Category: Uncategorized (page 2 of 41)

Spidermonkey of the Week – Wendy Rigterink

Imagine a cool mid-summer weekend day, with a potential storm on its way but two bikers itching for miles.  Given the weather, they abort the original plan to venture somewhere new “with cars” and instead agree to the Lakeshore trail.  Little did they know of the many obstacles to come…but that it would all be worth it because it would ultimately lead them to the Spidermonkeys:

– A flat tire…before one pedal stroke; with the help of strangers, it appears fixed.

– The 5k Gay Pride run…rainbow costumes and big hair are fun…for the first 10 feet…then it gets old

– Hunger Walk…hundreds of very, VERY slow moving walkers

– The flat returns…the partner in crime attempted to help with a very old cartridge; gaining some pressure until an irrational concern overcame them, that the cartridge is actually a live grenade that they quickly toss onto the ground (a deadly combination of an over-active imagination and no flat tire clinic!)

At this point, they cry “we give!” and walk to a bike shop (and brunch next door).  With full bellies they pick up their bikes and learn of the infamous Spidermonkey cycling group.  [”They” is yours truly and my good friend, Carin… “you know, like ‘car-in’ the garage” :))

To back up to the beginning, I grew up in a family that biked around the block on summer evenings.  We put streamers on our bikes and road them in our neighborhood Memorial Day parade.  I excelled as an expert tag-along.  In one picture, you see my grabbing a free ride on my dad’s bike.  Growing up in Michigan, we would rent tandem bikes at Mackinaw Island and I would sit in the back…and pedal when my dad or older sister would turn around to make sure I was pedaling.  It’s not all that different than me drafting behind folks in recent years…bike “smarter” has been my motto (especially when biking with stronger people).  My family has gotten even with me – I get not only my niece on back of the tandem with me, but also at least two of the youngest in the burley as well.  Fortunately no incidents with horses to-date!

Dad & WR_cropBiking played a bigger role in my life when I was told in high school that biking will strengthen and minimize my knee problems.  It became a break away activity while living at home during the summers in college.  When I moved to Washington, D.C. for my first job, with too much time on my hands, I hit the Capital Crescent trail most evenings and biked into Georgetown and the monuments.

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I did my first MS ride – 65 miles – in the Virginia foothills.  My goal was to finish.  I was ecstatic when I completed it…that feeling lasted for about 2 minutes, right up until the volunteer said “Congrat’s…did you just finish the century?”.  Ugh.  Little then could I have imagined that I would ride a century (IL MS) AND up and out of Hoover Dam!  In Minneapolis, I rode the MS 150-mile, a 2-day event, from Duluth to Minneapolis and fell even more in love with the sport and the greater community who enjoyed biking for a cause and encouraging non-bikers.  I was adopted by various teams and did training rides with a group that developed over the years.  It was during this time that a good friend chuckled when they overheard me explaining that I was a casual biker versus a “cyclist.”  Somehow I missed the metamorphosis that had taken place…first the spandex, then bike gloves…helmet, road bike, clips, and lastly the jersey…out popped a cyclist!

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And finally I came to Chicago…  I was spoiled with great paved trails in Minneapolis, so I started off clinging to the Lakeshore trail, early in the morning.  One Saturday I decided to be brave and headed north on city streets.  I saw a huge pack of bikers on Sheridan (guess who??  a striking orange was the predominant color).  They reminded me of how much I missed riding with others.  Shortly thereafter, I met Carin and we started biking together and plotted our first Spidermonkey ride.  I have never felt so included, exhausted, and giddy (that I survived) all at the same time. :) I feel so lucky to have found such a great group of amazing people!  From the intro talk at that first Saturday ride (flats are not catastrophic!), to flat tire clinic, girl rides, end of the season bash, observe blizzard cyclo-cross race, VQ, Roxanne’s spin classes, Vegas, 312 events, IL MS ride, hot orange pants…you all inspire me to be a better, stronger biker while also accepting me into the “family” exactly as I am.  I still get excited when I see the orange and am sure to holler out the “caa-caa”…wondering who I just spotted.  You all have made Chicago feel very quickly like home and I’m excited for the many adventures yet to come.  Thank you all so very much. :)

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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!

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

TT

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.

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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.

Crit

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.

Conclusion

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

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.

SANCTIONING

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.

USAC http://www.usacycling.org/
USA Cycling is the most common governing body in Illinois, and in the nation. They drive the rules about racing categories and upgrades.

ABR http://www.ambikerace.com/
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?

LICENSES

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!

CATS

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: http://www.usacycling.org/road-category-upgrade-guidelines.htm

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!

REGISTERING FOR RACES

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 www.bikereg.com, but some use www.usacycling.org. 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.

ICA

The Illinois Cycling Association (illinoiscycling.org) 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.

CONCLUSION

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.

Salle’s Cycle Group Ride

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Salle’s Cycle Group Ride, Atibaia, Brazil – October 12, 2013
by Paul Decker

Over the past several years work has frequently taken me to Atibaia, Brazil, a small city located in the mountains north of Sao Paulo. Typically I am in and out quickly, but my current trip required me to stay for 10 days.

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Facing a weekend away from home I packed my running gear assuming that would be the extent of my fitness activities. Walking home from work one evening, I visited Salle’s Bikes, the local shop in Atibaia. Between one employee’s partial English and my very, very poor Portuguese, he was able to explain there was a group ride on Saturday at 3:00PM and there was one Americano who participated. Given the narrow, rough roads and aggressive driving, most cycling in Brazil is done on mountain bikes with road biking done primarily on the interstate highways.

salle3I was able to borrow a Giant 29er, cycling clothes, gloves and a water bottle from a friend. On the way to the ride a guy in a red kit blew past me, dodging in and out traffic on a narrow road. I knew he had to be going to the same group ride and I thought I was going to be in trouble. When I got to Salles, five guys were waiting, all of whom were obviously experienced, strong mountain bikers. More doubts. They were very friendly and although we could hardly communicate they were more than welcoming. Jason, the Americano from Oklahoma arrived, as did another friend and transplant from Iowa, so communications became easier. Jason assured me that it was an inclusive, no drop ride and not to worry.

When the group was complete we headed for the mountains, leaving town on roads similar to Ridge late on a Saturday morning. Pare, Portuguese for stop, really means yield (sometimes), so intersections require a little more concentration than at home. The traffic circles add even more adventure.

We ended up on 30km dirt road loop popular among local cyclists. The climbs were intense and I was pleased to stay with them. The views were also spectacular.

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After a short rest at the summit, we enjoyed a long, fast descent, clearly a skill one does not get to practice in Chicago. At such speeds the second half of the ride went quickly and we were soon relaxing at a fruit market enjoying a novel designer recovery drink – coconut water.

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It was a terrific afternoon, meeting new friends and enjoying a Brazilian version of our group rides. Next time I am in Atibaia I look forward to again joining this warm, welcoming group of cyclists. To my new friends from the Salles Bikes; thanks for being such awesome hosts. When you visit Chicago, please join us for a Spidermonkey ride.

Levi Leipheimer Gran Fondo 2013

by Tony Green

Introduction
Last year, I rode the Levi Leipheimer Gran Fondo for the first time. It’s a spectacular 103 mile ride in Sonoma with over 7000 riders and 9000 feet of climbing. It’s not the hardest ride I’ve ever done (that peculiar honor goes to the Deathride in South Lake Tahoe) but it’s a great one. 2012 was my first season road riding again after a long layoff and I didn’t exactly distinguish myself, really suffering greatly in the mountains.

Mountains you say? Oh Yes. They look like this:

mtn
VIEW THE COURSE

Here’s how I did in 2012: http://www.strava.com/activities/23688925

By the way, that year my heart rate monitor was malfunctioning – so my HR wasn’t really 245. It just felt like it.

I decided to try it again in 2013. Hopefully with a better result.

Travel Logistics
First question when traveling to a ride like is usually “Do I ship my bike or rent one out there?” In 2012, I went out for only 3 days, so I rented an S-Works Tarmac, specially provided for the event by Specialized. Nicest bike I’ve ever ridden. Nicer, frankly, than I deserve. This year, my wife Lisa and I had a friend’s wedding on Orcas Island near Seattle the weekend before the Gran Fondo, so we decided to make a vacation of it. We’d fly to Seattle, take the ferry to Orcas island, go to the wedding, drive back to Seattle and then down the coast to Northern California, stay in Sonoma for 4 days for the ride, then head down to San Francisco before flying home. I wanted to make sure I could ride as often as I wanted, whenever I wanted, so renting from multiple places seemed impractical. So I decided to ship my bike. I rented a bike case from Element Multi-Sport and got everything boxed up pretty well: Bike, tools, floor pump, tubes, pretty much everything I’d need. Clothing was another packing challenge. The weather in Seattle was 50 degrees and raining. The forecast for California was 78 degrees and Sunny. My solution? I took every piece of bike clothing I had.

travel

There’s no such thing as traveling light with a bike.

Importantly, I had assured Lisa that this trip was a vacation first and a bike race second. Otherwise, it might have been a slightly harder sell. I also provided a “no cranky” guarantee, so if I couldn’t ride enough, or was feeling tired, or sick of lugging the bike box around – I couldn’t get cranky. Because we’re on vacation. Right?

Orcas Island – Thursday thru Sunday

flannel

‘Tour de Flannel’ – I never did check to see if there actually is a race called the Tour de Flannel on Orcas Island.


We made it to Orcas Island on Thursday night, so got the bike back together and rode Friday. I quickly learned that there isn’t a flat patch of road anywhere on Orcas Island (Note: I’m sure that’s not really true, but I sure as hell didn’t find it…) The riding there is great – very undulating with a particularly great 5.5 mile 2000’ climb up to Mt. Constitution. The weather was pretty rough. Raining, foggy and cold. It was bad enough climbing in that, but the subsequent descents (especially from Mt. Constitution) were pretty tricky – technical twisties with leaves and pine needles on the road, standing water and rainwater runoff plus fog being blown in from the ocean reducing visibility.
fog

This is the top of Mt. Constitution. With the fog, it was all I could see.


I was on the brakes the whole descent. I saw only two other riders, heading down as I was climbing up. The first passed me with a glance and said “Hey man” the same way you might if you saw someone at a funeral you recognized and wanted to commiserate with. The second guy looked up, smiled, and said “Ah good – another idiot.” All in all, made for a pretty miserable, soaking, freezing ride.

I did it again the next day.

Strava Links:

Friday: http://www.strava.com/activities/86339550
Saturday: http://www.strava.com/activities/86339543

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Technical term for that bottom right pad: Not good


Seattle – Monday
Legs sore from climbing and the rest of me hungover from the wedding, we got back to Seattle and I went out for a recovery ride on some of the city’s bike trails. Someone had clued me in on the Burke-Gilman trail as being a particularly good one. It is. In fact, the whole city is great for riding. Bike lanes everywhere, lots of riders and drivers are respectful. It was, of course, raining but at least it was flat. I was really enjoying myself until I noticed that not only had the center bolt on the left side of my crankset worked its way out about ½”, but also that my front right brake pad was completely worn down. I think that riding the brakes hard on the descents on Orcas Island had finally worn them down. I stopped by a local bike shop, where the mechanic offered up a clear-headed, insightful diagnosis: “Yeah…that‘s not good.” I bought new pads and decided I’d install them and fix the crank bolt once we got to Sonoma. It was a good reminder that on a trip like this, you need to be ready to handle maintenance and mechanicals. There’s no reason they should stop you from riding.
Strava Link: http://www.strava.com/activities/86339539

Sonoma – Thursday
Finally – California! Now, I know there are parts of this state that ARE overrated. But Sonoma’s probably not one of them. It was warm and Sunny. The people are nice – possibly permanently high? Plus, I’d fixed the crank bolt, installed new brake pads, degreased, cleaned and re-lubed the bike. I’d even laundered my kit and put on some fresh bar tape. I was feeling good. We met up with my friend/rider Kevin and his wife Ruth at Francis Ford Coppola’s winery and resort in Healdsburg. Kevin, who lives and rides in Marin, had mapped out a route for us, so we got a nice 45 miles in before heading back to shower, drink free wine at a private party we crashed and have dinner at the winery. Nice.
Strava Link: http://www.strava.com/activities/86879812

Ride Day – Saturday

tony

Start Line: See how assured and relaxed I look? Me neither.


We lined up at 730am for an 8:00am start. However, with 7500 riders, what that means is that I rolled across the start line about 830am. Standing around beforehand, you start to question your clothing choices. The forecast was that the temperature would be mid-80s and sunny by 11am. But at 730am it was 50 degrees and I had my regular Spider monkey kit with a base layer and arm warmers. It didn’t feel like enough at the time. In 3 hours’ time, it’d be plenty.

Mentally, I had chunked the ride up as follows:
1. Start to Cazadero
2. Kings Ridge climb – first part
3. Kings Ridge climb – second part
4. Descent to Portugese Beach
5. Coleman Road Climb
6. Occidental Road descent to finish

Start to Cazadero
The first 30 miles from the start to the town of Cazadero are pretty straightforward. My goal in this first section was to make my way up the group to get out of all the congestion and also to make sure I didn’t miss the cut-off time at Cazadero. The first 20 miles, the roads are closed, so we had 2 full lanes and I was able to speed along pretty well. However, the sheer number of riders on some narrower parts meant that we were moving like cattle in some places. At one tight, narrow left hander, we even had to walk our bikes. Motorists were sitting at junctions, held there by the Highway Patrol letting the riders through. I noticed that not only did most riders make a point of thanking the volunteers and cops; they also thanked the drivers for their patience – a nice touch. There’s a nice warm-up climb at the 10 mile mark that’s about 4 miles long. It’s the appetizer before the entrée. This is where the traffic really starts to thin out. Plus, all the pack chatter stops. You know when you fly out to Vegas and the flight is loud with everyone yelling and boasting? That’s what the first 10 miles are like. You know the flight back from Vegas that’s deadly quiet with everyone thinking about how much money they lost? That’s what the first climb is like. It just suddenly gets quiet.

Once you’re at top of that first climb you can tear up the next 10 miles down into Cazadero. It feels good – a nice reminder that, yes, you can actually ride a bike well and fast. And that’s good. Because the real work of the day is coming up next.

Kings Ridge – Part 1
If that warm-up climb is the appetizer, the 11 mile climb up King’s Ridge is the entrée. You have to remind yourself that’s what you’re really there for. Everyone gets quiet again. Once in a while, you’ll hear someone mutter “And we paid money for this, right?” And someone in the group will try to laugh or maybe just grunt in response. The sound you hear most often is people trying to shift into a lower gear, but realizing they don’t have one; they’re already in their lowest gear. I was guilty of this too. I knew I was in my lowest gear, but every once in a while, I’d flick the shift level just to check. A long climb like this is a meditative exercise – you’re just counting pedal strokes, synchronizing your breathing with your pedal cadence, trying (trying!) to keep you upper body relaxed and trying to make the smallest adjustments that just might make it a little easier. I wish I could tell you more about this part of the climb, but I really don’t remember that much. I remember leaving the Cazadero rest stop and taking the cut-off road for the start of the climb where a cop shouted “Good Luck!” at me. Then, 90 minutes later, somehow, I was at the top. And still less than halfway done.

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That’s right – Not the one you’re about to throw up on now, the more difficult one ahead


Kings Ridge – Part 2
I didn’t hang around any of the rest stops too long, even the one at the top of the first King’s Ridge climb, figuring that I was better off getting going than waiting around thinking about the road ahead. So that’s what I did. After the ‘entrée’ of the first part of Kings Ridge, the second part is like dessert. Only not as fun. It’s like being completely stuffed after the entrée, yet you say ‘Sure, I’ll have dessert!” – Even though you know you it’s bad for you. I don’t remember much about this one either, except that it seems to go on forever. You play these little games where you look at the miles on your GPS and think “This next turn, that must be the summit” but it never is. Or you look at the tree-line ahead of you and can see blue sky through the trees instead of more mountains and you think “Ok, so THAT must be the summit” – but it’s not. The road curls round on another switchback and there’s more 10% grade to climb.

Here’s another fun thing. Along all the climbs they post these signs: “Difficult Climb Ahead.” I’m sure these are meant to be helpful and informative but they are actually incredibly demoralizing: “Oh, so the difficult one is not the one I’m on now, but the one ahead. Got it thanks!” Or, “Sure, you say ‘Difficult Climb Ahead’ but what I hear is ‘I’m fat.’” Yeah.

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Why is this man smiling? Because he’s going downhill.


Descent to Portuguese Beach
At this point, many of you are probably getting sleepy. Others may be asking: “Tony, all this talk about climbing hills, aren’t there any descents?” Yes. Yes there are. And the descent from the top of Kings Ridge down to Portuguese beach is a beauty. Smooth switch backs at 10% over 5 miles or so down to the Pacific. It’s a blast. The best rollercoaster ride you’ll ever take. That said, I tend to be pretty careful in descents these days. I don’t let the bike run as much as I used to and I tend to cover and ride the brakes a lot more. Maybe it’s just getting older and having a growing sense of my own mortality. But – I give plenty of distance between myself and the descender in front of me. I’m very careful about passing on providing plenty of room. I tend to descend in my drops, not just because it’s faster but because I have a better mechanical advantage braking from that position if I have to (useful SpiderMonkey safety clinic tip!). I also feel I can better countersteer to hold a corner line better.

Oh, and by the way, screaming past me, super close, at 50mph, yelling “On your left!” as if that makes everything ok and cutting in my line?

So not Pro.

Coleman Valley Road.
This is the last climb of the day and even the race packet refers to it as ‘The infamous Coleman Valley Road.’ Reason being, you’re cruising down Highway 1, rolling nice and fast, turn left onto Coleman Valley Road and boom! The road goes up, straight up, right away. Continuing the meal analogy – we’ve had the appetizer, entrée, dessert – Colman Valley Road is the bottle of Grappa someone decides to order. It tastes terrible now and you’ll feel terrible the next day. It’s completely unnecessary and it’s only purpose is to punish you. You turn off Highway One, shift from your highest to lowest gear instantly and start the grind upwards. Diana Nyad, the long distance swimmer who just swam from Cuba to Key West said that she would sing The Beatles’ ‘Paperback Writer’ to herself to keep her breathing and stroke synchronized. I found that the Swell Season’s ‘Falling Slowly’ worked well for me. I quickly renamed it ‘Climbing Slowly.’ I don’t even like the song.

The last 18 miles are fast and flat and I hooked up with some other riders to work together to the finish.

I’d been texting Lisa with my estimated finish times (“4pm sharp”, “Uh, maybe 4:45”, “More like 5-ish”) and was delighted to see her when I crossed the finish line. It’s really nice to have someone cheering for you.

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Summary
Overall I was about 30 minutes faster than last year. I was a bit disappointed. I thought a good season riding with SpiderMonkey, 3000 miles training and preparation would give me a better time. Comparing this ride with last year’s, I was a little faster overall and definitely stopped fewer times. I certainly felt better than last year. My flat speed was improved, but climbing speed was about the same. On these long climbs, my HR was sitting at 150 and my Lactate Threshold is currently slightly below that.

Strava Link: http://www.strava.com/activities/87171468

My takeaway is this: Climbing is a completely different animal from what we normally do in the Midwest. It’s almost a different sport. Normal flat training will have minimal impact in a ride like this where the focus is on sustained, tough climbs.

My goals are to increase Power, raise LT and drop weight. Same as everyone else, I guess. I’m planning on doing it again next year. Lisa and I have planned to have our vacation in Sonoma the week after the ride, so we can eat and drink at will. My friend Kevin, who rode it with me in 2012, is doing it in 2014 too. Thing is, he wants to really go for it. Kill it.

Looks like I’ll need to get out on those Sunday and Wednesday night SpiderMonkey rides in 2014.

Venus de Miles

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by Roxanne Overshiner Bowens

Venus de Miles Charity Ride Report

#notasingleBOD

#wecrushedthecharityride

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

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

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

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

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The ladies with Jason, Goose Island rep!


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

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

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

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

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Prairie State Cycling Series

by Kristen Meshberg

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

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

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

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

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

Going against Sam Schneider for a Prime

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Barry Roubaix – 62 mile

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

 

Hotel PrepsBike Prep


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

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

Spidermonkey of the Week – Michael Montali

mm1mm2

Hello Spidermonkey’s! It’s Mike, or maybe you might know me as “the other Mike,” or more likely, “another Mike,” or most likely, if at all, “that one dude.” I started with the team early last spring and am really glad to have joined Spidermonkey Cycling!

I started with bicycles at some very young age when one of the older kids on the block asked to ride my scooter. He had a bike and told me to try it. I didn’t know how to ride bikes but I threw a leg over it, rolled down a small hill and started pedaling. The balance and ability to judge the momentum all came to me in a flash and I was off! So in an instant, and fairly unexpectedly, I opened my account in the world of 2 wheeled machines without the need for training wheels or parental encouragement. Pretty lucky I think!

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I must admit that aside from a few events, I’ve never been involved in much organized cycling…but have always made bikes a major priority in my life. I’ve enjoyed many years of mountain biking, year-round urban commuting, and bicycle camping adventures.

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(L) – From a 2011 camping trip to southern Illinois, there’s a rack under there somewhere. (R) – My mountain bike and v-dub.

Possibly the most interesting part of my cycling history is the fact that I did several stints as a Chicago bike messenger through my 20’s. Hey, I know messengers are sometimes questionable members of the cycling community (especially back then when more abundant) but when you’re involved, it’s a hell of an adventure and there are some unbelievable characters out there. One winter day in the mid 90’s, I was walking around the loop applying for crummy service jobs and I saw these guys whizzing around on bikes delivering packages. I thought to myself “hey, I can do that!” and so I threw out my pitiful little stack of resume’s and signed on to be a courier. Thinking back, it was an awesome evolution through the world of urban biking and bikes in general. I started out on a hybrid specialized with knobby tires. In the messenger world you learn fast about how to get fast because you are paid by the delivery. Profitability involves everything from equipment upgrades to paying off the security guard at the dock so he’ll let you use the back elevator to grab a package. I bought a pair of “slicks” and eventually moved to a nicer aluminum mountain bike. Then I bought a road bike and made many refinements to it. I bought technical clothing and added clipless pedals. And then, because it was the ultimate, I bought a track bike with no brakes. When you ride that many miles, it’s fun to change things up and/or have a quiver of bikes. I really enjoyed the fitness that came with riding all day and the toughness involved in braving the elements. I used to joke that I was a professional athlete because I was paid to ride all day. Of course, it was very dangerous and lacked health coverage. I got into a few accidents but became agile enough on the bike that I was able to avoid major injuries. I remember once that I was hit by a car and stayed up, it just knocked me into a new direction and I kept going.

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My early days of bike messengering. ( L) – (1996) Hybrid bike, lock on frame, knobby tires, chuck’s, no clips, no helmet, jalapeno bandana to hold radio, cut-off swat pants and long johns. (R) – (1997) aluminum bike with neck shock, new timbuktu bag, and waterproof Sugoi pants.

The messenger gig gave me the tools, experience, and attitude I needed to be a year-round bicycle commuter. I changed a lot of flats! I really dislike waiting for public transportation and so when I chose to go back to school, I rode my bike everyday and everywhere. Once, I broke a bone in my foot and had to wear one of those stabilizing boots. I ended up velcroing my crutch to the frame of my bike and pedaling with one foot clipped in and the boot resting on the pedal. It worked great, even in the snow!

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My first real road bike Midori, a green Peugeot, (L) now deceased. And current bike (R), a Trek Madone.

I’ve been a big fan of professional bike racing since the late nineties. The first race I remember starting to learn and understand race rules and tactics was the 1997 TDF won by Jan Ulrich. My favorite cyclist became Marco Pantani (The Pirate) and he won the Giro and TDF the next year. The Lance Armstrong years were a lot of fun to follow because of the great national buzz and the spotlight it gave the sport…despite the mess it’s all become.

It’s never occurred to me to participate in racing myself, I guess mostly because even when I rode everyday and was pretty thin, my body type is just not that of a cyclist (more like a bowler now!). But that ability and time spent in the saddle never really goes away. It’s awesome when you find new ways to keep cycling in your life! So I started doing rides with SMC.

I can truly say that it was an awesome experience the first time I went on a ride with the Spidermonkey’s. To have the chance to emulate a sport that I’ve watched closely for many years, and one that’s impossible to replicate on your own, it made me wish I had started sooner.

I really want to thank the ride leaders and other team members for all they do to provide great rides, the team experience, and useful tips (or offer a wheel to a temporarily winded teammate). Dean, Vanessa, John, Brandon, Drew, Stephanie, Josh, Mike, and Trent all come to mind. And thanks to DJ Ryan, who is my longtime friend, cycling buddy, and the one who brought me into Spidermonkey world.

I really like post-ride beer too!

mm10

DJ Ryan and I overserved at the Harvest Ale dock party!

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