my limits, both mentally and physically. I developed a huge amount of respect and appreciation for all of my teammates and the extremely strong women I competed against. I learned a ton about my bike, how to handle it better, how to ride it faster and how to take care of it. Best of all I made some great friends, met awesome people all along the way and had a LOT of FUN (duh that’s the point).

It was the best of times………….it was sometimes the worst of times. I cried, I came in DFL, I DNF-ed, I DNS-ed, I stood on the podium (and won A STATE CHAMP MEDAL!!!) I cried about that too. I got my ass kicked, but I also kicked some ass. I got horribly frustrated but had some amazing successes. Sometimes I hurt badly, but I consistently got stronger. I fell off my bike, I got filthy dirty, I got really banged up, I sometimes smelled bad, I terrified myself……but I also smiled like an idiot……and I waved……..I pushed myself harder and dug deeper at times than I ever thought I could………..and it sure was FUN!

Podium Montrose

For all of you folks out there thinking about racing, I am no expert by ANY MEANS, but I survived my first season and this is what I learned:

1. You will never be ready to race your bike…………you always could have trained harder or more, or not got sick last week, or slept more last night, or not eaten chipotle for lunch (num num num), or maybe you don’t have the right gloves or clothes or your bike is a hunk of junk. You have to, as Nike says, Just do it. If I waited until I was “ready” and all the stars aligned and I felt perfect I wouldn’t be writing this now, I would have never pulled up to the line.

2. NEVER underestimate anyone. That girl with the down tube shifters and the REALLLLY heavy bike? She just might be able to destroy you and be one of the fiercest competitors and best athletes you have ever met. (Lauren Wissman! I am looking at you!)

3. If you want to train, train with people faster than you, they will push you. Have a plan and a goal.

4. That said, burnout is for real. And it is awful, rest is your friend. Sleep is your friend. Riding slow is your friend. If you don’t feel like racing or even riding, don’t. Just stop. You don’t get fast overnight. You won’t get slow by missing one workout…….or a week of riding.

Downer 1 6-29-13 094

5. There will always be someone better, stronger, faster than you………but you will be better, stronger and faster than someone too. Focus on yourself and don’t compare yourself or your progress to others. Focus on your small successes and incremental (or huge) improvements and keep moving forward. Don’t dwell on your mistakes or failures. Maybe have a good cry or a small (ok large) temper tantrum in a bush, but then move on. Don’t throw your helmet…or your gloves…..or your bike.

6. Pick something to work on every single race. It can be tiny or it can be large, just focus on something. Learn something from every single race. This could also be applied to every single ride as well.

7. Have a pre race routine, no matter how stupid it seems. It helps you get focused and tune out all the stuff around you…..(its hot, its cold, everyone is negative around me, or excited around me, I forgot a bra, I need to use a pit wheel, that guy is hot, where is my mom? why do I have to pee……..AGAIN?) You can let distractions happen and roll off you and continue to focus on your race. You can be nervous on the line but you did your routine, so you are READY. May not be for everyone but it helps me to do the same thing at the same times before the race, especially in cross since you race at the same time each week.

8. People do weird shit when competing and the pressure is on, both before, during and after the race. Let your teammate’s have their space to do their thing. Some people get really nervous or crabby or silly or hyper. Not your concern, you are in your routine remember? Focus on you. People do and say stuff in the heat of competition that they normally wouldn’t. If you say or do something mean or crappy go apologize to the person after the race. Usually you will get a good laugh out of it.

9. Always bring your own water and lots of it. Port o potty water is not for human consumption.

10. Bike racing is expensive and takes a lot of stuff, stay organized and double check you have your stuff the day before, check your bike the day before, in fact make it part of your routine…….see #7 above

11. Racing is definitely physical, but also very, very mental (at least for me). I’d go as far to say 80% mental. You need to figure out how to get your head in the game, if it’s not, you have no chance and are just riding, not racing. Winning is even more mental. You have to WANT to win and believe you can win and know you can win. Or you never will. Some people just go in knowing this and accept nothing less (Sarah Rice), I am still learning about this.

12. Focus on what is happening in front of you, ignore everything behind you. Harder than it sounds.

After Downers

13. Beer and bike racing go hand in hand…….because racing is fun and people who race tend to be fun……and fun often involves beer (which is fun). You will get to know how to intertwine the 2….….some people can do both and just race hungover (Peter Monko). For us mere mortals you sometimes have to make the fun vs. doing well trade off decision or at least know your limit OR just accept you are going to suck the next day and keep the party going. We don’t get paid to do this after all.

14. But if you DO want to do your best and are targeting a specific race be nice to yourself……you are asking a lot out of your old bones. Lay off the sauce, eat well, sleep more, train hard and stick to your plan………you probably already know this drill if you are not still in college or Monko, in which case drink your face off and race your ass off!

15. It will be hard (it’s a race remember) and it will push you to your limits and beyond, you might even barf! Or cry! Or fall over! Or run into a garbage can! Or win! No matter what happens out there you will be stronger and let’s face it, the pro photog shots of you racing are pretty sweet!

16. Above all, if you raced 3 times or 30 times this year, finished last or won every race, IF YOU ARE NOT HAVING FUN YOU ARE DOING IT WRONG!

Epic last night at peppers

Great season Spidermonkeys! I am so proud to call each and every one of you my teammates. See you out there next year!

NORGE Ski Jump 2013


by Peter Monko

The leftover turkey was still moist, the parking lots at the malls were all full, and all the Black Friday deals were already sold out but I did not care one bit. No, I had an appointment with Dr. Pain that afternoon. Unfortunately his office was all the way out in Fox River Grove at the bottom of a ski jump. I loaded up the car and made the hour long trek with Lindsey Fahey and her delicious pumpkin bread to Norge CX put on by Rob Curtis and his PSIMET crew.

This was the 3rd year of the race and my first time out there so I had no idea what to expect other than some hill climbing. We got there just in time to see Lucas Seibel speeding away to victory in the Single Speed race. After getting my number and pre-riding a bit, I saw that this was going to be a difficult race. The course had a variety of surfaces and in pure Rob Curtis fashion, this course had no flow to it at all. The east side of course was in a field that was bumpy, muddy, with deep gravel/sand in certain corners and even turkey sized boulders lying around. The west side of the course included a gravelly climb, some tricky off camber turns and 2 uphill forced dismounts.

Fresh off his win in the SS race, Lucas lined up in the pole position in the Cat 3 race and I lined up behind him in the 2nd row. It turned out to be the right wheel to follow as Lucas got the hole shot while the rest of the field got held up in the first tight turn. We crossed the road and made our way to the backside of the course where my troubles began. Due to the muddy run up after the barrier, I had trouble clipping in and lost a few spots. People started crashing left and right in the technical off camber turns that were starting to get a bit greasy. I avoided most of them but on the 2nd lap I had my own misfortune. Going into the second barrier I had trouble unclipping and crashed right over 2nd set of barriers. I crashed so hard that my rear wheel would not roll anymore. I lost about a minute and at least 10 spots as I realigned the wheel. I chased hard which led to some more bobbles and a dropped chain on the east side of the course. After a while I stopped counting how many times I crashed and lost track of the leaders. I ended up in a banged up and bruised 14th place while Lucas won his second race in a row. Way to represent Lucas!

I raced one more time that afternoon with Trent Williams and Hayes Sanborn in the Cat 1/2/3 race. The course was really tore up and slick by this point so I took it a bit slower in the technical sections. Turns out I took it a bit slower for the entire race but was only lapped once by the winner, Pro CX racer Brian Matter of the Trek Collective Team. If you’ve never seen a ski jump or raced Norge, I highly recommend making the trek out to Fox River Grove next Thanksgiving weekend.

Photo by digitalcane

A Snapshot of Woodstock

by Kyle Kershasky

As I sit here writing this report with a bruised thumb and a some cross cough after racing in Woodstock at PSI-clocross for Life this weekend, I sometimes think of reasons why I like to race cross. The usual cliché answers come to mind. Gives me something to train for. Work on my bike technique. Cross train. Opportunity to invest in different kinds of tires, rims and body heat cream that randomly turns itself on when least expected. All legitimate cocktail conversations.

This past weekend I remembered the real reason why I like the cross season. You always, always learn something new. This time it was the hiz to the hoes, wait for it…..wait for it….. SNAPCHAT!!

And boom goes the dynamite.

Okay, so it’s not the ONLY or specific reason why I like cross. Meaning if you took away Snapchat there would be something else that would metaphorically take its place. Like white tigers being thrown across a sand pit or circus themed costumes and handups. For today though, Snapchat was the fun factor of choice.

Snapchat goes with cross like:

Twisted goes with Sister

Like Mack goes with Daddy

Like Taffy goes with Cinnamon


A very rough idea of a Snapchat photo

And for the purists, yes cross is fun on its own. No question. Woodstock’s course had a ton of fun obstacles. Like a big sand pit where you can post pictures with the Kid Rock lyrics “GET IT THE PIT AND TRY AND LOVE SOMEONE.”

There was also a toilet bowl section. Screaming down hills through the woods on rough terrain. A hill that takes you within feet of going directly into a pond. A barrier with a hill immediately after it where I used my Tim Johnson cyclocross camp tips and ran like Moses while shouldering my bike. Add it all up and it’s a long and challenging course.

For those of you who are still wondering what Snapchat is, let me sum it up in one sentence. One mature sentence. One G rated sentence. One day you will just have to see for yourself. But you have to trust me the sugar is just plain funny, okay? Trust me for 10 seconds. Or 1 second, depending on the Snapchat masterpiece.

To recap my race, the day was about putting an exclamation point on my week. When you’re having fun you really don’t care about daily troubles and stresses. I also didn’t really care if I would start out 70 and finish 42 like the previous week. Or if I hypothetically crash on the last lap and even though I would hop right back on with my chain off and have 10 people pass me. Okay so that sucked. However, if I didn’t have two Twizzlers in my mouth while giving some phenomenal Snapchat photo opps, then maybe, big maybe, then maybe I would have finished a few places higher up. However, I like to remind myself not everything can be perfect. Everything can be fun.

Of course being fast is always fun as Lindsey and Sophia proved by getting on the podium for the Cat 4s at Woodstock. But having their own paparazzi getting a Snapchat photo opp? How fun is THAT?!


Snapchat paparazzi

My favorite fun factor race is very soon on the weekend of December 7th at Montrose. As you know Spidermonkeys are sponsoring the race. Will you be there to volunteer? Will you be there to cheer? Will you be there dressed up in costume and cheering paraphernalia and make some Montrose Madness? I guarantee you’ll have a freaky fun time whether you are racing or spectating. Exclamation point, Snapchat!

After last weekend I decided to actually download the app Snapcaht. My username is KyleMobileKyle. And if you want to join but can’t think of a username I heard CoolCatYourName is kool. For a sneak peak of fun, check out this video I made at Montrose a few years ago.

Have some fun!

Cyclocross in Oregon

by Kristi Hanson
At the end of September, I made a big move cross country to the wonderful city of Portland. Overall it has been a good transition, but I have to admit the one thing that has surprised me the most is with a little sport we call CYCLOCROSS.

Believe it or not prior to moving to Portland, I actually thought I was some what good at cyclocross. I was not the fastest girl out there for sure but after working hard over the summer, focusing on building strength/power (Thank You Newt Cole and the Morning Bird Crew), and mountain biking to gain the technical skills, I thought I had a chance of having a really good season. That is until I did my first race in the CROSS CRUSADE series.

Holy moly they do things different out here!! I have never gotten my ass handed to me so hard. The only way I have been able to describe the difference is that they take every one thing in each of the Chicago races that is hard and put them all into one.

To give you an example, I have put together a collection of pictures and words from this weekend’s race to try and give you an idea of what it is like to race here.

The start is pretty much the same except only the top ten in each category get called up. Then the rest are staged randomly by the last digit of your number. We reuse our numbers here so it really is the luck of the draw. One week you can be up front and the next you can be at the back of the pack. Unless you are the fast few that get called up.

Also the other difference is unlike the Chicago Cross Cup series a race can have more then 100 people in it. This weekend we had over 150 women on the course all at the same time from 6 different categories. They are started about 30 seconds apart and are scored separately. How the officials do it I have no idea! They are amazing!!

After the start, the first challenge of the course were some short and punching up and down hills. That looked something like this:

Photo by Jon Fogarty

The next challenge was the coffin barriers.

Photo From Cross Crusade Crew

Photo by Chris Baker

At this point, it is all pretty similar to stuff you would see in a Chicago Cross Cup course however, things are about to get interesting.

Next challenge is hill run up 1 of 3. The steepest and hardest of them all.

Photo From Halloween Cross Crusade Crew

This is followed by some flat switch backs and then some single track before you hit hill run up 2 of 3.

Photo From Halloween Cross Crusade Crew

Which then lead us to the scary downhill. It was ridable but really no good line. You had to just trust it and hoped for the best.

Photo From Halloween Cross Crusade Crew

This was immediately followed by hill run up 3 of 3 and depending on how talented you were it was either a short run up at the top or a longer run up from the bottom. Only person I saw ride the top was Trebon.

Photo by Jon Fogarty

Photo by Jon Fogarty

And then it was on to the Fly Over which you road up and over.

Photo from Halloween Cross Crusade Crew

But there were those that truly flew over the fly over! Impressive!!!

Photo by Halloween Cross Crusade crew

Lastly the course finished up with the stair run up and it was on to the finish.

Photo from Cross Crusade Crew

And then you did it all over again 4 more times. It just so happened that during our race it was raining so it was a little muddier than these pictures show but that is pretty par for the course in Oregon where it rains a lot.

After my first race of the year, I learned very quickly I was in no shape for what these ladies can do. It was a very humbling experience but I am sticking with it. I have continued to work hard and adjusted my work outs to fit the style of racing I am doing. Hello hill running and hard hill intervals.

Each race I do a little better and that is all I can really ask for. It also helps that racing has allowed me to meet an awesome group of very supportive ladies (West Coast Women Cycling), which I now call teammates along with my favorite Spidermonkeys.

Although the style of racing has changed, one thing I can say is the Oregon cycling community is the same as Chicago!! They are very supportive and welcoming!

Hopkins Park 2013

by Katie Kolon

I wanted to race Hopkins Park because it was a course I had not yet done and there was a flyover, which sounded exciting. I drove out with my friend Sara and after getting situated and registered, we took a practice lap. The course was very different from Jackson Park the previous weekend with a lot more stretches to speed up and pass people rather than spinning yourself into delirium via switchbacks. Still, there were plenty of interesting technical parts to suit my fancy.

After cheering on some Spidermonkeys and warming up, I rolled up to the start line where I wound up right next to Liz Farina Markel. We were chatting for a while about how we didn’t understand how some people who had never raced were staged up front and that it was potentially dangerous to have newbies ahead of experienced racers. I still don’t understand how the staging system works, but as irony would have it, shortly after the whistle, I wound up in a pile up, sandwiched between Liz’s bike and my own. I felt bad because I was keeping Liz from going, but I couldn’t get up because my foot was still clipped in and my leg was pinned between bikes, with my body weight holding it down so I asked her to help me get up. She did and raced off and I followed, thinking I need to stay with her because she beat me last week.


Keeping Liz in my sights, I pushed hard to pass a lot of people and relied on my confidence in corners to pinch of several more people and keep inching ahead. There was a stretch of straight asphalt where I sprinted and this was followed by a steep, but short hill. At the top of the hill there were some off-camber turns and a barrier going up hill, followed by a switchback at the top of the hill. Once I made it to the top of the hill, I had passed a significant amount of people and was feeling like my crash at the beginning wouldn’t matter too much. Plus, a lot of people were really slow getting back on their bike after the second barrier. I jumped on quickly and tore back down the hill. At the bottom of the hill there was a muddy portion and a lip between the mud and asphalt that some people had suggested trying to hop so as not to get a flat. I tried to bunny hop this section, but I was not clipped in and therefore did not have much stability and dropped my chain. Shaking from adrenaline, I took way too long to get my chain back on and was passed by nearly everyone that I had just spent my energy passing. (Note: only a couple days later did I realize that I also put my chain into the largest front chain ring, not doing myself any more favors.)

Once again I set out to chase Liz, but also relaxed a bit because I decided I would just do what I could at this point. The course had a lot of wide sweeping turns that you could take at a fast pace, which I did. You first passed under the fly-over, near the monkey cheering section before snaking back around to go over the fly-over. The fly-over was fun and I kept Kelly Clarke’s advice in mind each time to just make sure my front wheel was straight before going down the ramp. After the fly over there was a tree splitting the course near the apex of a wide right turn and it seemed most people took the right side because there was more space, but I decided that the beginning advice of the announcer to “take the left side, but I’m not telling where” meant to take this left side here. It was fine but I don’t know if it was a better choice.

Towards the end of the lap there was a wooded trail that was narrow and very muddy, so usually people slowed down a lot here, but again I took the left side (maybe he meant it here but this seemed obvious?) because it was less sticky and was able to get through this section a lot faster than some. Later on, when passing a junior I advised him to do the same.

At some point in my first or second lap I passed Liz, but I could almost always see her behind me when I went around turns and I used this as motivation to not slow down. I also kept in mind the advice of Kristen Meshberg, or was it Sara Rice, to race the race you’re in. This helped me focus on those around me that I could pick off or stay ahead of and not feel defeated by the fact that I would not be able to catch the people further up who I may have otherwise been racing against. Luckily, at the end of my second lap I saw the two laps to go sign. I was not happy that there were two laps, but this also allowed me to mentally prepare for the last lap. I never used to pay attention to these lap signs, but then again, I always used to get pulled.

I kept sprinting on the asphalt, taking corners fast, and trying to keep going. Towards the end of my last lap, when going over the double barriers on the flat, I saw a toddler that couldn’t have been older than four point at me and tell his dad, “She’s struggling!” His dad hushed him and told him that wasn’t nice. On the other hand, it was probably the best heckle I ever got. Too bad I didn’t have the breath to shout at the kid, “You think you’re so tough, why don’t you try it?! These barriers are half your height!” It reminded me of one of my favorite scenes from Bottle Rocket where Anthony comes back to Dignan after talking to a young girl:

Anthony: She thinks I’m a failure.
Dignan: What? She said you were a failure? What has she ever accomplished with her life that’s so great, man? Nothing.

In the end, I came in 29/43, which is still better than any of my prior seasons. I don’t know what it is but somehow I’m doing much better than my past two years’ attempts. I am not getting pulled, I’m not as gassed, and I’m getting points! I might even be starting to like cyclocross. What is happening?


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