Category: SOTW (page 5 of 7)

Spidermonkey of the Week – Dave Cushman aka Crushman

The Crushman CX'ing

The Crushman CX’ing

For this entry of Spidermonkey of the Week we present Dave Cushman. Mr. Cushman has been a member of Spidermonkey Cycling since 2009. He sat down for an interview with Bob Costas earlier this week.


Bob Costas: When someone mentions Spidermonkeys, many things come to mind: Excellence, Determination, Inclusiveness, Charity, Dwelling in subtropical humid forests between 100 and 1,700 meters. It’s my pleasure to announce you are the first Spidermonkey of the Week for 2013! Congratulations!

Dave Cushman: Thank you.

Costas: Of all the awards and accolades I’ve received in the sports world, this is the one that has eluded me. It’s an honor to sit down with you today.

Cushman: I’m happy to be here.

Costas: In fact, as the only one to race as a Spidermonkey in road, cyclocross, criterium, track, and mountain biking events, you’re quite impressive. You’re what the pros call a “quintuple-threat.” And what’s more is you’ve had the wisdom and foresight not to do triathlons. Amazing!

Cushman: Is there a question there, Bob?

The Crushman MTB'ing

The Crushman MTB’ing

Costas: … I guess not. [awkard silence] Well let me start here: I once read you “grew up in the backwoods of rural Oregon, calling the mountains and rivers your home, part Grizzly Adams and part Huck Finn.” How did you ever get in to cycling?

Cushman: Besides the usual riding around the block as a kid, my first bit of cycling was when I was a freshman in college. I didn’t compete, but I started doing longer distance rides. I had a black 1970’s Peugot (found by my dad’s uncle, as someone had stolen it then thrown it over the fence into his yard) that I upgraded with super-sweet, self-installed, Nashbar knock-off, fluorescent yellow, LeMond-style aero bars. At first I was the sag wagon for a friend training for his first marathon. Then I started putting in real miles (yes, as much as 40 at a time!) in preparation for the Seattle To Portland Bicycle Classic. This is essentially a 200-mile gran fondo, but before the days of it being cool to call your ride a Gran Fondo.

Costas: Is it safe to assume you won?

Cushman: Hardly Bob!! Even today I’m not sure I’d want to try doing the whole thing in one day, which is what it takes to win. Along with my brother and father I rode it in two days – 120 miles on the first day, and an easy 80 on the second. The last 35 miles of day one were extremely tough, but as a 19-year-old it was quite an accomplishment that helped me realize what could be done on a bike.

Costas: So how did you get into racing your bike?

Cushman: I exclusively ran (5ks, 10ks, etc.) until 2008. At that point, thanks to my employee perks at Roscoe Village Bikes, I got my first real (i.e. fancy) road bike, and started “training.” I wasn’t really training for anything in particular, Bob, but it was just fun to ride with the Spidermonkey group, which started its rides from my shop. In the fall I was able to borrow a friend-of-a-friend’s cyclocross bike and raced two races in the Chicagoland Cyclocross Cup series (now Chicago Cross Cup). I competed in the 4B category, before the days of the B’s being a circus, and had a blast. That set the stage for 2009 when I started riding more seriously, racing road races and completing the whole Cross Cup series.

Costas: Now I’m to understand your similarities to David Beckham don’t just stop at your athletic talent and striking good looks, like him you also compete for two teams?

Cushman: That’s correct Bob. Ever since my first Spidermonkey year in 2009 I race much of each summer in black and orange, and most of each fall with Roscoe Village Bikes Racing p/b Virtue Cider.

Costas: I can’t help but notice the main sponsor for each team (Goose Island 312 and Virtue Cider) are both companies from the same owner, Greg Hall. Is this some sort of Great Expectations, anonymous benefactor situation?

Cushman: That’s the premise I’ve been operating on for the last 4 years, Bob.

Costas: Rumors have been flying around various social media sites that you rode your bike 9,000 miles in 2012.

Cushman: That’s correct. Between commuting 30 miles a lot of days, many long Old School rides, and a summer bike tour, the miles added up quick.

Costas: Bike tour?

Cushman: Yes, Bob, a friend and I rode self-supported from Ann Arbor around both Lake Erie and Lake Ontario. Just a tent and a change of clothes strapped to our bikes. I tell ya, you haven’t really ridden til you’ve ridden an 85-lb. bike in 99 degree heat on a six-lane highway coming out the ass end of Cleveland to start the 7th (of 11) hours in the saddle for the day.

The Crushman touring

The Crushman touring

Costas: Fair enough. So I have one last question for you. Your fans around the world of course know you as Crushman™, and it’s obvious why. After trademarking it, reserving as a work-in-progress living shrine to yourself, and tattooing the nickname across your chest, I must ask: have you thought about legally changing your last name to Crushman?

Cushman: Bob, I’d be lying if I said I hadn’t. But, honestly, I just don’t want to come across as narcissistic.

Costas: Understood. Thanks for your time, and good luck in 2013!!

The Crushman taking names at Leland

The Crushman taking names at Leland

SOTW Holiday Edition Part 1 – Ride Leader Words of Wisdom

Words of Wisdom from these two??

Words of Wisdom from these two??

Around this time of year, we get a little nostalgic over the highs and lows of the previous season.  We reminisce about all the laughs and the things we learned.  Then, we start thinking about the next season, goals, races, sprints, etc.  In this Spidermonkey of the Week Holiday Edition Part 1, we’ve collected Words of Wisdom from the team’s ride leaders.  In Part 2, our fearless leaders (see image above) will write something inspiring for next season (don’t hold your breath).

Dean Okun

  • Did you know that we have ride leaders on all Spidermonkey rides?  They are Spidermonkeys with lots of Spidermonkey group ride experience.  They set the tone of the ride at the ride start.  You can count on them to keep an eye out for the safety of the group.  If you have ANY questions about Spidermonkey Cycling, the ride, the route, etc…don’t hesitate to ask them.
  • There are many opportunities to get involved with Spidermonkey Cycling.  You can become a ride leader, a fundraiser, a weekend rider, a Wednesday Night Rider, a bbq/sunday brunch host, a fundraiser, a cross racer, a road racer, a crit racer, a century rider, a social gathering coordinator.  You can count on Spidermonkeys to support any activity you’re involved with!
  • You should come to Vegas for our training camp…incredible riding and great fun!  A great way to get to know more of the team.
  • We are about completion, not competition.  We get really excited about all of it!

Vanessa Schilling

  • Don’t be intimidated to come out on your first group ride, we were all new once! I showed up for my first ride with a bike lock and rode in the “little wheel” (known to everybody else as the “small chainring”) the whole ride.
  • If a car drives over your foot or any part of your body, it’s probably not ok and you should scream even if it doesn’t hurt at the time.

Drew Kushnick

  • At least once every couple of months, do a long ride with friends that doesn’t involve a registration fee, a race number, or a heart-rate monitor.
  • No matter what direction you ride, you’ll always have a headwind coming home.

Stephanie Kushnick

  • Riding is NOT like sex, it’s better to be predictable.
  • Warm gloves are crucial in the cold months. If your hands are cold, your entire body will be cold.

Rebecca Paulson Meyers

  • Girl’s rides are awesome!  Totally worth the loss of sleep.
  • Being a Spidermonkey is about becoming an even better cyclist and becoming part of an incredible group of friends.  Can’t wait to see everyone on the road in 2013!

Mike Meyers

  • If you’re new or not sure about the pace, stay in the middle to the back of the group, until you feel comfortable with the route and the way the group works together
  • Be patient with the process, we were all beginners at one point, even Dean!

Kristi Hanson

  • Girl’s rides are awesome and a perfect way to start a Tuesday morning! Also, it is a very supportive environment, where you can learn a ton.
  • Wednesday Night Rides can seem intimidating at first, but the only way you will get faster is by riding with those who are better than you are!! If you know the route, come out and hold on as long as you can. Most of us get dropped so set small personal goals each week. Mine is always to hold on longer than I did the week before.
  • Cyclocross and mountain biking is way fun so come join us off roaders!! Did you know there is a pretty good group of Spidermonkeys who are taking on the trails these days :-)
  • Don’t be afraid to ask questions. I am amazed what I learn every day from this great group of folks!
  • We all have good and bad days on the bike. Learn to accept this early and you will have a lot more fun :)

Kelly Clarke (ride leader in training?)

  • Get to know the route, even if you’re not leading a ride. It’s safer when you take a pull at the front and if you do a faster ride (Wednesday Night Ride*) it won’t be a problem if you get dropped. I do the WNR and get dropped all the time – it’s been a great learning experience for me, but it would be scary if I couldn’t navigate my way once I lose the group. (Even though, we’ve since instated a ‘B’ group that regroups and goes a little slower so you always have someone to ride with). *WNR is a drop ride, which means it’s expected to be faster and we don’t wait for everyone. Saturday rides are a little slower and we don’t let the group separate.
  • Always have a spare tube and an inflator! This is the absolute best portable inflator out there and our friends at Get a Grip carry it.

John Castro

  • We were all bike newbies at one point, if you see a new rider spinning a too easy gear or mashing too big of a gear or accelerating through their turn at the front of the paceline, etc, speak up and give some constructive pointers.  I’ve definitely had a lot of help along the way.
  • Communicate.  1. When you’re on the front of the paceline, make sure you talk to the person next to you and coordinate when you pull off.  2. We’re a big team, if you don’t know the person next to you .. introduce yourself, we’re all mostly friendly.  :-)

That’s it!  Not all the ride leaders chose to respond to repeated pestering emails so you’ll have to take a look at last year’s wise words here to see some wisdom from Josh Green, Brandon Diffenderfer and SM alum John Lyon. And stay tuned for next week’s SOTW Holiday Edition Part 2 … (drumroll starts now).

Spidermonkey of the Week – Ben Spark


Ben with mini-Spidermonkeys Maddy and Harry at the Friends and Family Ride!

by Ben Spark

The first memory I have of bicycles was seeing the big kids riding around our neighbourhood and lusting after their bikes. One bike I recall was this black thing with suspension that weighed a ton (this was 1980). Another was an aluminium mongoose BMX with bright yellow tuff wheels. I recall the excitement when I got my first bike at eight. It was a hodge podge of parts, a banana seat, BMX handlebars, and knobby tires. It’s short wheelbase helped me to become wheelie champion of the street. I felt I could do anything on that bike despite crashing at high speed and taking skin off one side of my body, and crashing into the nearby creek after breaking the jump record but overrunning the landing strip. That bike died a hero’s death sometime later when the frame broke after yet another heavy landing. My neighbourhood friends and I always pushed each other to do something new and fun and stupid. On our bikes we emulated a car race in Australia called the Bathurst 1000 and attempted to do 1000 laps of our street complete with co-driver, crews, and pit stops. I think the race got to about 200 laps, and by then it had degenerated into arguments over who was actually in the lead.

When I went to high school I spent less time in my neighbourhood and my bike took a back seat. I had competed in middle distance track for many years and my sporting heroes included the English runners Sebastian Coe, Steve Ovett, and Steve Cram. However, sometime during the 80s I had a glimpse of the Tour de France on television and I was captivated by the sight of the peloton winding its way along the roads of France. Bike racing revealed many surprises, an Australian cyclist Phil Anderson was the first non-European to wear the yellow jersey and Peugeot made bicycles too. This was the beginning of my desire to race bikes.

While in college I finally had enough money to buy a racing bike, a Taiwanese knockoff of a Cannondale. I rode that bike all over Sydney. When I had some good miles in my legs and had settled on a comeback to car drivers regular comments on my imitation denim cycling shorts, I joined my first club, the Northern Sydney Cycling Club. My first race was a criterium and that was also my first crash. I think my years of riding and crashing in my home neighbourhood prepared me well and I was mostly annoyed that my new jersey was ripped. I followed this disappointment in the best way, by winning my next race, a road race. Not long after this, while on a training ride the fork of my bike inexplicably snapped, resulting with me on the road. I didn’t ride again for quite some time after that.

Many years later in Chicago, I had just read the book “The Rider” and rediscovered the Tour. I wanted to get out there, not content to be an armchair sportsman. I had heard that there was a group ride that left from the Higher Gear bike shop on Fullerton and rode to Highland Park. That group of people were great company in the the simplicity of a Sunday bike ride. Just as I started to get to know everyone and could see cycling as a healthy addition to my life, my life entered another phase…..parenthood.

After the early days of my children’s life, I found time to get out and ride again. I discovered that Higher Gear on Fullerton had closed and that the group ride was no longer. I didn’t look into any clubs at that time because I wasn’t interested in racing and my riding schedule was very sporadic, so most of my riding was alone. While riding up to Highland Park one day I saw a group ahead and was excited at the chance to ride with others for a change. This group had a lot of orange and black jerseys with the unusual name Spidermonkey on it, and I recognized the rider of a blue Pegoretti bike from the earlier Higher Gear bike ride. Everyone was more than welcoming in letting me ride along on this and later rides.

Ben laying down some hurt .. mean face!

Last year I was ready to make more time for cycling in my life, and joining the Spidermonkey’s was one of the first things I did. For me the weekend group rides are something I will always look forward to and I have entered a few races this summer. With so many Spidermonkey’s pissing excellence this year, I look forward to making my own contribution.


Ben with the mini-Spidermonkeys at Bike the Drive

Spidermonkey of the Week – Lucas Seibel


Lucas killing it at Montrose CCC 2012

by Lucas Seibel

After joining team rides to Highland park, a grueling cyclocross season, and a few podium finishes in the 4a/b races I knew I was going to like this spidermoneky cycling team. Beginning when I was 12, I had a garage full of bikes in Plymouth, MI. I had a BMX bike, but I didn’t ride BMX, a ten speed my dad found in a dumpster, and a kmart mountain bike. I was either riding around with my friends or we were trying to “Fix” them by taking our bikes apart. At one point I even went out on my Mountain bike and tried to ride with a club who rides nightly. I shouldn’t have been surprised when I was left in the back. It wasn’t until I moved to Chicago that I my life was really taken over by cycling. It started slowly, but at one point I was looking at almost 14 bikes in my apartment and I went Car/CTA free for almost a year.

Moving to Chicago to attend Columbia College, I brought two bikes and a pair of running shoes. In high school I had run Track and Cross Country and was hoping to continue in Chicago. I had heard such great things about the Chicago Lakeshore Path. And the things I heard were right; it was beautiful running with the lake on one side and the skyline on the other. Trying to start a running club at Columbia, I organized runs in the morning and night, but who knew that art students wouldn’t want to get up at 7:00 AM to run. So went by myself most of the time, but once I got on my bike and saw how much more of the city I could see I quickly gave up running and started riding everyday. I’d often just try and keep up with anyone on the path that looked faster than me. Once I had kept up with a rider on the lake who told me that I should join a team or club to race, but wasn’t sure how to get involved or if I could afford a road bike, my singlespeed Schwinn World was all I had.

Once I graduated College, I had more free time and time to meet more people in the Chicago cycling community. I still had never done a group ride, but I trained everyday either on the lakeshore or on my rollers because I was getting ready to race track. I joined the Chicago Velo Campus and went down every Saturday for winter training. When it warmed up we started riding on the track. What a rush, but then summer got in the way and I never made it back down to ride. As the summer ended I figured I’d just have to wait until next year before I’d be able to do any racing, then I did a cyclocross race.

Lucas in Chicago Velo Campus kit .. Looking mean!

Talking to my friend, PJ, he gave me some insight about racing in Chicago and he said I should come out to the next cyclocross race and ride in the 4A and 4B race, or the power hour as some call it. I wasn’t doing anything that Sunday so I said why not, the best way to try something new is to just dive in.  It was a hot day in September, and I was up at 7:00 AM for the first time in a while, but I was excited for my first bike race. Since PJ was on the Spidermonkey team we hung out at the team tent most of the day, which gave me an opportunity to meet everyone. My first race was so much fun, I crashed a few times, went home covered in dirt, and had a few cuts, but I couldn’t stop smiling. I was ready to sign up for next weeks race, but I wanted to join a team, mostly so that I could get a cool kit, so I joined Spidermonkey Cycling that week, I’ve met a fair amount of the team and haven’t looked back.

Lucas in the pain cave at Psychocross

Now that the cyclocross season is over, I’m looking forward to meeting the rest of the team, team rides, and a summer of road and track racing. I hope to see you out on the roads.

Lucas and PJ go 1-2 at Montrose 4B’s! Sandbaggers! Oh yeah, Lucas got 3rd in the 4A’s.  Think he’s got the power hour down or what?




Spidermonkey of the Week – Michelle Moore


by Michelle Moore

I grew up playing soccer from the age of 5 through high school. Naturally, that makes me a runner…right? If I needed more proof, it would be that my college days allowed me to play soccer for fun; then I moved to Chicago in 2000…found a soccer team and got involved again. Around the same time, I decided to take up running 5k and 10ks. In 2001, I made the leap from 10ks to my first marathon…see I AM a runner! Training for the Chicago Marathon was a much more daunting experience than I had anticipated. And, after my experience in 2001 (then twice in 2007 and 2009), I decided that marathons are for crazy people (sorry Vanessa).

I watched a friend compete in the Chicago Triathlon in 2002, and told myself “now this is something I can get behind.” So, in 2003 I decided it was time to try a new sport. I never really “learned” how to swim. I mean, if you call your mom dropping you in the pool and saying “swim to me” while you can clearly see her backing up because your eyes are wide open under water – then I guess I “learned.” But, I’m not a swimmer. Biking was also not my strong suit. See, I even called it “biking” at one point. My first bike (a Trek 7100 hybrid) was what I used for the triathlon for three straight years – yep, even put aero bars on that bad boy because I thought it would “help” me go faster. Not sure if it was the machine or the engine at fault there…likely both. I told myself that all I had to do was get through the first two legs of the race, and then I’d be running. Something I was comfortable with! Hmm, not so much. Wow, running after swimming and biking sure was a LOT harder than I thought. What keeps me going 99% of the time is the DetermiNation program through the American Cancer Society. While I work on the program as my real job, I’ve been running and fundraising to fight cancer since 2005. It makes all the training and racing that much more worth it.

It wasn’t until 2010 that I attempted my first group ride. Having Mark in my life, who is very much immersed into the cycling world, I figured it was inevitable that someday I’d give it a whirl. And, all my triathlete friends kept telling me how much group riding would help me. So I went on my first group ride in September 2010, and to say I was scared was an understatement. I stayed at the back as I was told to do, and I was totally alone back there. A little while after the ride started a guy rode up next to me, who was kind enough to talk to me most of the way up to Highland Park – which was nice because it took my mind off the fear I had of being within inches of someone’s rear wheel. I later learned that this guy’s name was “Castro.” At some point along the way the pace increased and somehow I found myself in the middle of the pack, next to the curb. I hated it and loved it at the same time. I was terrified of being next to the curb because I all I could think about was hitting a pothole and crashing. Nevertheless, I made it to the coffee shop, and back home…and thought my legs were going to fall off. But, I was hooked! Enough to try a few more before the season ended.

Gaper’s Block Half Acre Crits!

The next summer Vanessa and Dean came to a party I hosted, and Vanessa and I spent a lot of time talking about the girl’s rides. I finally joined the ladies in the middle of August. I got dropped like third period French the first few times, but the one time I stayed with the group to Tower Road, I knew I was hooked. Unfortunately, I joined the rides too late in the year, because I only made it to four or five before they were over. I also spent more time understanding the larger group rides, and trying to stay with the group the entire way to Highland Park. I very quickly learned that if I start at the back of the group, I’ll end up alone on that sprint up to Tower Road.

It wasn’t until the chili cook off in November 2011 when Vanessa and Dean asked me if I wanted to join the team. I had joined so many group rides that I already felt like part of it, so I figured why not make it official.
2012 was a year of firsts for me. I decided to try racing crits. My first was Gapers Block, and I was terrified. A few ladies from the team (Kristi Hanson, Kelly Clarke, Katie Iserman, Sarah Rice – and I know I’m forgetting a few – sorry!) as well as Mark Z and Drew took us all on a ride down to the site of where Gapers is held. We spent some time riding the course, practicing corners, sprints, etc. The knowledge and experience on this team is remarkable. I knew I had a lot to learn, but being with this group that day made me realize how lucky I was to have found a team that is willing to take an entire Sunday to “train” me for my very first race. I’ve watched crits thinking those people are crazy, but then when I actually raced at the end of March, I was blown away. Literally. Blown off the back of the pack and finished alone on day one. But, as I was taught, I got back on my bike for day two. Much better. Bike racing is quite fun, and easier, when you can stay with the pack. I finished somewhere in the middle, and came back for my third and final day. Again, I finished mid pack. Not too shabby for a first timer.

Lawrence, KS!

It was enough to make me sign up for the Lincoln Park Crit the next month, where things didn’t go well. I crashed, took out another girl, but was able to get back on my bike and finish. I was pissed, hurt and scared to ride close to anyone again. So I stayed off my bike for the next month. But then I had heard about the Tour of Lawrence, and having gone to school there, I wanted to join that trip. So, I trained, and caravanned to my alma mater where we all had an excellent time, albeit the insanely hot temps…and Hayes getting wasted alone in the hotel “pool.”

This year has been completely amazing for me as a cyclist. I still run and take part in triathlons; I even coach running and triathlon programs through Chicago Endurance Sports. Triathlon will always be a part of me, and in turn, so will running. I have had the opportunity to meet two of the greatest icons in the triathlon world at some of the races I’ve competed in (Chrissy Wellington and Craig Alexander).

Chrissy Wellington!

Craig Alexander!

Being a Spidermonkey has given me the confidence and motivation to get on my bike 3-4 days a week and push myself harder. I found myself on so many group rides (and many more girls rides, heck even a few Wednesday night rides) this year that some of my training partners were upset I wasn’t attending Tuesday morning spin class. Being on the road with the girls for two hours is WAY better than a 60 min spin class. I was able to knock out my fastest 5k time ever, and I owe that to my group training with this team. I even had the best triathlon to-date (well the bike portion anyway) – again, due to being a Spidermonkey.

Yes, Spidermonkeys Rock!

Every time I put on my Spidermonkey kit, I feel a sense of pride. I see the way other groups acknowledge us when were out on the road, and how well respected every member of the team is. I even wore my kit to spin class one day and all my tri friends were like “oh is that your cycling team?” I smiled and said, “yes, yes it is.”

Ps. To this day, I still fear those little curbs a bit so it’s best if you just let me ride on the outside of the pack. :-)

Guest Spidermonkey of the Week – VQ’s Dave Noda

Dave Noda!

by Dave Noda

Some questions I get asked often include:

  • How did you get into cycling?
  • How did you and Robbie meet?
  • How is it training with the Spider Monkeys?
  • Really? You’re 5’6”? Come on, are you sure you’re not exaggerating a little, Dave?

So yes, I really am 5’6”…but I am drinking milk and hopefully one day…

I started cycling and endurance training on a bet. Well, not so much a bet, but as the result of one of those times when all my closest buddies were sitting around and came up with an idea: “Hey, has anyone watched that TV show, EcoChallenge?” The more talking we did, the more I thought “Yeah, I can do that. Heck, I could do really good…” And then we talked for the rest of the night about how we were all “in” and we were going to train and work out, really get ready for it.

And then came the day of the registration boom. My friends were nowhere to be found. They would have been quick to reply to an “I’m buying the beers” text, but at that moment I could not locate a single one to save my life.

So my brother and I decided instead to do something similar. We decided to try that thing called a “triathlon.” I signed up for the ruthless, unforgiving terrain of the “Fleet Feet Super Sprint Triathlon” and boy, let me tell you, I was pumped!

For those that have no idea of the distances involved, let me educate you:

  • 0.25 mile swim
  • 6.2 mile bike ride
  • 1.5 mile run

Naturally, I took off from work that Monday knowing I was going to be cooked after this big race!

Yep. I took that Monday off. It’s funny to think about where you come from. I came from a stick and ball background: some baseball, lots of basketball (laugh…it’s ok…you’re reading…I’m not in front of you), and football (keep laughing). The endurance thing was new to me. I had no idea what I was in for, but wanted to do it. When it came to training, my brother and I just knew we could train ourselves. We had both been in the Marine Corps and felt that if we could handle the Marines, we could definitely handle a triathlon. Some of our training consisted of riding our bikes with medicine balls in backpacks for a maximum of 5 miles, but most were 3-mile rides. And don’t get me started on swimming at the Y. Through it all, we just knew “no one–NO ONE–is training harder than we are!”

I’ll save you all a Google search. My time was 58:29.

After the race–and the well deserved Monday off–I knew I loved it. The best part of it was that I truly sucked and still felt that feeling of “wow, I can get better at this.” So after that stellar performance at the triathlon, my brother and I decided to try another one, but this time, why not try that Ironman thing?

Dave Noda!

How I got connected with Vision Quest Coaching

Around 2004 I started looking into actual coaching services. My brother had just joined VQ and he was drinking the kool-aid for sure. He wanted me to try it out, so finally one day, I did. I joined one of the slower rides on a Saturday. (Back then Robbie was still on the USPS Team and a group ride was really just how long you could stay on his wheel.) When my brother told me the ride was 40 miles, I said, “OK, I’m in. Should I book the hotel for the stay-over or will you?” The chuckle you’re having now is exactly what my brother had then.

When I first joined and met Robbie, our relationship was funny. I’m not too hyper-competitive and it seemed like he always saw me on group rides not going too hard or just at the wrong times. He thought I was a slacker.

The moment I remember though was on that first 40-mile bike ride. We were going home and I was cracked, more than you can imagine. But we still had another 7- to 8- mile ride ahead of us. Robbie yelled out, “OK guys, let’s go nice and easy home and not go hard.” People were talking and chit-chatting and there I was in this group of about 50, barely hanging on. (One lady wearing sandals with clips and a frog on her helmet dropped me!) I got frustrated and started pedaling harder, which lasted all of 5 seconds. Then Robbie dropped back to me and said “Hey, how you doing?” I could have lied, but my face and tongue couldn’t. So I told him I was hurting. “Don’t worry, we’ll get you home.” He ended up pushing me 7 miles, all the way home, with his hand on my back. Let me tell you how much of an ego-killer that was! But it also told me how cool VQ was. It brought the brotherhood I’d had in the Marine Corps into cycling.

We are all into cycling for one reason or another. For some it’s stress relief, some it’s lifestyle, and some to stay in shape. At first, I did it so that pushing situation would NEVER happen again. Moreover, it motivated me to get better and know that I could make it happen as long as I put in the time. I could move from the back of the pack to the front of the pack (still trying to get there though).

At that time, I was in finance, doing residential loans for the family business since 1995. I have always loved business and looking at Vision Quest back then, I saw so many opportunities! One example was the weekly e-mail. Robbie would send a quick e-mail from Lake Bluff to the local people up there. I would then rewrite it a bit to customize for the Chicago group. (At that time, we were a solid 10-strong in Chicago meeting at the Running Away on Damen.) As we grew, I suggested a weekly e-mail sent out to let everyone know what we were doing on a week-to-week basis. It went from a one-line e-mail to now including videos, pictures, and links to sign up for rides. Another example was membership. Back then, athletes either joined for the full boat membership (annually, all at once) or nothing. We talked about needing a hybrid, something that allowed people to “taste” what Vision Quest had to offer. We scheduled it at times that VQ wasn’t busy, on a specific day each week for 8 weeks. Originally it was to be the same 8-week program each time, but people loved it, so we made it a staple class. It has grown each and every year since.

My passion on the whole is not cycling. My passion is getting people to see something in themselves that they might not even be able to see yet–just like Robbie did with me. Endurance is such a great sport. The older you get and the more time you put in, the better you get. It’s a sport wherein you really can’t size people up as with other sports. And best of all, you have to leave your EGO at the door and be open-minded, for sure.

Dave and Phil Liggett

How is it training with the Spidermonkeys?

Well, I don’t want this to be too long. All I can say is that it’s great. It’s a lot of fun to have a group of people that are such great representatives of the sport, while having fun and being smartasses at the same time. Spidermonkeys has grown each year, now even doing camps in Vegas and holding holiday parties. I can’t say enough about how much fun it is to do the Thursday class and know that everyone is there to train, but also have fun.

Kudos to Dean, Vanessa, and all the Spidermonkeys for being such ambassadors of the sport! I can’t wait til Thursday! We will have a lot to talk about after this blog!

Just admiring the scenery …

and last, but not least …


Spidermonkey of the Week – Ann Marie Martens

Having a good time with some Goose Island Harvest Ale


So, I would say that I am an artist with a side of cyclist. This path that I have chosen has given me somewhat of a migratory life and at the moment I find myself here in Chicago riding with a bunch of Spidermonkeys.

2012 North Shore Century – I’m in white in the middle with the whole Spidermonkey gang

Anyways, bikes have always been apart of my life, but in the beginning it was more on a casual level, the occasional commute here to there or a stroll along the local bike path. I really didn’t think twice about cycling. Mainly because back in high school I saw myself more as a skateboarder, snowboarder, into the punk/indie rock scene, and oddly enough a golfer. Yes I know that is quite the mix and I was definitely an anomaly on the golf course, but having the competitive side that I do, I was actually pretty good. And back then, the only encounter I had with cyclists was the BMX riders that would show up occasionally at the newly hot skateboarding spot. So the idea of serious riding didn’t enter my life until a good decade later.

So then I went off to college and really put my focus on art and pretty much dropped the majority of my side endeavors, as it seemed like I spent more time in the studio than at home. To be honest I still put the studio first. After I graduated, I spent my time traveling, attended a 2-month artist residency, moved to Tennessee for a year, and had some serious life stumbles before I decided to return back to school and refocus the path I was taking. This was also the time where cycling entered my life a little more as I started riding/commuting almost daily. Soon after, I received my first masters degree and was awarded a full ride and stipend to an MFA program at Michigan State University.

“Our Binding Path”, 2012, Installation, Ceramic Needles, Thread, and Batting

In the summer before I started my MFA, 2008, I met this avid road cyclist/racer and my interest in cycling soared. At the time I was riding a Trek Hybrid style bike, a heavy beast, and this guy decided to take me out to the Black Hills to ride 30 miles on Needles Highway. If I remember correctly that was going to be my longest ride and first in that kind of terrain. We started near the top of Needles so what goes down must come up, right? Well, I was definitely not prepared, hadn’t eaten enough, ran out of water and ended up barely being able to walk the last mile or so up to where we parked near the top. It was one of my best rides even though I was physically and emotionally exhausted. This experience definitely set the hook. A couple of weeks after this trip I left for Michigan and was dating this guy. While residing in the Mitten, I began riding more on my own aiming for one 20-30 mile ride a week as well as commuting everyday to the studio/school. I know it’s not much but it was what I could give to cycling while in grad school. The time spent in the saddle was great for thinking. It gave me the opportunity to leave the studio and contemplate the direction of my work. At this time, I also became self-competitive about cycling by trying to bring my average speed up with each ride. Then in 2009, my guy upgraded his bike and I acquired the carbon road bike he was previously riding. And with a couple of necessary changes it fits like a dream and I love it.

Needless to say by the time I graduated in 2011 I was on my own again, but with a really great bike and off to Kansas for a year as an Artist in Residence at Kansas State University. I was excited for the new terrain and adventures of the Flint Hills and hoping to give a little more time to cycling. While there I tried riding with a local group but they were not quite my niche, I was too slow for the fast rides and thought the other ‘no drop’ rides as too slow for me. So I was back to riding on my own again with the occasional ride with a good friend.

North Shore Century 2012, I’m the one in white with the socks

Then spring 2012 came along with a job offer in my field/medium here in Chicago and by June I was living in a new city. Being use to the open country roads and riding without stopping Chicago cycling became quite the adjustment. And honestly I was frustrated. This led me to look into the various cycling groups around here and that’s how I found the Spidermonkeys. Since I have joined them, I have met some really great people and accomplished my first century. This time I remembered to eat and fill up my water bottle and I didn’t have to walk the last mile or so. So where my adventures will lead to next? I’m not sure. Though I am curious about cyclocross and possibly looking into racing, but it all depends on the studio.

Ann Marie Martens

Spidermonkey of the Week – PJ Cavoto Jr

PJ .. and SuperGirl

Hey gang! I have gotten to know so many of you over the course of the last year and it’s been tremendous.

Here’s my journey:

I joined the team right around the Elk Grove Criterium last year. My friend and one of triathlon training partners, Paul Halupka, talked me into trying my 1st road race event. I had already gone on several training rides with the Spidermonkeys and was just starting to get exposed to local road racing. Hearing others talk about the upcoming races and realizing I can keep up with some of these guys started to build my confidence and I decided to give it a try. Perhaps jumping the gun, but being very inspired from the group rides, I declared Spidermonkey Cycling as my team at my first race. Later that week an email was forwarded to me sent out by Dean asking who the hell is Peter Cavoto?? I quickly responded to Dean letting him know it was me, PJ. He obviously informed me that I can’t randomly put that down unless I am an official member of the club and I may get myself and the team in trouble. I am pretty sure the next group ride I put a check in Dean’s hand.

PJ and Paul – Photo by Jen Groen

Besides following my passion of art, I have always relished in individual competitive sports. I grew up a swimmer and dabbling in running for conditioning in between winter and summer seasons. However, I always seemed to come back to the bike with great interest and enthusiasm. This may have started as a small boy when I was notorious for taking things apart and putting them back together, convincing only myself that I improved it somehow. Trust me; there were many times that my dad had to complete the reassembly (including my sister’s bikes) several times. My graduating gift after high school was a brand new Giant (3×8) road racing machine. My parents were certain that I would parley into the world of triathlons with my background in all three disciplines. I choose the road of being an official party-er and within a year sold the machine for cash. A few years later, mountain biking was starting to become all the rage and my love for engaging with nature got me into trail riding. It was rough going with having to cut our own trail systems out in forest preserves of the northwest suburbs, where we would often get chased out by rangers. And in those days, suspension forks were just starting to make an appearance (yeah, I’m that old). The rigid mountain bikes I rode took a beating every time out and I found myself having to make repairs daily. I finally started investing into new machines and my love for mtb’ing took off.

Just some Spidermonkeys at Galena post Crit, PJ gets 3rd! – Photo by Jen Groen

In ‘98, I moved to the city to complete my BA at DePaul and discovered that the easiest transit in the city was by bike. My love for mtb’ing dwindled due to the difficulty of traveling to get to a trail system and I felt a little out of place riding around on the grass on the lakefront (no cyclocross scene yet). I started taking old mtb frames and re-purposing them into commuters. Up to that point, I considered road riding boring in comparison to mtb’ing. As I grew to love the challenge of riding everywhere in the city, 365 days a year, my passion grew. Not to mention the challenge and rush of fighting for a piece of the road with automobiles. Over the last 14 years, I’ve had more car-bike contact in this city than I care to share.

In the early 2000’s, I was introduced to triathlons with the Chicago Tri being my 1st. I was hooked. I competed in more than a dozen tri’s through 5 years. I did well at them … and was most proud of my overall win at Lake Delavan in 2007. Injuries caught up to me and I had to take a year off. I came back to the sport, but my enthusiasm was only sparked by a small contingent of training buddies. If you have every competed in tri’s prior to belonging to a team, you know that it can be a little on the lonely side. You don’t really engage much with other racers and tend to race and train on your own since your competition is the clock. So as you all have figured out, having the support and companionship of the Spidermonkeys makes a world of difference regarding the fun factor.

Carpentersville CX! – Photo by Bill Draper

I have also been fairly involved in Chicago’s social cycling community for over 5 years. This began with a ride group called Midnight Marauders. I have co-chaired on the council for the last 3 years now. If you have never heard of us, we consider that a good thing. We try remaining somewhat of an anonymous underground group ride that explores the city, getting started after midnight and riding till dawn. The group helped the Chainlink get off the ground since we had over 100 members at that time. We now have grown to 367 members and are still the largest monthly ride group listed on The Chainlink. Our monthly ride participation can range anywhere from 10 to 200 riders any given month. We do push the boundaries of Chicago law (being in the parks after close), but we ride respectfully and just want to enjoy the city under the stars. Our club motto is we are a “drinking club with a biking problem”. A similar group I roll with often, FBC – Full Moon Fiasco – also posted on the Chainlink. Both are a lot of fun and usually involve a little liver abuse, but you can engage at your own tolerance (we do have many participants that don’t drink). Come join, if you’re so inclined.

In close, I love bikes. I build them, ride them hard, and often break them. I consider them my band of horses and treat them as such. So it has been tremendous to ‘gallop’ with such an enthusiastic, supportive group of riders. I can’t say enough good stuff about how amazing this last year has been and how awesome it is to be part of the Spidermonkeys! Thank you all for such a warm welcome into the group. Let’s go ride!

Peter J Cavoto Jr

Spidermonkey of the Week – Jan Van Nuffelen aka The Belgian

The Belgian!

My first 7 months in the US…
It all started at the end of December 2011… my company offered me a 2-year assignment in the US. It was a bit overwhelming, but I was willing to take the opportunity. I still remember that my biggest concern was the location: Chicago, Illinois … Google maps did not show any topography, all flat. Not ideal for a cyclist!

The Tour of Flanders Cyclosportive: Cobbled Madness

At the end of April I made the move and traveled to the US. No family, no friends and no girlfriend…and a totally different culture. The first thing I did that first weekend was went looking for a decent bike shop. I looked on the internet and found Get A Grip Cycles where I met Ken. He suggested joining a group ride with the Spidermonkeys…

Arrival @ my apartment…shipping bikes is always stressful

It took me two missed team rides before I even could join the ride. I live in the western suburbs (Elmhurst) and have to drive 35 minutes to get started. Not easy for a foreigner to find the meeting point. Luckily, the second time I had a look from the other side of the parking lot and found the meeting spot. In Belgium it’s pretty straight forward. If you want to join a team ride, you just show up at 8 AM in front of the local church. It doesn’t matter in which village or city you live, this is the general rule. If you missed the start, you just wait in the local bar…every cycling team is having some beers together after the ride.

Racing in Belgium
Topography! (Not Chicago)


Every weekend I look forward to riding together with a great group of people. When you are riding you don’t need to think of anything and everything seems to be so simple. After each ride I feel good and realize that I’m really fortunate to be a Spidermonkey….the only Belgian Spidermonkey!

Jan Van Nuffelen

Spidermonkey of the Week – Jesus Cruz

The Jesus finishing Steelhead ’09!

Here is my bio:

Something you may not know about me, I’m Cuban, Chinese and Spanish.

I’ll use the time machine to get us quickly to the 80’s… when bikes were made of real alloys, shorts were wool, the padding was a thin layer of chamois leather, shoes were all leather with titanium inserts or wooden soles. I was never much of a team sports individual and being an extreme introvert, cycling was a natural venue for me. I rode with several close grade school friends or on my own. Seems that most of us are identified by what we do and enjoy. For me cycling was and is one of those things.

My bike racing experience was short lived and limited, none of this crazy Category stuff. I wanted to race with danger, I raced in the “citizens” group which consisted of anyone without a license, some of these races were even held in large parking lots… never understood that one. Anyway, the few crits I did were exciting, but it just never settled in my gut to continue. And with college around the corner, cycling took a long hiatus.

About 10 years later, I decided to get back into cycling which was motivated by friends who were doing running races. I dusted off my old aluminum, down tube shifterized, toe clipped machine and headed off to the lake front. Day 1, I headed south and though this isn’t bad for not being on the bike in 10 years…upon turning around I found out why… heading south I had a strong tailwind. Two blocks from the car (near Montrose), another cyclist crossed the line dividing the path, hit me head on. With a minor elbow injury all I thought… my bike, is it OK? … the front wheel had collapsed, frame kinked in two spots.

A few days later, I headed off to purchase a new bike, entry level of course. In hindsight, never get entry level, you will always want to upgrade. With a new bike in hand, I ventured onto the real roads, I learned from my bowling days that Dean Okun rode and thought this would be fun. Slowly, but surely, I started riding Sheridan and started up with the Spidermonkeys when they were in their infancy.

Soon I jumped into triathlons, my first being a duathlon in Galena. I had no idea what I got myself into, since it was so damn hilly. I loved it, I learned to swim afterwards and signed up for an actual tri and then did another later that year. Realizing I’m a very competitive person I decided it was time to upgrade to a carbon bike since I needed to fit in with the roadies, finally the wool shorts and toe clips disappeared. The next year, it was time to up the ante and jump into a half ironman. The first half ironman became a duathlon due to swim conditions, in which the lifeguard boats couldn’t even row away from the shore. The following years I would keep up with the triathlons, finally doing a couple of half ironmans, half marathons and full marathons. All this time I trained on my own, I’ve been fortunate to ride with the Spidermonkeys who do a great job at kicking my ass on the road and helped strengthen my riding abilities.

Now, I’m on my next adventure… the Louisville Ironman. After purchasing a tri bike, racing wheels, computrainer, bike tools, repair stand, multiple wet suits, countless running shoes, drawers full of synthetic clothing, GPS this and that… I’m still not done spending amounts of money which would cover several mortgage payments.

I hope to continue with endurance racing until I become the creepy old man without humility who does a tri in his speedos. I’ve learned a lot from my fellow riders and racers, how to train, what to eat and drink but most of the learning have come from mistakes I’ve made along the way in each race and found ways to adapt. The most important thing I’ve learned is to always make time for friends and family, they keep you honest and sane. They are your best support system when you feel like giving up.

– The Jesus

This is my personal blog:

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